The works of Stephen King are as prevalent as ever, with four major film adaptations being released in 2017 and more on the way. Before taking on the future, however, we’re venturing into the past to rank the ten greatest horror films based on the stories of the legendary author. Be sure to share your own ranking in the comments and on social media!
10Silver Bullet (1985)
Silver Bullet is perhaps the most underrated of all King adaptations. Featuring the great Everett McGill as a conflicted werewolf reverend, Gary Busey in a “drunk uncle” role that seemed tailor-made just for him, and beloved 80’s star Corey Haim as the young boy at the center of the horrific story, the film just works on every level. The werewolf transformations are nightmarish, the score induces anxiety, and the heart is unwavering.
The newest Stephen King horror adaptation on our list, 1922 is incredibly faithful to the source material. Part period piece, part psychological horror film, and ALL Thomas Jane, the film takes its time in telling a story about greed and regret. There’s plenty of horror here, especially if you’re afraid of rats, but it’s the almost unrecognizable performance of Thomas Jane that steals the show.
8Pet Sematary (1989)
Pet Sematary is the next Stephen King film that will be receiving the remake treatment, but Mary Lambert’s ’89 adaptation is horrifying enough as it is. A bleak tone is prevalent throughout the heartbreaking film, and if seeing the dead be re-animated isn’t frightening enough, there’s always Zelda left to ruin your dreams for eternity.
Stephen King and John Carpenter collaborated on a film about a killer car, but rather than coming across as the cheesy horror flick you’d imagine it to be, it’s an incredibly effective, atmosphere-heavy thriller. In addition to making cars scary, the film explores the dangerous mentality of someone who’s been pushed too far. It’s great.
6Gerald’s Game (2017)
Another of the 2017 Stephen King horror adaptations, Gerald’s Game is an intense psychological horror film with a stellar performance by Carla Gugino as the lead. The film explores heavy themes of sexual abuse and the heartbreaking way that victims suppress awful memories, but it doesn’t skimp on the more standard elements of horror either. You can read our full review here.
5The Mist (2007)
As a horror film, The Mist has the added benefit of including one of the bleakest endings in cinema history. It’s an unforgettable gut-punch. The rest of Frank Darabont’s film, though, is equally deserving of a spot on our list. Featuring scary monsters that hardly even compare to the terrifying human characters (Mrs. Carmody, eek), this is a movie that will stick with you forever.
To quote My Chemical Romance, “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me.” Carrie features a terrifying supernatural element, but is first and foremost a showcase for how utterly awful teenagers can be to each other. The first film to be based on a King novel, director Brian De Palma wrings unforgettably fleshed out (and scary) performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.
3The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s novel is widely considered to be one of the greatest horror films ever made, and that’s true. Featuring an all-time great performance by Jack Nicholson, The Shining terrifies viewers on a subliminal, psychological level. The only real downfall is the absence of likable characters- though this gripe is small when compared to all the film does right.
Annie Wilkes. Annie Wilkes. Annie Wilkes. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her incredible villainous turn as the obsessed fan who goes to extreme lengths to keep her favorite writer locked up in her house. The film is terrifying in a realistic way, the payoff is incredibly rewarding, and the hobbling scene will make you cringe regardless of how many times you’ve seen it.
There’s an enchanting magic at work in Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of It. The director not only nails the elements of horror, though, but also the incredible amount of heart that’s prevalent throughout King’s story. Evoking a strong feeling of nostalgia, It places us in the circle of arguably the greatest group of friends in cinema history. Each kid possesses a different kind of likability, and it’s impossible to watch the film without connecting your past self to at least one of the characters. Though it’s one of the newest Stephen King horror adaptations, it’s already one of, if not THE, best. Read our full review here.
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