The Man Who Would Be King

As the latest Stephen King adaptation arrives in cinemas in the shape of The Mist, a genuinely creepy film derived from a 1980 King novella by writer/director Frank Darabont, Jonathan Melville gets strapped into the electric chair and is forced to watch ten films from the King back catalogue - some brilliant, some utter toilet.

Feature by Jonathan Melville | 25 Jun 2008


Though there have been some classic movies based on King’s stories over the years, the sheer volume means that many are less than stellar. At the last count he has 108 writing credits on the Internet Movie Database, the number of Children of the Corn films alone currently standing at seven. We’ve been strict, sticking just to those films released in cinemas rather than the raft of TV Movie versions out there – thankfully there’s no Langoliers or Sometimes They Come Back...Again to taint the results. The other stipulation is that The Shawshank Redemption wasn’t allowed in the list: according to our film ed, “everyone knows it's the best.”



5 of the Best


Stand by Me (1986)


A coming of age film following four young boys as they go on both a physical and emotional journey to see the dead body of a young boy, Stand by Me isn’t what you’d expect from King. Funny, touching and tragic, this is a fine film in its own right, regardless of the King connection.



The Shining (1980)


With the tagline ‘A Masterpiece of Modern Horror’, it’s clear those involved knew they were onto a winner as Jack Nicholson brings Jack Torrance to life on the silver screen in Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying adaptation. A psychic son, insanity, ghosts from the past and an electrifying performance from Nicholson makes this a true classic from any genre.



Carrie (1976)


With the prom being something of a ritual for American school kids, the idea of adding a horror twist to the experience was an obvious, yet brilliant, one. Carrie White’s (Sissy Spacek) prom doesn’t go quite to plan in this 70s classic – you’ll never look at pig’s blood in the same way again.



Misery (1990)


Who hasn’t cringed at that sledgehammer scene, as Paul Sheldon (James Caan) lies in bed with his number one fan Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) standing over him? Tension is perfectly pitched throughout Misery, a brilliant example of what a fine script, great actors and a simple premise can achieve.



The Green Mile (1999)


Following the success of The Shawshank Redemption (Oi, watch it – ed) it seemed natural that director Frank Darabont would return to the world of Stephen King. The tale of guards working on death row as they prepare for the execution of John Coffey, the message that miracles can happen anywhere is conveyed with style by a top-notch cast led by Tom Hanks.



5 of the Worst



The Lawnmower Man (1992)


Following a legal writ by King, this film isn’t allowed to be shown with his name on it – not exactly a ringing endorsement. A pre-007 Pierce Brosnan stars in the first “virtual reality” film and, apart from some once snazzy graphics, fails to instil much excitement in the viewer. Virtually rubbish.



The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)


Eschewing everything that made the original Carrie the classic it is, this 90s cash-in, originally entitled The Curse, is a pointless attempt to bring the film to a new generation. The appearance of Amy Irving as Sue Snell is an attempt to capture some of the original’s magic, and as a standalone thriller it might just about work, but as a King-related picture this is a let-down.



Dreamcatcher (2003)


With a script co-written by William Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan and a strong cast, the omens were good for this one. However the presence of an, erm, ‘excrement monster’ and a plot that fails to hang together, have led to this scoring a lowly 29% on the Rottentomatometer. Dreamcatcher is certainly one of the runts of the King litter.



Needful Things (1993)


Despite having Max Von Sydow play the devil, and an appearance by the late, great JT Walsh, Needful Things is dullness incarnate. There’s not much else to say about this one – this summary is actually more exciting than the film itself, so be happy you’re not watching it right now.



Pet Sematary (1999)


More faithful to the original novel than many Stephen King movies, probably due to the fact that he wrote the screenplay himself, Pet Sematary remains one of the lesser adaptations. The reanimation of dead animals is at the centre of the story, while Fred Gwynne from The Munsters is a welcome addition to the cast, but this is turgid stuff.