Top 4 Best and Worst of Stephen King's TV and Movie Adaptations

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” If you know who this quote belongs to, you are probably a Stephen King fan (or have a chance of becoming one soon). In recent years the movie industry has seen a peak in a new-found passion for Stephen King's stories. Some of the true fans are waiting for every film eagerly, but some are afraid of watching their favorite books on screen as they fear the magic will be killed. Some newbies might just have started to think about watching or reading something by Stephen King because their news feed has become full of arguments and memes after each movie’s premier. This short guide lists the 4 best and worst of King’s screen adaptations to help you decide on what is worth watching and what you might want to skip.   


Top 4 Best 

4. “Carrie” (2013) starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore. This is not the first filming of the story about a telekinetic girl. There are no surprises in the plot and both adaptations (1976 and 2013) look very similar. Nevertheless Chloe Moretz's acting is worthy and brilliant Julianne Moore brings to the movie a spicy flavor of real madness and addiction that will surely make you feel nervous and lifts this film up to its deserved 4th place.    

3. “Mr. Mercedes” is a new-comer of this TV season. As a book it is a great example of mystical detective genre. There are three books in the finished series about a psychopath called Brady Hartsfield and a retired detective Bill Hodges who cannot leave his last case of a "Mercedes murderer" behind. The series is coming out right now so it is impossible to talk about it as a whole yet. The books are exciting however, and for now the TV version is not too bad either. Catchy soundtracks, convincing actor choices and careful interpretation of the books' events put this series to the honorable place in King’s fans' must-watch list. Do not choose it for a family evening with children though, since both the book and TV series contain violence and bloody scenes ( but that’s what we are expecting from Stephen King, aren’t we?)

2. One of the most expected movies this autumn, “It” climbed to the top of ratings incredibly fast. There are worthy reasons for this success. Though “It” is a remake as well as “Carrie”, it seems much more inspiring. The movie gives us a classic atmosphere of a small cozy town and careless childhood… But our deepest fears are always nearby. The cast is brilliant and very close to the way the characters are portrayed in the book, so you start to love these children since their first appearance on the screen. Each character has their own history and problems that make the viewer realize clearly that the darkest evil is not Pennywise but the indifferent and spoiled adults who called the children’s fears into existence. “It” is a rare sample of horror that makes you reflect on it afterwards, so if you still haven’t seen the movie do not miss your chance to feel its magic on the big screen.

  1. It was really hard to choose my favorite between “It” and the 11/22/63 TV mini-series. But 11/22/63 is the first adaptation of the book and it has more story lines, each of them represented perfectly. This is not classical horror; this story is closer to classic fantasy about time-traveling, as an English language teacher goes back into the past to save President Kennedy from Lee Harvey Oswald’s fatal shot. The journey is not safe. In the 60s the main character finds love and friends, but also danger because the past is not that easily changed. The soundtrack is great and the book as a primary source is treated carefully and successfully. The series catches your attention from the first second and won’t let go until the last scene. James Franco is another precious advantage of the series. Even though I imagined the main character to be a little bit older, Franco’s acting made me forget about it very fast. The series is not for light watching – it is full of symbols, references and clues that make you connect with this story and characters very deeply.

Top 4 Worst

4. “The Mist” TV series is the most unsuccessful of King's TV adaptations. The first three episodes seemed good and exciting, but there is not enough material in the original story so the series' failure was predictable. The series' events start to become really strange and they leave more questions than answers. Soon you start to notice that you have no sympathy for the characters, only annoyance. Conclusion: “The Mist” has its own beautiful and noticeable moments but in general it would be better off in a fulltime movie format.

3. “The Dark tower” was released this summer, but arguments around the movie appeared long before its premiere. Despite the fans’ fears, the main problem of the movie was not Idris Elba as Roland, but regrettably a weak plot and characters. “The Dark Tower” is not even about the dark tower itself, though it does have some references to it. Those who have read the “Black House” (which is a sequel of “The Talisman” and kind of a prequel to “The Dark Tower”) have much better chances to understand at least something in the plot, but the weak character development is hard to fix. One cannot see any background story or motivation for the characters' actions. Roland has his goal but “The Man in Black” is evil "just because”. Matthew McConaughey did his best and brought some life to his character (pretty close to Christian Bale’s character in “Equilibrium” by the way) but even his charisma was powerless to breathe any sense into the character.

2. “Cell” (2016) is a story for zombie apocalypse fans. There is blood, violence, zombies who lost their minds because of a strange impulse broadcasted through their cellphones… That’s all, actually. The cast is fine and the book's events are portrayed properly. But the book “Cell” is also about broken dreams, dumb despair and losing your humanity in the face of emergency, and about keeping faith even when your loved ones die in front of you. The movie loses its touch with the viewer and becomes merely passable. Not the worst one out there but not special either.

1. “Under the Dome” is a great example of how to make an incredibly bad series while having as much material as the first seasons of “Game of Thrones”. “Under the Dome” book is long enough to make a full quality series. Nevertheless something went wrong from the moment of turning the brave main character (ex. Military) into a blonde hipster with lack of self-confidence. It was more or less acceptable until they'd gone through the book by the end of season one. And that would've been a reasonable point to end the series, but the production team probably got inspiration from such famous series as “Sherlock” (where turning away from the original plot does not mean loss of quality) and went down on their own path. The next two seasons not only have anything in common with Stephen King’s idea, but are also far from common sense. Unrealistic messed-up plot and weak and annoying characters are able to kill any series that is not depending on its original source. Gathering all possible mistakes into one series is why “Under the Dome” is on honorable 1st place among the worst new Stephen King screen adaptations.

Of course this list is not a gospel-truth, and if you are thinking about getting into Stephen King’s universe you should make your own judgment. But I hope this list helps you find a story for your own taste and to make the journey through King’s world more exciting. 


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