All 25 Stephen King-Based Movies Were Rated, from Carrie to Doctor Sleep!

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stephen king movies in order

He truly is the “King of Horror,” as the saying goes. More than 50 of Stephen King’s 61 novels and 200 short stories, many of which deal with horror and the paranormal, have been adapted into films, TV shows, or television movies. No one else who writes horror even comes close.

In the process, he established himself as a brand and almost a household name, starting with the 1974 release of Carrie, his very first book. It was also the first of his works to be adapted into a film, which ignited the spark for his incredible career as the hottest horror fiction author in history, especially after it was turned into a smash horror-hit movie two years later.

Almost everyone is familiar with many of the films based on Stephen King’s best novels and short stories. And for good reason—they’re timeless, and a few of them have been named among the top movies of the 20th century.

However, not every movie made from one of Stephen King’s novels, short tales, e-books, or anthologies was fantastic; some of them were absolute duds and cheeseballs. And some of them you’ve probably never even heard of, much less had the opportunity to see.

From Carrie to Doctor Sleep, All 25 Stephen King-based Films Were Rated

He truly is the “King of Horror,” as the saying goes. More than 50 of Stephen King’s 61 novels and 200 short stories, many of which deal with horror and the paranormal, have been adapted into films, TV shows, or television movies. No one else who writes horror even comes close.

In the process, he established himself as a brand and almost a household name, starting with the 1974 release of Carrie, his very first book. It was also the first of his works to be adapted into a film, which ignited the spark for his incredible career as the hottest horror fiction author in history, especially after it was turned into a smash horror-hit movie two years later.

Almost everyone is familiar with many of the films based on Stephen King’s best novels and short stories. And for good reason—they’re timeless, and a few of them have been named among the top movies of the 20th century.

However, not every movie made from one of Stephen King’s novels, short tales, e-books, or anthologies was fantastic; some of them were absolute duds and cheeseballs. And some of them you’ve probably never even heard of, much less had the opportunity to see.

1. Mercy (2014)

This feature film, which was a full-length offshoot of a 1985 episode from the Twilight Zone TV revival of the time, was based on King’s short tale “Gramma.” The movie sadly lacked the punch and fright force that the shorter television version—about a youngster left at home with his dying grandma who has mysterious powers—had.

2. Dolan’s Cadillac (2009)

In scene one, there is a blurb of graffiti that says, “Don’t look up here, you’re pissing on your shoes.” That seems about accurate for this terrible film adaption, which is based on a short story by Stephen King that was included in his newsletter and is about a young man (Christian Slater) who wants to exact revenge on a Las Vegas mobster for killing his wife. Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Bacon declined offers for leading roles because they had the foresight to avoid this Cadillac, as did many moviegoers.

3. Cell (2016)

This sci-fi action-horror movie, starring John Cusack as a dejected author determined to find his son after a mysterious phone signal unleashes catastrophic havoc and sends people insane, received negative reviews from critics. They didn’t need a movie to tell them that cell phones may drive them crazy; audiences didn’t particularly like it either.

4. The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Lawnmower Man, a surreal early introduction to the idea of “virtual reality,” cautioned audiences that it would invade our thoughts or drive us insane! The loose version of King’s short story, which was first published in a 1975 issue of Cavalier magazine, was so dissimilar from the final product that King successfully sued to have his name removed from the credits.

In the film This Misguided Man, a scientist (Pierce Brosnan) subjects a simple-minded gardener with a developmental handicap (Jeff Fahey) to trials. In the early 1990s, it was a dubious notion, and it is now downright cringe-inducing.

Related: How to Watch All Chucky Movies in Chronological Order?

5. Dreamcatcher (2003)

“Exceedingly terrible.” Lawrence Kasdan’s (The Big Chill) version of Stephen King’s story about a group of friends on a hunting trip who encounter some parasitic, slug-like extraterrestrials received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. (King himself didn’t care for the novel that served as the inspiration for the film.

He admitted to writing it in cursive while largely under the influence of Oxycontin and recovering from a 1999 car accident that necessitated five surgery to Rolling Stone.) The waste of the star-studded cast, which included Morgan Freeman, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Donnie Wahlberg, and Tom Sizemore, contributed to the movie’s failure.

6. Gerald’s Game (2017)

Fifty Shades of F-ed, if you will The woman, portrayed by Carla Gugino, is tied to the bed and struggling to survive in a secluded cabin while the husband, played by Bruce Greenwood, is…well, unexpectedly ill. This all happens as a wicked little lovers’ role-play tryst turns fatal. Note: This book and movie contain allusions to other works by Stephen King, including Cujo, Delores Claiborne, Dark Tower, and The Shining.

7. Carrie (2013)

Even though Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz try their best to update the story for a more contemporary audience, this remake of Stephen King’s seminal coming-of-age horror classic—and director Brian De Palma’s 1976 film—doesn’t really add much new to the devilishly twisted tale of repressed sexual energy, bullying, revenge, and unholy telekinetic fireworks.

8. A Good Marriage (2014)

When Joan Allen agreed to star in this mediocre thriller about a wife who learns that her husband (Anthony LaPaglia) is a serial killer, she was a respected veteran actor in film, television, and theatre. How can they protect their kids while keeping it a secret? The question wasn’t well received by audiences: In a marriage where one partner has a murderous streak, what makes a decent marriage? The movie “doesn’t present a conclusive solution,” but it “makes plain what constitutes a horrible movie,” according to The A.V. Club reviewer Kiva Reardon.

9. The Dark Tower (2017)

Before Hollywood eventually turned Stephen King’s massive, seven-book fantasy saga into a motion picture, it had been lying about for a very long time. And when it finally appeared on the screen, it resembled a large, disorganized seven-part splat of bits.

The fate of the universe is at stake in the fight between Idris Elba’s fierce gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey’s necromantic sorcerer Man in Black (not Johnny Cash), so that scene is something you don’t see every day.

10. In The Tall Grass (2019)

Based on a horror novella by King and Joe Hill, this story about something horrible lurking in an overgrown Kansas field stars Patrick Wilson but rapidly becomes “lost in the weeds,” according to Rotten Tomatoes. A month after it premiered at a film festival, Netflix began streaming it.

11. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)

Because there is so little King in it, it receives a lower “King grade.” In this anthology feature, only one of the three pieces is directly adapted from a King’s work: “The Cat from Hell,” which tells the story of an elderly man who pays an assassin $100,000 to murder a cat he believes is going to kill him.

The film itself is generally good and boasts a great cast in its two other stories, including Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Steve Buscemi, Rae Dawn Chong, Julianne Moore, and Robert Klein.

12. Pet Sematary (2019)

A new resident of a rural community learns about the horrors of a backyard burial ground where dead things don’t stay buried, or dead. This remake of the 1989 film didn’t add much after 30 years, aside from John Lithgow and Jason Clarke providing a few fresh whiffs of dark humor to the roles originally played by Fred Gwynne and Dale Midkiff. Rex Reed, a critic, stated that “Pet Sematary should finally be put to rest.” Sometimes being dead is preferable, as Lithgow’s character observes.

13. Creepshow 2 (1987)

It’s a significant creep into mediocrity to return to the anthology format of the first Creepshow (1982), but with legendary horror filmmaker George A. Romero serving this time as a writer instead—and with only one of its three pieces based on a story by King. Its “gory,” “gross-out,” and “cheap-looking” effects scared off critics, and today it seems terminally rickety due to a scene of sexual assault and a part (“Old Chief Wooden’head”) with a tone-deaf portrayal of Native Americans.

14. Thinner (1996)

A gross-out morality tale about a fat cat (and generally obese) sleazebag lawyer (Robert John Burke) who is cursed to shrivel slowly away to nothing when his car runs over a gypsy woman, Thinner is based on a book King authored under his pen name Richard Bachman.

Tom Holland, the filmmaker, had to deal with hassles and reshoots because test audiences loathed the original conclusion and the cheap VFX and demanded more gore (no relation to the actor of the same name). Unfortunately, the extra work didn’t appear to make Thinner better.

15. No Smoking (2007)

This unusual non-Hollywood King movie adaption, produced in India, was loosely based on King’s short story “Quitters, Inc.,” which was published in his 1978 Night Shift collection. It was about a chain smoker’s escalating attempts to stop his habit.

Bollywood audiences were perplexed by King’s DNA blend of gore and humor, and the movie was a failure. The primary actor was a nonsmoker male model who had to smoke an absurd number of cigarettes each day to play his part.

16. Riding the Bullet (2004)

This movie, which was adapted from Stephen King’s first e-book (which sold more than 400,000 copies in the first 24 hours it was made accessible), wasn’t quite as popular; its total box office receipts barely topped $130,000.

A young man (Alan Parker) who is fixated on death refers to the “Bullet” as a thrill ride that is essential to the plot of the movie and a key memory for David Arquette. Arquette appeared to be dying, and audiences obviously didn’t want to ride anything or do anything with her.

17. Julie Ganapathi (2003)

This Bollywood adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Misery, which was released 13 years after the American film version, is another movie that hardly anyone in America has seen. It is a Tamil-language psychological thriller in which an ardent follower of a popular television program saves the show’s host from a terrible car accident.

But as he quickly discovers, she is undoubtedly not an angel. Amazingly, the director/screenwriter claimed to be uninformed that a prior American adaptation of King’s best-selling book (by filmmaker Rob Reiner) had been turned into a mega-success Hollywood blockbuster before its successful release.

18. The Night Flier(1997)

A series of murders are being looked into by a cynical, foul-mouthed tabloid reporter (Miguel Ferrer), who thinks a vampire with a pilot’s license is responsible. Hey, flying is terrible! It was filmed quickly—in less than a month—and pushed to HBO before a brief theatrical run.

19. The Dark Half (1993)

It’s not difficult to read between the lines in this horror thriller about a writer (Timothy Hutton) who covertly publishes under a false identity pulpy murder-mystery moneymakers as well as serious novels. But things take a dark, perilous, and deadly turn as his made-up alter ego begins to rule his life.

Director George A. Romero, a master of the horror genre who is best known for his post-apocalyptic living-dead movies, lends the picture a persistent sense of foreboding and oncoming doom, much like the march of zombies from the edge of the screen.

King said that the narrative and the movie were meant to be autobiographical. Additionally, the imaginary town of Castle Rock, Maine, which also features in the films Cujo, Stand By Me, and Needful Things is a King’s geographical touchstone.

20. Needful Things (1993)

In his review of this film fable about an extremely strange small-town curio shop selling dreams and desires…but at a very high price, the late, great—and notably underwhelmed—movie critic Roger Ebert said, “Yet another one of those films based on a Stephen King story that inspires you to wonder why his stories don’t make better films.”

And the movie is stocked—with pedigree—just like the curio shop. The director, Fraser C. Heston, is a famous Hollywood actor whose father, Charlton Heston, starred in the biblical epic The Ten Commandments as “baby Moses.”

Additionally, Max Von Sydow, who plays the shopkeeper, makes a reference to Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music by humming the song “My Favorite Things” at one point (a role he famously turned down).

21. Firestarter (1984)

Drew Barrymore, who was only 8 years old at the time and had just made her debut in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial two years prior, plays a young child who has the ability to set things on fire simply by scowling. So avoid upsetting her! A fiery fight eventually results in her and her father fleeing a covert, corrupt government-ops team in order to escape.

It’s dark and spooky, and people questioned why such a small child was in a crude, R-rated film at the time. King apparently detested the movie and called it “one of the worst” Hollywood adaptations of his writing.

22. Secret Window (2004)

Write on what you know, writing instructors often advise beginning authors. This movie, which is based on a novella King penned in the late 1980s, provides another barely disguised parody of King himself as short-story writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), who is experiencing writer’s block, seeks refuge in an isolated cabin in the woods to recover after a tumultuous divorce.

But when a man (John Turturro) appears and accuses Mort of stealing his art, things take an unsettling and perverse turn. Attention, Talking Heads music lovers: Depp is quoting a phrase from one of their well-known songs from the 1980s, “Once in a Lifetime,” when Mort says, “This is not my beautiful house; this is not my beautiful woman.”

23. Maximum Overdrive (1986)

This was the only film King ever directed, and it served as evidence that he should really, really stick to writing. He later said that “I was coked out of my mind throughout its production and honestly didn’t know what I was doing” (in the book Hollywood’s Stephen King).

I see, really? Based on his short story “Trucks,” tells the story of a rogue comet that transforms everyday objects into deadly weapons, including an exploding Walkman, a stalking lawnmower, an out-of-control electric knife, and an army of 18-wheelers that attack a truck stop while AC/guitar DC’s stomps in the background.

Thank heavens Emilio Estevez has some hand grenades and a bazooka! This insane, midnight-crazy, pedal-to-the-metal, ’80s time-warp junkyard jive trainwreck is almost entertaining.

Related: How to Watch All of The Transformers Movies in Order?

24. The Mangler (1995)

One of King’s pay-the-bill jobs prior to becoming a successful author was working at an industrial laundry, which may have provided the inspiration for the short story that became the basis for this film about a laundry-folding machine that goes on a killing spree after becoming possessed by a demon.

The rest of the clumsy, gruesome, and somewhat predictable horror film hasn’t held up all that well, but the actors and crew of The Mangler deserve better grades for their creep-show credentials.

In addition to the far superior 1979 TV version of King’s novel Salem’s Lot, director Tobe Hooper also produced the cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), its sequel, and Poltergeist (1982); the cast includes Ted Levine and Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street) (Jame Gumb from Silence of the Lambs).

25. Silver Bullet (1985)

This hair-raising horror-thriller, loosely based on King’s 1983 book Cycle of the Werewolf, starred Everett McGill as a small-town minister who also doubles as a lycanthrope (a humanoid wolf). As far as werewolf movies go, it’s pretty clunky, but as a time capsule of the mid-80s, it’s grrrr-owly gold.

The cast also includes Terry O’Quinn (who would later play Locke on TV’s Lost), Corey Haim, Gary Busey, and teen icon cutie Corey Haim as a local ghoul-buster, as well as Gary Busey’s eccentric Uncle Red. The cheesy werewolf makeup, which The New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby claimed “looks less like a wolf than Smoky Bear with a nasty hangover,” is almost enough to make you overlook it.

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