Stephen King adaptations that got it right

Solid Stephen King customizations seem to have an intangible quality over them. Is his written horrors more frightening on the page? Is King’s clever use of evocative language just too hard to translate to the canvas? Whatever the reason, more times than not, a film that manages to honor King’s deft character work while successfully translating both the human and supernatural horrors lurking between the pages is less likely than Carrie White to be asked to prom. After all, countless films have tried (and failed) to successfully capture the magic of King’s novels over the productive author’s nearly five decades with unforgettable classics packed with vivid details and raw emotions that highlight triumphs, struggles and horrors. average working class people.

Viewers need look no further than King-flops like The trains TV series and the seemingly endless episodes in Children of the Corn franchise to see that not every attempt is a winner. However, there are some who manage to rise and deliver a faithful processing of the source material. From the tight tension of Misery to the brilliant work of character of The green MileSome King movies are not just clear success stories, they are classics. Here are seven Stephen King adaptations that managed to get it right.

RELATED: 10 Steven King Short Fiction Stories That Need an Adjustment to Feature Length


Image via United Artists

King fans would be hard-pressed to find a more heartbreaking protagonist than Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). The socially awkward high school senior with telekinetic powers is a character that is guaranteed to gain audience sympathy: She is neither wealthy nor popular, bullied by her peers and suffers from the dominance of her fanatically religious mother (Piper Laurie), all the while dealing with the overwhelming discoveries of her evolving body – and telekinetic forces. Carrie is a simple story told well that packs a punch on the big screen.

While the novel has a letter format – composed of letters, news reports and interviews – the film has a more straightforward approach and allows us to get even closer to Carrie and her mother than the novel. This is where the film really shines, especially in the performances of Spacek and Laurie, which bring the characters Carrie and Margaret White to an amazing life. Spacek nails the role of the meek and awkward Carrie; her honest and humble portrayal makes us mourn Carrie’s loneliness and grief, while wishing things would be okay for her, even when we know they are not. Laurie is equally scary and tragic as the fire and brimstone-shouting Margaret, and it’s no surprise that both actresses received Oscar nominations for their performances in the film. Carrie is an expertly developed character study that also manages to come up with thoughtful statements about bullying and toxic parenting in a way that is equally parts scary and heartbreaking.


Image via Columbia Pictures

Misery is one of the rare King films that manages to translate the novel’s ingenious character work to the screen. With Paul Sheldons (James Caan) make calculations and slowly increasing horror together with Annie Wilkes’ (Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for the role) alternating gentleness and uncontrolled rage, Misery beautifully captures the tense, claustrophobic feeling and emotions in the source material. Rob Reiners abilities as a director are shown visibly here, and he cleverly favors the novel’s character build and growing suspense with expert pace that allows each scene to breathe. Without this, it would have been remarkably easy for the film to fall into bargain-bin horror-schlock, but instead it transcends its genre as a terrifying tale of survival. Reiner also knows how to get the best out of his actors, with Caan and Bates delivering brilliant and engaging performances that completely sell the material. Misery is packed with character-driven suspense, while faithfully succeeding in following the novel’s plot. The result is proof that it is sometimes the key to success to follow King’s source material. Misery is not just an amazing (and classic) movie that still holds true today, it’s one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever.

Gerald’s game

Picture via Netflix

With Gerald’s game, Manager Mike Flanagan took what was once thought to be an unfilmable novel and knocked it out of the park. Despite Flanagan himself admitting that the book is “really impossible to adapt”, it is an impressive feat that he finds a solid solution to one of the novel’s most important narrative tools. After all, a good deal of the book takes place in the main character Jessie Burlingames (Carla Gugino) is looking for her husband, Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), handcuffs her to the bed and dies on top of her. By taking Jessie’s inner thoughts and bringing them into the “real” world, so that instead it becomes a dialogue between her shattering mind and her dead husband, Flanagan manages to stay true to the characters of the source material while making the novel difficult to translate elements . visually appealing.

The film also features unique and thought-provoking character work from Gugino, whose performance is as captivating and cooling as it is triumphant. It is a testament to Flanagan’s understanding of the importance of developing multidimensional characters that her arc (and the horrors she experiences along the way, both inner and outer, obvious and subtle) work so well. Gerald’s game is a lesson in how to successfully customize Stephen King material. The instruction is sharp, the pace is thought-provoking without pulling, and Flanagan manages to create and maintain suspense and suspense, while the film is limited to (mostly) one central location.

The trains

the-mist film
Image via Dimension

The trains is not just a solid adaptation of King’s short story, it is better. Frank Darabont is without a doubt the undisputed champion of Stephen King adaptations and his solid track record that began with The Shawshank Redemption continues with The trains, a story about a group of New Englanders who are confined to a grocery store as a mysterious fog descends over their city. The setup is familiar, but it is the resulting events that do The trains stand out. From unreliable neighbors, to the chaos due to food shortages, to creatures infiltrating the band’s safe haven, Darabont packs the film to the brink with enough action, suspense and character-driven suspense to adequately fill the film’s two-plus-hour run. .

What’s more, it takes the characters from King’s story and makes them even deeper and more three-dimensional. David Draytons (Thomas Jane) fear and desperation as he tries to protect his young son is the film’s emotional impact, but where the character work really shines is in the film’s portrayal of the religious zealot Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden). With her holier-than-thou behavior, Mrs. Carmody is convinced that the fog is the beginning of the end of days. And because of her persuasive speech and the fear of her fellow survivors, many of the people stuck in the supermarket begin to believe her. The result is a deft portrayal of the dangers and horrors of mob mentality, what fear can do to the human psyche, and religious and political zeal. This combined with The trains with one of the most daring and shocking endings in horror film history, makes it a King adaptation at the highest level.


Image via Hulu

The beauty of a limited series is that it allows for character development over many episodes instead of cramming hundreds of pages of character arcs and growth into a two-hour film. It’s a move that really pays off 11.22.63, Hulus’ 8-episode miniseries about an English teacher named Jake (James Franco) who travel back in time with the goal of preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Eight episodes are plenty of time to make an undisturbed story and give the characters, action and suspense plenty of time to grow and breathe. It lacks some of the subplots that gave the novel a little extra of King’s signature flair, but it’s a pretty faithful adaptation of King’s story and beautifully captures its heart and soul through the honest and touching performances of Franco and Sarah Gadon, as well as great production design that makes it feel like we’re stepped back in the 1960s.

The green Mile

Image via Warner Bros.

Frank Darabont’s track record continues The green Mile. Tom Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, a death row inmate whose life has been changed after witnessing supernatural events following the arrival of the new prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan). Darabont only know how to make a faithful royal adaptation, and The green Mile successfully captures the spirit of King’s novel – all the heartache and human horrors, magic and mystery – that made it work in the first place. The cast is inspired, and so are the performances, especially Michael Clarke Duncans as John, which he permeates with innocence, empathy and charming meekness. Despite all its harsh truths about society and the monster in all of us, The green Mile is also filled with wonder, not afraid to tackle the challenge of adapting the novel’s major themes and at the same time speak out about life, death, morality and living with the choices we make. It swings big, but its risky choices pay off with its audience recognition as well as achieving a nomination for an Oscar for Best Picture (one of only two King films to achieve that feat).

Mr. Mercedes

Image via AT&T Audience Network

Mr. Mercedes is another winner among Stephen King TV adaptations. The three-season series covering each of the stories in the King’s Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and No more looking) is true to the source material and successfully captures both the grounded crime and supernatural elements of the books. The true crime feel of the novels is well translated to the screen, as are the series’ memorable characters. Among others, retired police officer Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson), the villain Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), and the ingenious but socially awkward Holly Gibney (Justine Lupe) is brought to life in vivid detail thanks to the series’ authorship and a cast that delivers rock-solid performances. The series offers some deviations from the novels, but nothing that causes major changes in the characters or the plot. In fact, many of the adjustments result in a streamlining of the source material and a deepening of the grades. Not only is Mr. Mercedes skillfully written and directed, it is packed with lots of suspense and excitement that makes it a faithful, compelling and bingeable King adaptation.

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“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunman followed.”

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