Stephen King’s extensive catalog of novels and stories is nearly matched by the many films adapted from his work. From horror to drama, here are 10 of the best Stephen King movies to stream right now.
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King’s first novel became the first film based on his work, and it remains one of the best. Brian De Palma brings a dazzling, confident visual style to King’s story about a sheltered and bullied teenage girl who just wants to fit in. Sissy Spacek is fantastic as the lovable but dangerous title character, whose ultra-religious mother keeps her hidden. Carrie’s telekinetic powers manifest in the terrifying and emotionally devastating prom finale, still one of the greatest King moments ever on screen.
Carrie streams on Amazon Prime Video ($8.99+ per month).
One master of horror takes on another as legendary filmmaker John Carpenter edits King’s novel about a killer car. Carpenter imbues the 1958 Plymouth Fury with real menace as it slowly takes over the life of clumsy teenager Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon). Arnie becomes more aggressive and violent under the influence of the car, attacking anyone who challenges or opposes him. King and Carpenter turn the sunny pop culture of the 1950s into an ominous signifier for Arnie’s descent into sordid violence.
Christine streams on Netflix ($9.99+ per month).
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King teams up with horror icon George A. Romero for this anthology of morbidly funny horror stories inspired by old EC Comics. King wrote the screenplay himself, with a mix of edits and new material. He also delivers his most substantial acting performance, as a hillbilly who turns into a plant after being exposed to a meteorite. Most of Creepshow is so silly, with the over the top creepiness of vintage comic books and an appealing sick sense of humor.
Creepshow is streamed for free through local libraries on Kanopy.
The dead zone
Director David Cronenberg strikes a dark, somber tone in his take on one of King’s most pessimistic novels. Christopher Walken plays Johnny Smith, a meek school teacher who awakens from a coma with the power to see the future. Although he tries to use his visions to help people, Johnny’s predictions are often unwelcome, and he becomes more isolated and alone as he tries to prevent what he sees as a possible apocalypse. Cronenberg and Walken make the film an invigorating experience, turning King’s horror into a terrifying tragedy.
The Dead Zone will be streamed on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month).
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Kathy Bates’ second lead role in a King adaptation isn’t as well known as her Oscar-winning work in Misery, but it’s another impressive turn as a strong-willed woman. The title character here isn’t a psychopath like Annie Wilkes, but she’s willing to take drastic measures if necessary. Although there is a double murder mystery in two time periods, this is more of a character study than a thriller, focusing on the troubled relationship between Bates’ Dolores and her daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It’s the most grounded, naturalistic King movie, directed by Bates in a nuanced, underrated version.
Dolores Claiborne is available for digital purchase ($9.99+) and rental ($2.99+) at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other digital outlets.
Director Mike Flanagan began his ongoing King association with this adaptation of a novel that many considered unfilmable. Most of the story takes place in the main character’s head, but Flanagan finds clever and disturbing ways to bring those thoughts and feelings to life. Carla Gugino carries the film as a woman who becomes trapped while handcuffed to a bed during an intimate role-play with her husband, who is dying of a heart attack. As she struggles to free herself, she looks back on her past trauma and experiences visions of what may or may not be an invader.
Gerald’s Game is streaming on Netflix ($9.99+ per month).
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King’s massive novel was made into two films by director Andy Muschietti, but the first part works well as a standalone piece, without the slightly disappointing follow-up. King’s novel alternates between two time periods 27 years apart, and this film focuses solely on the earlier era, when the seven main characters are children. They team up to save their small town from an evil entity manifesting as Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård). They forge a lifelong bond as they face the worst horrors imaginable.
It will be streamed on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month).
The Shawshank Redemption
According to some statistics, this is the best movie ever made. The historical drama set in a Maine prison has been number one on IMDb’s top 250 list since 2008, and it’s easy to see why it’s loved by a wide variety of moviegoers. This is a tender tale of hope and friendship, without the horror elements that audiences usually expect from King. It’s an uplifting film full of cinematic moments made iconic thanks to the talents of filmmaker Frank Darabont and stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
The Shawshank Redemption is streaming on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month) and Netflix ($9.99+ per month).
King famously disliked Stanley Kubrick’s version of his novel, and the famous filmmaker does indeed take liberties with the story. But Kubrick creates a masterpiece of his own, a marvel of lingering terror and disorienting set design. Jack Nicholson is fascinatingly unhinged as the winter caretaker of the remote, cavernous Overlook Hotel, who goes mad when he comes together with the ghosts that inhabit the hotel. He turns his wrath on his wife and young son, whose supernatural powers are the only protection between the family and damnation.
The Shining will be streamed on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month).
Stay with me
Although the main characters in this nostalgia-infused drama are looking for a corpse, there is no horror here, just a wistful longing. In 1959, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix and Jerry O’Connell play four preteen friends, each with their own personal struggles, who come together for a journey full of warmth, humor and a bit of danger. Richard Dreyfuss gives the film its bittersweet tone with its narration as the adult version of one of the friends, looking back on a time he will never forget.
Stand by Me streams on Netflix ($9.99+ per month).
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