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The Stephen King movie moments that made us laugh, cry and scream

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August is officially Stephen King month as anticipation builds for two massive movie adaptations of his work: The Dark Tower and IT.

Arriving on 18th August, The Dark Tower pits Idris Elba against Matthew McConaughey in the author's mythological blend of pistol-toting Western and grandiose fantasy.

Then on 8th September the most terrifying clown ever conceived stalks back onto our screens in IT, pitting a group of kids against ancient, unimaginable evil.

So to celebrate all things King, we've rounded up our favourite moments from the (decent) movie adaptations of his stories. Expect laughs, tears and more than a few shocks.

The prom – Carrie (1976)

King's breakthrough novel was initially discarded as an idea before publication, but then his wife Tabitha urged him to reconsider.

The author's sensitive mixture of coming of age story and grand guignol gore received a ripe, memorably lurid adaptation from Brian De Palma, whose staging of the infamous pigs blood prom massacre is a masterpiece of split-screen, horrific effects and unsettling music.


You've always been the caretaker – The Shining (1980)

It's tempting to plump for the much-quoted "Here's Johnny" scene. But a far more insidious and creepy moment from Stanley Kubrick's classic horror comes in the disquieting bathroom exchange between unravelling janitor Jack (Jack Nicholson) and malevolent phantom Delbert Grady (Philip Stone).

Just look at the way Kubrick frames Nicholson in front of the mirror (implying that he's talking to himself) or the discombobulating lighting and sound design. It's a brilliant psychological twist on King's supernatural novel, albeit one that was loathed by the author himself.

Jordy Verrill – Creepshow (1982)

Stephen King's wicked sense of humour is often overlooked. It comes to the forefront in this segment from anthology movie Creepshow, one that gathers together adaptations of the author's stories as well as entirely original scripts penned by King himself.

King's 1976 story 'Weeds' forms the backbone of 'The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill', in which a backwoods hick (played by the writer) is slowly consumed by a plantlike substance from outer space. The legendary Tom Savini's make-up effects lend a suitably gruey atmosphere to this darkly comic vignette.


Solving the crime – The Dead Zone (1983)

One of the most underrated and purely emotional King adaptations came courtesy of David Cronenberg.

The Dead Zone is the uncharacteristically subtle story of a man who awakens from a car accident to find he has been blessed – or cursed – with psychic powers. As you do.

As central character Jonny the ubiquitous Christopher Walken gives one of the most moving performances of his career, utterly convincing as man grappling with abilities he can't comprehend. The following clip is a fine example.


Jumping the train – Stand By Me (1986)

Few movies evoke the joy and pain of childhood innocence and chemistry quite like this classic Stephen King movie. Adapted by This is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner from the author's short story 'The Body', it's a nostalgic evocation of impending adulthood, brought to life by a superb young cast including the much-missed River Phoenix.

That said, although it's not a horror story the scene where our central group of lads have to outrun a train still has us tearing our hair out.

Hobbling – Misery (1990)

Those who are squeamish, look away now. This infamous scene of torture comes from one of the most claustrophobic and engrossing of all King adaptations, director Rob Reiner unleashing a far nastier side than witnessed in the earlier Stand By Me.

This story of an author held captive by his demented number one fan benefits hugely from memorable performances by James Caan and, especially, an Oscar-winning Kathy Bates who sketches one of cinema's all-time-great psycho performances. And the hobbling scene is still one of the nastiest ever put to film.

Pennywise in the drain – IT (1990)

Soon to be reimagined by actor Bill Skarsgard, this truly horrifying King creation put an entire generation of kids off the idea of clowns.

Andy Muschietti's reworking of this somewhat dated TV movie promises to one-up the scares and atmosphere with a bigger budget and better effects. Even so it'll take a special performance from Skarsgard to top Curry's demonic, cackling force of nature, truly one of the scariest to appear in any King movie.


Zihuatanejo – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

There are more famous scenes in this, possibly the most celebrated Stephen King movie of them all. But the quietly emphatic dialogue exchange between wrongly accused banker Andy (Tim Robbins) and wise lifer Red (Morgan Freeman) plays right to the heart of the drama's themes of friendship, forgiveness and the steady passing of time.

Director Frank Darabont translates King's story 'Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption' with such grace, warmth and atmosphere, it never fails to take the breath away.

Dolores' revenge – Dolores Claiborne (1995)

It's often said that King's best material resides outside of horror. This dramatic and upsetting story of a woman accused of murder attempting reconciliation with her estranged daughter is a memorably powerful one.

It gets a strong adaptation courtesy of director Taylor Hackford who elicits another exceptional Kathy Bates King performance, albeit this time in a much more sympathetic groove as the afflicted Dolores. This scene where she finally gets revenge on abusive husband Joe (David Strathairn) showcases both actors at their best.


Mouse on the mile – The Green Mile (1999)

Frank Darabont's second King movie is a sprawling, sentimental and tear-jerking one, exploring the impact of a mysterious black prisoner on the jailers and inmates of a Louisiana prison.

The movie features immaculate performances from the likes of Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan and David Morse, and features enough heartrending moments to fill half a dozen movies. Even so, it's also dotted with some enjoyably light touches, such as the first appearance of circus mouse (and eventual key character) Mr. Jingles


The ending – The Mist (2007)

Bleakest movie climax of all time? This has to be up there. A marked change from the more ambiguous conclusion of King's original novella, Frank Darabont's chilling horror instead builds to a crescendo of despair, as the survivors of an inexplicable New England monster invasion are ultimately faced with the worst choice of all. The savage irony of what happens immediately after only makes it worse.

So horrific was the change to King's original concept that the author himself complemented Darabont on his uncompromising and brave decision.


Hammer time – 1408 (2007)

John Cusack gives one of his strongest performances in this gripping slice of King, playing a cynical and trashy author who decides to spend a night in a haunted New York hotel room. What he experiences causes him to come apart at the seams.

Director Mikael Hafstrom uses an onslaught of dutch angles and disorienting lens styles to draw us into Cusack's mindset, although few moments are as frightening as when he sees himself mirrored in the opposite building. Just watch out behind you...

What are your favourite Stephen King scenes? Let us know @Cineworld.

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