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The 6 essential Stephen King adaptations before we enter #TheDarkTower


It has taken almost a decade and been passed around film studios like a hot potato, but finally audiences will be entering Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

A sprawling horror-mystery-action epic, The Dark Tower’s journey to the big screen has been almost as dramatic as the story itself. With Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey as the Gunslinger and the Man in Black respectively, The Dark Tower is sure to be another cracking adaptation of the work of horror maestro Stephen King.

An author renowned not only for his talent but also for his sheer volume of work, it should come as no surprise that there have been a whole lot of adaptations. While not all of them have been successful, there is always something to enjoy from King’s concepts and storytelling.

Before we walk into the world of the Gunslinger and his quest to reach the Dark Tower, let’s sift through the multitude of films based on King’s work.

6. The Mist (2007)

This eerie chiller transports us to a small town (a frequent occurrence in King’s work) in the aftermath of a violent thunderstorm.

Painter and all around everyman David (Thomas Jane) takes his son to the local grocery store for supplies, unaware that the store will soon become his safe haven. David and a number of other residents become trapped as a mysterious mist containing deadly creatures envelops them. How will they survive?

The Mist is more than a monster movie (though the Lovecraftian monsters are delightfully terrifying). The film’s real purpose is to explore what ordinary people are capable of under extraordinary circumstances. Unfortunately for David and his son, said circumstances become pretty dreadful when religious despot Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) establishes control. 

From the intense battle of ideals inside the store to the stunning creature design, The Mist is an intriguing look at human nature that infamously culminates in one of the bleakest endings of all time.

5. Stand By Me (1986)

Stephen King's greatest works often reside outside the horror realm. Despite its ominous title, 'The Body' is one of his most humane and deeply compassionate works, centering on a group of pre-adolescent boys who make a journey along the railway tracks to find a deceased kid.

It's a classic 'after this summer, everything changed' story, and received a glorious adaptation from This is Spinal Tap filmmaker Rob Reiner (later to make equally brilliant King movie Misery).

Showcasing his characteristic sensitive eye for atmosphere and performances (among the tremendously believable main ensemble, young River Phoenix and Will Wheaton are standouts), it's a deeply engrossing drama.

4. Misery (1990)

Featuring two incredible performances from Kathy Bates and James Caan, Misery is a psychological thriller about fan obsession as well as Bate’s impressive swing of a sledgehammer.

Caan plays the unfortunate recipient of said sledgehammer, author Paul Sheldon who, after a car accident is taken in by his number one fan, Bates' Annie Wilkes.

Unfortunately for our famed novelist, his number one fan also happens to be a psychotically deranged menace who will go to any lengths to get what she wants: a happy ending for her literary hero, Misery.

Holding Sheldon prisoner and forcing him to write just that, Wilkes is certainly one of King’s most terrifying creations. The title says it all, really.

3. Carrie (1976)

Brian De Palma’s celebrated adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, garnered rave reviews upon release and secured Oscar nominations for both stars Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.

Thankfully, this iconic tour de force of pigs blood and proms still holds up. Spacek plays the titular character, a teenage girl in the throes of growing up, bullied both at school and at home and generally having a terrible time of it. Laurie is the mother causing a lot of the terribleness with a performance that challenges Annie Wilkes for scariest lady.

The supernatural element plays in the background, until Carrie unleashes her power on her tormentors in the most famous prom scene ever committed to film.

2. The Shining (1980)

The Shining is another masterpiece, both for critically acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick and for Stephen King.

Well-known for the backstage escapades of Kubrick and his tormenting of screaming star Shelley Duvall (he gave Carrie’s classmates a run for their money), the director’s unorthodox methods clearly worked as The Shining stands atop the majority of the best horror movie lists.

Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance, a man ushered into violence and madness by an evil spiritual force, reaches out from the screen and takes you by the throat. You will flinch at every psychotic rant and scream and every swing of an axe.

As if that weren't enough the film is packed with surreal, disturbing, sometimes unsettling imagery that will leave you as confused and petrified as Torrance’s poor wife. Though not a wholly accurate adaptation of the King’s source material (the author wasn't best pleased with the movie), the film that Kubrick crafted is none the less essential viewing.

1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, The Shawshank Redemption is nothing short of a celluloid triumph.

Though it may not contain the more obvious horror elements expected of a Stephen King story, Shawshank derives fear and terror from its prison setting and the plight of our hero Andy Dufresne. An innocent man convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, Andy’s despair is far scarier than any ghost or monster.

Befriended by a contraband smuggler named ‘Red’, played by Morgan Freeman in full soothing voice mode, Andy manages to make a life for himself behind the high prison walls - his intellect and generosity a rarity within such a hostile environment.

Though he attempts, and occasionally succeeds, in improving the lives of his fellow inmates, Andy never gives up hope that he one day taste free air. The theme of ‘hope’ is a powerful one, which radiates from the film.

It isn’t difficult to see why The Shawshank Redemption is so beloved as it is: a truly hopeful tale that will always leave a contented smile upon your face.

Click here to book your tickets for The Dark Tower, opening on 18th August, and send us your favourite Stephen King movies @Cineworld.

Jon Fuge is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.