Stephen King books and movies
Stephen King isn't just a bestselling horror and fantasy author -- he's a bona fide pop culture phenomenon, whose stories have reached even wider audiences through some unforgettable film adaptations. Here are the 10 books and movies that every King fan should check off his or her list. -- Sam Thielman
THE SHINING (1980) — Stanley Kubrick’s take on King’s classic novel of slow-burn insanity counts King himself among its detractors, but the surreal 1980 shocker, starring Jack Nicholson (“Here’s JOHNNY!”) and a genuinely terrified Shelley Duvall, has lost none of its power in 31 years.
THE STAND: THE COMPLETE & UNCUT EDITION (1990) — Try to forget the lame miniseries, ignore the bowdlerized "original” version, and find a hardback copy so that the gruesome Bernie Wrightson plates are big enough to enjoy in gory detail — King’s Dickensian take on the apocalypse is either the best pulp novel around or the pulpiest entry in the American lit canon.
THE DEAD ZONE (1983) — While this wonderfully creepy movie was filming, helmer David Cronenberg legendarily stood off-camera and fired off a revolver to get a convincing flinch out of Christopher Walken every time Walken’s character, Johnny, touched another person and set off his psychic powers.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) — Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give their finest performances to date in “Walking Dead” creator Frank Darabont’s powerful adaptation of a King novella, but the real star of the show is cinematographer Roger Deakins, who miraculously keeps the drama’s penitentiary setting from feeling confined or stifling.
FULL DARK, NO STARS (2010) — Some writers get soft and lose focus with age, but King’s recent quartet of long stories is, if anything, bleaker, harsher and better-written than any of his other short-form work — especially the final story, in which a woman discovers her easygoing husband is actually ... well, I wouldn’t want to give it away.
THE DARK TOWER (1982-present) — The terrifying cosmology readers sampled in “It” and “The Stand” (among others) gets served up as a nine-course meal in King’s fast-paced fantasy series, consisting of seven main novels, an upcoming eighth sandwiched between “Wizard and Glass” and “Wolves of the Calla,” and a surprisingly good series of Marvel comic books.
STAND BY ME (198) — King’s novels are so disturbing that most folks forget about his gift for character development, but not Rob Reiner, who adapted King’s gentle coming-of-age story “The Body” into a now-classic movie about loyalty and the frightening adventures of childhood. With a young River Phoenix.
DESPERATION (1996) — In 1996, King wrote “Desperation” as himself and “The Regulators” as his alter ego Richard Bachman in a stunt-publishing coup; “The Regulators” is deeply lame but “Desperation” has all the great things about King’s writing in one book: deep characters, passages of nail-biting fear, and some surprisingly profound ideas about God and the nature of evil.
IT (1986) — “It” is one of the first books in which you can see King stretching to become more than just a thriller writer — its tricky parallel structure (half of the book takes place in the present, half in the past) explores small-town Maine life in rich detail, and its look-for-him-under-the-bed villain is far and away the most frightening thing King has ever dreamed up.
CARRIE (1976) — The “Moby-Dick” of schlock horror films, Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” has it all — a zero-nostalgia depiction of high school cruelty; John Travolta with his “Welcome Back, Kotter” hair; gratuitous slo-mo nudity; and an explosive finale that makes most of us grateful that we don’t know any teenagers with psychic superpowers. Let’s not talk about the musical version.