Not only is Stephen King one of the most recognizable names in literature, but he’s also one of the most adapted writers ever to put pen to paper. With over 240 writing credits to his name, filmmakers and showrunners return to his work time and again in an attempt to deliver new takes on classic tales of drama and horror. While his work remains popular, the name of Stephen King is not always a guarantee of quality when it comes to movies and television. Screenwriters and directors have often taken his source material and delivered interpretations that have been decidedly below par – for example, 2003’s Dreamcatcher, or 1993’s The Tommyknockers. Ultimately, however, these unfortunate attempts only serve to make the successful projects all the more impressive.
This dichotomy is perfectly illustrated by 2017’s movie release slate. On August 18th, The Dark Tower arrived. Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, and written by Arcel, Anders Thomas Jensen, Jeff Pinkner and Akiva Goldsman, the much anticipated film was met with decidedly disappointing reviews. By contrast, early screenings of Andy Muschietti’s upcoming It – written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman – are generating excellent critical responses.
So, in anticipation of It being a success, let’s take a whistle-stop tour through the very best of the previous adaptations of Stephen King in film and television, and consider what makes them tick. Not only does this list highlight great filmmaking, it also demonstrates the eclectic nature of King’s work as source material.