Every Stephen King Novel With Multiple Adaptations (& Which Are The Best)


Streaming on Netflix from October 5, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is the latest Stephen King adaptation to terrify audiences. King is one of Hollywood’s favorite authors to translate to the screen, because his high-concept premises and three-dimensional characters lend themselves easily to film adaptations. Not only has just about every King novel been adapted for the screen; some of them have been adapted more than once.

From It to Salem’s Lot to Pet Sematary, some of King’s most iconic novels have been adapted for the screen more than once. And there’s always one version that stands out from the crowd, like Brian De Palma’s taut adaptation of Carrie and Stanley Kubrick’s chilling take on The Shining.


9/9 Brian De Palma’s 1976 Version Of Carrie Is Unbeatable

King burst onto the literary scene with his unnerving debut novel Carrie, about a telekinetic teenager tormented by her overbearing mother and a gaggle of relentless high school bullies. When she finds herself on the receiving end of a nasty prank on prom night, Carrie White finally reaches her breaking point and goes on a blood-soaked killing spree.

This story was promptly brought to the big screen a couple of years after its publication by director Brian De Palma. Carrie has since been sequelized, homaged, and re-adapted in various projects, but none of them have topped the perfectly paced De Palma original, widely regarded to be one of the finest horror films ever made.

8/9 Mary Lambert’s Original Pet Sematary Is A Flawed Yet Iconic Horror Gem

In his iconic novel Pet Sematary, King distilled the fears of parenthood into the story of a desperate grieving father who buries his late son in a mystical burial ground in the hopes of raising him from the dead. Neither of the two film adaptations of King’s World Fantasy Award-winning book has done the source material justice.

Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary movie from 1989 might not be perfect, but it has some iconic moments. The 2019 version has a great performance by John Lithgow as Jud Crandall, but it ultimately feels derivative of the original adaptation.

7/9 The 1984 Adaptation Of Firestarter Is The Lesser Of Two Evils

There has never been a particularly great adaptation of Firestarter, King’s tale of a pyrotechnic father and daughter on the run from a shady government organization. But the 1984 original is a much stronger take on the material than the needless reinterpretation released by Blumhouse earlier this year.

The 2022 version is bolstered by a mesmerizing John Carpenter score, but the 1984 version has an iconic star-making performance by a young Drew Barrymore, with a scene-stealing supporting turn by George C. Scott as government-sanctioned hitman John Rainbird.

6/9 Andy Muschietti’s First It Movie Became A Modern Classic

At over 1,000 pages, It is one of King’s longest and most ambitious novels. The titular supernatural entity is the embodiment of fear itself, manifested as whatever frightens its chosen victim the most. The book is much too thick to be condensed into a single film, so it’s been adapted as both a TV miniseries and a two-part movie.

The miniseries coasts largely on Tim Curry’s stellar performance as Pennywise. Director Andy Muschietti brought out the creepy atmosphere of the novel when he first brought It to the big screen in 2017. Muschietti struggled to recapture that atmosphere in the scare-free second part, but the first part still holds up as a modern horror classic.

5/9 Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot Miniseries Has A Wonderfully Creepy Atmosphere

King’s take on vampire lore centers on a writer (as many of King’s stories do) who returns to his hometown and learns that its residents are being turned into the bloodsucking undead. Salem’s Lot was King’s second novel to be published after Carrie, and it’s been adapted into two separate TV miniseries: one helmed by Tobe Hooper in 1979 and one helmed by Mikael Salomon in 2004.

Hooper brought the same taut suspense, sinister atmosphere, and fiercely effective scares to his Salem’s Lot miniseries that he brought to his groundbreaking slasher masterpiece The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

4/9 Frank Darabont Added A Devastating Ending To The Mist

First published in the anthology Dark Forces: New Stories of Suspense and Supernatural Horror, King’s novella The Mist sees a small town covered in a dense mist full of Lovecraftian monsters. The Mist has been adapted into a movie by serial Stephen King adapter Frank Darabont and a TV series by Spike TV, which was canceled after just one season.

Whereas the Spike series is underdeveloped and unmemorable, Darabont’s film is unforgettable, thanks to his new ending in which Thomas Jane’s protagonist mercy-kills all the survivors, including his own son, only to discover that the U.S. military was seconds away from saving them.

3/9 ABC’s The Stand Miniseries Captured The Epic Scale Of The Novel

King’s post-apocalyptic opus The Stand is much too large-scale to be confined to a single feature film. It’s been adapted into two TV miniseries: one that aired on ABC in 1994 and one that aired on CBS All Access in 2020.

Not only was the 2020 miniseries hurt by bad timing with its pandemic-related storyline; it also felt unnecessary after the sprawling 1994 original already managed to capture the epic scale of King’s novel.

2/9 David Cronenberg Nailed The Dead Zone’s Mix Of The Paranormal And The Mundane

The seventh novel in King’s oeuvre (and the fifth published under his own name), The Dead Zone, revolves around a man who awakens from a five-year coma with the uncanny ability to see the future of whoever he touches. Body horror legend David Cronenberg adapted the book into a movie in 1983 and the USA Network adapted it into a TV series in 2002.

The TV show is a thrilling watch, but Cronenberg’s movie managed to capture the unique combination of the macabre and the mundane that made King’s original novel (and many of his works) such a resounding success.

1/9 Stanley Kubrick’s Unfaithful Movie Adaptation Improved On The Shining

With its tale of struggling writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance taking a job as a winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, The Shining became one of King’s bestselling novels. According to NME, King hates Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of The Shining, but it’s earned a reputation as one of the most beloved horror films of all time.

In the novel, and the more faithful TV miniseries scripted by King himself, Jack is a good man who is driven into a murderous rage by the ghosts that haunt the Overlook. But in Kubrick’s movie, Jack wants to kill his wife and son based on the isolation alone, and the hotel might not even be haunted at all, which is much more frightening.

NEXT: 10 Ways The Shining Still Holds Up Today


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