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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Five Best: Stephen King Adaptations

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As Halloween approaches, I'll start focusing on scary movies, horror movies, etc. for my top fives. This week, I want to look at the best movies based on Stephen King novels or stories. Obviously, not all of King's work is terrifying, so a few entrances on this list are the least bit frightening. But, the vast majority of his work will always be in the horror genre, giving way to some very good films and a lot of pretty stupid ones. Regardless, let's take a look at the five best movies that are adapted from the works of Stephen King.

NOTE: I made a genuine effort to not factor in the quality of the books. For example, Misery is a much better book than a film, but the adaptation is still pretty great.

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The Shining (1980)

A film adaptation that King was never really a fan of, Stanley Kubrick took the tale of paranoia and isolation and turned it into a psychological thriller masterpiece. Jack Nicholson stars as writer Jack Torrance in one of his most manic performances in this twisted, panic-inducing movie set in the dead of winter at the iconic Overlook Hotel, where he and his family are the caretakers. Jack's son Danny (Danny Lloyd) has horrific psychic visions, which eventually add to the claustrophobia Jack is suffering, on top of his writer's block. Terrifying and exciting, this still sits close to the top of the scariest movies ever made.

NOTE: I maintain that anyone would go crazy spending that much time with Shelley Duvall.

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Stand By Me (1986)

Based on the King novella "The Body," Stand By Me is told from the perspective of a man who recently loses a friend, recounting a journey he and his close friends had one summer. The troupe of young boys includes Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Will Wheaton, traveling through the woods to find the body of a missing young boy. The film has some of the best child acting you'll ever see, an Oscar-nominated script, and a great creepy turn from a young Kiefer Sutherland. Just an excellent film about growing up, standing up for yourself, and becoming a man.

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Misery (1990)

As I said above, this book is easily one of the best horror novels ever written, so it's tough to top. But Rob Reiner's tense re-telling of the story is a stressful 107 minutes, almost entirely thanks to Kathy Bates and Oscar-winning performance as Annie Wilkes, the unhinged, biggest fan to James Caan's Paul Sheldon. When Sheldon crashes his car, Wilkes comes to his aid, only to turn the tables on his "rescue." There are few scenes in cinema that will make your stomach turn as much as a the foot...

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Somehow, this has become everybody's favorite movie. Nominated seven Oscars, including Best Picture (in a behemoth of a movie year against Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction), Shawshank actually won nothing. Based on the King short story "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," within his 1982 collection Different Seasons, the film stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman as two men who form a bond while being imprisoned together. It's extremely well-acted, touching, and a brilliant directing debut from Frank Darabont. Always remember: get busy living or get busy dying.

INSIDE JOKE: The Shawshank Redemption is the BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR!!

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The Green Mile (1999)

I feel like there's a weird backlash against this movie. Am I wrong? Based on the King serial novel, The Green Mile stars Tom Hanks as a death row guard who takes in a prisoner named John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), accused of murdering two young girls. The catch - Coffey seems to have miraculous healing powers. Littered with excellent supporting performances from Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, David Morse, and Doug Hutchinson, it's a moving story of men who are forced to do what they feel is wrong. Try watching this movie and not tearing up at the end. Seriously. I still do.

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CHEESE-TACULAR BONUS: The Running Man (1987)

I LOVE The Running Man, but it's so damn cheesy. It's Arnold Schwarzenegger, framed for a crime and forced to be a contestant on a game show hosted by Richard Dawson. The fun part: on this show, he is literally trying to stay alive. He and the other contestants run from assassins that work for the show, including Jesse Ventura and Jim Brown. And Dweezil Zappa and Mick Fleetwood are in there, too, somewhere. It's INSANE. And awesome. It has the greatest one-liners ever. A taste:

"Killian, here's your Subzero, now plain zero."
"I told Killian I'd be back. I wouldn't want to be a liar."
"I love this saw! It's a part of me... now I'm gonna make it part of you!"

These aren't as great out of context, but still. My favorites can't be printed, because this site has a bit of censorship to it.

His novels may usually be better, but the movies that come from Stephen King's work can be better than you'd think.

Other good ones and why I didn't choose them:

Carrie (1976) - It almost made the cut, but the others are just too good.
Cujo (1983) - It's scary, but it's not really that great of a film, overall.
The Dead Zone (1983) - Same with Carrie, I really wanted to include it. But the above choices are just too good.
Pet Sematary (1989) - Not really a great film overall, but I almost included it for Gage (Miko Hughes) being hit by a truck and severing Fred Gwynne's tendon. *shutter*
1408 (2007) - I'll be honest...I haven't seen it. It got relatively good reviews, though. Maybe I'll check it out.
The Mist (2007) - I go back and forth with this movie. I'm still not sure if it's a secret success or if it bombed for a reason.

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