Stephen King’s vast catalog of novels and stories is nearly matched by the many movies that have been adapted from his work. From horror to drama, here are 10 of the best Stephen King movies to stream right now.
King’s first novel became the first movie based on his work, and it remains one of the best. Brian De Palma brings dazzling, confident visual style to King’s story of a sheltered and bullied teenage girl who just wants to fit in. Sissy Spacek is fantastic as the sympathetic but dangerous title character, whose ultra-religious mother keeps her hidden away. Carrie’s telekinetic powers manifest in the terrifying and emotionally devastating finale at the high school prom, still one of the greatest King moments ever realized onscreen.
Carrie is streaming on Amazon Prime Video ($8.99+ per month).
One master of horror takes on another as legendary filmmaker John Carpenter adapts King’s novel about a killer car. Carpenter imbues the 1958 Plymouth Fury with real menace, as it slowly takes over the life of awkward teenager Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon). Arnie grows more aggressive and violent under the car’s influence, while it attacks anyone who challenges or antagonizes him. King and Carpenter turn the sunny pop culture of the 1950s into an ominous signifier for Arnie’s descent into nasty violence.
Christine is streaming on Netflix ($9.99+ per month).
King teams up with horror icon George A. Romero for this anthology of morbidly funny horror stories inspired by old EC Comics. King himself wrote the screenplay, with a mix of adaptations and new material. He also delivers his most substantial acting performance, as a hillbilly who transforms into a plant after being exposed to a meteorite. Most of Creepshow is silly like that, with the exaggerated ghoulishness of vintage comic books and an appealingly sick sense of humor.
Creepshow is streaming for free via local libraries on Kanopy.
Director David Cronenberg adopts a dark, bleak tone in his version of one of King’s most pessimistic novels. Christopher Walken plays Johnny Smith, a meek school teacher who wakes from a coma with the power to see the future. Although he tries to use his visions to help people, Johnny’s predictions are often unwelcome, and he becomes more isolated and alone as he tries to prevent what he sees as a potential apocalypse. Cronenberg and Walken make the movie a bracing experience, turning King’s horror into haunting tragedy.
The Dead Zone is streaming on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month).
Kathy Bates’ second starring role in a King adaptation isn’t as well-known as her Oscar-winning work in Misery, but it’s another impressive turn as a strong-willed woman. The title character here isn’t a psychopath like Annie Wilkes, but she’s willing to take drastic action when necessary. Although there’s a dual murder mystery in two time periods, this is more of a character study than a thriller, focused on the troubled relationship between Bates’ Dolores and her daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It’s the most grounded, naturalistic King movie, led by Bates in a nuanced, underrated performance.
Director Mike Flanagan started his ongoing King association with this adaptation of a novel that many considered unfilmable. Most of the story takes place in the main character’s head, but Flanagan finds clever and unsettling ways to bring those thoughts and feelings to life. Carla Gugino carries the movie as a woman who becomes trapped while handcuffed to a bed during intimate roleplaying with her husband, who dies of a heart attack. As she struggles to free herself, she reflects back on her past trauma and experiences visions of what may or may not be an intruder.
Gerald’s Game is streaming on Netflix ($9.99+ per month).
King’s massive novel was adapted into two movies by director Andy Muschietti, but the first part works well as a standalone piece, without the somewhat disappointing follow-up. King’s novel alternates between two time periods 27 years apart, and this film focuses solely on the earlier era, when the seven main characters are children. They band together to save their small town from an evil entity that manifests as Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård). They forge a lifelong bond while facing the worst terrors they can imagine.
It is streaming on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month).
By some metrics, this is the greatest movie ever made. The period drama set in a Maine prison has been at the number-one spot on IMDb users’ top 250 list since 2008, and it’s easy to see why it’s beloved by a wide range of moviegoers. This is a tender story of hope and friendship, without any of the horror elements audiences usually expect from King. It’s an uplifting movie full of cinematic moments that have become iconic, thanks to the talents of filmmaker Frank Darabont and stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
King famously hated Stanley Kubrick’s version of his novel, and the renowned filmmaker indeed takes liberties with the story. But Kubrick creates a masterpiece of his own, a marvel of sustained dread and disorienting set design. Jack Nicholson is mesmerizingly unhinged as the winter caretaker of the remote, cavernous Overlook Hotel, who goes mad as he convenes with the spirits inhabiting the hotel. He targets his wrath on his wife and young son, whose supernatural powers are the only safeguard between the family and damnation.
The Shining is streaming on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month).
Although the main characters in this nostalgia-infused drama are on a quest to see a dead body, there’s no horror here, just wistful longing. Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, and Jerry O’Connell play four preteen friends in 1959 all dealing with their own personal struggles, who come together for a journey filled with warmth, humor, and a bit of danger. Richard Dreyfuss gives the movie its bittersweet tone with his narration as the adult version of one of the friends, looking back on a time he’ll never forget.
Stand by Me is streaming on Netflix ($9.99+ per month).