It goes without saying that there are a lot of Stephen King movies out there. So many that you’ve probably lost count. King — a master of fiction whose writing pervades your mind and buries itself beneath your skin — is virtually unmatched when it comes to composing characterization, atmosphere, and suspense. Not to mention, his work is practically timeless.
In spite of sterling source material, some film adaptations of Stephen King’s works don’t exactly measure up to snuff. There’s a fifty-fifty chance of that happening with any book-to-screen translation, though. But those that are successful, we remember them. We cherish them. For King has given us some of the most iconic stories in pop culture today. And if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have these ten films I present to you. So with no further ado, here are ten of the best Stephen King movies streaming online right now.
10. GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990)
While cleaning out the basement of a textile mill, a group of blue collar workers encounters a large and ferocious, bat-like predator.
In the last decade, viewers have come around to this somber creature feature based on a short from the Night Shift collection. It wasn’t highly thought of in 1990 by critics, suffice to say. And maybe Graveyard Shift was considered second-rate in comparison to other heralded King adaptations. However, this is a hidden gem in subterranean horror. The monster is an imaginative creation, and the basement setting’s asphyxiating atmosphere is near tangible.
Where to watch: Vudu
9. SILVER BULLET (1985)
A young paraplegic suspects someone in his town is a werewolf, and he enlists the help of his eccentric uncle to help him find out who it is.
Dan Attias hits the right marks in an expansion of a King short called Cycle of the Werewolf. Silver Bullet may not be the quintessential werewolf horror from the eighties, but it’s a good time. The relationship between the siblings and their uncle is handled well, and there are some genuine thrills to be found here.
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8. RIDING THE BULLET (2004)
As a college student hitch-hikes home to see his ill mother, he experiences an assortment of strange occurrences and disturbing visions as a result of his upsetting past.
This under-seen and dark dramedy was based on what’s really the first mainstream e-book. Riding the Bullet is what you would expect from King – a pensive examination of human relationships viewed through the lens of emotional horror.
7. GERALD’S GAME (2017)
A couple’s attempt at spicing up their marriage ends with the husband suddenly dying and the wife left handcuffed to a bed in an isolated house. As time goes on, the woman’s mind unravels.
King can take a preposterous idea and make something engrossing out of it. Mike Flanagan’s arousing style is perfect for this miserable little tale about love, loss, and hope. The underrated Carla Gugino is effectively put through the ringer in this affecting nail-biter.
Where to watch: Netflix
6. THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
A man wakes up from a five-year coma with psychic abilities. Now, this extraordinary gift leads him to experience terror at a most personal level.
David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone is unfeigned and more elusive than other King films of this era. Christopher Walken and his co-stars give admirable performances in this solemn, dark film with a most intriguing history.
Where to watch: Hulu
5. CUJO (1983)
An unfaithful wife and her young son cross paths with a rabid Saint Bernard named Cujo.
Lewis Teague’s previous horror movie Alligator was a black comedy doubling as a “nature’s revenge” flick, but his take on King’s novel Cujo is more severe and downbeat. It feels wrong to hate the movie’s namesake because of his unfair circumstances; the human characters are sympathetic as well. The bright spot in this dismal suspenser is that the ending differentiates from that of the book. Consider this the film’s only piece of optimism.
4. CHRISTINE (1983)
An unpopular high school student’s life changes for the worse when he buys a derelict 1958 Plymouth Fury. The car boosts both his self-esteem and social standing, but it also transforms him into someone his best friend doesn’t recognize. Soon, the vintage vehicle – dubbed Christine – reveals her true, malevolent nature when no one’s looking.
John Carpenter scores big with Christine. This vehicular, man-slaughtering film is a standout in the director’s filmography for good reasons. Above all, the cast is stellar, the score is remarkable, and the cinematography is iconic.
3. CARRIE (1976)
Carrie White is a social outcast at her high school. Everyone makes fun of her because she’s a late bloomer, and her mother is an overbearing religious fanatic. When a classmate offers her own boyfriend up as a date to prom for Carrie, the teenager accepts without realizing some of her other peers have an awful prank in store for her. Unbeknownst to the bullies, Carrie has a latent, supernatural ability that will make everyone regret they ever laughed at her.
The first adaptation of Carrie is hard to beat. Although it may not provoke scares in modern viewers, the film was most certainly terrifying for audiences back in the day. It’s the perfect construction of the tormented teen trope prevalent in horror; imitators have come and gone with less remembrance. The ’76 Carrie deservedly ranks high among the finest in King movies.
2. PET SEMATARY (1989)
Having just recently moved to Ludlow, Maine, a family is startled by the presence of a pet graveyard near their property. Local legend states that any dead animal buried there will be resurrected. The patriarch of the Creed family personally tests that theory once death pays his family a visit.
One of King’s most upsetting stories is brought to life – pun intended – victoriously by Mary Lambert. The pain from losing a loved one can be felt in every detail of this film. The ’89 Pet Sematary is not the only big-screen retelling nor is it the conclusive execution. Nonetheless, there’s good reason why Lambert’s version is a classic.
Where to watch: Tubi
1. THE SHINING (1980)
Along with his family, a struggling writer named Jack looks after a sprawling, remote hotel during its seasonal shutdown. In the meantime, his wife and son are left to fend for themselves when Jack succumbs to a homicidal, nervous breakdown.
Stephen King made it clear from the start he was not a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Over time, he’s softened to it, accepting the film for what it is rather than what it isn’t. Kubrick’s rendition may not delve deeply into the psychological dimensions of the novel, but it’s a beguiling thriller with arresting performances and cinematography.
Where to watch: Shudder
So, what are your favorite movies or TV shows based on the works of Stephen King? Share your answers with the Nightmare on Film Street community on Twitter, in our Official Subreddit, or in the Fiend Club Facebook Group!