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Top 10 Stephen King Horror Movies (and a Bonus Guilty Pleasure)


Stephen King is the undisputed king of horror literature, but when it comes to movies based on his writings, the level of success -- both commercially and artistically -- becomes more erratic. Here, however, is a sure-fire list of winners. In fact, these are the 10 best movie and miniseries adaptations of King stories to date. And no, The Mangler 2 is nowhere to be found.

Salem's Lot (1979)

© Warner Home Video
It might have been made for TV, but Salem's Lot delivers theatrical thrills and chills. It tells the story of an author who returns to his home town, only to discover that a vampire has moved in and is steadily turning everyone into creatures of the night. Because it's a miniseries, there's time to develop several plot points, humanizing the characters and heightening the fear and tragedy.

The Shining (1980)

© Warner Home Video
A caretaker and his family move into an isolated hotel in the dead of winter and must deal with its ghostly inhabitants. This third adaptation of a King novel is probably the best of the author's movies and is easily one of the most frightening films of all time, right after White Chicks. A TV miniseries was produced in 1997 that was truer to the book, but it was nowhere near as creepy -- in part because Steven Weber is no Jack Nicholson.

Creepshow (1982)

© Warner Home Video
Unlike most King films, the author actually wrote the screenplay for this anthology of spooky stories. The tales involve zombie revenge, a killer alien plant, a monster in a box and a cockroach invasion. The original title, Creepshow on the Dance Floor, was nixed for being too funky.

The Dead Zone (1983)

© Paramount Studios
Only tangentially horrific yet thoroughly entertaining, The Dead Zone involves a teacher developing the ability to see the future after a car accident lands him in a coma for five years. Unlike those who squander their psychic abilities -- Miss Cleo, I'm looking at you -- Johnny (Christopher Walken) uses his talent to solve murders, save children from drowning and prevent a nuclear war. You're welcome.

Silver Bullet (1985)

© Paramount Studios
Silver Bullet is the last of a dying breed: a charming coming-of-age tale wrapped in a terrifying werewolf murder mystery, starring a coherent Corey Haim.

It (1990)

© Warner Home Video
If you're not afraid of clowns, It can cure that irrational non-fear quickly. Tim Curry's uber-creepy performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown adds the scares, while flashbacks to 1960 add a Stand By Me-ish nostalgia that makes this perhaps the best King-based miniseries.

Misery (1990)

© MGM Studios
A great mix of dark comedy and horror, Misery has become one of those rare, iconic cultural reference points, thanks to Kathy Bates' Oscar-winning performance and the introduction of one of the most wince-worthy words in the English language: "hobbling."

The Dark Half (1993)

© MGM Studios
Directed by horror master George Romero, the oft-overlooked The Dark Half predates similar films The Number 23 and King's own Secret Window. It revolves around an author whose pseudonym develops a mind of his own and seeks to kill anyone he feels is responsible for his "death."

Needful Things (1993)

© MGM Studios
It's not particularly scary, but Needful Things is a relentlessly entertaining look into the nature of evil, featuring a dark comedic streak. Where else are you going to see a priest and a minister throw down? Max von Sydow is brilliant as one of the best devils in cinematic history.

1408 (2007)

© The Weinstein Company
Alternately scary, funny and touching, 1408 packs the evil of The Shining's Overlook Hotel into one hotel room. You can't take your eyes off of the trippy visuals in this one-man play of sorts, starring John Cusack.

Bonus Guilty Pleasure: Maximum Overdrive (1986)

© 20th Century Fox
Maximum Overdrive is the only film that King has directed, and with good reason. It's by no means a good movie, but that's part of its overwhelming camp appeal. There's something inherently hilarious about seeing a lawnmower chasing down a man or a steamroller pancaking little leaguers, not to mention a killer vending machine and a demonic ice cream truck. From the AC/DC soundtrack to the demolition derby car crashes to the explosions that blow stuff up "real good," Maximum Overdrive is a cheesy good time.

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