What Stephen King Thinks Of Every Adaptation (Movies & TV Shows)

What Stephen King Thinks Of Every Adaptation (Movies & TV Shows)

Stephen King is one of the most adapted authors ever, and here’s a collection of the opinions he’s offered about those various movies and TV shows. When someone writes as much as King, and has as high a success rate as he does, it’s no wonder that Hollywood is always happy to battle over the rights to his latest novel or short story. While a sizable chunk of his catalog still has yet to be adapted, it feels like just about everything will hit the screen eventually.

Even if they don’t, the more recent trend is for King’s books to get adapted more than once, in some cases for the third time. Carrie is the most notable example, having become a movie in 1976, a TV movie in 2002, and a theatrical remake in 2013. That is to say, even when King retires from writing — assuming he ever does — the onslaught of King adaptations is unlikely to cease. Then again, new King material may never stop coming out either way, as it seems right up his alley to have dozens of stories in reserve for publication from beyond the grave.

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Related: Every Stephen King Story With Versions Of Himself

For the most part, King has a pretty laid-back attitude about the adaptations of his work. After all, his books are still available to read, even if the movie ends up being terrible. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t occasionally let loose on one he particularly hates, or stop to praise one he found enjoyable. Here’s what Stephen King thinks of every adaptation of his work so far.

Carrie (1976)

Carrie was King’s first novel, and naturally, his first hit movie adaptation. King, like most, is a big fan of Brian De Palma’s movie, saying in a 1978 interview with Cinefantastique that he “liked De Palma’s film of Carrie quite a bit.” He did say in a 2010 interview with Florida Weekly that he now found the film a bit dated. Here’s his full quote from the former chat:

I liked De Palma’s film of Carrie quite a bit. The attitude of the film was different from my book; I tended to view the events straight-on, humorlessly, in a straight point-to-point progression (you have to remember that the genesis of Carrie was no more than a short story idea), while I think De Palma saw a chance to make a movie that was a satirical view of high school life in general and high school peer-groups in particular. A perfectly viable point of view. Sissy Spacek was excellent, but right behind her—in a smaller part than it should have been was John Travolta. He played the part of Billy Nolan the way I wish I’d written it, half-funny and half-crazy. Also, in the book, Carrie destroyed the entire town on the way home; that didn’t happen in the movie, mostly because the budget was too small. I wish they could have had that, but otherwise, I don’t have any real quibbles. I think that De Palma is a worthy pretender to Hitchcock’s throne . . .certainly he is as peculiar as Hitchcock.

Salem’s Lot (1979)

Salems-Lot-Vampires

Salem’s Lot was the first King book to become a TV miniseries, and remains a cultural touchstone for many vampire fans. King never discussed the program at much length, but upon director Tobe Hooper’s death in 2017 tweeted: “Sorry to hear Tobe Hooper passed. He did a terrific job directing the ‘Salem’s Lot miniseries, back in the day. He will be missed.”

The Shining (1980)

Of all King’s opinions on the adaptations of his work, his negative feelings on The Shining are the most well-known. Although, he did say that Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep helped him come to appreciate Stanley Kubrick’s film a tad more. Here’s King’s quotes on The Shining from a 2016 interview with Deadline:

I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it. In that sense, when it opened, a lot of the reviews weren’t very favorable and I was one of those reviewers. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much. The character of Jack Torrance has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all. When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier. In the book, he’s a guy who’s struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that’s a tragedy. In the movie, there’s no tragedy because there’s no real change. The other real difference is at the end of my book the hotel blows up, and at the end of Kubrick’s movie the hotel freezes. That’s a difference. But I met Kubrick and there’s no question he’s a terrifically smart guy. He’s made some of the movies that mean a lot to me, Dr. Strangelove, for one and Paths of Glory, for another. I think he did some terrific things but, boy, he was a really insular man. In the sense that when you met him, and when you talked to him, he was able to interact in a perfectly normal way but you never felt like he was all the way there. He was inside himself.

Related: Salem’s Lot: Biggest Differences Between Series & Stephen King’s Book

Cujo (1983)

Cujo from Cujo

Famously, King was so drunk and high during the early 1980s that he can’t remember writing Cujo. While he hasn’t discussed the film version at length, he did say in the aforementioned Deadline piece that he considers it the best of “the smaller pictures,” meaning adaptations made on the cheap.

Children of the Corn (1984)

1984’s first entry in what would become an inexplicably massive franchise is another title King hasn’t discussed in great detail, but in that same Deadline interview, he touched on the film briefly: “I could do without all of the Children of the Corn sequels. I actually like the original pretty well.”

Firestarter (1984)

Drew Barrymore in Stephen King's Firestarter.

In a 1986 interview with American Film magazine, King made it pretty clear how much he isn’t a fan of Firestarter’s movie adaptation, and he did it rather bluntly. Here’s his full quote:

Firestarter is one of the worst of the bunch, even though in terms of story it’s very close to the original. But it’s flavorless; it’s like cafeteria mashed potatoes. There are things that happen in terms of special effects in that movie that make no sense to me whatsoever. Why this kid’s hair blows every time she starts fires is totally beyond my understanding. I never got a satisfactory answer when I saw the rough cut. By that time, Dino [De Laurentis] was regularly asking me for input. Sometimes he’d take it. In that case…

The movie has great actors, with the exception of the lead, David Keith, who I didn’t feel was very good — my wife said that he has stupid eyes. The actors were allowed to do pretty much what they wanted to. Martin Sheen, who is a great actor, with no direction and nobody to tell him — and I mean there must have been literally no direction — with nobody to pull him in and say, “Stop what you’re doing,” he simply reprised Greg Stillson [in The Dead Zone]. That’s all there is; it’s the same character exactly. But Greg Stillson should not be in charge of The Shop [secret government organization in Firestarter]. He’s not the kind of guy who gets that job.

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Maximum Overdrive Trailer Stephen King

Maximum Overdrive was Stephen King’s infamously bad debut – and finale – as a film director, but it’s earned a cult following as a “so bad its good” bit of cheesy fun. As part of the 2003 book Hollywood’s Stephen King, King said of Maximum Overdrive: “The problem with that film is that I was coked out of my mind all through its production, and I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Related: Maximum Overdrive: Why Stephen King’s Directing Debut Was So Bad

Stand by Me (1986)

Stephen King and Stand by Me

This King opinion is second-hand, but he’s since said similar things himself. According to director Rob Reiner, King was so touched by Stand by Me that after a private screening, he went to Reiner and said (according to the Chicago Tribune) “That’s the best film ever made out of anything I’ve written, which isn’t saying much. But you’ve really captured my story. It is autobiographical. All that was made up was the device of the hunt for the body.”

The Running Man (1987)

Stephen King and The Running Man Movie

While it has a sizable following, King isn’t a fan of The Running Man movie, not appreciating how much it deviated from his story, and disapproving of the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead. He even went as far as barring his name from the marketing. King once told Cinemafantastique (via We Minored in Film): “It was totally out of my hands. I didn’t have anything to do with the making [of the movie]…it doesn’t have much in common with the novel at all, except the title.”

Pet Sematary (1989)

King doesn’t often comment on the adaptations he’s directly involved with, which makes sense to an extent. He has stated some rather mixed opinions on Pet Sematary though, despite writing the screenplay. He told the following to Cinefantastique in 1991:

I think Dale Midkiff is stiff in places. I think Denise Crosby comes across cold in places. I don’t feel that the couple that’s at the center of the story has the kind of warmth that would set them off perfectly against the supernatural element that surrounds them. I like that contrast better. I think it does what horror movies are supposed to do. It’s an outlaw genre. It’s an outlaw picture. A lot of the reviews have suggested very strongly that people are offended by the picture, and that’s exactly the effect that the horror movie seeks.

Graveyard Shift (1990)

Graveyard Shift is another King hasn’t dissected in depth, but in that same Deadline interview from earlier, he brought it up when asked about his least favorite adaptations, saying the following: “Should I even say that? I guess there are a number of pictures that I feel like, a little bit like, yuck. There’s one, Graveyard Shift, that was made in the eighties. Just kind of a quick exploitation picture.

Related: Every Future Movie Star in the Children of the Corn Franchise

Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery

Considering how much he loved Stand by Me, the fact that King is a fan of Rob Reiner’s Misery isn’t too surprising. In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, he called Misery a “great film,” and in the 2009 book Stephen King Goes to the Movies, he cites Misery as one of his top 10 adaptations.

IT (1990)

Tim Curry as Pennywise in IT Miniseries

Despite all the success had by the recent IT movies, those who grew up with Tim Curry’s 1990 miniseries version are unlikely to abandon it as a favorite. In a 2015 interview with Yahoo, King concurred with that sentiment:

“You have to remember, my expectations were in the basement. Here was a book that sprawled over 1,000 pages, and they were going to cram it into four hours, with commercials. But the series really surprised me by how good it was. It’s a really ambitious adaptation of a really long book. The kid actors were good, and the adult actors were terrific. There’s an earlier generation who remember watching Salem’s Lot on TV, and then there are the kids who remember seeing It. Get ‘em while they’re young, that’s my motto.”

The Lawnmower Man (1992)

King hasn’t talked about The Lawnmower Man much publicly, but considering the fact that he filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers to have his name removed from the marketing, it’s obvious how he feels about the finished product. The film bears almost no resemblance at all to its “source material.”

Needful Things (1993)

Ed Harris in Needful Things

In a 2007 interview with devoted King fan-site Lilja’s Library, the author cited the Needful Things adaptation as a “disappointment” to him. In the book Hollywood’s Stephen King, he expounded as to why he feels that way: “The movie was a special case. The first cut was shown on TNT. I have a copy of it, and the length of this film was four hours long. As a four-hour miniseries, it works. When edited down to ‘movie length’, it is almost indecipherable because it doesn’t have time to tell all the stories and do all the setups.”

Related: All 30 Forms IT Takes in Stephen King’s Original Novel

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Unsurprisingly, considering many would call it the greatest film ever made, King has lots of love for The Shawshank Redemption, another he puts in his top 10 adaptations list. He said the following to Deadline: “I love The Shawshank Redemption and I’ve always enjoyed working with Frank [Darabont].”

The Mangler (1995)

Of all the adaptations for King to have weighed in on at length, The Mangler seems like an odd choice, but the author slammed it quite verbosely in the aforementioned book Stephen King Goes to the Movies:

Tobe Hooper, who directed it, is something of a genius…The Texas Chain Saw Massacre proves that beyond doubt. But when genius goes wrong, brother, watch out. The film version of ‘The Mangler’ is energetic and colorful, but it’s also a mess with Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund stalking through it for reasons which remain unclear to me even now. … The movie’s visuals are surreal and the sets are eye-popping, but somewhere along the way (maybe in the copious amounts of steam generated by the film’s mechanical star), the story got lost.

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

King hasn’t offered lengthy thoughts on Dolores Claiborne, but he has praised leads Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and it’s another film to make King’s top 10 adaptations list.

Apt Pupil (1998)

Kurt Dussander in Apt Pupil

Apt Pupil, Bryan Singer’s take on King’s story of a manipulative teenager and his reluctant Nazi friend is another King hasn’t touched on much, but it too appears on his t0p 10 adaptations list.

Related: Every Stephen King Movie Sequel

The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile Paul Edgecomb John Coffey

The second successful collaboration of King’s story with Frank Darabont directing, The Green Mile is a film most King fans love, and the author is no different. In Hollywood’s Stephen King, he said:

I would have to say that I was delighted with The Green Mile. The film is a little “soft” in some ways. I like to joke with Frank that his movie was really the first R-rated Hallmark Hall of Fame production. For a story that is set on death row, it has a really feel-good, praise-the-human condition sentiment to it. I certainly don’t have a problem with that because I am a sentimentalist at heart.

Dreamcatcher (2003)

Dreamcatcher - Jonesy and Mr. Gray

King hasn’t had much to say about the movie adaptation of Dreamcatcher, a book just about no one likes that King wrote while he was high on painkillers after being hit by a van, but what he has said speaks volumes. In a 2007 interview with Time Magazine, King called the film a “train wreck.”

1408 (2007)

1408, King’s haunted tale about a man trapped inside an evil, sentient hotel room, was praised by the author around the time of its release, and later included in his list of top 10 adaptations. Speaking to The New York Post, King called 1408 one of the few movies based on his work that meet his standards.

The Mist (2007)

The Mist Movie Spike TV Series

Frank Darabont is three-for-three when it comes to directing King adaptations the author loves, with King saying in a 2007 press conference promoting The Mist: “Frank wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last five minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.”

Related: Every Stephen King & Frank Darabont Collaboration

Under the Dome (2013-2015)

Under the Dome Season 3 Art

Under the Dome got the pretty rare King reversal after the fact, as he talked it up during its run on TV — and even wrote and cameoed in an episode — but in 2019 changed his tune by tweeting out a suggestion that Netflix adapt Under the Dome again, and this time actually follow the book. Ouch.

11.22.63 (2016)

Critics and audiences both generally loved Hulu’s eight-episode limited series adaptation of 11.22.63, and King himself was no different. He was actually instrumental in getting producer J.J. Abrams on board to guide the project, and told The Daily Beast in 2016: “He likes those off-the-wall stories. I think it’s a pretty good fit for J.J., I really do. He put together a hell of a team and I’m very satisfied with the result.”

The Dark Tower (2017)

stephen king dark tower gunslinger

While King praised The Dark Tower movie prior to release, he later admitted it didn’t quite work during an interview with Vulture, explaining:

The major challenge was to do a film based on a series of books that’s really long, about 3,000 pages. The other part of it was the decision to do a PG-13 feature adaptation of books that are extremely violent and deal with violent behavior in a fairly graphic way. That was something that had to be overcome, although I’ve gotta say, I thought [screenwriter] Akiva Goldsman did a terrific job in taking a central part of the book and turning it into what I thought was a pretty good movie.

IT (2017)

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in It

So, what did Stephen King think of the new IT? Just prior to the release of IT, King offered effusive praise for the film, and he’s said nothing to backtrack on that since. As relayed to Bloody Disgusting:

I had hopes, but I was not prepared for how good it really was. It’s something that’s different, and at the same time, it’s something that audiences are gonna relate to. They’re gonna like the characters. To me, it’s all about character. If you like the characters… if you care… the scares generally work. I’m sure my fans will enjoy the movie. I think they’re gonna really enjoy the movie. And I think some of them will go back two or three times and actually savor the thing. I went back and saw it a second time, and I felt I was seeing things the second time through that I missed the first time.

Related: What Scares Stephen King? The Horror Author’s Biggest Fears Explained

Gerald’s Game (2017)

For decades, most regarded King’s very insular novel Gerald’s Game to be unfilmable, but then director Mike Flanagan came along and did just that, to widespread praise. King felt the same way, saying the following to Vulture:

I had casting approval and I approved them immediately. I knew their work, of course. Bruce Greenwood had worked for a while on [the King-penned musical] Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and I’m just sorry he didn’t get to sing in Gerald’s Game, because he has a terrific singing voice. It was a no-brainer for me. The script broke the book open to get to the interior part of the story in a way that I thought was terrific.

1922 (2017)

1922 was the second King adaptation to hit Netflix in 2017, and the author also had plenty of kudos to offer up. In that same Vulture interview, he said of the Thomas Jane vehicle:

With 1922, was I a little surprised that somebody wanted to make it? I was, and I was also pleased by the challenge of it and anxious to see what would come out. And you know, what 1922 reminded me of was a film called There Will Be Blood. It has the same kind of flat, dead-eyed, affect to it, so it made for a really good suspense picture, and it’s a movie that won’t leave my mind. It has this sort of poisonous effect, it just sort of sticks there because some of the images are so good.

The Mist (2017)

The Mist wasn’t much like King’s beloved novella, completely abandoning his Lovecraftian monsters. Yet, he didn’t hesitate to promote its arrival with a recommendation, tweeting: “THE MIST TV series premieres on Spike, June 22nd. You might want to mark it on your calendar. It’s really good.”

Pet Sematary (2019)

Jason Clarke As Louis Creed in Pet Sematary 2019

While the response to it from King diehards was mixed, the author himself quite liked the 2019 remake of Pet Sematary, calling it a great film. He also directly addressed the remake’s controversial dead child switch during an interview with EW:

It’s something different,” King says. “They did a good job. Boy, I saw all the stuff that came online when people realized that it was Ellie rather than Gage that got run over in the road, and I’m thinking like, ‘Man, these people…’ It’s so nuts. You can take Route 301 and go to Tampa, or you could take Route 17 and go to Tampa. But both times, you’re gonna come out at Tampa!” he said with a laugh. “You know what I’m saying? It didn’t change anything for me. I thought, ‘Okay, I understand why they did it, because it’s maybe easier to work with a zombie when she’s a little girl than a toddler.”

Related: Pet Sematary’s Remake Did ONE Thing So Much Better Than the Original

IT Chapter Two (2019)

Bill Skarsgard in It Chapter Two

Just as with IT, King heavily praised IT Chapter Two prior to release, and he also directly addressed the big twist involving Richie being revealed as gay and harboring unrequited love for Eddie. “No, I never did. But again, it’s one of those things that’s kind of genius, because it echoes the beginning. It comes full circle.”

Doctor Sleep (2019)

Doctor Sleep Director's Cut Blu-Ray Cover Crop

As mentioned above, Stephen King loved the Doctor Sleep movie so much that it’s softened his infamously harsh opinion of The Shining. Here’s his full quote on the matter, given to EW:

I read the script to this one very, very carefully,. Because obviously I wanted to do a good job with the sequel, because people knew the book The Shining, and I thought, I don’t want to screw this up. Mike Flanagan, I’ve enjoyed all his movies, and I’ve worked with him before on Gerald’s Game. So, I read the script very, very carefully and I said to myself, ‘Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for me here.

I don’t want to get into a big argument about how great the Shining film is that Kubrick did or my feelings about it. All I can say is, Mike took my material, he created a terrific story, people who have seen this movie flip for it, and I flipped for it, too. Because he managed to take my novel of Doctor Sleep, the sequel, and somehow weld it seamlessly to the Kubrick version of The Shining, the movie. So, yeah, I liked it a lot.

The Outsider (2020)

The Outsider: Ralph splattered with Alec's blood.

The Outsider was one of the most recent Stephen King books to be adapted for TV, and the author has been nothing but glowing toward it, as were most critics. In an interview with NPR, King said: “Well, I loved the series. I loved what they did to it.”

The Stand (2020-2021)

The Stand stephen kings villains randall flagg Nadine Cross Harold

The Stand is a 2020-2021 miniseries depicting Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic work of the same name. Famously one of his longer books, rivaling the length of IT, The Stand had an all-star cast roaming a world that has been overridden by a fatal pandemic. Stephen King’s The Stand made changes that didn’t support the original story, but Stephen King had positive things to say about the miniseries in an interview with CBS: “I’m loving this iteration of The Stand. Special kudos to my Dome alumna, Natalie Martinez, and Owen Teague, who was good in IT and really kills it as Harold Lauder. James Marsden… Odessa Young… Alexander, brother of Bill… all so damn good.”

Related: Stephen King Almost Saved 2020’s The Stand Miniseries

Lisey’s Story (2021)

Liseys Story Lisey Julianne Moore

The coronavirus-delayed miniseries Lisey’s Story, starring acting veteran Julianne Moore, combines psychological horror and romance to bring the sad tale of widow Lisey Landon to life. The drama/horror miniseries adapted King’s book of the same name, and the author was in complete control over the show as he had previously refused to adapt the deeply personal story. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, King opined:

“Yeah, I would say that I’m 100 percent satisfied with the way things look. The great thing about this was Guy Dyas, who designed Boo’ya Moon and built it, created these huge, huge sets. They were at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. You talk about spooky, the coronavirus came along and shut us down, and for a while, those sets just sat there deserted. Boo’ya Moon was very creepy at that time. I saw it with everybody gone, and it just looked haunted to me. It was wonderful. He just filled it with these strange plants and designs. Yeah, I would have to say I’m pretty satisfied with the way it turned out.”

Chapelwaite (2021)

Chapelwaite - Jakub

Not to be confused with King’s full-length novel, Salem’s Lot, Chapelwaite is based on his short story called Jerusalem’s Lot. It was first published in his short story collection titled The Night Shift, and it’s narrated primarily through a variety of letters and diary entries from the protagonist Charles Boone. Stephen King had nothing but praise for the show despite Chapelwaite’s differences from the short story, saying via Twitter, “CHAPELWAITE (EPIX) is very, very good. Balls-to-the-wall gothic horror. All thriller, no filler.”

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Michael Kennedy is an avid movie and TV fan that’s been working for Screen Rant in various capacities since 2014. In that time, Michael has written over 2000 articles for the site, first working solely as a news writer, then later as a senior writer and associate news editor. Most recently, Michael helped launch Screen Rant’s new horror section, and is now the lead staff writer when it comes to all things frightening. A FL native, Michael is passionate about pop culture, and earned an AS degree in film production in 2012. He also loves both Marvel and DC movies, and wishes every superhero fan could just get along. When not writing, Michael enjoys going to concerts, taking in live professional wrestling, and debating pop culture. A long-term member of the Screen Rant family, Michael looks forward to continuing on creating new content for the site for many more years to come.

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