8 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Stephen King Stories
The King of Horror, The Master of Mystery
As of this writing, Stephen King has 244 writing credits for produced projects in IMDb. This includes books, novels, novellas, short stories, poems, haikus, and limericks. And I’m only kidding about the haikus and limericks (yes, there is a movie short based a poem he wrote). In fact, Guinness has certified King as having the most motion picture adaptations of a living author.
Okay, since this thing called the internet took off, it’s possible you now know that these are Stephen King stories. But even I, as an avid Stephen King fan at one time, didn’t realize a few of my favorite movies (a few I even owned) were actually stories that originated in King’s head (even ones I’d read, like “The Body,” which became Stand By Me).
In no particular order, here are 8 movies that you may not have realized are adaptations from Stephen King stories. Especially the ones that have been re-titled, and those that are not as macabre as King usually is. However, most of his movies and books still have Twilight Zone-worthy twists.
Based on a 1999 audio short story, written in 2001 collection Everything’s Eventual
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shaloub
Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom
IMDb Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars
Before IT (2017), 1408 was Stephen King’s highest-grossing movie adaptation. This seems a bit odd, given all of the other more well-known titles. Matthew Monagle explains that at the time, the horror genre experienced an influx of over-the-top torture movies like Saw III and Hostel, so this little movie about a guy and ghosts with a relatively low body-count seemed to be a welcome relief from all the gore.
John Cusack is fantastic as sarcastic writer Mike Enslin, who writes books about haunted places he’s investigated, and of course, has never found any evidence. Until now. I hope I didn’t just ruin the movie for you.
“Let’s ‘Encyclopedia Brown’ this bitch.” – Mike Enslin
There is a lot of numerology in this movie, especially with the number 13. The numbers of the title (1+4+0+8) add up to 13, along with numerous other references.
Stephen King has said this story is his version of “The Red Room” by H.G. Wells, which was also about a hotel room. Apparently some inspiration was also taken from stories about real investigations done by parapsychologist Christopher Chacon.
This was John Cusack’s 2nd Stephen King film adaptation, the first being Stand By Me when he was just a youngster.
Here’s a bit of movie trivia/Stephen King tie-in, 1408 and the Shining were shot at the same London movie studio, and it so happens that an axe used at the end of 1408 is the same axe used by Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
- Apt Pupil (1998)
Based on the novella from the 1982 Collection Different Seasons
Starring: Ian McKellan, Brad Renfro, Bruce Davison, David Schwimmer
Directed by: Bryan Singer
IMDb Rating: 6.7 out of 10 stars
Wow, okay. I did not enjoy this film. It is brilliant in some ways, but so unpleasant in others. But I guess that pretty much sums up the majority of Stephen King’s writing–so dark that you never dared to go there, and now you’re kind of bummed you went there.
Brad Renfro was only 14 at the time of filming, playing a 16-year-old, and Ian McKellan was only 57, playing a 75-year-old man. They are both great in their prospective roles, and the movie is well-made, but it is just very unpleasant subject matter.
To sum it up, the teen finds out the senior used to be a Nazi, threatens him to make him cough up details, and then they both get off on it a little.
- Hearts In Atlantis (2001)
Based on novellas Low Men In Yellow Coats and Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling from the 1999 Hearts In Atlantis Collection
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, David Morse, Hope Davis
IMDb Rating: 6.9 out of 10 stars
When we saw Anton Yelchin as Chekov in the Star Trek reboot, and as a young Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation (both in 2009), he had already been acting for nearly 10 years. He starred in Charlie Bartlett in 2007, and had a slew of one-time roles in Criminal Minds, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, NYPD Blue, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Practice, Taken, leading all the way back to Hearts In Atlantis as his first major role.
This movie is another great coming-of-age story, with a Stephen King signature of being set in the 1950s (when King himself grew up). Yelchin is wonderful as 11-year-old Bobby, (who lost his dad and whose mother is incredibly self-absorbed), and Anthony Hopkins is fantastic as Ted, who becomes a father figure for Bobby.
When you’re young, you have moments of such happiness…then we grow up, and our hearts break in two. – Ted Bradigan
There are actually 5 novellas in the Hearts In Atlantis collection, but to make it simple, screenwriter William Goldman just used the first and last stories, the only 2 that the main character Bobby appeared in.
David Morse also appeared in Stephen King movies The Green Mile, and The Langoliers. And you probably know, we lost Yelchin in 2016 at the age of 27, when he was pinned by his own car in his driveway.
- Secret Window (2004)
Based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden from the 1990 Collection Four Past Midnight
Starring: Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro, Timothy Hutton
Directed by: David Koepp
IMDb Rating: 6.6 out of 10 stars
I really enjoyed this one. Stephen King writes a story about (wait for it) a writer! Johnny Depp is amazing as a fairly reclusive writer going through a divorce when a man appears on his doorstep accusing him “you stole my story.”
It’s disturbing at times, and what else would it be? It’s Stephen King. It’s fun to watch a second time, too.
Stephen King traded the rights to this film to get the rights to Kingdom Hospital. The original story is called Secret Window, Secret Garden, but since there was already a movie called Secret Garden, they decided to avoid confusion by just calling it Secret Window.
“This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife.” – Morton Rainey, quoting the Talking Heads
- The Running Man (1987)
Based on the 1982 novel by Richard Bachman (King’s pen name)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Dawson, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jesse Ventura, Jim Brown
Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser
IMDb Rating: 6.6 out of 10 stars
One of the main reasons you may not know this is a Stephen King movie is that the credit goes to Richard Bachman, the pseudonym King used to publish several novels. Apparently he wrote this 304-page novel in only 10 days.
The future is here! This movie is set in 2017, and hm, maybe not too far off. This is a future with a bad economy and a bad government that controls people through the media and reality TV. An innocent man is framed for murder and is forced to fight for his life on a game show where the public cheers on executions.It has some inside jokes, including Richard Dawson (original host of Family Feud) as the game show host. Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac plays “Mic,” while Dweezil Zappa plays “Stevie,” a nod to Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. And Arnold says “I’ll be back,” his famous line from the Terminator.
The film inspired the game show American Gladiator in the late 1980s, and the idea of having people fight to the death on a game show is used in the Hunger Games. A relatively-then-unknown-to-the-public Paula Abdul choreographed an opening dance scene.
This is television, that’s all it is. It has nothing to do with people, it’s to do with ratings! For fifty years, we’ve told them what to eat, what to drink, what to wear…Americans love television. They wean their kids on it. They love game shows, they love wrestling, they love sports and violence. So what do we do? We give ’em what they want! – Damon Killian
- The Green Mile (1998)
Based on the 1996 novel
Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Jeter, Sam Rockwell, Harry Dean Stanton
Directed by: Frank Durabont
IMDb Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars
This is one of those movies that’s on lots of “must see” lists. It’s a long one, clocking in at 3:09 hours, about a prison in the 1930s where the guards are not sure to make of one of their new inmates, who seems to have supernatural powers. I like Roger Ebert’s observation that the film’s length helps us appreciate the passage of time in prison.
The Green Mile was originally published in 100-page installments from March to August 1996. King had said that it was his most faithful adaptation to date, previously having said that about Stand By Me. Frank Darabont called this the most satisfying movie of his career, and this is the guy that directed Shawshank Redemption. This was King’s first and only movie to hit 100 million at the box office, until IT (2017).
Tom Hanks was was exactly who King had in mind for the role. Hanks was originally considered for the part of Andy Dufrane in Shawshank Redemption, but had to turn it down because of Forrest Gump. Bruce Willis recommended Michael Clarke Duncan after working with him in Armageddon. David Morse cried when he read the script, and Darabont wanted Cromwell, who agreed to the role after reading the script.
Several people on the set were taller than Michael Clarke Duncan, who was supposed to appear to be a gentle giant. They made him look bigger by making his bed a little smaller than a regular bed, and the chair a little smaller.
- Stand by Me (1986)
Based on the novella The Body from the 1982 Collection Different Seasons
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack
Directed By: Rob Reiner
IMDb Rating: 8.1 out of 10 stars
This is a great movie with amazing acting from young, mostly unknown cast who went on to become well-known. A coming-of-age story, with four friends going to find the body of a boy they heard died.
The movie was set in Oregon, while the book was set in Maine, although the book never mentions this fact. Script writers mistook Castle Rock as being near Portland, Oregon, since there is a real town called Castle Rock there.
King himself said it was one of the closest adaptations of his films, and director Rob Reiner also agrees that it is one of his best films. In fact, with the success, Reiner was able to form his film company, Castle Rock Productions.
The song Stand By Me was re-released with the film, peaking at #1 again in 1986. The Ben E. King (no relation to Stephen, his birth name was Nelson) song had originally peaked at #1 in 1961. There are more than 400 recorded versions of the song. As of 2012, it was the sixth-highest earning song of all time.
River Phoenix had apparently said that he identified with his character so much that he would have needed a psychiatrist if he didn’t have his family to go home to. Tragically, Phoenix died at the young age of 23 in 1993, on Halloween in front of the Viper Room.
Oh, and I think it’s worth noting that the scene with the leeches is inspired by Stephen King’s real-life experience.
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Based on the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from the 1982 Collection Different Seasons
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Clancy Brown, William Sadler, Gil Bellows
Directed by: Frank Darabont
IMDb Rating: 9.3 out of 10 stars
This film is on just about every “must see” list, and is #1 on IMDb’s list of the 250 Top-Rated Movies, just above The Godfather. It really is a great one. Tim Robbins plays a man who goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and meets Morgan Freeman’s character Red, who gets him through it.
The film did not do great in theaters, but became one of the highest-grossing rentals of all time, and most-rented movie of 1995. Other people who love this movie include Morgan Freeman, Raquel Welch (whose poster is featured in the film), and Stephen King himself. The film actually received 7 Oscar nominations, but didn’t win any awards.
Darabont took a pay cut to get to direct his own script. Rob Reiner also wanted to direct the film, so he offered Darabont $2.5 million to let him direct it, which Darabont turned down.
Dear Warden, You were right. Salvation lay within. – Andy Dufresne
I know we all assumed Morgan Freeman just came out of the womb doing narration voiceovers, but this is actually the first narration role for him. Darabont was inspired by the movie Goodfellas to add the voiceover, as well as taking cues from how Goodfellas showed the passage of time (montage!).
There’s also a good chance you saw this movie on TNT Network, after Ted Turner acquired Castle Rock Entertainment and started showing the movie all day, every day.
King has said his favorite book-to-film adaptations are Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Mist.
That’s 1 Richard Bachman book, 2 stories about writers, 2 prison movies, 2 coming-of-age stories, 3 stories about men wrongly accused, and 3 movies in which child actors who played (mostly) main characters ended up dying at a fairly young age. Which equals 8 Stephen King movies you may not have known were Stephen King movies.
I did re-watch all of these movies, and I have to say I really enjoyed most all of them (with the notable exception of Apt Pupil, it’s okay if I never see that one again). Some left me thinking more than others, but they all leave you thinking about all the nooks and crannies where things hide. Mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Read My Family’s Review of IT
How Richard Bachman Came About
Apt Pupil (1998)
Hearts In Atlantis (2001)
Secret Window (2004)
The Running Man (1987)
The Green Mile (1998)
Stand by Me (1986)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)