How Many Stephen King Books Have Movies & Which Are Best?

Stephen King became a cottage industry long ago, fed by his famously prolific writing habits and an uncanny grasp of how to scare the public. Film and TV adaptations of King’s work began during the earliest days of his success – 1976’s carrie notably missed his first name as “Steven” in the opening credits — and have continued to the present day, with a huge slate of upcoming projects to add to the list and untold numbers of references and Easter eggs in other works. At this point, the two practically go hand in hand, and chances are the average fan was exposed to at least a few of King’s works as a movie or a TV show first rather than a book.


Charting the precise number of King movie adaptations is tricky. Rotten Tomatoes lists 48 movies in his cinematic pantheon, along with another 30 TV movies, series and miniseries. However, that listing is incomplete and contains entries — such as the interminable Children of the Corn sequels — that scarcely qualify as adaptations. And the entire list is apt to change with time, with two King adaptations slated for 2022 and over two dozen more in various stages of production. A more reliable method is to count the number of his books that have been adapted into films or TV shows, which provides figures less vulnerable to change.


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How Many Stephen King Books Have Movies?


According to Stephen King’s official website, the author has published 86 novels and novellas, not including reprints or expanded editions. In addition, it lists 134 short stories, seven works of nonfiction, and two screenplays, though he wrote screenplays for another six films directly based on his works by him. He’s even directed a film, the disaster-turned-camp-classic max overdrive, which, by his own admission, he directed almost entirely under the influence of drugs.

His site also lists his film and TV adaptations, which makes for a reliable list. It omits “based on” sequels and derivative works, such as 1992’s The Lawnmower Man, which earned notice when King successfully sued the producers to have his name removed from the credits. Dropping remakes of the same story leaves 81 titles based on 70 different books with formal adaptations that King officially acknowledges as “his by him.”

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Which Stephen King Movies Are Best?


The Shawshank Redemption

With a pantheon this deep, any “best of” list needs to be taken with a significant grain of salt. A more objective method is to look for adaptations directed by filmmakers of note whose own work stretches well beyond King and who were able to put their own stamp on his work while staying true to the source. The list isn’t perfect. Tobe Hooper’s The Mangler, for instance, is widely considered one of the worst King adaptations of all time but makes for a solid base. It includes works from Brian De Palma (carrie), Stanley Kubrick (The Shining)David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone), Rob Reiner (stand by me and Misery), Andy Muschietti (Item and It: Chapter Two) and Mike Flanagan Gerald’s Game and doctor sleeping).


Among those ranks, two names merit special attention. The first is George A. Romero, King’s lifelong friend who directed a pair of movies connected to the horror novelist. While 1993’s The Dark Half earned little notice, 1982’s creepshow is an entirely different story: an early homage to EC Comics, which spawned a mini-franchise of its own. King wrote the screenplay and stars in one of the segments: playing a Maine bumpkin consumed by alien plant matter in a singularly weird performance that must be seen to be believed. The remainder of the cast makes up for it, including the likes of Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau.


The second filmmaker is Frank Darabont, whose connection to King goes all the way back to his 1984 short The Woman in the Room. He went on to direct three King adaptations — 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption, 1999’s The Green Mile and 2007’s The mist — which are commonly cited among the best and most mature versions of King’s work. Any list of his best must invariably involve at least one or two Darabont titles.


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