The 10 Scariest Stephen King Movies Ever, Ranked


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Stephen King's status as the master of horror is well-earned. With 88 books and counting to his name, the author's ability to tap into the human psyche and find what scares us the most has become uncanny. And Hollywood took notice a long time ago. Not including sequels, more than 40 films based on King's work have been made since 1976's Carrie. On April 5, yet another potentially terrifying adaptation will be added to the list when the Pet Sematary remake hits theatres. Only time will tell if the 2019 film will join the list of King's scariest movie adaptations, but before we head to the theatre to find out, let's look back on the 10 most chilling film adaptations of the author's work to date.

Ranked from scary to sleep with the lights on levels of fear, these movies all had theatrical releases (that means Salem's Lot fans are out of luck), and they all showcase exactly why King will always be the true master of horror in the realms of literature and film.

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10 It (2017)

In the grand scheme of scary King adaptations, It is definitely unnerving, but it's not quite as scary as the other films on this list. The story works best as a coming-of-age tale for the Losers' Club, but it's not without its creepy moments. Seeing Bill Skarsgård in full Pennywise makeup for the first time kicks the film off with a haunting start, and watching him lure little Georgie into his trap is the stuff of nightmares. But the movie's biggest fright comes later when Pennywise manifests as Georgie in his big brother Bill's basement in order to taunt the older child with the chilling refrain, "You'll float, too."

Ultimately, It's fear factor comes from just how personal the terror is for the children in the film, and how helpless the audience feels while watching them fight against the human and demonic evils plaguing their small town.

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9 Children of the Corn (1984)

The overwhelming amount of subpar sequels has diluted Children of the Corn's legacy a bit, but the original still holds up thanks to the creepiness of the premise. In truth, the movie starts of as standard horror fare: a young couple gets stranded in a seemingly abandoned small town, but having the town be run by homicidal children is great twist. The zealotry on display from Malachai and Isaac, the child leaders of a cult that worships a deity known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows, is enough to make even the most seasoned horror fan squirm. It's a credit to the young actors that they could so convincingly play a level of obsessive devotion and creepiness that they would make viewers think twice about entering cornfields for decades to come.

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8 Christine (1983)

If you've never seen Christine, then you'll be forgiven for finding the premise cheesy. An evil car becoming obsessed with its owner does sound ridiculous. But in practice, it's a deliciously scary ride. As the owner of Christine, Keith Gordon's Arnie is seemingly possessed by the car that he pours his heart and soul into repairing. This makes him an unwitting accomplice when Christine traps his girlfriend inside as she chokes on a hamburger while Arnie watches helplessly, or when she takes off into the night on her own to murder his bullies.

Between the film's killer score and the way it turns the love a guy has for his first car into something dark and twisted, this movie is far scarier than it's given credit for.

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7 1408 (2007)

1408 is almost a one-man play with the entire premise resting on the shoulders of John Cusack, an actor best known for '80s teen movies like Say Anything. Cusack more than rises to the occasion as he takes on the role of a sceptical author who investigates paranormal activity. His job leads him to a notorious New York City hotel room that's had more than its share of deaths. From there, the movie kicks off an unrelenting barrage of nightmarish imagery as the room sets about torturing Cusack's Mike.

In perhaps the most frightening sequence of all, Mike embraces his dead daughter, only to have her turn to dust in his arms — a clear sign that there's no escaping this place that seems to know its occupant's every weakness.

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6 Carrie (1976)

In many ways, Carrie is just as sad as it is scary. The film's most iconic scene finds Sissy Spacek's titular telekinetic teen wreaking havoc on her prom after her classmates drop pig blood on her. It's one of horror's greatest sequences in large part because it shows a young woman coming into her power, but also because it's technically brilliant. However, the best scare in the film happens in the final moments, when Carrie's classmate Nancy (and the audience) is treated to the jump scare to end all jump scares.

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5 The Mist (2007)

What lies in the mist? Monsters. A whole lot of monsters. Forget the bland television adaptation, because the 2007 film The Mist is a near-perfect horror film. It takes a group of people and strands them in a small-town grocery store as an unforgiving mist blankets their town. The movie is full of creature-filled jump scares, but the most unsettling moment is the bleak and unexpected way the story ends. It's a haunting conclusion to a thrilling story that expertly mixes the supernatural with human paranoia.

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4 Pet Sematary (1989)

The 2019 Pet Sematary has big shoes to fill. The first take on the King story is terrifying because of its all too real depiction of grief. It poses the question: what if you could bring a loved one back from the dead? Should you? The answer to that question is, of course, no, but the father at the centre of the story finds out the hard way when he buries his toddler, Gage, in the titular cemetery. Gage comes back as a murderous, soulless monster, but he still looks like his son. That only makes the moment when he asks his father to play in his innocent voice all the more devastating and horrifying.

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3 Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the deranged Annie Wilkes in Misery. Given how rare it is for the Oscars to acknowledge horror movies at all, this speaks volumes about her performance. Still, it's easy to forget the sheer amount of terror this film about an overzealous fan kidnapping her favourite author packs in.

The movie contains plenty of heart-stopping moments, but the most memorable scene is still also the most frightening. Few things in cinema history can top the horror of watching Annie smash James Caan's character's legs with a sledgehammer leaving him shattered and at the mercy of a fan who wants him to keep her fragile fantasy world alive.

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2 Cujo (1983)

Cujo may be a slightly controversial pick for the second scariest King adaptation of all time, but the realism puts it just a notch above the rest in terms of pure terror. The movie is a claustrophobic nightmare that traps a mother and son in their broken-down car as a rabid dog terrorizes them. Thanks to Dee Wallace's visceral performance as the mother, the mounting sense of fear and desperation is palpable throughout.

If you have even the slightest fear of enclosed spaces, then watching the mother and son sit helplessly in a locked car with the sun beating down on them is enough to make your skin crawl. Still, the most upsetting (and kick-butt) moment comes when Wallace leaves the car armed with nothing more than a baseball bat to face the rabid dog that's holding her and her son prisoner.

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1 The Shining (1980)

King famously hates director Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining. However, it's still the absolute scariest film based on King's work ever made. From Jack Nicholson's go-for-broke performance as author Jack Torrance to the infamous blood-soaked lift scene, this movie knows how to get under your skin. The idea that a father could so easily be driven mad is already alarming, and when you add in an isolated hotel full of ghostly twins and a twisty hedge maze, you get one of the most unsettling horror movies ever made. An added bonus? No matter how many times you watch the movie, you'll still find something new to be afraid of.