The release of the newest version of Carrie (pictured) offers a timely Halloween reminder that Stephen King has now brooded over our pop-culture landscape for 40 years. Both King’s debut novel (in 1974) and the first of a never-ending stream of King movie adaptations (in 1976), Carrie was most people’s introduction to the horror author’s world, and now, with Chloe Grace Moretz stepping into Sissy Spacek’s blood-drenched prom dress, another generation of pop-culture fanatics is about to come under his thrall.
King’s novels and short stories are awfully effective as movies. They practically come with their own soundtracks and storyboards. Their pessimistic tone (in King’s tales, evil is often defeated but not destroyed, and the good are punished alongside the wicked) suits the cynicism that has dominated our pop culture since the Nixon era. The academy may continue to spurn him, but there’s no filmmaker who considers himself or herself too good to be associated with King — or the box-office success that his name all but guarantees.
Indeed, some of the world’s finest directors have filmed King stories. In fact, the best King movies often come from top-notch directors (De Palma, Kubrick, Cronenberg), even if many of them are stubborn auteurs who refuse to subordinate their visions to King’s. Then again, sometimes the mark of a great director is a willingness to step out of the way and let the master storyteller do his job; just keep all the parts well-oiled and running smoothly so that the gears of King’s narrative machinery click satisfyingly into place. Here, then, are 10 of the best big-scream screen King adaptations, beginning with the one that started it all.