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The 5 Stephen King Movies You Absolutely Have to Watch

Not all of the prolific author's flicks are killer, but these will knock you dead.

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of Stand By Me, Rob Reiner’s finely-tuned, well-preserved 1986 adaptation of Stephen King’s 1982 novella The Body. The timeless coming-of-age story remains relevant today but it is far from the only enduring movie inspired by the Master of Horror. After revisiting Stand By Me, be sure to watch these five killer King movies too.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Screenplay by Frank Darabont
Directed by Frank Darabont

The Shawshank Redemption, based on the 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, is one of the most acclaimed movies of all time, period, not just adaptations of King stories. The prison drama is an impeccably crafted period piece that transcends its surroundings of steel bars and concrete walls into a poetic, inspirational take on hope and dignity. It represents our innate desire to beat the odds in order to fulfill our dreams, even if we’re sometimes scared to reach for them.

Carrie (1976)

Screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen
Directed by Brian De Palma

Along with the groundbreaking Black Christmas (1974) and Halloween (1978), Carrie is one of the most important horror films of all time. While young women have traditionally been the victims in horror/slasher movies, here we get to see the tables turned as the incredibly shy and repressed teenage nerd played by Sissy Spacek discovers she has telekinetic powers that she unleashes on the people who make her life a living hell. The film’s shock ending deeply influenced the genre.

The Shining (1980)

Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

It’s no secret to King fans that the prolific author didn’t like Kubrick’s movie, going so far as to script the television mini-series version in 1997. In fact, King wasn’t alone. The Shining opened to mixed reactions and some negative reviews. But like the auteur’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining has proven to get better with time. Kubrick had the uncanny ability to cast a spell on viewers, a talent quite apropos for a ghost story that conjures up a sense of dread that’s always just below the surface, threatening to burst open.

The Dead Zone (1983)

Screenplay by Jeffrey Boam
Directed by David Cronenberg

While many of us might think that being able to see the future would be a great gift that could be parlayed into riches and fame, Christopher Walken’s physically withered character shows us how harrowing it would actually be knowing when people are going to die. An already superb story gets taken to the next level when the protagonist’s psychic powers predict a political disaster that must be averted at all costs.

The Mist (2007)

Screenplay by Frank Darabont
Directed by Frank Darabont

Presented in the spirit of a classic Twilight Zone episode, right down to effective dialogue and a gut-wrenching ending, The Mist spends considerable time showing the characters trying to wrap their heads around the supernatural events taking place around them (hungry, other-worldly monsters emerging from a mysterious mist). This helps draw viewers into the madness. Plus, not only does it feature several actors from The Walking Dead in key roles, but it does the whole “people are their own worst enemies in times of apocalypse” thing way better than the popular zombie series ever could.