From 'It' to 'The Dark Tower': 44 Stephen King Works Adapted for the Big Screen

2:39 PM 5/4/2017

by Aja Hoggatt

A look back at the movies that originated from the mind of the King of Horror.

From left: 'Carrie,' 'Dolores Claiborne' and 'The Shawshank Redemption'
From left: 'Carrie,' 'Dolores Claiborne' and 'The Shawshank Redemption'
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With several new films based on the author's works headed to theaters this year — including The Dark Tower and ItThe Hollywood Reporter takes a look back at the numerous others that have frightened moviegoers over the years, starting with 1976's Carrie.

[Warning: Some mild spoilers ahead.]

  • Carrie (1976 and 2013)

    From left: The 1976 and 2013 adaptations of 'Carrie'
    From left: The 1976 and 2013 adaptations of 'Carrie'

    This story is so beloved that it has been adapted not once, but twice. First portrayed by Sissy Spacek in 1976, then again by Chloe Grace Moretz in 2013, teenager Carrie White is having a difficult high school experience. She is bullied at school and at home, and she must deal with her stick mother who is a religious zealot. Carrie soon learns that she has developed telekinesis, and when she is humiliated at prom, she uses her newfound powers to get revenge on her peers. A 1999 sequel hit theaters in 1999 and focused on Carrie's half-sister Rachel (Emily Bergl); Amy Irving reprised her role as Sue Snell. A TV adaptation aired on NBC in 2002, while a musical version hit Broadway in 1988.

    Domestic gross, 1976 version (adjusted): $137.3 million

    Domestic gross, 2013 version (adjusted): $38.9 million

  • The Shining (1980)

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    One of King's most famous book-to-film adaptations, Stanley Kubrick-directed The Shining is about a family that moves into Overlook Hotel, when the patriarch, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), takes a job as the winter caretaker there. Jack's son Danny starts having terrifying visions that only get worse the longer the family stays at the hotel. Soon the hotel begins to affect Jack as well. He starts going insane and begins terrorizing his family. King has been vocal in his displeasure with Kubrick's adaptation, from the portrayal of the characters to much different ending to the story. The book was adapted into a miniseries that aired on ABC in 1997 and an opera that opened in Saint Paul, Minn., in May 2016.   

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $141.5 million

     

  • Creepshow (1982)

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    Creepshow is an anthology film comprised of five terrifying short tales. The second and fourth segment are based on short stories published by King, titled Weeds and The Crate, which were published in 1976 and 1979, respectively. The George A. Romero-directed movie marked King's screenwriting debut — in addition to his acting debut (he starred in the segment titled "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill"). Romero also wrote (but didn't direct) a 1987 sequel based on King's stories. A third film released in 2007 had no involvement from either Romero or King.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $61.9 million

  • Christine (1983)

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    The year 1983 saw three King adaptations hit theaters. The story starts with your typical high school nerd, Arnold "Army" Cunningham (Keith Gordon). He is bullied at school and practically friendless. When he finds Christine, a 1958 red Plymouth Fury, he instantly falls in love. However, it becomes clear that Christine is more than just a car. She is an evil killing machine, and starts murdering the people in Arnie's life. In order to stop the killings, Arnie's friend Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) and Arnie's girlfriend Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul) work together to destroy Christine one and for all. The movie earned $21 million at the domestic box office.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $56 million

  • Cujo (1983)

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    Cujo was adapted from King's 1981 psychological horror novel of the same name.Dogs are meant to be man's best friend,but in King's psychological horror, man's best friend becomes everyone's worst enemy. At first, Cujo is a lovable St. Bernard, but one day, the canine chases a rabbit into a bat cave and gets bitten by one of the bats. After being bitten, his personality completely changes, and he becomes violent and dangerous. When a mother, Donna (Dee Wallace), and her son, Tad (Danny Pintauro), come into contact with Cujo, they must fight for their lives while trapped inside a car.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $58.1 million

  • The Dead Zone (1983)

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    Adapted from King's 1979 novel, Christopher Walken stars as Johnny Smith, a man who awakens from a coma after several years. When he wakes up, he learns that he has the ability to see a person's future just by touching them. One day, he shakes hands with Greg Stilton (Martin Sheen), an aspiring politician, and sees what horrible things will happen when he is elected. To prevent the future events he sees from happening, Johnny decides he must kill him. The movie spawned a 2002-07 USA Network series starring Anthony Michael Hall.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $57 million

  • Children of the Corn (1984)

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    Originally published in 1977 as a short story in the British magazine Penthouse, the film follows doctor Burt Stanton (Peter Horton) and his girlfriend Vicky (Linda Hamilton) as they come across a boys' dead body while driving through Nebraska on their way to Burt's new job in Seattle. While trying to find help, the couple ends up in a small town surrounded by cornfields that is home only to children. The children are cultists and are followers of child preacher Isaac Chroner (John Franklin). After encountering the children, Burt and Vicky must find a way to escape before the children sacrifice them. The movie has spawned eight sequels, including 2017's Children of the Corn: Runaway. Only the first two movies in the franchise were released in theaters; the others were direct to video.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $37.5 million

  • Firestarter (1984)

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    Based on the1980 novel, Firestarter stars a young Drew Barrymore — two years after her breakout in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial— as a girl who has the ability to start fires with her mind. In the film, a couple, Andy and Vicky McGee (David Keith, Heather Locklear), participated in secret experiments while in college. The two later get married, and have a daughter, Charlie (Barrymore). Soon, Charlie becomes the target of an agency called The Shop, and she must fight to stay alive. The movie earned $17.1 million at the domestic box office. A sequel starring Marguerite Moreau as a now-adult Charlie aired as a miniseries in 2002 on Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy).

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $43.9 million

  • Cat's Eye (1985)

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    The anthology film follows a cat that has been experimented on through three stories, as he tries to find a little girl, Amanda (Drew Barrymore, again), who is in trouble. Throughout the three stories, the cat attempts to save the girl from supernatural dangers. Two of the three segments were adapted from short stories written by King. The stories are Quitters, Inc. and The Ledge, both published in King’s collection Night Shift in 1978.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $31.9 million

  • Silver Bullet (1985)

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    The 1985 horror film was released two years after King published his novella Cycle of the Werewolf on which the film is based. Following a series of unexplained murders, the residents in a small town take it upon themselves to find the killer. Throughout the search, many of the residents attempting to find the killer are murdered, leaving those still searching to be no closer to finding the murderer. One night, a boy from the neighborhood, Marty (Corey Haim), encounters a werewolf and determines that it is the one behind the killings. With help from his family, Marty sets out to capture the werewolf. 

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $30.1 million

  • Maximum Overdrive (1986)

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    It’s man against machine in this science-fiction action-comedy. Loosely based on King’s short story Trucks, published in the June 1973 issue of Cavalier magazine, Maximum Overdrive brings machines to life after a tradition storm. The machines turn evil, attacking humans. A group of survivors barricade themselves in a North Carolina truck stop and must stay alive as a group of murderous trucks is outside.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $17.3 million

  • Stand by Me (1986)

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    Another King novella turned feature film, Stand by Me was adapted from The Body, a story written by King in 1982. The film flashes back to Labor Day weekend of 1959, recounting the expense of four friends, played by Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell, as they set out to find the body of a young boy.  

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $121.9 million

  • The Running Man (1987)

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    First released as a novel in 1982, The Running Man takes place in 2019 in totalitarian America. In the futuristic America, the most successful television show is The Running Man, a game show in which prisoners must run to freedom to avoid a terrible death. Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a wrongly imprisoned man is chosen to be a contestant on the show and sees it as a way to be free again. Little does he know, the host of the show, Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), has no intention of letting him be free. 

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $84 million

  • Pet Sematary (1989)

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    First released as a novel in 1983, Pet Sematary centers on Dr. Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) as he moves his family to Maine. Soon after the family arrives, their cat is accidentally killed, so Louis buries it near an old pet cemetery, unlocking a buried evil. The cat comes back to life with a new, horrible, much different personality. When Louis' son Gage (Miko Hughes) dies, Louis decides to bury him in the same ground that he buried that cat in, against the advisement of his neighbors, who are aware of the evils that could be resurrected along with the son. The film spawned a 1992 sequel.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $125.2 million

  • Graveyard Shift (1990)

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    Adapted from King’s short story of the same name first published in 1970 in Cavalier magazine, Graveyard Shift tells the story of John Hall (David Andrews), a driver who is hired to work the graveyard shift at a textile mill in Maine. His job, along with a few other employees, is to clean the basement. The group soon findsa trap door and step inside to investigate. The door closes, and the men realize they are trapped with a killer monster. Loyalties are tested as they attempt to escape before the monster kills them all.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $23.7 million

  • Misery (1990)

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    Like King's 1987 novel, Misery follows famous novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) as he is rescued from a car crash by former nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), his self-proclaimed biggest fan. Annie brings Paul back to her cabin in the woods, and things take a dark turn when she learns that Paul is planning on killing off her favorite character in his next book. She becomes violent and more and more unhinged (most memorably, she amputated one of his feet with an ax in the novel, but only broke his ankles in the movie). As Annie becomes more of a threat, Paul must find a way to escape before it's too late.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $125.6 million

  • Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990)

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    Tales From the Darkside: The Movie is based on the television series of the same name, British writer and physician Arthur Conan Doyle's 1892 short story Lot No. 249 and King's 1977 short story The Cat From Hell. An anthology horror film, the first story follows a student, Bellingham (Steve Buscemi), who is looking for an Egyptian mummy. The second story tells the tale of a hit man, Halston (David Johansen), hired to kill a killer cat that is terrorizing a wealthy family. The third and final story follows Preston (James Remar), a struggling artist who makes a deal with a demon. After witnessing the demon commit a murder, Preston agrees not to say anything in exchange for wealth.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $33.4 million

  • The Lawnmower Man (1992)

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    Ostensibly based on King’s 1975 short story of the same name, The Lawnmower Man follows Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan), who puts Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey), a mentally disabled landscaper, on a regimen of experimental drugs in an attempt to enhance Jobe’s intelligence. The drugs work so well that Jobe develops psychic powers. As he reads the minds of those around him, Jobe realizes how many people took advantage of him his whole life, and decides it is time to get revenge. King, who called the movie "pretty good," nevertheless successfully sued the studio to have his name removed from marketing materials as he said the movie bore very little resemblance to his original story, save for one scene.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $66.9 million

  • Sleepwalkers (1992)

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    Stephen King's original screenplay centers around Charles (Brian Krause) and his mother, Mary (Alice Krige), who have just moved to a small town. Little do the residents know, Charles and Mary are shape-shifters who feed on virgin girls. At school, Charles meets Tanya (Madchen Amick) and befriends her, hoping to feed her life force to his mother. When Charles asks Tanya out on a date, she agrees, without any idea what she's in for.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $63.6 million

  • The Dark Half (1993)

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    First released as a novel in 1989, The Dark Half tells the story of successful novelist Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) as the public learns that he has been publishing thrillers under the pseudonym George Stark. Once the secret is out, Thad holds a ceremonial funeral for George Stark. Soon after the funeral, a series of murders occur, much like the ones written in the Stark books, and Thad realizes Stark is real and must work with the sheriff (Michael Rooker) to stop him.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $22.2 million

  • Needful Things (1993)

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    This 1993 horror film is based on King’s 1991 novel of the same name. When Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) moves to Castle Rock, Maine, he opens up an antique shop called "Needful Things." The shop instantly intrigues the residents of Castle Rock, as anyone who enters the store finds the object of their dreams. In order to get the object, residents must do more than pay money. They must do small deeds at the request of Gaunt, usually a small prank against another person in the town. Soon the town's residents turn on one another. leading to violent behavior. Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris), the only one who suspects Gaunt is the cause, must find a way stop residents from hurting one another before it is too late.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $31.7 million

  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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    This Oscar-nominated film was adapted by Frank Darabont from King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and follows the lives of two prisoners over 19 years. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is in prison serving two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover, a crime he did not commit. While in prison, he forms a friendship with Red (Morgan Freeman). Together, they experience the brutality of life in prison and ultimately reunite after Andy escapes and Red is released on parole. The movie was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture, and has found a long life on cable. A stage adaptation premiered on London's West End in 2009.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $57.6 million

  • Dolores Claiborne (1995)

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    Released three years after King's novel was published, Dolores Claiborne stars Bates — five years after Misery — and Jennifer Jason Leigh as mother and daughter. When Dolores (Bates) is arrested for the murder of her wealthy boss, Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt), Claiborne's daughter Selena St. George (Leigh) returns home to investigate the murder herself. As she looks into the murder, Selena begins to learn not only truths about the murder, but about her own childhood as well.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $48.4 million

  • Thinner (1996)

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    Released 12 years after King published the novel of the same name under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, Thinner tells the story of obese lawyer Billy Halleck. While driving with his wife, Billy gets distracted and accidentally hits a gypsy with his car. With help of his associates, Billy faces no consequences for his actions. When the gypsy’s father learns that Billy gets to go free, he places a curse on Billy that causes him to lose an alarming amount of weight at a fast pace.  

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $30 million

  • The Night Flier (1997)

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    Based on King’s 1988 short story of the same name, The Night Flier follows rival reporters Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer) and Katherine Blair (Julie Entwisle) as they tail a vampire murdering travelers at small airports.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $231,300

  • Apt Pupil (1998)

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    Originally published in the 1982 novella collection Different Seasons, Apt Pupil tells the story of 16-year-old high school student Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro), who forms an unhealthy relationship with his neighbor Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen). When Todd learns that Kurt is a former Nazi death camp officer, he begins to blackmail him. Fascinated with Kurt’s past, Todd forces Kurt to tell him about his experiences, or he threatens that he will reveal his secret. Soon, the relationship begins to spiral out of control, with horrifying results.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $16.3 million

  • The Green Mile (1999)

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    Shawshank Redemption writer-director Darabont also adapted this film from King's 1996 novel of the same name. The 1930s-set The Green Mile follows Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), a cynical death-row prison guard who soon discovers that an inmate, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), convicted of raping and killing two young sisters, has special powers. Despite his massive size (he's 6-foot-8), Coffey is actually very gentle, admitting he is afraid of the dark and crying all the time. Soon, Edgecomb begins to question whether or not Coffey is really guilty. The movie was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture, best screenplay for Darabont and best supporting actor for Duncan.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $225.9 million

  • Hearts in Atlantis (2001)

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    Hearts in Atlantis is a drama based on Stephen King's best seller of the same name. The story follows Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), an aging man who enlists the help of a young boy, Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin), to save his life. Brautigan deeply impacts Bobby’s life and changes the way in which he sees the world.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $37 million

  • Dreamcatcher (2003)

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    Based on King's 2001 book, Dreamcatcher follows friends Jonesy(Damian Lewis), Beaver (Jason Lee), Pete (Timothy Olyphant) and Henry (Thomas Jane) as they embark on their yearly vacation in the woods of Maine. However, this year is different. There is a blizzard, and the group comes across a man wandering in the woods. Soon, they realize that the man is not the only one in the woods with them. They are, in fact, surrounded by parasitic aliens and must find a way to survive both the aliens and the military that wants to destroy all of them.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $48.3 million

  • The Mangler (2003)

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    In this 1995 horror film based on King’s 1972 short story of the same name, a detective (Ted Levine) investigates after a laundry owner's (Robert Englund) employee falls victim to a laundry-folding machine that has been possessed by a demon. The movie spawned two sequels.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $3.5 million

  • Riding the Bullet (2004)

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    Based on King’s 2000 novella of the same name, Riding the Bullet follows student Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson) as he hitchhikes across the country to visit his mom in the hospital. Along the way, Alan meets several odd people, including George Staub (David Arquette), who just might be Satan.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $187,600

  • Secret Window (2004)

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    Secret Window is based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden, originally published in 1990. In the midst of getting a divorce, writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) goes to stay in his cabin in upstate New York. Rainey is found by farmer John Shooter (John Turturro), who accusrd Rainey of plagiarizing his work. Shooter shows no signs of backing down and becomes progressively more and more dangerous.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $66.9 million

  • The Mist (2005)

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    Following a storm that leaves his home damaged, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), travel into town for food and supplies. While at the local grocery store, a thick fog comes through the town, trapping the Daytons and other customers in the store. As deadly creatures are revealed outside, those in the store must fight to survive, not realizing there is an even bigger threat in the store with them.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $32.2 million

  • No Smoking (2007)

    Screengrab/Courtesy of Eros International

    Loosely based on King’s 1978 short story Quitters, Inc., No Smoking is the first Indian film to be adapted from a Stephen King story. No Smoking follows heavy smoker K (John Abraham) as he learns the price he must pay after asking a guru to help him get over his addiction.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): N/A

  • Dolan's Cadillac (2009)

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    Dolan's Cadillac is based on King's 1993 short story of the same name. After his wife dies at the hands of gangster Jimmy Dolan (Christian Slater), Robinson (Wes Bentley) is filled with grief and wants Dolan dead. After realizing Dolan’s bulletproof car makes him difficult to kill, Robinson quits his job as a teacher and begins working for a construction company while planning a trap for Dolan. 

    Domestic gross (adjusted): N/A

  • 1408 (2007)

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    First released as a short story in 1999, the movie introduces Mike Enslin (John Cusack), an author enjoying international success as he exposes supernatural phenomena as falsehoods. He travels to New York City to check into the Dolphin Hotel, intending to stay in the possessed room 1408. Mr. Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to dissuade Enslin, but he insists, and soon finds that the horrors of the room are very real.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): $90.5 million

  • A Good Marriage (2014)

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    Adapted from King's 2010 novella of the same name, A Good Marriage tells the story of married couple Darcy and Bob Anderson (Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia). When Bob is out of town for a business trip, Darcy discovers the sinister truth about her husband of 25 years.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): N/A

  • Mercy (2014)

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    Domestic gross (adjusted): N/A

  • Cell (2016)

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    When a signal is broadcast around the world across mobile networks, cell phone users are transformed into killers. Graphic novelist Clayton “Clay” Riddell (John Cusack) goes on a desperate search for his son (Ethan Andrew Casto) and estranged wife (Clark Sarullo) before it is too late.

    Domestic gross (adjusted): N/A

  • The Dark Tower (2017)

    Courtesy of Universal Pictures

    Set to be released Aug. 4, this genre mashup — it has elements of Western, science-fiction, fantasy, horror and more genres — was adapted from the book series of the same name. Dark Tower tells the story of Roland Deshain (Idris Elba), the last living Gunslinger, who is searching for a magical building called The Dark Tower. Deshain must prevent the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) from reaching The Dark Tower and toppling it, as the fate of our world — and others — depends on it.

  • It (2017)

    Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    Scheduled to be released in September, It is based on King’s 1986 novel of the same name. Set in 1989, in the town of Derry, Maine, after a series of child disappearances, neighborhood children team up against an evil clown (Bill Skarsgård) with a long history of murder and violence. The movie, titled It Part 1: The Losers' Club, also has a sequel (part two) in the works.

  • Gerald's Game (2017)

    Carla Gugino
    Carla Gugino
    Noam Galai/WireImage/Getty Images

    Gerald’s Game is based on King’s 1992 novel of the same name. In an attempt to rejuvenate their marriage, Jessie and Gerald Burlingame (Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood) travel to their remote lake house and reconnect. While at the cabin, Gerald dies unexpectedly during a sex game with his wife, and Jessie must flight to survive as she is handcuffed to the couple’s bed frame.

  • 1922 (2017)

    Thomas Jane
    Thomas Jane
    Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

    Based on King's 2010 novella of the same name, 1922 tells the story of farmer Wilfred James (Thomas Jane), who conspires to kill his wife, Arlette (Molly Parker), for financial gain and enlists the help of his son, Henry (Dylan Schmid), to do it.

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