The Shawshank Redemption. The Shining. The…Night Flyer? Film adaptations of the works of Stephen King can be hit or miss, but there is no denying that Hollywood loves to mine the depths of King’s twisted, macabre mind. With Stephen King’s magnum opus The Dark Tower finally moving into production with Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba, you might think that the majority of his best work has already been committed to film, but you’d be dead wrong.
While some of you King aficionados might bemoan the omission of a particular title, keep in mind that all of the entries on this list are properties which, as of this writing, do not have a production deal in place. There are a number of entries, however, that have been in various stages of pre-production, however research would suggest that these projects were either put on hold indefinitely or cancelled out-right.
While Mr. King has a ton of work being optioned right now, we can only cross our fingers and hope that the following works will be given the Hollywood treatment at some point down the road. Here are 10 Stephen King Stories That Deserve Big Screen Adaptations.
10. Roadwork (1981)
Published in 1981 under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, Roadwork tells the story of Barton George Dawes, a man on the brink of mental collapse following the dissolution of his marriage and death of his son. When Dawes learns that his house and place of employment will be demolished to make way for a highway extension, he holes up in his house with guns and other improvised weapons and takes a stand against the government who is imposing imminent domain.
With government distrust seemingly at an all time high in the United States, one regular Joe’s refusal to bend to the will of politicians will likely resonate with a lot of people, effectively making this a taut thriller with a relatable anti-hero.
9. Rage (1977)
An early King novel that is now out of print at the behest of the author, Rage chronicles a high school teenager’s decision to violently take a group of his classmates hostage. The book doesn’t settle for a clear cut explanation of what drives the main character to such extreme measures, but instead offers a fascinating deconstruction of mental illness, societal pressure and regret. If done correctly, this film could potentially open up a dialogue that helps people make sense of the pointless acts of gun violence we too commonly witness, reminiscent of We Need to Talk About Kevin.
8. From A Buick 8 (2002)
A Buick Roadmaster has been in police custody ever since it was mysteriously involved in a series of vanishings. The son of one of the victims begins to snoop around, looking for answers, and learns how the Buick emanates bizarre flashing lights and seemingly manifests alien plants and animals out of thin air.
The mystery of the car, where it came from, and what it wants here on Earth leads to a dangerous obsession. The surreal nature of the source material would benefit from surreal direction, and the potentially heady connotations has future cult classic written all over it.
7. Gerald’s Game (1992)
Jessie Burlingame and her husband Gerald are reinvigorating their love life and trying bondage. Retreating to their secluded cabin in Maine, Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the headboard. When Gerald gets a little too fresh, Jessie knees him in the groin, which causes Gerald to fall, crack his head open and suffer a fatal heart attack. Jessie is shackled with the key out of reach and with no chance for rescue. As panic and dehydration set in, Jessie begins to hallucinate and converse with different manifestations of her personality. Soon, a deformed apparition visits her, one that might have ill intentions. This trashy story is begging for the low budget, B-movie treatment.
6. Insomnia (1994)
A widower in Derry, Maine begins to suffer insomnia. Through his lack of sleep he begins to see things. At first, these visions are innocuous and trivial, like being able to see people’s “auras.” But these visions develop into windows that allow him to see creatures that exist beyond our own reality. Soon, mysterious “little bald doctors” recruit the widower into a battle that has been raging against the evil Crimson King, the outcome of which might spell certain doom for not only our world, but countless others.
King has a tendency to connect his novels, sometimes with a subtle nod, something with a big old wink, and Insomnia is one of the latter. It bears more than a passing connection to The Dark Tower series, which would make this adaptation seem like a no-brainer.
5. Doctor Sleep (2013)
Decades after the tragic events at the Overlook Hotel, Daniel Torrance has become a violent alcoholic who is tormented by the ghosts of his past. In an effort to sober up, Daniel moves to New Hampshire and begins working at a hospice where he uses his supernatural powers to help patients ease over to the other side. In using his ability to “shine,” Daniel establishes a telepathic link with a young girl who is being hunted by psychic vampires who feed off of people who have the shining. Daniel soon realizes that helping this girl might be his only way to salvation.
Marketing this film as a sequel to The Shining will get people in theaters, though the change in direction (Stanley Kubrick obviously couldn’t return to the helm) and genuine terror King builds in the novel would ensure this movie stands on its own merits.
4. Ur (2009)
Originally a short story that doubled as a thinly veiled ad for the then-new Kindle, Ur involves a man who orders a seemingly innocuous e-reader that actually originates from a parallel dimension. The device allows the man to see news clips from alternate dimensions, and he is compelled to use that information altruistically, an action that prompts investigation by an other-worldly police force. A film adaptation would bear more than a passing resemblance to King’s own The Dead Zone and the Philip K. Dick story, The Adjustment Team.
3. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
Nine-year-old Trisha gets hopelessly lost in the woods while hiking with her family. With little in the way of supplies, and facing threats of pneumonia and dangerous animals, Trisha keeps her wits about her by listening to the Boston Red Sox on her walkman. As hours turn into days, Trisha’s condition worsens and her grip on reality begins to slip, as the supernatural God of the Lost stalks her in the woods.
This could be the breakout role for a young actress, one set in a blurred fantasy/reality world similar to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Even if the story merely served as a rough framework for a film adaptation, it would be a great starting point.
2. The Talisman/Black House (1984, 2001)
In The Talisman, Jack Sawyer is a twelve-year-old boy that goes on a quest to find a mystical crystal, one that has the power to heal his terminally ill mother. To do so, he travels through the American heartland and “the territories,” a strange land which exists in a parallel universe to Jack’s. Various people help and hinder Jack’s progress, each motivated by their own desires.
Black House sees Jack Sawyer as a police detective, who is investigating a series of murders perpetrated by a child killer. With the events of The Talisman largely forgotten, he finds himself pulled back into the strange parallel reality, where the orchestrator of the murders is none other than the Crimson King himself. A film condensing these two novels that tie into The Dark Tower series could make for an epic spin-off, one that exists in the same shared universe — a film trend that’s all the rage these days.
1. The Long Walk (1979)
King’s works are infinitely adaptable, but perhaps none are more fit for a live-action spin than The Long Walk. In this dystopian novel, everyone’s favorite game show sees an unlucky group of 100 boys march through Maine at a four mile per hour pace. They are given meager rations and only just enough water to survive. If they fall below 4MPH, they are shot dead. This continues until only one “contestant” remains, pitting the will to survive against friendship.
A film adaptation could fit right in with the recent rash of dystopian novels and movies involving young protagonists, like The Maze Runner or The Hunger Games. Or, better yet, it could buck the trend and make something truly bleak.
What’s your favorite Stephen King tale? Which of these adaptations piqued your interest the most? Be sure to sound off in the comments below.