Stephen King has written a lot of stories over the years. However, the trouble with quantity is that you don’t always get quality. Some of his novels straight up stink, and somehow a lot of them made it to the big screen as well. That said, some truly original and inspiring stories got a crappy big screen adaptation. With well over 50 of his stories adapted to film so far, Stephen King is the most prolific living author with the most screen adaptations. That said, here are 10 Stephen King movies you should avoid at all cost.
Dreamcatcher follows four lifelong friends, who have psychic powers—because this is a Stephen King story—on a winter hunting trip to upstate Maine. They soon find themselves caught between invading aliens and the U.S. military forces trying to contain them. Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, and Jason Lee do fine work as the friends, but Morgan Freeman falls flat as an overzealous commander with needlessly bushy eyebrows. What we ended up with was an overly long, free-associating mess of a movie —one that could have done much better if it had just picked a tone and stuck with it.
Thinner should have been a much better film. Despite having excellent source material, Tom Holland's 1996 adaptation of Thinner just couldn't pull it off. When obese and morally bankrupt lawyer Billy Halleck, played by Robert John Burke, accidentally runs over and kills a gypsy woman, he uses his court connections to get off the hook. The woman's elderly father takes revenge by placing a curse upon Halleck, one which soon has him uncontrollably losing weight to the point of emaciation. The premise is definitely scary, but the effect falls flat on the big screen when we're confronted with Burke in an atrociously fake latex fat suit that only gets slightly less hilarious as he sheds the pounds. The filmmakers also needlessly made Billy's wife an adulterer, leaving the story without any sympathetic characters.
8. The Night Flier
The Night Flier stays fairly true to King's original short story, but that doesn't mean that it’s a good movie. Miguel Ferrer plays tabloid reporter Richard Dees, who attempts to hunt down a serial killer using a small aircraft to travel from town to town, leaving a grisly trail of victims in his wake. Dees soon finds that this is no ordinary criminal, and must also deal with a competitor who's trying her hardest to steal his scoop. While the short story's version of Dees was an unlikeable cynic who finds his worldview shaken by what he finds, the movie's script makes Dees a complete jerk with no redeeming qualities. If you decide to watch The Night Flier, you'll no doubt find yourself rooting for the vampire to win.
7. Needful Things
In King's often-featured fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, Leland Gaunt opens an antique store called "Needful Things." Many of the town's residents soon find their heart's desire fulfilled by the store's items, some of which have a distinctively supernatural bent. Gaunt's prices are nearly too good to be true: a shockingly low amount of cash, plus a "favor" to be repaid later. Gaunt's favors usually involve "pranking" someone else in the town, and these mean-spirited tricks cause old dislikes and minor disagreements to flare up into feuds worth killing over. Unfortunately, Needful Things gives us a bloated cast that audiences will struggle to keep track of, let alone care about. The Rick and Morty reference to this story in the episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes" is a better tribute than this film.
6. The Mangler
It's hard to say what's more inexplicable; that Tobe Hooper's adaptation of King's short story The Mangler managed to score a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, or that it spawned two sequels. The movie stars Robert Englund, from Nightmare on Elm Street, fame as sinister laundry-service owner Bill Gartley, and Ted Levine as the police officer who investigates a series of mysterious deaths at Gartley's business. With the help of his demonologist brother-in-law, because Stephen King, he finds that a laundry press is to blame. A laundry press possessed by a demon and activated by the presence of blood and over-the-counter antacids, no less! The plot is campy at best, but the movie adaptation makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously.
5. Riding The Bullet
Riding the Bullet follows the journey of Alan Parker, a neurotic and depressed college student whose obsession with worst-case scenarios nearly drives him to suicide. After receiving news that his mother has had a stroke, Parker decides to hitchhike, catching a ride with the mysterious George Staub. Filmmaker Mick Garris has adapted Stephen King's tales for television or film on several occasions, but his take on Riding the Bullet is mediocre at best. Skip this one, or you'll find yourself begging to be let off of a ponderous and boring ride.
4. The Lawnmower Man
The film adaptation that really wasn’t, 1992’s The Lawnmower Man was originally titled Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man, but King successfully sued the producers for attaching his name to the film and stated in court documents that the film "bore no meaningful resemblance" to his story. Instead of a nutty little tale about a lawn mowing service gone horribly wrong, the film steals from Flowers for Algernon and Frankenstein for its mishmash plot, which centers on a doctor who chooses a mentally impaired greenskeeper to be the subject of his experiments in intelligence-boosting via virtual reality and a drug cocktail.
3. Graveyard Shift
With a score of 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, Graveyard Shift stands as one of the worst King adaptations. In a Maine textile mill where a drifter has taken a job, several overnight employees of the mill have died recently, and the egomaniacal foreman sends a group of employees down into the basement of the mill to investigate. The original short story is solid, but for some reason, it didn’t translate well to the screen.
Unlike some of the other entries on this list, it’s not the acting that ruins the movie — it just seems off from the start. If you're going to make the plunge and watch, keep an eye out for the performances of both Stephen Macht and Brad Dourif. You might know Dourif better as "Wormtongue" from The Lord of the Rings, but he does an excellent turn here as a crazy exterminator.
Nine years after appearing together in 1408, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson reunited for 2016s Cell. Unfortunately, this time their efforts were nowhere near as successful. The plot centers on Clay Riddell, who's determined to reunite with his son after a malevolent electronic signal turns cell phone users into mindless killers. Along the way, he teams up with train driver Tom McCourt in order to better their chances of survival. While the novel was generally well-received for its technophobic take on the traditional zombie trope, the movie suffered a far less positive fate and is currently at 12% on Rotten Tomatoes.
1. Maximum Overdrive
Stephen King's first and only directorial effort, 1986s Maximum Overdrive, is largely considered a bomb and thankfully scared King out of the Director’s chair. Other poor adaptations can be blamed by others, but this one is entirely on King himself. When Earth passes through the tail of a comet, once-inert machines suddenly come to life and go on a murderous rampage against humans. At a truck stop, a bland protagonist played by Emilio Estevez and an odd assortment of other unremarkable characters settle in to wait out the semi trucks that have them pinned down inside.