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The 13 Worst Stephen King Movies

Very few authors are as well known and well revered as Stephen King. The prolific master of horror fiction has published over 50 novels and over 200 short stores since the 1970s, many of them best-sellers. And many of those best-sellers and a heck of a lot of those short stories have also been adapted into movies.

In fact, if we’re being honest, many of Stephen King’s stories have been adapted into some of the best films of the last few decades. Horror classics like The ShiningCarrieMiseryThe Dead ZoneCreepshowPet SemataryChristine and The Mist have earned their place near the top of many lists of the best horror movies ever made. And even adaptations of Stephen King’s less horrifying fiction, like The Shawshank RedemptionStand By Me and The Green Mile, are celebrated dramas with multiple Academy Award nominations to their credit.

Also: ‘The Dark Tower’ Review | The New Adventures of Eld Deschain

But while we’re being honest, a lot of Stephen King movies suck. Shoddy filmmaking, misguided adaptations don’t help, and neither does the fact that sometimes King’s stories are just plain bonkers to begin with. The much-anticipated adaptation of The Dark Tower is only the latest disappointment in a long line of Stephen King stinkers, and that’s why we are here today.

What follows is our list of the worst Stephen King movies… with a couple caveats. We’re only talking about theatrically released feature films (because the straight-to-video and tv adaptations had a hard enough time as it is), and we’re not going to include any sequels that Stephen King himself wasn’t directly involved in, because all those Children of the Corn follow-ups, for example, are their own, separate, awful things.

(We are also giving extra credit to the Stephen King films that are terrible but entertaining, because it doesn’t matter how much more misguided Dreamcatcher is than A Good Marriage, we’d rather watch Dreamcatcher every single time.)

Find out what made the list, and be sure to tell us what we got wrong.

The 13 Worst Stephen King Movies:

Brett Leonard's film about a mentally-challenged gardner who becomes a megalomaniacal superpowered genius through the use of virtual reality has become a cult classic, partly for its novelty factor and partly because the once-impressed visual effects now look ridiculous. But it has almost nothing to do with the Stephen King story on which it was allegedly based, so King sued (successfully) to have his name taken off the picture. Whether you love it, hate it, or love to hate it, it's a bad adaptation, that's for sure.

Photo: New Line Cinema

Nikolaj Arcel's adaptation of The Dark Tower isn't a terrible movie, but it's a such a missed opportunity it has to go on the "worst" list. Stephen King's epic saga that unites all of his fictional works feels small and derivative in Arcel's adaptation, but it's not hard to watch unless you're a huge fan of the books.

Photo: Columbia Pictures

The problem with Kimberly Peirce's remake of Carrie isn't that it's a bad film, it's that it feels largely unnecessary, and does little to update the story of a psychic teenager pushed over the edge. This version has some excellent performances by Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, but it feels unnecessary compared to Brian De Palma's original adaptation, which still ranks among the very best Stephen King films.

Photo: Screen Gems

A bunch of blue collar factory workers are plagued by rats in Graveyard Shift, a film with some decent atmosphere and a scene-stealing turn by Brad Dourif, but nothing else to recommend it. The gross out factor is decent but the plot and characters make no impact whatsoever.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Stephen King wrote an original screenplay for Sleepwalkers, a film about incestuous cat monsters who have to steal the breath of virgins. It's as classy as it sounds. But it has an undeniable appeal for fans of cheesy horror flicks.

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Stephen King has written some pretty preposterous yarns, but this sci-fi fantasy about superpowers and anus aliens is one of the wackiest. As a film, Dreamcatcher is hypnotically bad, with an impressive cast and award-winning filmmakers who clearly either thought the movie was good, or decided to screw with the audience. It's impossible to take Dreamcatcher seriously, so don't, and maybe you'll at least have fun laughing at how ludicrous it is.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Stephen King actually DIRECTED this absurd little story about a comet that passes by Earth and gives every machine artificial intelligence. Naturally they turn on mankind, leading to laugh out loud scenes of killer vending machines and arcade games. The absurd performances and unbelievable plot points have made Maximum Overdrive a cult favorite, but not because it's a genuinely movie.

Photo: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Children of the Corn is one of Stephen King's most famous stories, because the idea of a cult of children murdering every adult they can find is a truly terrifying notion. Unfortunately the actual movie is a badly paced, awkwardly shot mess with a third act that ruins the otherwise scary concept. Watch Who Can Kill a Child? instead. It's the film most people think Children of the Corn is, because they either haven't seen Children of the Corn or they haven't seen it in decades.

Photo: New World Pictures

Stephen King wrote the stories for the incredible horror anthology Creepshow. He also wrote the stories for the middling follow-up, with two completely forgettable tales about a vengeful statue and a persistent hitchhiker, and one admittedly good installment in the middle, about a bunch of kids who decide to go swimming in the wrong lake. Skip the bookends. Just watch The Raft.

Photo: New World Pictures

Another good idea made into a lousy movie. Corey Haim stars as a paraplegic child who thinks a werewolf is attacking his town. Of course, nobody believes him. Some of the acting is good, some of the acting is terrible, and the makeup effects are embarrassing. 

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia have been happily married for decades, but all that changes when she discovers that he's actually a serial killer. A great cast flounders in a film where almost nothing happens, and which has almost no suspense. Another great idea squandered.

Photo: Screen Media Films

Stephen King's version of a zombie movie takes place in a world where everyone who was talking on their phone at a particular moment turns into a raving homicidal maniac. It made more sense before texting became the communication of choice, but even so, the bland characters, confusing mythology and baffling ending make Cell one of the worst Stephen King movies, by far.

Photo: Saban Films

Some of the films on this list were so entertainingly bad we had to give them credit. The Mangler doesn't qualify, even though it's the story of a possessed, killer laundry machine. Tobe Hooper directs this almost unwatchable misfire, with ugly imagery, awful acting, a misguided sense of humor and no scares to speak of. The Mangler isn't just bad, it's almost unwatchable.

Photo: New Line Cinema
Top Photo: Columbia Pictures

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.