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Best Film Adaptations of Stephen King's Short Stories or Novellas

Updated on July 25, 2013
Stephen King's prolific writing career has resulted in several collections of short stories, many of which have been made into film.
Stephen King's prolific writing career has resulted in several collections of short stories, many of which have been made into film. | Source

Great Movies Based on Stephen King's Short Stories or Novellas

Stephen King's career as a writer has spanned almost forty years, and he's one of the few authors who can make a volume of short stories or novellas hit the bestseller lists. While his novels are multilayered, filled with detail and well-realized characters, his short stories are punchier and tend to deal more with a single incident or theme (though he still manages to give us some highly memorable characters, even in his shortest works).

Film makers have found Stephen King's short stories and novellas a rich body of work from which to develop movies, several of which have become critically acclaimed.

Read on for the best movies adapted from Stephen King's shorter works.

"The Shawshank Redemption" Film Trailer

"The Shawshank Redemption"

One of the most popular films adapted from a Stephen King novella--and it is arguably one of the most popular films adapted from his work, period"--is "The Shawshank Redemption." King's story, titled "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," was originally part of his 1982 work "Different Seasons," which was comprised of four novellas in all.

In both the film and the novella, Andy Dufresne, an unassuming banker, is sent to prison for murdering his wife and her lover, though he claims innocence--he meets and befriends a man named Red, and over the years the two become close. Red gets prisoners things from the "outside world," and one of Andy's requests is for a poster of Rita Hayworth (in the film it's Raquel Welch)--and though no one realizes it, it serves a double purpose. Over the years, Andy deals with the cruel warden, Norton, and a ruthless prison gang.

In the film, Tim Robbins portrays Andy and Morgan Freeman portrays Red. The film itself is realistic and gritty, but what makes it so appealing is the friendship at its center and how it brightens and affirms the life of the two men.

"Stand by Me" Film Trailer

"Stand by Me"

Along with "The Shawshank Redemption," "Stand by Me" is one of the most popular and acclaimed films adapted from a Stephen King novella. The original story, titled "The Body," another novella from the "Different Seasons" collection.

In "Stand by Me," a local boy goes missing and four friends set out to find his body under the guise of going camping (you have to have an excuse to tell your parents, after all). Geordie, the narrator, describes their journey down the railroad tracks looking from the present, imbuing the story not only with the essence of growing up and boyhood in summer, but with nostalgia and the wisdom that comes with age.

The movie stars quite a few young actors who would become bigger names, including Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusak, and Jerry O'Connell (as well as River Phoenix and Corey Feldman). Stephen King himself has said it's the most true translation to film of from any of his novels or short stories, and Rob Reiner (the director) did manage to perfectly capture the excitement, fear, triumphs, and hardships of being in the spot between child and teenager.

"The Mist" Film Trailer

What's your favorite film adaptation of a Stephen King short story/novella?

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"The Mist"

While it doesn't approach the popularity of the first two films on this list, "The Mist" is still a great translation of a Stephen King short story from page to screen. In the wake of a thunderstorm in small town Maine, a strange mist creeps up and envelopes the area. It traps a group of people in the grocery store, and those who try to leave are attacked and killed by strange, vicious creatures.

It's a simple premise but quite suspenseful, and the movie manages to deliver the same amount of suspense on screen. The film version of "The Mist" is dark, atmospheric, and tense, and the sense of danger is heightened when the townspeople form two groups within the store and face off against one another. If you love Stephen King and haven't seen "The Mist," you're missing out! It's rare that one of his scarier works translates well to the screen, and this film delivers.

"Children of the Corn" Film Trailer

"Children of the Corn"

Though everyone won't agree with this one, I do think the film version of Stephen King's short story "Children of the Corn" (from the 1977 collection "Night Shift") is one of the better adaptations. In the story, Vicky and Burt's marriage is on the rocks, and they're en route to California for vacation when they run over a boy in Nebraska. When Burt looks at the body, he finds that the boy's throat was slit, and he and Vicky go to the nearest town to look for help.

The town seems abandoned, though Burt and Vicky find some very odd and unsettling things there--and eventually Vicky is attacked and kidnapped by a group of children who drag her into a field with some pretty evil intentions.

There are few things scarier than evil or possessed children, and King makes great use of that in "Children of the Corn." Until its slightly hokey end, the movie manages to maintain a solid sense of suspense and horror as well ( and 1980s special effects didn't do the story any justice), with a chilling villain (Malachi). It has its flaws, but in its evocation of a sense of fear, it's still a good adaptation.

Other Film Adaptations from Stephen King Novellas

Stephen King is an incredibly prolific author, and his stories have inspired a large body of film. While not all of the film adaptations of his novellas and short stories are good ("The Langoliers" comes to mind), the great ones have earned a definite spot in the ranks of important American cinema.

What's your favorite film adaptation of a Stephen King short story or novella?


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