Salem’s Lot is based on Stephen King’s 1975 vampire novel, but we can assure you that it is nothing like The Vampire Diaries. The horror series trades in love and romance for revenge and death and keeps the audience on edge with freaky antics like dead people crawling on ceilings, fiery explosions, and late-night window-tapping stalkers.
Tim Curry starred as Pennywise the Dancing (and very, very scary) Clown in ABC’s 1990 miniseries based on King’s 1986 novel. The two-night scarefest also starred Richard Thomas, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, John Ritter, Richard Masur, and Jonathan Brandis. A theatrical version of the horror classic will be released Sept. 8, 2017 and star Bill Skarsgård. We Rate It: Great
The Stand This 1994 mini-series boasted an all-star cast including Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Rob Lowe and Laura San Giacomo. The 8-hour series aired over 4 nights on ABC, earned 6 Emmy nominations, and won two. We Rate It: Great
The Langoliers ABC’s 1995 adaptation of King’s novella featured an annoying sound for the unseen Langoliers and Bronson Pinchot playing a baddie so broad, that he made his Balki Bartokomous character seem like MacBeth by comparison. We Rate It: God-Awful
Frank Ockenfels/ ABC
Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ This 1997 TV miniseries is the second adaptation of King’s 1977 novel. Stanley Kubrick’s 1977 cinematic version is creepy perfection, but strayed from the book’s original plot, so King re-made the masterpiece as he saw fit. It stank. Director Mick Garris is no Kubrick. Steven Weber is no Jack Nicholson. Rebecca De Mornay is no Shelley DuVall. We Rate it: God-Awful
Carrie Director Bryan Fuller blew this TV remake one. Angela Bettis has made a career of playing tiny and terrifying characters, but she’ll never be Sissy Spacek. The Brian De Palma-directed original was creepy perfection, and any remake of the cinematic blood bath shouldn’t be attempted. We Rate It: God-Awful
Nightmares and Dreamscapes This 8-episode mini-series based on 8 of King’s short stories aired on TNT in the summer of 2006. Stars included William Hurt, William H. Macy, Claire Forlani, Tom Berenger, Jeremy Sisto, Richard Thomas, Kim Delaney and Steven Weber. We Rate It: Good
Haven Syfy’s 2010-2015 series was loosely inspired by characters and situations from King’s 2005 novel The Colorado Kid and featured lots of clever nods to King’s other works. We Rate It: Great
Chris Reardon/ A&E
Bag of Bones Pierce Brosnan stars in A&E’s campy 2011 miniseries. We Rate It: Good
Under the Dome CBS aired this summertime series—based on a 2009 King novel—from 2013-2015. The author also penned the 2014 premiere episode, “Heads Will Roll,” and made a cameo. The series had an interesting premise and was executive produced by Spielberg, but by the third season, viewers couldn’t wait to escape the bubble. We Rate It:Good
Big Driver This 2014 revenge-filled Lifetime movie starred Maria Bello, Olympia Dukakis and Joan Jett. The dark tale is based on a novella in King’s collection Full Dark, No Stars. We Rate It: Good
11.22.63 Hulu’s provocative series sends an ordinary teacher (James Franco) back in time where he attempts to unravel and stop the murder of President John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber). We know you can’t change history, but what if you could? We Rate It: Great
The Mist Spike’s 2017 series based on King’s 1980 novella was made into a creepy 2007 film starring Thomas Jayne and Marcia Gay Hardin. Spike’s 2017 series expands the action to residents trapped in numerous locations around a small Maine town that is enveloped by a mysterious and deadly mist. We Rate It: Great
AT&T AUDIENCE Network/Kent Smith
Mr. Mercedes AT&T Audience Network’s 10-episode adaptation of Stephen King’s mystery series follows a demented killer Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) who taunts a retired police detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) with a series of lurid letters and emails, forcing the ex-cop to undertake a private, and potentially felonious, crusade to bring the killer to justice before he is able to strike again.
Kelly Lynch, Jharrel Jerome, Scott Lawrence, Robert Stanton, Breeda Wool, Justine Lupe, and Ann Cusack costar in the project, with Mary Louise-Parker and Holland Taylor also appearing. We Rate It: TBD
Castle Rock This Hulu Original is anticipated to premiere in 2017 and brings new drama to King’s favorite beleaguered town, Castle Rock, Maine. This hamlet has served as a location in past King works including, Cujo,The Dark Half,It and Needful Things; novellas including The Body (the inspiration for the film, Stand By Me); and short stories including “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption.” Since the location serves as home for so many of King’s stories, it’s no surprise that the series is expected to include elements of and references to many of King’s works. We Rate It: TBD
The Dark Tower The film, The Dark Tower, starring Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba is scheduled for release on Aug. 4, 2017. In the film, from director Nikolaj Arcel, Elba plays Roland Deschain—The Last Gunslinger—who is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), AKA the Man in Black. A TV version of series, focusing on Elba’s Gunslinger, is still being talked about and would focus on Roland’s origin story as found in the 4th book in the series, Wizard and Glass. We Rate It: TBD
Stephen King’s writings are tailor-made for on-screen adaptation. His novels and novellas have been turned into cinematic masterpieces including Carrie, The Shining, Stand By Me and The Green Mile.
King’s tomes have gotten the television treatment too, and in honor of Audience Network’s upcoming series, Mr. Mercedes, we've chronologically highlighted in the gallery above 15 good, great and god-awful Stephen King TV adaptions. Some of the adaptations keep us at night with terrifying visions of killer clowns, while others destroy our dreams because they were just that bad...
We left plenty of the TV adaptations off of our list and would love to know how you'd rate them. So what did you think of the TV adaptations of The Tommyknockers (1993), Rose Red (2002) or Salem's Lot (1979 and 2004 versions)? Which other King adaptations were terrific—and which ones were totally terrible?