10 Stephen King Works I Need to See Adapted for the Screen ASAP [Sponsored]
Even after half a century of publishing terrifying, heartbreaking, and unimaginable stories, Stephen King is still going strong, having just released his latest novel, Holly, and announcing its follow-up, We Think Not for 2024. And while we’ve seen King classics such as Pet Sematary, Carrie, and The Shining brought to life on the big screen, there’s still so much more of his legacy that has yet to receive proper cinematic treatments.
Today, I’m running down the top ten King works that I’m desperate to see brought to life. From a fascinating non-fiction seminar in horror history to his most frightening short story ever published, here are ten Stephen King releases in immediate need of adaptations.
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A deeply strange inter-dimensional nightmare, Revival is a novel unlike anything Stephen King has ever created. With a final act so unimaginably dark, this frightening slow-burn should be mandatory reading for any fan of horror fiction. Equal parts Mary Shelley and H.P. Lovecraft, I would argue this is one of the scariest novels King has ever produced.
The story concerns a disgraced Methodist minister who cures our protagonist, Jamie, from his heroin addiction with a bizarre treatment involving lightning. But soon Jamie and others who have experienced the electrical treatments begin to lose their minds with fear, and many of them even commit suicide … or worse. While this book takes its sweet time to find its Lovecraftian terror, once it does, you’ll never be the same.
Like many King adaptations, Revival lays dormant in development hell after a decade of progress from Hollywood heavy-weights like Josh Boone (The Stand) and Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep). Perhaps, like with other Lovecraftian works, the budget would be far too high for a story so unflinchingly pessimistic and bizarre. But if done properly, it has the potential to be one of the most spectacular stories of psychological terror ever put to screen.
Anyone who knows me–or even met me–will know that I am a massive fan of King’s short story The Jaunt. In fact, I have personally self-assigned it the honor of being the scariest Stephen King short story ever written, and I dare you to fight me about it. Initially published in “The Twilight Zone Magazine,” it’s a quick tale of literal endless terror. The details of this story concern a new form of transportation in the not-too-far-away future. A nightmarish science fiction story braided into the abyss of unimaginable suffering… if you’re looking for a more detailed synopsis, then I encourage you to check out the personal essay I wrote on the topic.
Like many titles on this list, The Jaunt has spent an eternity in development hell, having been originally optioned by Brad Pitt’s Plan B around a decade ago. Since then, MRC arrived to develop the story into a television series with Fear of the Walk Dead alumni attached to direct. Alas, with no movement on the project happening for years, I worry this extraordinary tale might be trapped in its own endless void of maddening nothingness.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
One of King’s few field trips into Young Adult fiction, this intimate and paranoid story of a preteen lost in the woods is as gruesome and frightening as anything else in his bibliography. Published in 1999, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is centered on a girl named Trisha as she hikes through the woods with her mother and brother. To avoid painful arguments, she hangs back but gets distracted and eventually loses her group. A story of survival and perseverance, this little novel is blistering, beautiful, and bound to keep you on the edge of your seat.
A film adaptation from the late great George A. Romero was announced back in 2005, but the project has since been reassigned to filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), with Romero’s ex-wife Chris Romero still attached to produce. While I think the current team would make for an extraordinary adaptation, I’m anxious to see any willing participants take the plunge and make this film a reality after decades of languishing in development hell.
Uncle Otto’s Truck
In this short story made famous by Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew anthology, the nephew of an elderly man has a difficult time believing his wary uncle when the old man becomes convinced that the abandoned husk of an old truck parked across the street is out to get him.
King is the only author I have engaged with who is able to turn cars into camp-free, totally frightening antagonists that are not to be laughed at. But King also has an unfair reputation for lazily turning inanimate objects into silly centers of fear. As writer Jenn Adams pointed out on a recent episode of the Development Hell podcast, this criticism likely stems from people who have not actually read the stories themselves. King’s uncanny ability to turn an everyday, unexceptional item or location into a figure of horror is part of what makes him such a fantastic writer. And Uncle Otto’s Truck is no different. With a finale so grisly, it’ll have you looking away from the page as if it were some kind of accident on the side of a highway.
An outlier on this list, Stephen King’s non-fiction work Danse Macabre is a seminar in all things horror. From classical gothic literature to vintage scary movies, this collection of fascinating essays about the human condition and our attraction to darkness would make for one hell of a documentary or Shudder docuseries. Less famous than On Writing, King’s non-fiction guide to creative writing, Danse Macabre, is a more focused work that distills, in fine detail, why we love to be afraid and what makes for high-quality horror storytelling.
Part of what makes this early work so ripe for a docu-adaptation is that its scope reaches further than just horror films and deep into the realms of literature, television, and radio. King takes the audience on a journey into all of the terrifying references that helped shape the modern horror canon into what it is today. Poe, Lovecraft, Sterling, and Jackson are all dealt with the same reverence as cultural icons like Count Chocula and B movies like I Married A Monster From Outer Space. Informative, curious, and downright fascinating, Danse Macabre could make for the perfect horror documentary.
The Man in the Black Suit
Published in The New Yorker on Halloween in 1994, The Man in the Black Suit is a chilling and ghoulish account of a young boy who encounters a stranger in the woods near his rural home. Found near the edge of a gentle stream, the title character (who smells of burnt matches) is a boogeyman like only Stephen King can craft. Tall, thin, and in a black suit and hat, there’s something deeply unsettling about this ubiquitous horror archetype. From the infamous hat-man of sleep paralysis nightmares–to the modern panic of Slenderman–and everything in between, there’s an ancient and instinctual fear that arises from this archetype when it’s done right.
In the story, The Man in the Black Suit tells our protagonist Gary that his mother is now dead, that his father is intent on assaulting him, and that none of this even matters since he himself intends on eating Gary alive. Short, upsetting and direct, this King story is a vibe-heavy exorcise in some of our most deeply ingrained fears.
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut
While it’s not one of the scariest stories to be included on this list, it’s still one of my favorite works ever written by King. Like The Jaunt, this is a tale about the consequences and possible wonder of inter-dimensional travel. But unlike that story, Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut offers kindness and hope for the characters who we become quickly attached to. David is a blue-collar worker in a small town who befriends a beautiful and eccentric wealthy woman named Mrs. Todd, known for taking quiet joy rides around town.
She shares with David her passion, or maybe obsession, with finding shortcuts. There are only so many roads through the town and its surrounding woods, so when her odometer proves that her trips are becoming impossibly short, she explains that she’s found a wormhole by the metaphor of folding together her map, instantly connecting two faraway points. Unwilling to stay still in her tiresome reality, Mrs. Todd eventually disappears into the night, with only David having an inkling of where she has gone.
For me, this is a magical story about a woman forging her own path down roads otherwise boring and unextraordinary. Mrs. Todd is a symbol of freedom, adventure, and the importance of personal autonomy. Even if it leads us to the void, as long as we are following our bliss. Also, can you imagine Patricia Clarkson in the lead role? I definitely can.
The Eyes of the Dragon
Less well-known than King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower, The Eyes of the Dragon is an even more traditional work of fantasy literature. A story of castles, royalty, dark magic, and betrayal, this absolute page-turner is the perfect gateway for young readers interested in fantasy, horror, and/or science fiction.
As is the way with many other examples on this list, The Eyes of the Dragon has been slumbering in production limbo for decades. A promising big-budget animated feature film was first proposed as far back as 2001. More recently, Hulu was in on the fun, but project writer Seth Grahame-Smith revealed the potential series had received the axe for a number of reasons, including budget and new executives in charge. I’d still love to see a Lord of the Rings-esque animated feature film produced from this exciting source material. Maybe one day.
The Long Walk
Well before Battle Royale, The Maze Runner, and The Hunger Games, there was The Long Walk. A dystopian horror fantasy about a terrible sporting event where teenage boys are tasked with walking an endless American highway until only one of them is left standing and wins a sizable fortune. Not the first novel published by King, it was the first of the books he began writing during his time at the University of Maine in the 1960s. Considered one of the greatest novels of all time for teenage readers, this dark tale of psychological horror holds countless lessons about toxic masculinity, sexual repression, and selflessness. And it was technically written under King’s pen name, Richard Bachman.
Countless famous filmmakers have been attached to create The Long Walk, including George A. Romero, Frank Darabont, and André Øvredal, who recently directed The Last Voyage of the Demeter. With the success of numerous politically-charged death-sport films and series, including Squid Game, I can’t imagine why a television adaptation wouldn’t be a surefire bet nowadays.
The Dark Tower
Before you say anything, yes, I am aware of the big-budget film adaptation of The Dark Tower that we got back in 2017. And, while there are a couple of aspects of that film that are not wholly disrespectful of the legacy of King’s sprawling magnum-opus (such as some of the casting), that 90-minute hiccup definitely did not capture the gigantic world that The Dark Tower inhabits. Consisting of eight novels and referenced in countless other works, this series is a vast and complex fantasy epic centered on Roland Deschain, the final gunslinger, who has been tailing Randall Flagg (aka The Man in Black) for years. Flagg, an important force of darkness, appears in numerous other King texts, including The Eyes of the Dragon and The Stand.
I’m ending this list on a hopeful note, as it seems that The Dark Tower is currently in the capable hands of passionate Stephen King fan and filmmaker Mike Flanagan. While the pilot for another iteration of a television show surfaced at Amazon Studios in 2018, it didn’t receive a series order, and the project was left to collect dust. But, as of 2022, horror hero Flanagan has secured the rights to the series and seems awfully keen on developing it into fruition sooner rather than later. While his Doctor Sleep adaptation has its critics, I, for one, believe that the Gerald’s Game director is the perfect captain to bring King’s most epic story to life.