“Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They both are fruit, but taste completely different.” – Stephen King
When it comes to the world of horror, there’s no other name that looms so heavily over the genre than that of Stephen King. The novelist, an undisputed master of horror, an award-winning author who has enjoyed unprecedented success when transitioning his work into cinema, has become so aligned with the film industry that the likes of Stanley Kubrick, George A. Romero, John Carpenter and countless others have adapted his words for the big screen. With that in mind, we dip into the Far Out archives to remember the moment that King once named the 22 films that he considered his favourites.
From the moment Brian De Palma adapted King’s book, Carrie, into a feature film back in 1976, the novelist has seen no fewer than 50 feature films birthed off the back of his writing with more scheduled to arrive in the next 12 months. Alongside Brian De Palma, King has worked with some of the best in the world of cinema with the likes of Kubrick, Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, and, most recently, Mike Flanagan all taking King’s stories to the big screen. As King oversaw the release of Doctor Sleep, the highly praised sequel to his 1977 novel The Shining which was adapted by Flanagan himself, we decided to look back at some films that have had a lasting impact on the man behind the ideas.
“When you get a really gifted director in particular who wants to guide the process of the film, the actual creation, that filmmaker wants to work with the screenwriter in order to get certain effects that they want,” King once said of his collaborations with filmmakers. “There was a time when I distrusted that process very much. But having been around the business with so many films, I have more of a tendency to trust good directors than I used to.”
He added: “I love the movies, and when I go to see a movie that’s been made from one of my books, I know that it isn’t going to be exactly like my novel because a lot of other people have interpreted it. But I also know it has an idea that I’ll like because that idea occurred to me, and I spent a year, or a year and a half of my life working on it”.
The list below, which was comprised by Open Culture, has been sourced via suggestions in which King picked out for Bloody Disgusting, the British Film Institute, and Fandor. With a mix of some classic cinema and some new releases, King previously stated: “I am especially partial—this will not surprise you—to suspense films”.
Despite detailing at length his admiration for Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s 1999 film The Blair Witch Project in the past, King admitted: “My favourite film of all time—this may surprise you—is Sorcerer, William Friedkin’s remake of the great Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear.”
Adding: “Some may argue that the Clouzot film is better; I beg to disagree.”
With work by the likes of Peter Medak, James Wong, Frank Darabont, William Friedkin and more, see the full list, below.
Stephen King’s 22 favourite films:
- The Autopsy of Jane Doe – André Øvredal, 2016.
- The Blair Witch Project – Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999.
- The Changeling – Peter Medak, 1980.
- Crimson Peak – Guillermo del Toro, 2015.
- Dawn of the Dead – Zack Snyder, 2004.
- Deep Blue Sea – Renny Harlin, 1999.
- The Descent – Neil Marshall, 2005.
- Duel – Steven Spielberg, 1971.
- Les Diaboliques – Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955.
- Final Destination – James Wong, 2000.
- Event Horizon – Paul W.S. Anderson, 1997.
- The Hitcher – Robert Harmon, 1986 and Dave Meyers, 2007.
- The Last House on the Left – Dennis Iliadis, 2009.
- The Mist – Frank Darabont, 2007.
- Night of the Demon – Jacques Tourneur, 1957.
- The Ruins – Carter Smith, 2008.
- Sorcerer – William Friedkin, 1977.
- Stepfather – Joseph Ruben, 1986.
- Stir of Echoes – David Koepp 1999.
- The Strangers – Bryan Bertino, 2008.
- Village of the Damned – Wolf Rilla, 1960.
- The Witch – Robert Eggers, 2015.
Perhaps Stephen King’s most surprising choice, however, was the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left adapted from Wes Craven’s notorious classic.
Speaking about the film in his book Danse Macabre, King heaped the film with considerable praise, stating that The Last House on the Left is “the best horror movie of the new century”.
Continuing, the world-renowned author writes: “The Dennis Iliadis version is to the original what a mature artist’s painting is to the drawing of a child who shows some gleams of talent. The 2009 Last House is the most brutal and uncompromising film to play American movie theatres since Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer”.
A somewhat blasphemous act in the horror community, quite why Stephen King prefers the remake of the film over Wes Craven’s original isn’t entirely understood. Raw in its unrelenting depiction of reality, The Last House on the Left is loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1960 film The Virgin Spring, following two teenage girls heading to a rock concert when they are captured by a brutal gang of psychopaths. Bound, gagged and taken to a nearby forest, the girls are forced into doing humiliating sexual acts on each other in some genuinely disturbing scenes of mental and physical torture.