Top 11 Stephen King Movies
October 9, 2018
(The Channel Awesome logo is shown, followed by the 2018 Nostalgia-Ween opening; open on NC in his Nostalgia-Ween jacket, but looking frustrated as his hand rests on his cheek)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Well, I guess it's Stephen King time again.
(The title "Stephen King Time!" from the previous episode appears)
NC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is the first time I've ever done (holds up two fingers) two Stephen King videos in the same month. So, it probably goes without saying, I need alcohol. Luckily, I have the Stephen King Drinking Game shot glasses!
(He displays on his table a set of eight shot glasses, all themed to Stephen King movies he had reviewed in the past. He turns the shot glasses around to display various messages on the backs)
NC: Yeah, no joke, a fan made these for me, and I can't think of a better time to use them. (picks up one glass and fills it up with Smirnoff) So, let's get ready to talk about yet another Stephen King adaptation. This is... (squints as if trying to read something) the Top 11 Stephen King Good Movies. (eyes widen) Good movies? You mean, I finally get to talk about good Stephen King movies? Good Stephen King movies?! (suddenly elated) Oh, thank the Lord and the giver of His laws! I AM FINALLY SAVED! (beat) I'm still gonna drink this. (takes a swig of the Smirnoff in the shot glass, then makes a sour expression as he gags on it)
(Clips of Stephen King movies that NC reviewed in the past are shown)
NC (vo): For years, I've made fun of Stephen King's worst adaptations, running cliches, and, yeah, maybe passed over the good stuff that made him popular to begin with. Truth be told, this guy has written not only some amazing stories, but amazing stories that turn into amazing films. On top of that, they're different types of films: some big and over the top, some subtle and perplexing, some scary, some funny, some standard, and some groundbreakers that inspire filmmakers to change the field they're in. As much as I mock his funnier stuff, King has turned in some game-changers that force us to think deeper about what scares us, what moves us, what pushes us apart, and what pulls us closer together. It's been a long time coming, but I finally get to discuss some of the greatest works of one of our most famous writers!
NC: And we're gonna talk about the top 11 of them here today! Why top 11? (holds up index finger) Because I like to go one step beyond. So, sit back and enjoy the Top 11 Good... God, this feels so weird to say... Stephen King Movies!
(Cut to a shot of a heavenly choir of angels tooting horns as Stephen King, as Jesus, appears, while "Hallelujah" is heard in the background, and the title for this video appears. This will be the interlude footage throughout the video)
NC (vo): Number 11: Pet Semetary. This has "creepy" written all over it, from the book and the screenplay, both penned by King. Focusing on a family who just moved into town, they discover a cemetery where you can bury a dead animal, and it miraculously comes to life. Like any cautionary tale, though, it dooms those who try to mess with the natural order of things, for those buried there come back looking the same, but acting different, somehow, a completely new soul than what went into the ground. When a family member is tragically killed, they attempt to do the same thing, only this time, the differences are even more clear and disturbing. The entire film has a surreal sense of dread. Every shot seems to echo with deathly air and uncomfortable anxiety. The film only promises to get stranger and stranger, and that's exactly where it leads us. Never knowing quite where it's going or even how to feel during some of these scenes, Pet Semetary feels like a creepy fable that's both haunting in its moral, as well as its visuals. It leaves you with goosebumps all over your body and being thankful that whatever becomes dead, stays dead.
NC (vo): Number 10: It. Okay, so I've made fun of both film versions, and I do still have issues with them, but there's no denying that the cinematic version of It had some big shoes to fill.
(NC mimics Tim Curry's Pennywise's laugh while an image of clown shoes is shown)
NC: Wa-ha! Wa-ha!
NC (vo): And it did so in its own unique way. The story of a group of kids coming across a killer clown that can transform into their deepest fears ties in beautifully to all the real-life fears that these kids have to deal with in their regular lives. Some of them are pretty common, like creepy paintings and monsters, but some are scarier without the supernatural, like obsessive phobias, psychotic teens, and more than abusive parents. The film taps into the scares both kids and adults would have, and at the center is a completely new Pennywise the Clown, played with a completely new energy by Bill Skarsgard. The role is made iconic by Tim Curry, but the film did a great job creating a brand new kind of creepiness, both scary and faithful to the book, while also being its own unique creation. Yeah, I had some issues, and if you want to know more about them, you can watch my review. But as I let it sit, the good stuff does get better and better, asking questions about the fears of the mind, the fears of the physical, and how they intersect. But, come on. (Footage of Tim Curry's Pennywise from the original is shown briefly) Couldn't you have him tell a few jokes?
(A scene in the remake is shown, showing Bill seeing Richie getting locked in a room by a moving door)
Bill: Richie! (The door shuts) Richie!
(Cut to Pennywise's famous scene in the original)
Pennywise (Tim Curry): Well, you better let the poor guy out! (NC again mimics the laugh alongside Pennywise) Wa-ha! Wa-ha! Wa-ha!
NC (vo): Number 9: 1408. This is one of the few films that visually captures the writing of Stephen King's style. Don't get me wrong, many other films do their best and accomplish great visuals, but something about the pacing, effects, and blending of reality seems to scream "King's writing prose". A man who writes books, debunking the supernatural, is told about a haunted hotel room numbered 1408. The room is so haunted that the owner of the hotel tries to bribe anyone from staying in it. The writer sees this as a stunt, though, and insists he be led in. What follows is a slow descent into madness, never knowing if what he's seeing or even doing is reality or his own mind messing with him. The film is very clever in not just having monsters from his past come out and go boo, but slowly and effectively morphing from one point in time to another point in time, combining his past and future to make it awful present. This eventually seems to even put his loved ones in danger, and leaving him seemingly no way out. You feel this room, you feel how it traps him both physically and psychologically. After a while, you yourself don't know what's rea. Is he talking to someone or just talking to himself? Did he make it outside, or is he still in the room? Are others really in danger, or is it just himself? After a while, you can't figure out if it's been minutes or years he's been trapped in this hellhole, but either way, it feels like an eternity. This film captures the book's ability to keep you in a moment in time, only in this circumstance, you feel trapped by it. Very few movies can do that, and this one does an incredible job. It's a terrifying trip that'll have you asking the question...
NC: Where are you right now?
(One last scene of the man standing in front of the room's door, and the camera slowly zooms into his eye right before cutting to black)
NC (vo): Number 8: Carrie (The original 1976 version). The classic story of why you don't pick on the quiet kid. Carrie stars a tortured teen who is constantly torn down by her mother, the kids at school, pretty much everyone around her. Little do they know that she seems to have telekinesis, but even she herself doesn't know how they work or when they work. Things seem to look up, though, when she goes to the prom, is crowned prom queen, but then discovers it's a cruel prank to humiliate her.
NC: (shakes his head) Do I even need to say what happens next?
(Cut to the scene where Carrie unleashes an inferno on the teachers and other kids with her telekinesis)
NC (vo): The climax to Carrie is so famous and referenced so much, it's ingrained in our popular culture. And the great thing is, even if you know this going in, Carrie is loaded with tragic moments, disturbing imagery and a hope that this quiet girl will for once get a break. When she never does, though, you can easily understand why this third act is as effective as it is. Carrie used an experimental split-screen editing that was used only in a handful of films at the time. While this might seem a little gimmicky, it's surprisingly effective in a film like this, adding to the uncomfortable nature of what you're watching. Even with the option of two shots, there is nowhere you can look that isn't showing someone suffering. Lots of people have tried to replicate the idea, tone and overall creep value that Carrie has created. But even with all the imitators, there's only one Carrie.
(Cut to NC, where a poster of the sequel and the 2013 remake are shown in the corners. NC, smiling, doesn't even glance at them)
NC: Only one Carrie.
NC (vo): It's uncomfortable, it's ewwie, it's a painful delight from beginning to end. Pleasant dreams, and remember... (with a similar inflection as in "The Adam Sandler Song") They're all gonna laugh at you!
(The last scene shown is the burning car with Chris and her boyfriend, before fading into the background and a bloodstained Carrie is seen, looking with a creepy stare)
NC (vo): Number 7: Misery. It's every celebrity's nightmare: being held hostage by a crazy fan who is virtually impossible to please. A famous writer gets in a car crash and is picked up by a seemingly kind and timid fan. When she reads his latest book, though, she reveals a psychotic monster who can't stand the idea of her favorite character being dead. She not only forces him to write a follow-up book, but she locks him in the house, cuts off all the phone lines and even breaks his legs.
NC: (folds his hand and lays his chin on them, while mocking a romantic tone) All in the name of love.
NC (vo): The story brilliantly shows not just the physical torture she puts him through, but the mental torture as well, as he has to burn some of his favorite writings, as well as find out more and more how crazy his caretaker is and constantly navigate through her crazy mood swings to please her and survive. All the while, he is writing this book that she constantly checks to make sure it meets her standards.
NC: The Internet was made for a fan like this.
NC (vo): The payoff of writing the book works out to a revenge that's so sweet and so fitting, I dare not ruin it here. Nevertheless, it ties into the obsessive nature of some fan cultures that, as I said before, isn't too far removed from current fan cultures. The nice thing is, it's a cautionary tale for both sides, the creator and the fan. With the fan, we can see how crazy someone can push an obsession, and with the creator, we see writing for the heart, as opposed to please your crowd, can have pros and cons that you have to be ready to deal with. (A scene where Annie Wilkes breaks Paul Sheldon's left leg with an ax is shown, which makes NC stutter for a bit) Well, maybe not this extreme.
NC: (looks around slightly scared) Hopefully.
NC (vo): From kind and quiet to brash and loud, this film runs the insanity up to eleven. From Spinal Tap. Which Rob Reiner also directed.
NC: Now that's a comparison.
(The last scene is Annie coming through the door and holding up a syringe and a gun in both hands before cutting to Paul, who looks in shock at his caretaker)
NC (vo): Number 6: Stand by Me. Reiner, I guess, has a way with King's stories, as this is the second big hit he's done with him. Although, boy, it couldn't have been more different from Misery. This coming-of-age story centers around a group of boys, all dealing with their own problems, getting together to find a dead body. Not the most uplifting of missions, but it's not always the most uplifting of films. Like most King stories, the kids in this have a lot of shit they have to get through and it's their ability to stick together, shoot the shit and just be a friend when there is so few that gets them through it. The film certainly has a lot of positive moments as well with a lot of jokes, chases and tough life lessons. The acting in this is stellar, and it's no wonder; with such an amazing cast of then-unknowns, Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, Kiefer Sutherland, everyone gives the exact right performance in this aggressive story of childhood that still manages to dig through the harshness and turn out some very human moments. The kinship these kids develop is strong, memorable, yet simple. It's being there for one another because no one else is. And sometimes, when you do that, you find you wanna be there for that person, too, no matter how strange and troubled they might be. It's a collection of friends and moments that makes this story one hell of an unforgettable adventure.
(The last scene shows the kids walking in front of a lake. We cut to black for a commercial break)
NC (vo): Number 5: Dolores Claiborne. Often overlooked, this crime drama once again uses the sins of the past to shape the tragedy of the present. A daughter revisits her hometown of painful memories to help her mother, Dolores Claiborne, who is accused of murder. As if this wasn't bad enough, this is the second time she is been accused of it in her life. While the daughter is trying to distance herself from her mother, she finds the doors in her memory are constantly opened up the longer she spends both with her mother and in her childhood home. As she talks more and more to find the truth, she discovers so many things she got wrong about her mother and even all the facts she repressed. Things she didn't remember, because she didn't want to remember them. And while they're painful to open up again, they're necessary to open up again. Not only are the performances in this painfully good, but the way the film switches from past and present is so smoothly done and flawless, sometimes you'll forget what time period you're in for a minute, feeding in to the themes of the movie. It's the type of King story that sadly doesn't get a ton of attention, but I really think he does beautifully. Trying to reconcile where you came from with who you are and learning to punish or forgive those who made you that way. It's glanced over a lot, but doesn't deserve to be. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a watch. It's really something powerful.
(The last scene shows Dolores Claiborne, looking after her departing daughter)
NC (vo): Number 4: The Shawshank Redemption. A different kind of King film, to say the least, but a powerful one. The movie centers around Andy Dufresne, a man sentenced to jail for killing his wife and her lover. He's befriended by another prisoner named Red, and the film follows the pain, torture but ultimately friendship through surviving the harsh realities of prison with the persistence of hope. The film doesn't shy away from the difficult things Dufresne goes through, including sexual assault. I also like that, technically, they don't say whether or not Dufresne committed the murder, though they're certainly having large leanings. To be honest, I probably have liked this film even more if they kept that more of a mystery. You have to make the choice whether or not he did it and how much you can be on his side. Still, the film focuses on people that society is given up on, and arguably for good reasons, but demonstrates there can still be a humanity that binds people together despite a constant fight to not have it stripped away. It'd be so easy just to make this a simple "good guys wrongly accused" film, but everyone in that jail is there for a reason. So even if you see Dufresne is innocent, what about the other guys? What about all the other people? Are they all wrongly accused? What about the warden? He's on the side of good, yet he does some terrible things. How are you supposed to feel about a lot of these people? But in the end, it almost doesn't matter, as to stay sane, they're forced to find the goodness and camaraderie in each other, no matter what they did. It's a challenging idea to make us sympathize this much with them, but, again, it doesn't shy away from the bad stuff they do either. This movie is all about connections. First out of necessity, then out of friendship, and then even kind of back to necessity again. Because when you go through this much with a friend, they do become a necessity. Much like the rain on your face, it's one hell of a cold cleansing.
(The clips montage ends with the scene of Andy, having escaped, rasing his arms outstretched in the rain)
NC (vo): Number 3: Gerald's Game. This Netflix film had a tough story to adapt, but thankfully, it had a great director (Mike Flanagan) to do so. The funny thing is, it's not the traditional kind of horror you would expect from King. The movie starts as a couple try to spice up their love life by using handcuffs in the bedroom. The guy dies, leaving the woman handcuffed to the bed, far away from anyone that can hear her.
NC: That's the entire movie.
NC (vo): You'd think that couldn't be very interesting, but the way she makes other versions of herself to talk to, imagines her loved one coming back to life, hallucinates terrifying imagery and even reopens memories of a scarring incident, makes this one of the most brilliant King movies ever made. It's funny how his best stories revolve around one person just lying in bed, but that truly is a tribute to his talent. He doesn't need much, just a clever scenario and really great characters to go along with it. The story cleverly questions how much scarring can be left on a person without touching them, how much of those mental scars are real, how much do you let them affect you, and how much of them do you address. The film even cleverly has a callback to Dolores Claiborne. If you know the story, you know there's actually a very surreal connection made. Again, all the more reason to check both of these two out. The way this film's questions tie into one of the hallucinations she sees in the room is so brilliantly done, that it makes the ending all the more powerful, meaningful, and in my opinion, probably the deepest of any story King has written. Again, I won't go into spoilers, you just got to see it yourself. This is a very difficult book to adapt, especially the ending, which many may feel as tagged out at first, but really think about how it connects to her past, her present and even her future. When you think about it long enough, it's actually kind of ingenious. In my opinion, the movie Gerald's Game is an adaptation worthy of its great source material.
NC (vo): Number 2: The Shining. Funny how one of King's most famous films is one he dislikes.
NC: And to his credit, it's really not hard to see why.
NC (vo): This adaptation of The Shining gets the basics of the book right: it's a caretaker who looks after a hotel in the winter with his family, gets snowed in and goes insane trying to kill them all. King disliked, however, how there was little arc to the main character and how it felt less like a tragedy. It's very understandable, especially from the guy who wrote the original story. But The Shining, to me, anyway, is less about a guy being driven to madness and more about a crazy guy being stripped away for what he really is. The whole film has an otherworldly feel that only master director Stanley Kubrick could create: the pacing, the tone, the cold delivery of many of the actors. It's like the hotel is a drug slowly working down your defenses until you have no filters left, and there's only the real you. Much like another drug in the movie. You could argue that the hotel is a metaphor for bringing out who you really are. Jack was always that way. He was always there, he was always the caretaker. It just took a diabolical something to bring it out. But the nice thing is, that's just my take. There's literally dozens of other interpretations of the film. So many that a film interpreting the film was made, (The poster for the 2012 documentary film Room 237 is shown) with a bunch of other thoughts of what it's about. Regardless of what it means, it creates an environment that's strange, uncomfortable, haunting, and leaves it up to you to decide what's going on, leaving the real fear to your own imagination.
(As NC says the next sentence, three shots of instances where the creators pay homage to the movie are shown: The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror V" ("The Shinning" segment), The Angry Birds Movie and Annoying Orange ("The Dining" video))
NC (vo): You can't even count how many people have satirized this movie. It's truly left its mark on audiences and filmmakers, and its popularity doesn't seem to be dying down. Everything Stanley Kubrick did was unique, and this is his only horror film, making it a rare spectacle nobody will ever forget.
(The final clip is the camera slowly moving towards the door of the room 237)
NC: Before we get to Number 1, here's some honorable mentions.
(Nine movie posters of the honorable mentions are shown for the same amount of time Tim Curry's Pennywise needs to laugh one "Wa-ha!". These movies are, from the top left to the bottom right: Cujo, Creepshow 2, The Running Man, Christine, Silver Bullet, Cat's Eye, The Dead Zone, The Green Mile and Maximum Overdrive)
NC: And here we go.
NC (vo): And the Number 1 Stephen King movie is...
(NC is quiet for a moment and looks to the right)
NC: You're not gonna like it. You're really not gonna like it. Look, just hear me out before you go ranting about why I'm wrong- you all have a paragraph in the comments, don't you? (The comment section is shown with someone who has written "Ass!" 160 times in advance to post when needed) All right, all right, I'll just say it! It's Creepshow.
NC (vo): Now, you might be saying to yourself, "Why? Why Creepshow? It's not an emotional powerhouse like Stand by Me or Shawshank; it's just an anthology movie of scary stories. There's a ton of those."
NC: Yes, there are. But there are no antologies, nay, no movies...anything like Creepshow.
NC (vo): From the stories, to the style, to the actors, to the colors, this is the most unique blend of elements that should not work, but somehow work brilliantly.
NC: If you said George A. Romero...
NC (vo): ...wants cartoons in his scary movie, it'd be seen as nuts. If you said weird, colorful, glowing backgrounds appear at random for seemingly no reason, as well as comic book panels on the side, it'd be seen as nuts. If you said, as actor, Stephen King can make you laugh, E.G. Marshall can make you paranoid, and Leslie Nielsen can be one of the greatest villains ever put on screen...
NC: Who are you kidding? All of that is destined for failure! But it all comes together like no other film.
NC (vo): It can go from big scares to small scares, from loud and gory to sinister and psychological, from psychotic to hilarious. It somehow all mixes together in the craziest of ways. I can't think of another film that has a suspense story of mostly people talking that suddenly goes to neon colors with the straight face villain laughing like a loon, and it all somehow fits perfectly. They tried to replicate this in other movies, (The posters for Tales from the Darkside: The Movie and Creepshow 2 are shown) some were even pretty good. But nothing was ever as insanely unique as Creepshow. It truly is one of a kind. The mashing of styles, genres and scares all play to the opposite sides of the spectrum and almost maddeningly balance out.
NC: It shouldn't have succeeded! It should have been one of the dumbest things with Stephen King's name on it!
NC (vo): But because it went all the way, combining great instinct with great technique, we've got a film that has never been duplicated. Shawshank is great, but we can think of a few other films like it. Stand by Me is wonderful, but again, we can think of a couple films it's like. There is no other movie like Creepshow. Put simply, it's one of a kind. I've seen it a million times in the past, and I know I'm gonna see it a million times more. Creepshow is the best kind of madness that only strikes once, and you're thankful you were there to witness something so bizarrely perfect. It somehow gets better the crazier it gets. I've never seen anything like Creepshow, and my guess is, I never will.
(The final scene of the movie is shown)
NC: (shudders) It feels so weird to talk so positive for so long. With that said, are there any I left out? Well, leave them in the comments below and let people know which ones deserve more attention. I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll, followed by the Channel Awesome logo)