Stephen King: Top 10 Books That Desperately Need A Movie Adaptation

Stephen King is an extremely talented and prolific horror author, but only a small portion of his work has been adapted to the screen. Which unadapted works are deserving of the big screen (or small screen) treatment?

Altogether, Stephen King has written 42 full-length novels – many of them well over 500 pages – and 18 novellas. This count is according to King’s official website. It counts the eight-part, 30,000 page Dark Tower series as one novel, and it counts the originally serialized Green Mile as one novel. It does not include any of the seven books that Stephen King wrote under the alias “Richard Bachman.” That’s at least 67 works of more than 100 pages.

There have been 56 screen adaptations of King’s works made over the years, and with only 67 long Stephen King tales, one might think that means the vast majority of his writing has made it to the screen. That is not the case, however, because much of Stephen’s adapted material comes from his nearly 200 existing short stories.

Let’s take a look at the 10 Stephen King works that have never received a movie, TV show, or mini-series adaptation. We will not count any books or stories that already have a screen adaptation in the works — a list that includes the King works It, The Dark Tower, Mr. Mercedes, and The Mist. We will also not look at entries that have been made into short films, as Stephen King is known for almost literally giving rights to his stories away in order to help out aspiring filmmakers. We will, however, be including stories that have not gotten an adaptation in over 20 years and were not exactly done justice the first time around.

10. The Long Walk

This novel is the only Richard Bachman entry on this list, but it is widely regarded as the best of the books Stephen King wrote under his alias.

The Long Walk is a dystopian thriller in which young adults are forced to undergo an arduous task with cruel consequences for failure, and just that short description of genre and plot means it would very likely be successful cinematic fare. Amazing Stories points out that movies adapted from young adult fiction, especially when the adaptation is set in a dystopian future, have been very popular over the last few years – see The Hunger Games, The Host, Divergent, Maze Runner, etc. Stephen King’s The Long Walk, as a movie, would ride that wave of popularity but also take the genre to a grittier, darker place that many older teens and adults, Stephen King fans or otherwise, might enjoy.

The movie would also have some great setting opportunities, as the book follows an interstate footrace, and the characters Stephen King wrote are extremely vivid.

The only reason this entry is not higher on the list is because, other than slow-paced, non-spoken character development and thought processes, not a lot actually happens in the book. What does happen is extremely interesting, but there would certainly be a lot of screen time for the director to take creative liberties and tweak Stephen King’s vision.

Frank Darabont, director of wildly successful Stephen King adaptations The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, owns rights to this novel but has yet to move on making use of them.

9. The Breathing Method

This novella from Stephen King’s 1982 collection Different Seasons is ripe for adaptation because it one of the few literary works that already exudes a vividness and definite cinematic feeling, even from the page.

A Reddit user with handle “TheSilentHedges” illustrates this point.

“While reading it the first time I thought it was okay but it’s like an album that requires some distance to fully appreciate. The feel of the story is what I most remember. It’s like a dream that’s so detailed you believe it’s real,” he writes in reference to Stephen King’s wintery tale.

“Yeah, my mind keeps going back to it,” he continues.

“There’s some sort of sorcery going on there! It’s the feeling of the natural lighting thrown by the fire, with occasional pops and cracks. The smell of old books. I really felt like I was there!

The story also contains some intense bodily horror (one of Stephen King’s specialties) and plenty of exciting narratives that would make for fascinating cinematic sequences.

Like The Long Walk, not a lot actually happens in King’s The Breathing Method, though.

8. Duma Key

Unlike the first two entries, Duma Key is one of Stephen King’s very long books that packs in a lot of action to work with.

It’s also very picturesque. After all, the book revolves around a man who loses his arm, moves to a large house on a tropical beach by himself, and literally paints pictures of the ocean and his lush, exotic, vacation lifestyle. The book also includes some exciting set pieces, like a ghostly pirate ship with a skeleton crew.

Duma Key is also one of Stephen King’s creepiest works in that it does a great job of conveying a feeling of loneliness and helplessness, which is a cavernous concept that would translate well to screen.

There is not much else to talk about, though, and that is the problem. There is a lot of good action in Duma Key, but the stretches between the action are nowhere near as interesting as in most of Stephen King’s novels. The book’s character development is also lacking, and these facts have made Duma Key one of King’s least successful attempts in recent memory.

7. Needful Things

Yes, this one was adapted into a movie directed by Fraser C. Heston in 1993, but the film was a flop and is hardly remembered today.

The story, which is another of Stephen’s longer ones, is a classic King tale, both in terms of plot and characters.

It boasts a sprawling narrative, a huge ensemble cast, a mysterious villain — all ingredients of a well-made horror film that can keep an audience’s attention.

6. Firestarter

Who doesn’t enjoy some good on-screen pyrotechnics? Nobody, that’s who. And Firestarter is completely geared towards thrilling the reader (or, in this hypothetical, viewer) with fire.

One of the main characters can actually ignite things with her mind, which is a recipe for a fantastic spectacle if there ever was one.

The 1983 original movie was not well-received, but Hollywood production values — including fireproof suits and disposable sets that can be burnt down in the name of entertainment at the drop of a hat — have been upped exponentially since then, and this thrilling — although not necessarily popular — Stephen King work definitely deserves another go.

5. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

This is another of Stephen King’s lesser-known works, although most who have read it agree it deserves a lot more exposure.

It is on the shorter side for a Stephen King novel, but the setting (the sprawling New England forest) is both thematically and technically ideal for a movie, and the plot, which mixes thriller with fantasy with gritty realism, is extremely gripping.

IFC also notes that the story is straightforward and simple, which would make the movie’s narrative more intuitive and relatable, while at the same time allowing more time for character-development and building a strong sense of tension.

The simplicity of the plot could also be a downside, though, if the film fell into the hands of the wrong director. The inability to fill the slower moments with well-shot panoramas of the surrounding nature, which would correspond to what Stephen King described in the book, would probably make a movie adaptation of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon a bit too conventional and boring.

4. Langoliers

The 1995 miniseries of The Langoliers features Stephen King’s acting, which is only one of the elements that made it a total mess. In general, it did not properly capture the unbelievably intriguing thread of Stephen King’s original novella. When it did, it was done in a cheesy fashion.

The acting was laughable and the special effects were even worse, and the plot, which Stephen King intended to burn bright but fast, was stretched far too thin.

“Basically an episode of The Twilight Zone stretched out to four hours,” wrote Entertainment Weekly in reference to the original Langoliers movie.

Someone should definitely give this adaptation another shot. This time, try pouring at least $10 million into the film’s budget, and limit the runtime to 100 minutes. Stephen King’s source material for this one is so exceptional that you can’t lose if you follow those steps. That is all.

3. Bad Little Kid

Think of some of the most successful Stephen King movie adaptations. The Shawshank Redemption, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. The Green Mile, starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. What do they have in common? They are both directed by Frank Darabont, and they’re both set in jails. Stephen King, for whatever reason, writes very good material about life in prison, and Darabont has shown he can run with it.

Bad Little Kid is another story that originates from a jail. The majority of King’s written story, which is contained in the recently released collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, actually takes place outside, but the shortness of the source material would allow Darabont, a genius director when it comes to prison flicks, to expand on the “life on the inside” storyline.

The story itself is great, too, boasting a fun narrative with great characters and a gripping repetition.

Plus, the ending of Stephen King’s tale sets up perfectly for a sequel.

So please, Frank Darabont, you don’t seem to be busy on anything, so buy these rights and make a movie of this story playing up the prison theme. It would be a hit.

2. Cujo

Stephen King’s Cujo is contained, thrilling, action-packed, gritty, and bloody. It takes place in a rustic setting and it has great characters who make realistic choices throughout the book. In short, it’s relatable, suspenseful, and exactly the kind of indecent romp gorehounds and daredevil movie-goers love.

An updated and uncensored Cujo movie adaptation would definitely make the most sense of any Stephen King work for an installment in the splatter film genre.

It would not only be terrifying, but it would be very low-budget, so there is no excuse not to make it. Get going, Hollywood.

1. Doctor Sleep

Every one of the previous entries on this list has been a great Stephen King movie adaptation idea, but this is the only one where it actually wouldn’t make sense if it were not to get the silver screen treatment.

Doctor Sleep is Stephen King’s 2013 sequel to The Shining, one of King’s works that Stanley Kubrick made into a movie in 1980. Even if King hadn’t written a sequel himself, it would have been odd if it hadn’t gotten a sequel. After all, it is not only the most famous Stephen King adaptation, but arguably one of the most famous and influential horror films of all time.

Not only that, but Hollywood has developed a trend over the last few years of making sequels for everything they can think of, especially when they have literary works from which to draw inspiration.

As for the book itself, it is fantastic and has more than enough mystery, intrigue, and supernatural goodness to fill up a movie. In fact, the Doctor Sleep film adaptation might need to be split into two or more parts in order to give it the at least three to four-hour running time it will take to flesh out Stephen King’s vision.

Almost any source that speculates on the subject agrees that the Doctor Sleep adaptation will happen. It is just a question of when.

For all we know, any of the above entries could be in the works right now. Only time will tell which Stephen King works will indeed get to join the annals of cinema history.

Do you have hopes for any Stephen King-inspired adaptations that are not mentioned on this list and fit the criteria mentioned at the beginning of the article? Make yourself heard in the comments section below!

[Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images]