Best Stephen King Movies of the 90s

The Best Stephen King Movies from the 1990s

In the 1970s and 1980s, most movie adaptations of iconic novelist Stephen King's work were of his horror stories, producing classics like Carrie (1976) and The Shining (1980). But after 1986's coming-of-age movie Stand By Me (based on Stephen King's short story "The Body") proved to be such a critical and commercial hit, filmmakers began to explore King's non-horror writing in the 1990s.

Of course, the decade still saw some film adaptations of King's horror stories, but overall the 1990s proved that Stephen King offered moviegoers more than just big scares -- although there were a few good horror films based on King's work released in the 1990s, too. Here are the five best Stephen King movies of the 1990s in chronological order.

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Misery (1990)

Castle Rock Entertainment

The 1990s began with one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever made – Misery, based on King’s 1987 novel about an obsessed fan who holds her favorite novelist hostage after she rescues him from a car accident. The horror film stars Kathy Bates as the obsessed fan, and she ended up winning an Academy Award for her performance. The object of her affection (and torture) was played by James Caan, who also received praise for his role.

Misery was directed by Rob Reiner, who had already won acclaim for directing Stand By Me, and King later called it one of his favorite movies based on one of his books.

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Shawshank Redemption
Castle Rock Entertainment

Based on the short story “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” from King’s anthology Different Seasons (the same volume that featured “The Body”), The Shawshank Redemption is about the friendship that develops between two men sentenced to life in prison, although one of those men is innocent and refuses to die in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Though the movie was only moderately successful at the box office and went winless at the Academy Awards, television airings and home media sales made the film incredibly popular after its release. Critics praised the direction by Frank Darabont, and the lead performances by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. For years The Shawshank Redemption has been rated the #1 movie of all time by IMDB users, and it frequently appears on various top ten list as one of the best films ever made.

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Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Dolores Claiborne
Castle Rock Entertainment

King's 1992 novel Dolores Claiborne was written as a single monologue from the point of view of the titular character making a statement to the police. That made the film difficult to adapt for screenwriter Tony Gilroy (the Bourne films). Director Taylor Hackford cast Misery star Kathy Bates as Claiborne, an attendant to a elderly, wealthy woman who she is accused of murdering. Though Clairborne tells police she did not kill her employer, she is already a suspect in the decades-old case of killing her husband. Claiborne's daughter, portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh, also believes her mother killed her father and returns to the town.

However, what follows is a twisted tale that uncovers disturbing family history. In particular, Bates was praised for her portrayal of Claiborne, while Gilroy as also credited for adapting what might have seemed like an “unfilmable” novel.

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Apt Pupil (1998)

Apt Pupil
TriStar Pictures

“Apt Pupil” was another story that was published in King’s anthology Different Seasons. Apt Pupil tells the story of a high school student who befriends a fugitive Nazi war criminal named Kurt Dussander and becomes obsessed with Dussander's stories of the sins he committed against humanity during the Holocaust. In the film, Dussander is portrayed by acclaimed actor Ian McKellen, who later reteam with Apt Pupil director Bryan Singer in the X-Men movies.

King sold the film rights to the movie to Singer for $1 after viewing Singer's previous film The Usual Suspects. Though Apt Pupil was not successful at the box office, it has been praised by King fans.

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The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile
Castle Rock Entertainment

After Frank Darabont found critical (and delayed commercial) success with The Shawshank Redemption, it was only natural that he’d try his hand at another King adaptation. The Green Mile was another prison drama based on a King novel, but this time with a supernatural element. Tom Hanks stars as a death correction officer who discovers that one of his prisoners, the massive John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan in his most memorable role), appears to have the power to heal the sick.

Like The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile was nominated for numerous Oscars but went winless. However, it was far more financially successful at the box office, grossing $290 million worldwide and remains one of the most-loved adaptations of King’s work.