Top 3 Stephen King Movies: The "Tower" of Power

Each week(ish), CinemATL Podcast hosts Martin Kelley and Michael D Friedman will be naming our Top 3 picks based on the weekend’s big movie release. Keep in mind, these lists are totally based on our opinion, and aren’t supposed to be a definitive list of the “best” movies. If you disagree with our selections, please let us know in the comments section below!

The Dark Tower becomes the latest Stephen King adaption when it arrives in theaters this Friday. With such a huge catalog to choose from, our choice for this week's Top 3 topic was obvious. Here are our favorites from the master of horror (and other genres)...


1. The Shawshank Redemption

This is a film I cannot NOT watch. No matter how many times I’ve seen this movie, I still watch it whenever it comes on TV. One year, TNT ran a marathon where they showed it several times in a row. I caught the first airing half way through and watched to the end, only to see it start again. So, I figure, why not catch the first part I missed? Which I did -- and then I proceeded to watch the whole film again, only to find it airing again immediately after! So, I watched it AGAIN. Yes, I watched EIGHT STRAIGHT HOURS of The Shawshank Redemption.

I’m not sure what it is about this film that grabs me so much, but it’s one of my absolute favorite films. Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins are both tremendous in it. The location and sets perfectly embody the emotion of the piece. The dialogue is terrific. I’m not sure how much influence is the Stephen King story, or Frank Darabont’s script, but the story is so engaging it just begs to be watched -- yes for eight hours.

2. The Mist

Frank Darabont once again helms this Stephen King adaptation about a group of townsfolk that are stranded in a grocery store when a strange mist, and mysterious danger within, envelops the town. It’s perhaps a foretelling of what Darabont would bring to The Walking Dead, as the story is more about how the true evil is human nature, despite what monsters lurk outside. The thing that I love about The Mist is the foreboding, ominous feel of DP Rohn Schmidt’s camerawork, which perfectly matches with the script. It’s just spooky. It’s also probably Thomas Jane’s best role, leading a cast that includes some great performances by Andre Braugher, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones and William Sadler. And the ending… wow, the ending!

3. The Green Mile

I guess maybe I’m just a fan of Frank Darabont (ignoring any AMC-Walking Dead shenanigans), who also directed this movie. The Green Mile might be best described as the awkward, younger, oft-ignored cousin of The Shawshank Redemption, as it captures many of the same themes and tones, and pretty much the same setting. But I can describe my love for this movie in three words: Michael Clarke Duncan. Tom Hanks, as usual, is terrific, but it’s Duncan’s breakthrough performance that lends emotional gravitas to the film.

Honorable Mentions: Apt Pupil, The Running Man, Stand By Me (I’m almost ashamed to admit that I have never seen The Shining)


1. The Shawshank Redemption

Those that see Stephen King as the Master of Horror (rivaled only by The Legendary of Reign of Terror Who’s the Master? ) would be surprised that many of his best films have not been of his horror material. Shawshank is probably his most popular and many may not even associate it with Stephen King at all. That is possibly because the movie is based on a short story and not one of his more popular novels. This was a Best Picture nominee despite it being an initial box office under-performer. However, it’s DVD and television life has garnered millions of fans since its initial release. Iconic images and performances make this just a great movie in general.

2. The Shining

Now, this one IS a scary movie. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film is not popular with Stephen King himself (in fact, apparently he hates it) despite it being another favorite for many moviegoers. Honestly, not being a reader of King’s books leaves me at a loss to know whether the adaptation is good or not. I only know that the film works incredibly well as being scary. I’m torn at times on the performances; sometimes I think they are brilliant, other times almost cartoonishly broad. However, when I saw the film as a child it scared the daylights out of me so effectively that I didn’t watch it again for years. So, it’s definitely one of the best in the genre.

3. Stand By Me

Another movie that uses non-horror Stephen King material, Stand By Me became a coming-of-age classic. This is likely the first time that King’s work was showcased outside of horror to the masses. It hinted at more great storytelling to come in terms of his film adaptations. The wonderful cast and direction from Rob Reiner hit the right notes on the theme of childhood friendship. It stands the test of time as well.

Honorable Mentions: Carrie, Misery, Silver Bullet