Top 30 Stephen King Movies, Ranked

From haunted hotels to prison-yard blues, 'Carrie' to 'Christine' – the major adaptations of the iconic author's work, from worst to best

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'Carrie' (1976)
William Katt, Sissy Spacek Everett Collection1/30

1. 'Carrie' (1976)

Brian De Palma's film version of King's first published novel is a masterpiece that stands on its own – both deeply unsettling and one of the more compassionate horror flicks you'll ever see. Could we even call it horror? Before it gets there, the movie goes through everything else: coming-of-age story, family drama, high school movie, social allegory, vigilante thriller. As the shy, repressed teenager tormented by her fellow students on one side and her deranged, Bible-quoting mother (Piper Laurie) on the other, Sissy Spacek is appropriately haunted and anxious – her intense performance has the quality of an exposed nerve. We feel for this girl and understand the impossibility of escaping the emotional prison that she lives in. 

Meanwhile, De Palma's stylization is both lush and forbidding: His swooping camera moves and sly editing tricks mix sentimentality and suspense, so that, much like Carrie herself, we never quite know where any given situation is headed. And the film sustains its tense, hesitant tone for so long that by the time the climactic prom night massacre arrives – resulting in one of the great shock-and-awe set pieces of all time – even those of us who've seen the movies a dozen times are on the edge of our seats. The bestselling author's literary debut got the inaugural cinema du King film it deserved. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  BE

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