Ranking Every Stephen King Mini-Series
Stephen King has been called the “Master of the Macabre” for well over 40 years and it’s easy to see why. For more than 4 decades, King has been busting out books at the pace of a racehorse.
King is responsible for thousands of nightmares, thanks to the books he’s written. Novels like IT, The Stand, The Shining and Pet Sematary are some of the most horrifying stories ever told. It’s no surprise then that many of King’s books would get a big-screen adaptation. Some of these films were good, such as the 2017 version of IT, as well as The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and more. Others, like Maximum Overdrive and Thinner were…not as good.
Some of King’s best adaptations, however, have not been big budget affairs at all. King is the king of the television Mini-Series and he has the track record to prove it. Like his big screen adaptations, some of King’s series’ were hit or miss. But all were made to feel like can’t-miss events. When a Stephen King Mini-Series hit the airwaves, you made sure you were in front of the television.
11) Golden Years (1991)
Golden Years was not a bad movie. It just wasn’t very good. It followed the exploits of an elderly janitor who was a part of an experiment-gone-wrong and is now aging backwards, Benjamin Button-style.
This was an 8-part series that was originally intended to become a full-fledged series, but CBS opted not to continue it. Because of this, the ending was left deliberately vague but the cliffhanger ending would never be resolved.
10) The Langoliers (1995)
As if flying wasn’t scary enough, imagine falling asleep on a plane and waking up to find that everybody else on the flight has vanished. That’s exactly what happened to the characters in The Langoliers, a 2-part mini-series that aired in 1995. After the initial rapture, or whatever it was called, the rest of the film became somewhat of a mystery, as the remaining passengers tried to find out what happened. It’s more thriller/mystery/sci-fi than horror, the effects are bad and the acting is mediocre at best. Still, it’s a fascinating ‘what-if’ scenario and you probably won’t be jumping at the bit to book an Allegiant flight to Vegas anytime soon.
9) The Tommyknockers (1993)
Years before the SyFy channel would make an entire real series out of Stephen King’s fictional town of Haven, Maine, this Mini-Series followed an alcoholic poet as he tried to discover what exactly is in the woods that it making his fellow townspeople act…out of character. While The Tommyknockers has an interesting lead, the rest of the film seems like a bad Twilight Zone episode that goes on two hours too long. The effects are pretty bad, even by 90’s TV standards and the acting is quite bland. This is definitely a case of the book being exponentially better and you’ll want to Tommyknock yourself out by the end of it.
8) Bag of Bones (2011)
Speaking of the book being better than the movie, we have this film from frequent King-collaborator, Mick Garris. Bag of Bones starred Pierce Brosnan as Mike Noonan, a writer with a severe case of writer’s block, following the sudden death of his wife. As he retreats to the couple’s old lakeside home, Mike begins to go down a deep rabbit hole involving a mysterious stranger, her child, the lake and even his own wife.
As a book, Bag of Bones is a fantastic read. When it was announced that A&E would be televising the Mini-Series, fans rejoiced…until the show actually came out. It wasn’t that Bag of Bones was terrible, it wasn’t. It was just really, really boring.
7) Salem’s Lot (1979 and 2004)
Two for the price of one! Salem’s Lot was one of Stephen King’s earliest novels. It was written in 1975 and adapted for television in 1979. It was then Re-adapted in 2004, this time with Rob Lowe as the star. Salem’s Lot follows a writer named Ben Mears who returns to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot with plans to write a novel. While back home, Ben uncovers many of the town’s deepest secrets and, let’s just say, the vampires in Salem’s Lot are not the biggest bad guys.
While the ’79 adaptation was pretty frightening (seriously, that window scene), the remake left much to be desired. It would be like trying to remake The Shining or something. Oh wait.
6) 11/22/63 (2016)
Look, we don’t want to be “That Guy,” but this is just another example of a book being infinitely better than the movie. 11/22/63, starring James Franco, was released on the Hulu Streaming Service in 2016. In its defense, this was not a bad series by any means. It was just fairly unmemorable, especially compared to the book.
The story follows the extremely likable Jake Tipping as he is shown a way to travel through time. With this knowledge, he is tasked with trying to stop the assassination of JFK. 11/22/63 is an incredible story that weaves in and out of timelines, returns audiences to other King works and leaves readers misty-eyed by the final page. It just didn’t translate well to screen. James Franco is a talented guy, but can anyone seriously accept him as the guy who saved Kennedy? No, they can’t. So seriously, go read the book.
5) Rose Red (2002)
Some houses are born bad. Anybody who has ever lived in a haunted house can attest to that. Why anyone would ever try to wake evil spirits is beyond us, but that’s exactly what Professor Joyce Reardon and her team of psychics attempt to do in Rose Red, a 3-part Mini-Series that came out in 2002. Rose Red is a haunted mansion with secrets lurking behind every passageway and it cannot wait to feast upon the psychic energy brought forth by its newest videos. Out of all the psychics, however, it is young Annie Whedon that seems to have the biggest connection with Rose Red and its dark past.
Rose Red was awesome. While corny at times, the cast was fun and the scares were pretty jarring. Nancy Travis (of Becker fame) absolutely kills the role of Professor Reardon but the rest of the cast brought their A-game too. Rose Red may not be the best haunted house film, but it certainly earns its place in the top 5 of this list.
4) The Shining (1997)
People really did not like The Shining Mini-Series from 1997. Part of us understands why. It wasn’t Jack Nicholson. It wasn’t Stanley Kubrick. And the kid who played Danny was very annoying. Still, we enjoy The Shining and it’s actually a lot more faithful to King’s original novel than the Kubrick version. And while nobody can possibly compete with Jack Nicholson, Steven Weber does a fantastic job of making the character of Jack Torrance his own. While Nicholson’s version is pretty much a jerk before he and his family even enter The Overlook Hotel, Steven Weber gives a much more subtle, heartbreaking performance as an alcoholic writer with as many demons as the hotel. We implore you to give this Mini-Series another shot. It deserves it.
3) Storm of the Century (1999)
“Give me what I want, and I’ll go away.” Those were the words spoken by Andre Linoge when he first stepped foot in the town of Little Tall Island. It’s a simple request but the residents have an extremely hard time granting it, so they must be punished. And Linoge knows just how to do it; by going after their hearts.
Storm of the Century is the perfect winter-time movie to pop in when it’s too cold to go outside. It features a cast of characters you genuinely care about, it has an iconic villain that we never find out much about and it has an ending that rivals The Mist as the most depressing way to end a Stephen King story. Storm of the Century is not just a great Stephen King Mini-Series; it’s a great story, period. It’s also one of the few Mini-Series’ that was not a novel first. King wrote the teleplay of this show and it shows just how good something can be when it’s untouched after King writes it.
2) IT (1990)
We’ve got to hand it to Andy Muschieti and Bill Skaarsgard, nobody thought that they would be able to make people forget about the 1990 Mini-Series, IT. Their remake did a fantastic job of revisiting one of King’s most-heralded stories. We continue to find ourselves drawn back to the 1990 version more than the theatrical adaptation though. IT is a 2-part Mini-Series that sees 7 friends unite and then reunite to face an unspeakable evil that takes on the guise of a circus clown named Pennywise. Pennywise is played by the always-awesome Tim Curry and he will haunt you for the rest of your life after seeing this film.
This Mini-Series drifted into corny territory a time or two (especially the ending), but the good most-assuredly outweighs the bad. This film came out almost 30 years and we still have nightmares about it. We don’t think we’ll be able to say the same about the new film.
1) The Stand (1994)
Epic. That’s the only word we can think of for Stephen King’s The Stand. Both the novel and the Mini-Series were epic. As a super-virus takes out the majority of the world’s population, there are only a handful of survivors left. These survivors must pick a side between good and evil and then make their stand for one final battle. The Stand is, arguably, one of Stephen King’s greatest books and it is, unarguably, the greatest Stephen King Mini-Series. The cast is eclectic and electric (and includes Molly Ringwald, Gary Sinise and Rob Lowe). It is a 4-part series that really takes the viewer on a journey. You feel like you are a part of the survivors and their victories and defeats feel like your own.
The Stand is getting ready to be rebooted as an extended series and we cannot wait. But it has some pretty big shoes to fill if it wants to compete with the original. They better cast Rob Lowe, is all we’re saying.