What’s that eerie Stephen King-like sound effect? That’s the whistling hole in our collective viewing soul now that “The Outsider” has concluded 10 taut episodes. The supernatural mystery where good and evil duke it out using humans as game pieces is classic King. With “The Outsider,” HBO has a miniseries adaptation for the ages.
This 10-part series ends crying for another 10. In the meantime, how to fill that whistling hole demanding King thrills? I want my small-town apocalypse. I want my battle between good and evil. I want my fast-talking devils that steal all the best lines. We have chased down the best of the best King home-viewing options that have ever scared the hell out of TV audiences. Check out these 10 greatest Stephen King TV adaptations, ranked from worst to best.
– Original text and gallery published in March 2020.
10. “The Dead Zone” (2002-2007)
Anthony Michael Hall led six seasons (81 episodes!) of dystopian delirium on the USA Network. A classic King protagonist, small-town science teacher Johnny Smith has a wonderful life. Then he falls into a six-year coma, awakens to find his world blown open and just happens to have acquired psychic powers. Just a typical day in Mr. King’s neighborhood.
9. “Stephen King’s It” (1990)
Tim Curry takes a jump to the left as villainous clown Pennywise. The ABC two-parter attracted 30 million viewers and earned an Emmy for its music. Set over two eras – the ’60s and the ’90s – the small-town Losers Club, another King band of outsiders that includes Richard Thomas’s cranky novelist, plot to foil their supernatural nemesis. It’s back – and it’s horrifying!
8. “Salem’s Lot” (1979)
The two-part TNT mini-series pairs David Soul (“Starsky & Hutch”) with Hollywood legend James Mason as vampire hunters sting bloodsuckers out of a small Maine town. Director Tobe Hooper (“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”) gives the classic King adaptation the Hammer horror treatment.
7. “11.22.63:” (2016)
The period miniseries pairs King and J. J. Abrams with top-flight cast, including James Franco, Chris Cooper and Cherry Jones. Over eight episodes, good battles evil in the “Mad Men” era as Franco’s English teacher (another one-time job of King’s) travels back in time to prevent President Kennedy’s assassination. “The Butterfly Effect” meets “JFK.”
6. “Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King” (2006)
William H. Macy earned an Emmy nomination as the obligatory tortured novelist in this acclaimed TNT omnibus notable for its fidelity to King’s vision without sacrificing the wicked chills and featuring Emmy-winning special effects. The killer cast also includes William Hurt and Ron Livingston.
5. “Mr. Mercedes” (2017-present)
Based on King’s 2014 novel, which the author called his “first hard-boiled detective novel,” the ripped-from-the-headlines narrative charts the course of a psychopath (Harry Treadaway of “Penny Dreadful”) who plows a stolen Mercedes into a job fair line, killing 16. A hard-drinking retired detective (powerhouse Brendan Gleeson) gets pulled back into the game when he receives an email from the purported driver. David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies,” “The Practice”) developed the series and wrote 15 of the 30 episodes. The show is available on AT&T U-verse and other AT&T services.
4. “The Stand” (1994)
After a virus decimates the global population, the survivors split into two diametrically opposite groups. In this ABC-produced double Emmy winner, Gary Sinise wears the white hat and Jamey Sheridan dons the black for a six-hour diabolical apocalyptic binge. Also high on any list of must-see plague series.
3. “Creepshow” (2019-present)
George Romero protégé, director and four-time Emmy winning special visual effects and make-up artist Greg Nicotero revives the 1982 collaboration between Romero and King. The creepy, eerie and well-received Shudder series anthologizes King’s shorts — six episodes, two stories each. Giancarlo Esposito, Adrienne Barbeau and a host of other actors star.
2. “Stephen King’s Storm of the Century” (1999)
The weather in coastal Maine is frightful. But it gets a whole lot worse when the slick-tongued devil (a chilling Colm Feore) arrives with the ill nor’easter winds. Scary with a side of ordinary human wickedness, the three-part ABC miniseries pits good versus evil with Tim Daly as the everyman fighting for his life and his community’s survival.
1.“Castle Rock” (2017-present)
Bill Skarsgard, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Glenn, Lizzy Caplan and André Holland star in Hulu’s three-season psychological chiller. King collaborated with J. J. Abrams for a series that melds complicated characters and edge-of-your-seat supernatural phenomena. No, the devil isn’t just a metaphor in King’s fictional Maine small town Castle Rock.