Stephen King has been having a resurgence in the last decade regarding his stories being adapted for the big screen. As The Boogeyman hits big screens, it is the perfect time to go back and look at what kind of monsters he has brought to cinema by way of his novels. One of King’s specialties is finding small, everyday things that can turn on us and invoke a deep seeded fear that chills us to the bone. Out of all of the films that have been made of his works, who are Stephen King’s scariest movie villains?
John Rainbird – Firestarter (1984)
I know, I know. This portrayal of John Rainbird is problematic mainly because they put George C. Scott in the role. Some might even think his take on the character is a little hokey, but there is no questioning that his motivation is terrifying. He is tasked with finding Charlie and her father to bring them into The Shop for testing. Rainbird only agrees if he can be the one to get close to the child and ultimately be the one to kill her. His ultimate plan is to earn her trust and then look into her eyes as he kills her. It is really creepy.
Annie Wilkes – Misery (1990)
This character was played perfectly by the fantastic Kathy Bates in the 1990 film. So perfect that she ended up winning an Oscar for her performance. Annie Wilkes starts as an unassuming caretaker for Paul Sheldon after his accident, but quickly we see the dark side of her present itself. When Paul can explore her house, we see she has a history of harming those she is entrusted to take care of. We finally see her snap after her favorite character is killed off in Paul’s book, but her ultimate evil comes when she hobbles Paul so he can never leave. The scary thing is that she thinks she’s doing the right thing.
Cujo – Cujo (1983)
Poor Cujo. He was the goodest boy, but one bite from a rabid bat turns him into a frothy killing machine. After rabies starts to take over his mind, he lashes out at anyone that crosses his path. Unfortunately, Donna Trenton and her son end up stranded on the farm Cujo has taken over. They are stuck in their car with a rabid dog trying to get inside. Sid Haig once said this film scared him because he had a run-in with a dog when he was young.
Gage – Pet Semetary (1989)
Some fans don’t seem too bothered by the evil version of Gage that pops up in Pet Semetary. Many say that they could easily overtake him since he’s just a little kid. Him being a young kid is what makes him even more terrifying. The evil child returns to the Creed house with a gleeful laugh and then kills his mother. Then poor Fred Gwynne, doing his classic Maine accent, falls victim to Gage by way of one of the worst Achilles tendon cuts seen on film. Gage then proceeds to bite his throat out. All with that gleeful laugh and child-like voice the whole time. This easily makes him one of Stephen King’s scariest movie villains.
Mrs. Carmody – The Mist (2007)
While the monsters that live inside the mist are scary enough, sometimes it’s the fear of others that can really terrify you. Once the mist takes over, the shoppers in the grocery store start to take sides. Unfortunately, the religious zealot Mrs. Camody can amass quite a following inside the store. She begins to think that some old-fashioned religion is what people need and a sacrifice needs to be made to appease the monsters outside. As her fervor spreads amongst the people, David has to form an escape plan with his son before the crowd turns on him. Mrs. Carmody shows herself to be the real monster in this story.
Christine – Christine (1983)
Who remembers their first car? No matter what it was, it for sure wasn’t as memorable as Christine. Arnie buys the old car and quickly finds that the car has a mind of its own. It begins to find those that torment Arnie at school and take care of them. One by one. What makes Christine great in this film is John Carpenter’s direction and Donald M. Morgan’s photography. The scenes of Christine rebuilding itself still looks amazing and really bring the car to life. Never has 50s Rock and Roll music ever become so terrifying as when Christine is stalking its prey.
Barlow – Salem’s Lot (1979)
As seen in the Tobe Hooper CBS Miniseries, Barlow is portrayed as a feral vampire who will do just about anything to get the blood he needs to survive. The character’s look harkens back to the silent film Nosferatu and evokes a primal presence. When the character breaks into Mark Petrie’s kitchen at night, killing his parents, it becomes a terrifying image. The blue face set against the darkness makes it almost glow. Not something you would want to stumble across in the middle of the night.
The Overlook Hotel – The Shining (1980)
While there are many classic images from The Shining, the twins in the hallway, the old lady in the bathtub, blood from the elevator, they are all from one source. The Overlook Hotel itself. Dick Hallorann said it himself that sometimes places are just bad. The hotel itself is the scariest villain of the film. It wants Danny for itself and will do just about anything it can to entice him to join all the spirits that are stuck there. It projects everything it can at him to try and absorb that tasty tasty shine that he has. Ultimately it turns Jack against his family to try and get what it wants, but luckily Danny can escape.
Greg Stillson – The Dead Zone (1983)
While most of King’s monsters are scary, we at least know they aren’t real. The problem with Greg Stillson is that he could very much be real. He may seem like another politician that we’ve seen before, but thanks to Johnny Smith’s new talents, we find that he will, in fact, bring about the end of the world. Becoming President and starting a nuclear war endangers our lead characters and everyone on the planet. This may be one of the scariest situations we could find ourselves in, fictional or not.
Pennywise – IT (1990, 2017, 2019)
Perhaps the creation that King will be known for throughout his entire career, Pennywise, might be one of the scariest creations put on film. Not many people like clowns in general, but now add in that it can shapeshift into any nightmare you can think of. Both versions of the evil clown have terrified audiences since they hit screens.
Tim Curry’s performance in the original 1990 miniseries crafted a Pennywise that will psychologically tear the children down until they are ripe for the taking. Then Bill Skarsgard took a different approach that seemed gleeful to participate in torturing his prey until he was ready to feast. Threatening to eat their fingers to really ratchet up the tension, all while giggling. It really is unnerving and makes the character so sadistic. Either version of the devilish clown is scary in its own right and something that movie fans will not forget for a long time.
Who do you think are some of Stephen King’s scariest movie villains? Are you planning on checking out The Boogeyman? Tell us in the comments.