All 5 Stephen King Movies Nominated For Oscars (& How Many Won)
Stephen King has cemented his legacy as the King of Horror, not just through his books but the many film adaptations they have inspired as well.
There have been many movies made from Stephen King’s books, but only five have received Academy Award nominations with an even smaller number of wins. King began his career as an author, but his name is just as recognizable to movie-goers as it is to book-readers. Through his successful books and their popular screen adaptations, King has been named the “King of Horror.” His career as an author began with a short story in 1967, but it wasn’t until 1974’s Carrie, his first novel to be published, that King's career took off both in print and on-screen with a film adaptation that followed soon after.
To date, Stephen King has written over 65 books that have launched numerous solo films and even franchises that give them a life beyond the page. Some of the highest-grossing King films, including It, 1408, and Pet Sematary never received award recognition from the Academy but have contributed to the influence King has had on cinema and the horror genre as a whole. Very few horror films receive Oscar nominations, let alone Oscar wins, which makes the fact that King has five different film adaptations that were nominated for Oscars even more impressive.
Carrie was both King’s first published novel and book-to-screen adaptation. The film was a commercial and critical success, receiving rave reviews and making $33.8 million at the box office on just a $1.8 million budget. However, King once disliked Carrie so much that he threw it in the trash. Luckily, his wife, Tabitha, found the few pages he’d written and urged King to continue writing what would become a smash hit.
At the 49th Academy Awards, Carrie became one of the few horror films to receive multiple nominations–Best Actress for Sissy Spacek (Carrie White) and Best Supporting Actress for Piper Laurie (Margaret White). Ultimately, neither actress won, with both awards going to the female stars of Network, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight. Carrie might have gone home empty-handed the night of the 1977 Oscars, but it made history and the film’s cultural influence is still felt today.
Today, 1986’s Stand By Me is viewed as an essential addition to the coming-of-age drama canon. The film was based on King’s novella, The Body, from his 1982 collection Different Seasons. When Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon adapted the screenplay, they changed the name, inspired by Ben E. King’s song “Stand By Me,” which was featured in the movie. It was for Best Adapted Screenplay that Stand By Me earned its lone Oscar nomination, though the award went to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for her adaption of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View.
Related: Stand By Me True Story: Was It Inspired By Stephen King’s Childhood?
At the 63rd Academy Awards, a Stephen King film finally won an Oscar. Misery came out in 1990, almost 15 years after Carrie became the first King book to be adapted for the big screen. Misery would kick off a strong decade for King’s film adaptations, with the rest of his Oscar-nominated films coming in the 1990s. This singular win came in the form of Best Actress, awarded to Kathy Bates for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes. This makes the win from Misery not just the sole Oscar from a King film but an unfortunately rare occasion in which a horror performance was honored in such a way.
Though it failed to win an Oscar, The Shawshank Redemption is the most-nominated King film, with a total of seven Academy Award nominations. The prison drama was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Morgan Freeman), Best Adapted Screenplay (Frank Darabont, who also directed the film), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score (the first nomination for legendary composer Thomas Newman). While Freeman lost to Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump, it is one of the iconic actor’s most lauded performances.
Beyond its number of nominations, The Shawshank Redemption stands out against most of King’s film adaptations, and this was done purposely. Unlike most of his other films, this one didn’t fit into the horror genre. Thus, The Shawshank Redemption hid its Stephen King connection while marketing the adaptation in order to avoid being seen as another horror film. Darabont would also go on to adapt and direct two other King stories, The Green Mile and The Mist, with only the latter being a true horror film.
The final King movie to be nominated at the Oscars was 1999’s The Green Mile. There have been numerous excellent King adaptations in the almost 25 years since the epic fantasy drama’s premiere, but they have not received Academy recognition, likely due to the nominating body’s clear horror bias. Like Darabont’s Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile was not a horror film, earning four nominations at the 72nd Academy Awards.
Darabont received another nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, Michael Clarke Duncan received a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and The Green Mile was also nominated for Best Sound and Best Picture. This makes it the only King film adaptation to receive the desired Best Picture nomination, losing to American Beauty at the 2000 ceremony. The Green Mile also made Duncan just the 10th Black actor to be nominated in his category, in which Michael Caine won for The Cider House Rules.