Over the course of his long career, Stephen King has become something of an expert on the question of evil. He writes about evil in all of its forms and seems to thrive in the chaos that his darkest characters bring to his stories.
King is also one of the most commonly adapted authors in Hollywood, and while all of those adaptations haven’t been great, they have produced some wonderful onscreen villains. These are the seven best villains that Stephen King movies have given us over the course of his many adaptations.
7. Warden Norton (The Shawshank Redemption)
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King’s stories don’t often end in triumph, but The Shawshank Redemption is the rare exception to that general rule. Warden Norton falls to the bottom of this list because, although he makes life hell for Andy and the rest of the prisoners in Shawshank, they ultimately get the better of him.
There are few people more quietly insidious than Warden Norton, who seems to understand that basically no one can hold him accountable. He has all the power, and he uses it to preside over a terrible prison.
6. Margaret White (Carrie)
An abusive mother who ultimately turns her daughter into something of a villain in her own right, Margaret White is the unquestionably evil character in Carrie. A religious zealot, she ruins her daughter’s life day by day until she feels she has nothing left worth fighting for. Margaret is one of the scariest characters in King’s repertoire in part because there is nothing supernatural about her. She’s just an exceptionally terrible mother whose behavior toward her daughter has horrific consequences.
5. Randall Flagg (The Stand, The Dark Tower)
A character that fully bridges the gap between a grounded human and a malevolent force, Randall Flagg is considered to be the villain who is most common in King’s universe, as he appears in both The Stand and The Dark Tower.
Flagg is also a trickster, convincing those around him that he’s a normal man and not a chaos demon hell-bent on bringing darkness to the universe. He’s undoubtedly one of King’s most iconic creations, but he’s never been totally convincing in any on-screen adaptation.
4. Percy Wetmore (The Green Mile)
King is great at grounding supernatural horrors in familiar fears that we all have, but he may be even better at creating deeply compelling villains who are also deeply human. Percy Wetmore is one of King’s very best characters in this human mold.
A security guard for death row inmates, he simply doesn’t believe that the inmates in his charge are worthy of any human empathy. He’s there to make them suffer, and will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that they get the punishment he believes they deserve.
3. Annie Wilkes (Misery)
Annie is genuinely terrifying, so much so that Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her performance in the role. Wilkes is an obsessive fan, one that probably lived on the periphery of King’s imagination for much of his early career.
When she finds that she’s kidnapped the author of her favorite book series, she forces him to write another novel. It’s a chilling story of obsession and longing.
2. Pennywise (It)
The actual embodiment of fear, Pennywise is probably the most purely terrifying character in the King canon. The terrifying clown appears to emerge every 30 years to terrorize the children of Derry, Maine, and he understands exactly what most scares them.
It’s a credit to the 2017 adaptation, in particular, that it understands exactly how terrifying a child’s fears can be. King knew that too, which is why It remains a deeply terrifying read, even though it devolves into something truly strange in its second half.
1. Jack Torrance (The Shining)
Is Jack Torrance the villain of The Shining? He’s haunted by a hotel and his own demons, but the answer to that question ultimately depends on whether you’re looking at King’s novel or Stanley Kubrick’s movie. In the movie, Kubrick paints Jack as a pure villain, a man who may already be abusive and who becomes truly evil by the end of the movie.
Although there’s plenty of terrifying stuff going down at the Overlook, Jack is the most terrifying thing in the building. He’s a man intent on destroying his family, so much so that he’s willing to die in pursuit of that twisted goal.