Why CHRISTINE Is Secretly The Best Stephen King Movie

Christine is one of John Carpenter's most underrated films.

Christine Best Stephen King Movie
Columbia Pictures

John Carpenter has a history of being underappreciated. Although referred to as the "Master of Horror" by commentators today, he has long been a filmmaker who's had to be patient for praise. Contemporary success and acclaim were rare for the writer, director and composer, who left the '70s as one of the medium's hottest up-and-coming prospects with works like Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween, but ended the following decade with a less-endeared reputation

That may seem bizarre today, where Carpenter-directed works like The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China are largely hailed as genre masterpieces, but at the time, much of his eighties output was either slated or met with more tepid assessments from critics. Some, still, are waiting for a true reappraisal, with 1983's Christine - a stylish and fiery adaptation of the Stephen King novel which turned 40 in 2023 - arguably the most overlooked.

Released in the wake of the critical and box office failure of The Thing - which led to Carpenter being dumped off another King adaptation in Firestarter - Christine was, in Carpenter's own words, "a job", a project he "needed to do" as opposed to something borne out of passion like his ultimate Hawksian tribute from a year before.

Not that you'd be able to tell that when watching Christine, however. It is one of Carpenter's most fired-up and well-executed efforts - a movie that translates King's brand of horror to the big screen while maintaining the feisty political throughline seen in many of the director's other works. In doing so, Carpenter's Christine transcends the typical trappings of other King adaptations, capturing the spectre of fifties nostalgia in a blood-red Plymouth Fury and setting it loose on the Reagan generation.

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Content Producer/Presenter
Content Producer/Presenter

Resident movie guy at WhatCulture who used to be Comics Editor. Thinks John Carpenter is the best. Likes Hellboy a lot. Can usually be found talking about Dad Movies on his Twitter at @EwanRuinsThings.