Stephen King's Most Chilling Sci-Fi Movie is Now on Prime

Stephen King's Most Chilling Sci-Fi Movie is Now on Prime
Image credit: Legion-Media

We've all heard the term 'instant classic', but sometimes the true brilliance of a film takes some time to reveal itself.


  • David Cronenberg directed an adaptation of The Dead Zone in 1983.
  • The book was written by horror master Stephen King.
  • The story feels a lot more frightening now than it did at the time, due to our overabundance of information and increasing social anxieties.

A film adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone was released in 1983 to rave reviews, but over the next few decades it slowly and quietly dropped off the map. Director David Cronenberg is now more famous for his other projects (The Fly, A History of Violence) and King's novels have been adapted into more iconic films (The Shining, It).

However, The Dead Zone feels much more chilling in the age of the internet than it did forty years ago.

What's It About?

The blandly-named Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is involved in a horrific car accident, and wakes from a coma years later. His girlfriend has moved on, his life has detached from its tracks, and Johnny soon realizes that he has psychic abilities. When touching the hand of a nurse, he can see the house fire in her future; when touching the hand of a student, he can see two kids falling through the ice.

In fact, Johnny now moves through the world able to touch people and see every tragedy and crime in their future. Most importantly, he can see that a populist presidential candidate is going to be responsible for the end of the world.

Part horror, part thriller, The Dead Zone follows Johnny as he attempts to short-circuit the future and save humanity.

Modern Anxieties

The Dead Zone might deal with supernatural visions, but Johnny suffers from the kind of bleak, neverending anxiety that we in 2024 can recognize all too easily. When the movie was first released there was no internet, no social media, no screaming mobs on Twitter/X, and no Donald Trump with access to the nuclear codes. In short, even the most dialed-in member of the public was not bombarded with fear and dysfunction 24/7.

Although none of us are psychic (I said NONE OF US, Theresa Caputo), we know what it feels like to be overwhelmed with dread, and to struggle with turning it off. Post COVID, we also understand what it feels like to be socially isolated.

A Familiar Tale

Unlike the hero of The Fly, Johnny doesn't suffer from a grotesque physical transformation. Instead, he suffers through increased isolation and despair. And unlike in real life, the presidential candidate in the movie is a populist fear-monger who panders to the lower classes while having no real compassion for their struggles.

…oh wait, that might be exactly like real life.

If there is one ray of hope in The Dead Zone, it's the fact that Johnny can in fact change the future. True, there will always be another tragedy around the corner; but if he gives his energy to helping people he can make a direct impact. Likewise, if there's one thing that will save us from the endless doom-scrolling and anxiety, it will be remembering the fact that we can put down our phones and help each other.

Where Can I Watch It?

The Dead Zone is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime. The service offers a 30-day free trial, after which it charges $14.99 per month, or $11.58 per month if you sign up for the $139 annual plan. You can also rent or buy it on Prime Video for $4.19 and $4.99, respectively.

The Dead Zone stars Christopher Walken as Johnny, Brooke Adams as his girlfriend Sarah, and Martin Sheen as presidential candidate Greg Stillson. (Funnily enough, Martin Sheen would go on to play the president in The West Wing, a role for which he became famous.)

The screenplay was adapted by writer Jeffrey Boam.