What happens when a TV show is a big hit on the small screen, well, they become bigger hits on the big screen, usually. Sometimes a movie based on a TV program can bomb, failing to live up to the qualities of its cable counterpart, but other times they can surpass the standards of their shows and become cinematic gems in their own right. Whether it’s based on a TV show, or a continuation with the same cast, here are my own personal top 10 favorite movies adapted from TV programs.
#10 Twilight Zone: The Movie
TV show aired from 1959 – 1964, 1985-1989 (CBS), 2002-2003 (UPN)
Movie premiered in 1983
The original Twilight Zone is one of my favorite TV programs of all time, thanks to its themes of Science fiction laced with horror, and deep, thought provoking concepts which are still very intriguing to this day. While the 1983 movie doesn’t capture the same brilliance of its cable TV counterpart, it is still a very entertaining horror/Sci-Fi anthology film that combines four stories in one nice package. The four segments are remakes of classic episodes from the TV show, but with a bigger budget, and some awesome effects. There’s also a nice variety, ranging from magical and upbeat, to dark and sinister, to goofy and all over the place, it runs the whole gambit. Don’t expect the same thought provoking themes raised in the TV series, but the presentation, style and premise make it a very fun experience.
TV show (Firefly) ran from September 2002 – December 2002 (Fox)
Movie premiered in 2005
Before he directed “The Avengers”, Joss Whedon helmed one of my all time favorite TV shows, which was taken from us way too soon. The 2002 TV series “Firefly” was a creative blend of outer-space travel with a Wild West style and overtone. It was imaginative, funny, action packed and featured one of the greatest casts of characters I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after only eleven episodes, and that’s where the movie comes in. The 2005 film titled “Serenity” reunites the cast, continues the story further and concludes the Firefly series on a relatively high note. While I personally don’t think the movie captured the same charm or charisma of the TV series, it at least helped fill an empty void that was left when the show was taken off air, and that’s a big plus. Even as a standalone Sci-Fi adventure, it holds up great.
#8 Star Trek
TV franchise ran from 1966 – 2005 (NBC, CBS and Fox)
Movie premiered in 2009
Honestly, I could have filled this list entirely with Star Trek movies, but that wouldn’t have been fair, so I’ll just select one film from each of the three different Star Trek Films series. The 2009 Star Trek movie didn’t just revive a dying franchise, it expanded it into a phenomenon that non-trek fans can enjoy, and I’m so glad that one of my favorite TV shows is now catching the attention of a wider audience. While this new movie isn’t directly linked to a TV series the same way the others are, it is still adapted from the legacy of the Star Trek franchise, so it still counts and it’s such a great revival, with more wit, a terrific cast, plenty of action and brilliant writing.
#7 The Simpsons movie
TV show ran from 1989 – Present (Fox)
Movie premiered in 2007
Now this was a really unexpected treat for me because I’m honestly one of the phew people that never watched the Simpsons show at all, at least I didn’t before I saw the movie, now I can’t get enough of it. This film might just be the funniest animated films I’ve ever seen, and while I wasn’t that familiure with the source material at first, I can safely say that this film represents the absolute best of what the show had to offer. I just love the timing on these jokes, there so fast, so direct and so much fun, there’s even little detailed jokes in the animation that I find myself noticing on repeated viewings. There are plenty of little charms along the way including Arnold Schwarzenegger as the president, and a trippy dream sequence featuring animated illustrations inspired by Salvador Dali and a chillingly cool score by Hans Zimmer. There’s also a really good set up involving a dome that in-cases their home town, and a nice story arch of how the trashy Homer Simpsons becomes the towns hero. Throw in some great animation and you have yourself an A+ adaption from a classic TV show.
#6 The Fugitive
TV show ran from 1963 – 1967 (ABC)
Movie premiered in 1993
While I freely admit, I've never seen the TV show, it really isn't necessary to watch the movie. This is back in the day when Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones were on top of the world, and this film shows them both at their best. With Harrison Ford as the wrongfully accused fugitive, and Tommy Lee Jones as the persistent cop determined to catch him, it's a thrilling crime drama, an exciting chase and while is has little to do with it's source material outside of the title, it still holds up very well on it's own and highlights two of my favorite actors when they were at their most bad ass.
#5 Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country
TV series ran from 1966 – 1969 (NBC)
Movie premiered in 1991
While most would argue that “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn” is the best adaption of the original Star Trek series, my personal favorite is “Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country”. It just gets everything right, boasting an intriguing, character-driven mystery plot with lots of incite on themes of prejudice, forgiveness, betrayal, nationalism and the fear of an un-known future. The result is a genuinely thrilling and even inspiring motion picture that’s nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s also the perfect send off for the original series, and it’s the perfect kind of final installment that any franchise should aspire to be like.
#4 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
TV show (Police Squad!) aired in 1982 – and that’s where is stayed (ABC)
Movie premiered in 1988
If you thought “Firefly” was taken to soon, check this out. The comedy series titled “Police Squad” premiered on ABC back in 1982, but it was quickly canceled after only six episodes. Thankfully, the series continued with three theatrical movies that featured the same cast from the show, and stands as one of the funniest films series I’ve ever seen. It’s a no brainer that my favorite is the first film titled “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!”. It’s relentlessly funny and full of non-stop joke's, one after the next. This is definitely a comedy that gets better every time you watch it, because you notice something new every time, there are jokes in the background, the foreground and the plot manages to stay consistently strong. They never ware out their welcome, just when you thought you got to the funniest part of the film something else happens that’s even funnier. Finally, I honestly think this was the greatest performance of Leslie Nielsen’s carrier, he is just so brilliant, lively and manages to pull off a convincing yet hilarious performance all at the same time. With competent writing, fast past hummer, and a fantastic performance from one of my favorite actors, “The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad!” still stands as one of the greatest comedies that the genre has to offer.
#3 Batman Mask of the Phantasm
TV show ran from 1992 – 1995 (Fox)
Movie premiered in 1993
To date, this is the only animated Batman movie to be released in the theater, and in all honesty, it’s one of my favorite superhero movies ever. It has all that epic super hero excitement and brooding gothic tones that Batman is loved for. The story has a lot of things going on but it’s all very subtle. Batman is pitted against some of his greatest enemies, yet the writers manage to keep the attention on our hero and some up everything in just 76 minutes, that’s very impressive. The film dives into the geneses of Batman, and we get a very complex love story that mixes the hopes and dreams off a beautiful life with the darkness of reality. Plus there’s lots of great style, animation, action, excitement and a beautifully haunting musical score composed by Shirley Walker. If you’re as big of a Batman fan as I, then make sure you check this film out, it’s one of the best.
#2 Wayne’s World
TV show aired on “Saturday Night Live” from 1988 – Present (NBC)
Movie premiered in 1992
I can’t call myself a fan of “Saturday Night Live” or the original “Wayne’s World” sketches themselves because I’ve honestly never watched them. But the 1992 motion picture “Wayne’s World” has been one of my favorite movies for years, and still is to this day. This is yet another great Comedy that just gets funnier every time you watch it. Its chalk full of memorable catch phrases, fun music, pop culture jokes and the characters themselves are just so enduring. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey have such great individual personalities, and they make for a terrific comedic buddy team. The rest of the cast do their jobs very well, and the story is so perfectly simple, yet it stands out as one of the most beautifully constructed comedies of all time. Party on guys, Party on...
#1 Star Trek: First Contact
TV series ran from 1987 – 1994 (CBS)
Movie premiered in 1996
I’m a huge fan of “Star Trek The Next Generation”, I love the TV series and the films that followed, but if I had to choose just one to place on this list, it would have to be “Star Trek First Contact”. This is where my whole fan base for the series started, and it was actually one of the first movies I saw in the theater. This movie is actually a follow up on one of the shows most popular episodes titled “The Best of Both Worlds”, and pit our hero’s against their most popular enemy, the Borg. Everything about this film is just so awesome, the score by Jerry Goldsmith is so beautiful that it gives me chills every time I hear it. The action is great, the effects are very impressive, the atmosphere is really strong, and it’s also a very engaging story as we see the captain constantly struggle with his own internal battle of vengeance or making the right chooses. There are plenty of strong sub stories to keep your attention, along with fantastic characters that are all brought to life so well by this very talented cast. Overall, this is the film that fans and non-Star Trek fans alike can enjoy, and it’s my favorite TV adapted movie of all time.