Ten Great Movies Spawned From TV Shows

Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
January 20th, 2014

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As the cost of making films continues to rise, studios look for entertainment properties with built-in audiences to ensure healthy box office grosses. This points to the use of established TV shows as inspiration for films. While not all of these movies turn out to be hits, there are a select crop of films spawned from TV shows that equal - and, in a few cases - surpass the quality of the show on which they are based. Here are the 10 best films based on TV shows.


the-lone-ranger.jpgPhoto Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

"The Lone Ranger"

The tales of a masked former Texas Ranger who fights for justice in the Old West began as a successful radio series in the 1930s. The character made the transition to TV in 1949 with Clayton Moore in the title role. The show ran for five seasons, helping to establish ABC as a viable television network. Hollywood has revisited this classic hero several times, including when "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski recruited superstar Johnny Depp to play the character of Tonto in a 2013 update. The movie features a unique mix of action and comedy with Depp delivering an appealing performance. While initially criticized for its poor box office performance and perceived low quality, the film has grown in stature since its release with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino calling it one of the best films of the year.



21-jump-street.jpgPhoto Credit: Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM)

"21 Jump Street"

Though now a movie star thanks to his roles in films such as "The Lone Ranger," Depp gained prominence in Hollywood by starring in the action series "21 Jump Street" for the fledgling Fox network for four seasons beginning in 1987. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller gloriously send up the series with this 2012 action-comedy starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. With Hill helping out on the film's script, "21 Jump Street" proves to be a funny romp that revels in its self-awareness.


brady-bunch.jpgPhoto Credit: Paramount Pictures

"The Brady Bunch Movie"

While the 1970s family sitcom "The Brady Bunch" may not seem like sure-fire source material for a subversive, uproarious film, director Betty Thomas makes the 1995 comedy work. The movie serves as a loving parody of the series and of itself. While "The Brady Bunch Movie" shows how to get this sort of thing just right, the two vastly inferior sequels reveal what not to do. 


the-fugitive.jpgPhoto Credit: Warner Bros.

"The Fugitive"

The 1993 film version of the 1960s ABC action series stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man who is looking for his wife's killer while on the run from law enforcement. Whereas the TV show kept TV viewers hanging for four seasons as Kimble traversed the county, director Andrew Davis keeps the film lean and mean, providing nonstop action and a satisfying conclusion in under two hours. Tommy Lee Jones took home an Oscar for his supporting turn as U.S. Marshall Sam Gerard.


the-untouchables.jpgPhoto Credit: Paramount Pictures

"The Untouchables"

This is another Oscar-winning film based on an ABC hit from the 1960s. Sean Connery scored an Academy Award for his supporting performance in Brian De Palma's 1987 film about the efforts of government agent Elliot Ness, played by Kevin Coster in one of his first starring roles, in his efforts to bring down crime kingpin Al Capone.


serenity.jpgPhoto Credit: Universal Pictures


Joss Whedon's TV series "Firefly" proved to be a bold mix of science fiction and westerns when it launched on the Fox network in 2002. Unfortunately, while the show drew praise from critics, it did not draw viewers, and it was ultimately canceled after 11 episodes. Thanks to its success on home video, "Firefly" found a passionate audience, inspiring Whedon to make the 2005 film "Serenity." While not a major box office hit, "Serenity" gave fans of "Firefly" the closure they were missing due to the series' sudden cancellation.


the-addams-family.jpgPhoto Credit: Paramount Pictures

"The Addams Family"

Director Barry Sonnenfield combined the campy fun of the 1960s TV series about the spooky, kooky Addams family with the understated humor of Charles Addams' original "New Yorker" cartoons to create an inspired 1991 film that spawned an equally funny sequel, "Addams Family Values."


mission-impossible.jpgPhoto Credit: Paramount Pictures

"Mission: Impossible"

Several years after the success of "The Untouchables," Brian De Palma again looked to a hit TV series for inspiration by teaming up with Tom Cruise for an update of "Mission: Impossible" in 1996. Cruise and De Palma upped the stakes significantly in the film, turning this spy thriller into a fast-paced, action-packed hit. The film was so successful upon its release that it has spawned several sequels, all starring Cruise. 


the-naked-gun.jpgPhoto Credit: Paramount Pictures

"The Naked Gun"

The TV comedy "Police Squad!" only lasted six episodes on ABC in 1982, but that did not stop David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker from updating the show for the big screen with 1988's "The Naked Gun." The surprising success of the film led to a late career resurgence for star Leslie Nielsen, who played Detective Frank Drebin in the movie and its two sequels.


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"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"

"Star Trek" is the standard-bearer for a TV series making a successful transition to film. While 1979's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" proved to be a box office hit with long-time fans eager to see more of the characters, the slow pace and confusing plot did little to attract new fans. It was the 1982 sequel that made "Star Trek" a box office name brand, as it featured the epic showdown between Captain James T. Kirk and his nemesis Khan.

For every TV show that makes a successful transition to film, there are five that do not. This is what makes these films stand out as shining examples of stories and characters that work on both the big and small screens.