QUICK QUESTION: What Are the Best TV-to-Movie Adaptations?

By Price Peterson

Feb 02, 2012

Between reviewing the Napoleon Dynamite animated series and Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, I've been thinking a lot about the relationship between movies and television and that weird moment of conversion when one becomes the other. Especially these days, when it seems like all studio films are based on previously known properties, it feels like more and more of a guarantee that hit TV shows will eventually find themselves on the silver screen. Whether it's a movie based on a currently airing show (South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, X-Files: Fight the Future, The Powerpuff Girls), a continuation of a finished series starring the same cast (Serenity, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), or a complete reboot (Charlie's Angels, The A-Team, Mission: Impossible), it's certainly easy to recognize that TV shows can make GREAT (or at least really fun) movies.

In no particular order, here are my favorite movies originally based on TV shows. What are yours?

The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%

Why I Love It: You'll notice comedies will be pretty overrepresented on this list, particularly ones that came out when I was an impressionable youth. But maybe that's because comedies translate to the big screen pretty easily? Or maybe movies made in the '90s were SO GOOD? I don't know. But this Betty Thomas-directed satire of The Brady Bunch mythos had at least one thoroughly brilliant idea: Maintain the Brady's '70s kitsch, but have them exist in present day. It's such a weird movie! And very meta. A Very Brady Sequel is also pretty solid, especially the part where Alice does acid and nonchalantly steps inside the refrigerator. They don't make studio comedies like this anymore.

The Star Trek movies

Rotten Tomatoes score: Various

Why I Love Them: Here's an example of a TV show I DO NOT LIKE but I really love the movies. Man, you cannot force me to watch the original Star Trek TV series. Just no thank you. But I will watch any of the movies, especially the even-numbered ones. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the one I've seen the most, but I could watch Star Trek: First Contact any day of the week also. Heck, I'd even watch the Tom Hardy one where Data dies and his twin brother takes over. Dumb right? No, not dumb, how dare you. These movies are the best.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%

Why I Love It: This one seems so obvious it's almost unfair. But do you remember how important this movie was when it first came out? Critics loved it, it made a lot of money, and Robin Williams even yelled one of its songs at the Oscars. My favorite part is when Terrance and Philip are on Conan and one of them slaps Brooke Shields across the face. I laugh at that so hard every time! All right, this movie has sort of lost its edge a tiny bit now that Saddam Hussein's dead and also South Park the series is regularly more shocking than this, but still: This movie was and is excellent.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%

Why I Love It: You can have your fancy Christopher Nolan-directed, gritty, realistic takes on Batman, but I will always prefer Batman: The Animated Series as the definitive Batman portrayal. (I also love Batman Returns but more because it's the perfect Tim Burton movie.) Anyway, Mask of the Phantasm didn't exactly light up the box office, but it's just about as solid as a Batman story gets. It has a surprisingly sophisticated screenplay, a cool villain and an awesome twist. If you haven't seen this yet, I honestly feel so bad for you.

Addams Family Values (1993)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%

Why I Love It: This one's been on HBO a lot lately and I watch it pretty much every time it's on. While the original Barry Sonnenfeld-directed The Addams Family was a just-fine reworking of the old Charles Addams cartoons (made famous by the 1960s TV series), it was this sequel that really did it right. From Joan Cusack's hilarious villainess Debbie to the kids' aggressively blonde Camp Chippewa, Addams Family Values' screenplay is one of the cattiest, most engaging comedic works of the '90s.

Movies based on SNL characters

Rotten Tomatoes score: Various

Why I Love Them: I have super low standards when it comes to films based on SNL characters. Obviously Blues Brothers and the Wayne's World films are indisputably good. But I also love Superstar and The Coneheads and even It's Pat: The Movie. That's right, I LOVE It's Pat: The Movie and I'm not even ashamed to admit this in public. MacGruber was a pretty solid one too, but that's beside the point because I will watch any of these movies at any time for any reason. Because they're all based on character sketches in which we don't really learn any backstory, I guess I just really like getting to see where the characters come from and what they get up to outside the confines of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Or maybe SNL has just permanently lodged itself in the nostalgia part of my brain and anything it does will always be entertaining to me. I don't know. Sometimes it's nice feeling easy to please.

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%

Why I Love It: Speaking of easy to please, there was really no way I wasn't going to love a Kids in the Hall movie. But then this thing came out and it was weird, disturbing, and slightly depressing. They forgot to write jokes, for one thing! For another, apparently during the entire production of this film each troupe member despised the rest and Dave Foley was even forced to be in it against his will. In re-watching it, the bad vibes permeating every scene are fairly obvious. Doesn't matter. It's still one of the most curious and entertaining things I've ever seen, like one of the latter day Monty Python movies. And really, just put Bruce McCulloch in a ladies' wig and I'm there.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 62%

Why I Love It: After Twin Peaks made David Lynch a household name and then quickly faded away, he made this cinematic exercise in audience alienation and his career pretty much disappeared until Mulholland Dr. This was totally unjust! Look, Twin Peaks was a miracle of a TV show: An unapologetically baffling and artistic serial that just so happened to catch on with a mass audience. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is actually just a really faithful distillation of all of the show's themes and ideas, which mean it's... yes, an art film. Except it's hilarious. Like, really funny! Sure it's weird and nightmare-inducing, but what isn't these days?

Masters of the Universe (1987)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 13%

Why I Love It: Okay, sure, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was originally a toy line, but it was the animated TV series that really brought pop culture significance. What a lot of people may not know is this 1987 Menahem Golan-produced, Dolph Lundgren-starring adaptation won ALL of the Oscars and Golden Globes that year. No, it didn't. But I do know that it is a truly terrible film that I have seen a truly terrible number of times. "I was in this movie!" —Courteney Cox

What are YOUR favorite movie adaptations of TV shows?

  • Comments (70)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • countrymuzluvr1 Feb 04, 2012

    There's so many out there that I liked. Scooby-Doo being the first one that popped into my brain.

  • red81slayer Feb 04, 2012

    I completely agree with The Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel. It was a perfect homage to the original while making it more accessible to modern audiences.

    You should also do a reverse list... What are the Best Movies turned TV? Cause I know Buffy would top that list :D

  • vicbjones Feb 04, 2012

    My favorite movies based on TV series are: The Fugitive (liked it much better than any episode of the show); most of the Star Trek movies (Final Frontier and The Motion Picture being the exceptions); Maverick (for all the old cowboy stars at the card game); Hammer's Quatermass movies; Serenity (another instance where I liked the movie better); Mission: Impossible and M:I 3; and The X-Files: Fight the Future.

  • bohn007 Feb 04, 2012

    The Beverly Hillbillies! A very good, and very well-done movie. So sad that Jim Varney died before sequels could be made. I can't imagine anyone else playing that part.

  • KimMiedema Feb 03, 2012

    Addams Family Values!

    Both The Brady Bunch Movies

    And both Scooby Doo Movies!

  • Nerdnot Feb 03, 2012

    Least Favorite would be the Last Airbender movie, and any movie on Disney Channel.

  • BriannaKirkla Feb 03, 2012

    It's a shame that movie was so bad. The Avatar cartoon series is seriously some of the best storytelling ever! I've rewatched the entire series so many times and it never fails to make me laugh, cry, get goose bumps. I love that show!

  • AnthonyMence Feb 03, 2012

    Favourite would be Star Trek

    Others would include

    The Muppets (not seen latest film yet though)

    Babylon 5 if TV movies are included.


    Police Squad / The naked gun. Although Im not sure if I would still find the naked gun films funny nowadays.

    British ones:

    On the Buses (if you want to go back a bit)

    Mr Bean (Cant remember if I liked the films or not)

    The Inbetweeners

    Bottom / Guest House Paradiso

    Definitely more bad movies were from TV series than good ones.

  • sorenlundi Feb 03, 2012

    Probably the Utena movie that somehow managed to be even more twisted and gothic and non-sensical than the series and then in third act they (SPOILER) turn into cars for no reason.

  • ardie8 Feb 03, 2012

    Batman (1989) with Michael Keaton was great

  • ChristopheDup Feb 03, 2012

    I think TV-to-movies are usually very disappointing, especially when cult tv shows are only used as a title for something entirely different. The worst examples for me are the Mission ; Impossible movies, The Avengers or The Saint.

    As a trekkie, the Star Trek movies have never felt as good as the shows, except maybe for the last one (the JJ Abrams movie).

    But I think the best adaptation to the big screen is The Fugitive.

  • See More Comments (46)