Top Ten Movies Based on TV Shows

Top Ten TV to Film Adaptations
Top Ten TV to Film Adaptations

This weekend 21 Jump Street scored the top spot at the weekend box-office and Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall are busy preparing a sequel and after posting my review someone on Twitter told me one of the reasons they liked it was because it was a huge improvement compared to most TV-to-film adaptations. While I enjoyed it, I wasn't as excited over it as some people seem to be and I never even thought to compare it to other TV-to-film adaptations, especially considering a film needs to stand on its own, whether it's simply better than other films that tried to make the leap from the small screen to the silver screen is irrelevant. But it did get me to thinking... what are the best TV-to-film adaptations?

So I started the process of compiling a list and while 21 Jump Street is a good flick, it isn't one of the top ten TV-to-film adaptations and while there are several failures in this category I have to say many of them I haven't even seen. I wasn't about to spend my time watching The Beverly Hillbillies, Fat Albert, McHale's Navy, Thunderbirds, The Honeymooners or any number of the awful-looking Saturday Night Live spin-offs from The Ladies Man to It's Pat. So, no, I haven't seen every TV-to-film adaptation just as I haven't seen every TV show these films have been adapted from.

Admittedly, there are some TV adaptations that I haven't seen that I know some people are fond of such as The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch Movie and To Trap a Spy. So, yes, like every top ten you're going to find on the Internet, this is my own. I just wanted to make sure you realize, nothing was forgotten or overlooked, but simply a few I may not have ever seen.

That said, here are the ten films I consider to be the ten best TV-to-film adaptations and I would love to read your personal lists in the comments below.

Based on "Maverick"

Photo: Warner Bros.

I know this is a pick that will immediately have Internet readers rushing off to the comment section to say, "But what about The Untouchables? What about The Blues Brothers? What about...? What about...? What about...?" Well, sorry, for me those movies just don't do it for me compared to the next nine or Maverick, a film which I simply enjoy watching each and every time. Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster are great together, I love James Garner in it, love James Coburn and Alfred Molina as Angel. I know it won't be a popular choice, but it's an honest one.

As for both The Untouchables and The Blues Brothers, I'm not exactly big on either of them. The Untouchables is one I would definitely watch again, but it just doesn't move me in such a way that I necessarily want to watch it again. And I just am not much of a fan of The Blues Brothers. Sorry, I know it's not a popular opinion, but it's the truth.

Three Outlaw Samurai
Based on "Sanbiki no Samurai" (Three Outlaw Samurai)

Photo: Janus Films

I only saw this film from director Hideo Gosha recently when Criterion released it in February 2012, but I immediately took to it as I am prone to do with samurai features. The film is an offshoot of the original Japanese television series of the same name. It's probably the least recognizable name you'll find on this list, but it's an addition I felt was necessary and appropriate even though evidence of the television series it was based on is essentially missing.

If there is any kind of film that tends to continually impress each time I'm introduced to a new one it's the samurai feature and while films such as Akira Kurosawa's classics including Yojimbo and Seven Samurai as well as Sword of Doom and Onibaba are the first that leave people's lips when the genre is discussed, just give this one a chance and I think you'll find yourself recommending it to your friends.

Based on "Firefly"

Photo: Universal Pictures

I've never seen a single episode of "Firefly", but Serenity was one hell of a sci-fi western that never got the attention I believe it deserved. unfortunately some things just don't capture the audience attention or Universal was unable to bring the audience in with its marketing campaign. Either way, Serenity served as what I consider to be my official introduction to Joss Whedon considering I didn't watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel" and wasn't rushing to see who was responsible for Alien: Resurrection. However, now he's a filmmaker that's big on my radar and the main reason I'm looking forward to The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers.

  • Bradley

    Muppets, south park, spongebob, borat, Bruno (kinda)

  • Nick

    The Thick of It is brilliant, while it doesn't pack as many laughs per minute as In the Loop, it consistently has moments which are just as hilarious as anything in the film. Every single character is a blast as well.

    And yeah, since I haven't seen Wrath of Khan and as much as I love Heat, you can count me as one of those who don't think it deserves to be here - I'll eagerly name In the Loop as my #1. One of the sharpest, funniest movies I've ever seen, and after my most recent viewing I was ready to accept it as one of my all-time favorite movies in general.

  • Winchester

    No, no, no, no, no - let's take a step back and apply some sanity and make that TWO quality seasons (which is wobbly even when it comes to season 2 in places) and discount 95% of the third and THEN I'll buy quality 'Star Trek' on TV then add in the first four of the films (although the first film has huge problems it's still visually appealing, then technically include First Contact for the TNG cast but not their other three films) and then the 2009 film. Which fair enough may have been intellectually thin but got pretty much everything else right.

    I also plus one 'The Fugitive', 'Maverick', 'Serenity' (though Whedon is generally better on TV there's quite a lot of stuff in his CV to go through so fair enough on sticking to film just now instead of 15 seasons of various TV shows), 'Mission: Impossible' (but maybe I would push it to the third film since De Palma is too indebted to Hitchcock in his film, as he is in most of them)...........and 'South Park' and even 'The X-Files' film (I'll be honest and even add the sequel too).

    'Heat' I just could never get truly into. I've seen it about twice and can't imagine heading back to it soon. I like 'The Untouchables' but not to the point I watch it a lot. Not seen 'The Naked Gun' in years and years but you never forget a nice Beaver.

    • Winchester

      Ok - I'm also on a purely personal level going to throw in The A-Team because frankly that's a film I still just enjoy when I watch it.

      • Jimmy Diamies

        I will 2nd that. If Star Trek is my mindless entertainment film of 2009, then The A-Team is my film from 2010. I enjoy Star Trek more but they are both movies I can watch again and again

        • Jeff

          I too enjoyed the A-Team movie.

          • Brad Brevet

            Me too, would have definitely made a top 20 list had I made one. Was never sure why people disliked that film so much, I thought it made it quite clear just what kind of film it was going to be.

        • Winchester

          I was having a root around Box Office Mojo and discovered the trivia that Abrams' Star Trek is actually the highest grossing/highest opening weekend live action TV adaption. Unadjusted, obviously.

  • Leandro Dubost

    The Simpsons Movie would be my choice. I know the series itself has been very lame and unoriginal for the last, what, 10 seasons? But that movie felt fresh, like The Simpsons used to be.

  • Rain

    Good list. Although, I would put X-Files Fight the Future on it.

    • Brad Brevet

      I had it on there at one point and even wrote up the commentary, but it fell off, primarily because it didn't interest me enough to watch the sequel, which I own and have still yet to watch. But I really do enjoy the first movie.

  • Susan Slick

    You SHOULD watch the Firefly TV episodes.

    • Hey You

      THIS! Brad you seriously need to watch Firefly.

      • Cameron Standring

        Thirding this. Not only are Firefly's 14/15 episodes (depending on whether you count the double-length pilot as 2), some of the best damn television you can get (and you can technically knock the whole thing over in a day if you have absolutely nothing else to do), you'll like Serenity even more after watching them. The story, character development and emotional connection you get from the show is invaluble - Serenity works much better as a 'big-budget season finale' than it does as a standalone film.

        Also, though they aren't quite as important as the show, you might wanna look at the comics. They add new stories and sometimes hold important character points - Those Left Behind bridges the show and film, and the graphic novel The Shepard's Tale reveals the true past of Shepard Book.

    • Stu

      I agree. If you watch Firefly, you will re-write this list with Serenity in the number one spot.

    • Vera

      yes! Firefly is a fine piece of television and you will definitely appreciate it if you liked the movie.

  • MWHollywood85

    I watch Maverick whenever its on TV (and that seems to be alot) and I still laugh every time especially during the Indian confrontation scene with Graham Greene.

    I have always loved Mission Impossible and thought it was very loyal to the feel of the original series. However I lost a lot of respect for DePalma when I realized that the 'CIA heist scene' was almost a shot-for-shot rip off of Topkapi

  • Feedback

    The Thick of It is fantastic, but I loved In the Loop even more.

    I'll be watching Veep when it debuts on HBO next month, you should too Brad!

    • A-K87

      The Thick Of It is a Seminal Satire. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you Americans thought that Gervais' Office was genius back in the early Noughties, you will be blown away by The Thick Of It.

      I cannot wait for Veep. JLD is one of the best female comedians out there and Iannucci is one of the best comedic writers in many many years.

  • Creighton

    The Simpsons Movie far and away! Greatest series of all time has a movie with even a fraction of its greatness and it's going to be better than most of anything else that come out! I also really liked Borat and South Park. Three Outlaw Samurai and In the Loop are two I'd include as well. While I know you enjoy Mission Impossible I wouldn't allow that anywhere near my list.

  • Jeff

    Mission Impossible 1 would top my list, followed closely by South Park which would have been the perfect way to end that series had they not decided to continue.

    M:I 1 is the only one I don't watch and see Cruise basically waving his hands around saying "look what I can do"

    Had the Simpsons Movie been made ten or more years earlier it would have been amazing.

  • Steve

    While I'd love to let my home country take credit for it, Traffik was actually a UK series, not an Australian series.

    Also, watch Firefly NOW!