The number of movies that have been adapted for television are legion – think “Fargo,” “Highlander,” “Bates Motel,” and maybe most of all “Star Wars.” The reverse has also been true, with many TV shows brought to the big screen over the years.
To assemble a list of popular TV shows that have been turned into movies, 24/7 Tempo reviewed scores of TV series on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon. Only films released theatrically were considered; TV movies were not. When shows have spawned sequels or whole franchises, only only the first movie was considered.
Our list isn’t intended to be comprehensive, but rather a sampling of series that were so popular at some point that major Hollywood production studios decided to revive them in some form, obviously hoping that home audiences would flock to movie theaters to see the same characters and settings reinterpreted. (Television isn’t the only medium that has inspired film adaptations. These are 20 graphic novels that were made into really good movies.)
Some of the films taken from television are sequels, such as the period piece “Downton Abbey,” or prequels like “The Many Saints of Newark,” whose storyline preceded the rise of mobster Tony Soprano in the wildly successful mob series “The Sopranos” – widely considered one of the 100 best TV dramas of all time.
Successful television shows such as “The Fugitive,” “The Untouchables,” “The Addams Family,” and “Mission: Impossible” have become hits on the big screen – and in the case of the latter two, movie franchises.
Some movie versions of long-running animated series such as “The Simpsons” and “South Park” appeared while the series was still appearing on television. Others took advantage of their place in the popular culture to come to the big screen shortly after their series run ended, such as “Sex and the City.” All were successes.
With a nod to the Baby Boomer generation, Hollywood has resuscitated series from decades ago to bring to the big screen such favorites as “Maverick,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Get Smart,” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” The live-action-animated film “Casper,” about a friendly ghost, became a motion picture in 1995, 46 years after it first appeared on television.
Bringing back a beloved TV series has no guarantee of success. Despite honored casts for “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Avengers” (not the Marvel Universe Comics franchise), both movies were clunkers at the box office and were pilloried by critics.
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