My Top 10 TV Show to Movie Adaptations

Not sure when I came up with this idea for a Top 10 list, but once I did, I started researching and compiling because it was a strong one. Here’s the list that will forever connect television and movies—My Top 10 TV to Movie Adaptations.

Here are the ground rules. To be eligible for this list, the movie has to be a reinterpretation, reimagination, retelling, and/or recasting of a television show. I’m discounting canonical continuation of the series featuring mostly the same cast, so all the Star Trek movies are out. (There are enough of those for their own list!) Also out would be The X-Files, South Park, The Simpsons, Sex and the City, and so on. However, I will count adaptations that exist in the same universe as the show featuring original actors in cameos.

I considered both the quality of the original television show, but I counted the quality of the movie even more. I considered how well the show adapted to the big screen, which included the star power of the cast and any new twists the movie producers added in the adaptation.

Enough explanation! Let’s tune in…


#10 – The Flintstones

I’ll admit that the plot is cartoonish (see what I did there?), but what it lacks in story, it makes up for in impressive production design. The sets, the costumes, the props all work in bringing the town of Bedrock to life. The casting is just as impressive. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble are respectively played by John Goodman and Rick Moranis. Could those roles be more perfectly cast? Elizabeth Perkins is fantastic as Wilma Flintstone, and though Rosie O’Donnell’s casting as Betty Rubble is divisive, I think she captures the character’s essence well enough. Fill that out with Kyle MacLachlan and Halle Berry as the villains, and you’ll have a grand old time. An inferior prequel followed.


#9 – Charlie’s Angels

Again, it’s all about the casting. The premise of Charlie’s Angels is obviously campy, and the original series made sex symbols out of original stars Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith. The movie ups the action scenes into something much more big-budget and has the angel roles filled by some of the biggest names of the era: Drew Barrymore (who was also a producer of the film), Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu. Throw in Bill Murray as Bosley, and the cast has the comedic chops to deliver the goods in an action and tongue-in-cheek way but clearly loving the source material. A sequel followed, replacing Murray with Bernie Mac and adding Demi Moore as a former angel.


#8 – Maverick

Once again, I’m going to cite the exceptional casting: Mel Gibson in his heyday as the titular cardsharp Bret Maverick, Jodie Foster as a fellow con artist, and James Garner as a marshal deal it in this comedy old western. Where some TV-to-movie adaptations sometimes feature original cast members in cameo roles, the inclusion of Garner with top tier billing (third) bucks the trend. He was the original Maverick in the television show! Several other actors from westerns appear in the movie, lending further respect to the genre and elevating it into this list. The plot has the requisite saloon hijinks and double-crossing and shootouts, and it’s just a lot of fun.


#7 – Get Smart

A common thread in this list is going to be the casting. If you’re going to reboot a show, particularly an older one like Get Smart, the cast has to channel the energy of the original series. But even so, there needs to be a solid script. That’s why Bewitched with its spot-on cast of Will Ferrell, Nicole Kidman, and Shirley MacLaine flopped. The casting of Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway as Agents 86 and 99 is about as perfect as one could hope for. Throw in Alan Arkin as The Chief and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Agent 23, and it only gets better. They play the silly script with the proper deadpan aplomb of the series, and if any jokes or gags misfired, they only missed them by “that much.”


#6 – Twilight Zone: The Movie

A few years back, I did a Top 10 list of my favorite television shows. This is the only show from that list to have been made into a movie (so far), and it’s only fitting that my third favorite show of all time makes an appearance on this list as well. The movie adapts three classic episodes (Kick the Can, It’s a Good Life, and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet) and one original story into the modern day, each directed by a sci-fi/horror director of the time—John Landis, Stephen Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller. The show is classic, and I don’t think all the segments in the film hit the mark, but the best (Nightmare) is saved for last. It’s terrifying, elevated by John Lithgow’s performance in the role originated by William Shatner—and it made for a hysterical gag on the sitcom Third Rock from the Sun.


#5 – Mission: Impossible

The theme song is iconic. The “this message will self-destruct” is also iconic. The Impossible Mission Force (IMF), as led by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), carries out their secret missions in a huge movie franchise. There are five films so far in the series, with the sixth (Mission: Impossible—Fallout) coming out later this year. Tom Cruise has been a producer for the entire series, and he and Ving Rhames have appeared in all six movies. Beyond that, there have been some big-name supporting cast members and directors (Brian DePalma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird, and Christopher McQuarrie) throughout the series. I thought the plot of the first film was a little hard to follow, but there’s no denying the incredible action sequences. Cruise and company really try to outdo the previous film’s stunts, and they succeed.


#4 – 21 Jump Street

I didn’t watch the original series that aired on the relatively new Fox network in the late-80s/early-90s. The show launched the career of Johnny Depp most notably, but there was also Holly Robinson, Richard Grieco, and Peter DeLuise. The premise of the show was that youthful-looking cops went undercover to investigate crimes in high schools and other places teens hung out, and it was intended to be a mostly serious crime procedural show. Well, the movie did something really clever—and really successful—by making it a far more comedic buddy cop movie starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. They’re undercover in a school, but tropes are subverted when their cover identities get mixed up and Hill is the heartthrob and Tatum is the nerd. The film is quite funny, successful beyond all expectations, and it spawned a sequel 22 Jump Street.


#3 – The Addams Family

The TV show was really campy—the campier version of The Munsters. The TV Addams Family, led by John Astin’s Gomez, was kooky and spooky and ooky, but it was more silly than macabre. The movie definitely went darker, and it’s all the better for it. Not only did it spawn a successful sequel, but it has also been adapted into a stage musical! Why it works comes down to—you guessed it—the phenomenal casting. The late Raul Julia plays Gomez, Anjelica Huston plays Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd plays Uncle Fester, but it will be forever remembered as Christina Ricci’s breakout role as daughter Wednesday Addams. She’s done more quirky or goth or horror roles since, but her deadpan turn here is perhaps her most iconic character.


#2 – The Brady Bunch Movie

We all know the story of the lovely lady, her lovely girls, the man named Brady, and his boys. The show was dated but fun family fare, forever immortalized in syndication. So how does the 70s sensibilities of the show translate into the 90s when the movie came out? Turns out, there wasn’t a need to translate it! The writers made the brilliant decision to set the movie in the present-day 90s but have the Brady family behave exactly like they do on the 70s show. Shelley Long is unrecognizable as herself, somehow morphing into Florence Henderson, and Gary Cole channels Robert Reed’s fatherly lectures. The film combines several classic TV episode plots and elements: Greg pursuing a Johnny Bravo music career, Marcia’s nose getting hit by a football while trying to get Davy Jones to perform at the dance, Peter’s voice changing, Jan living in Marcia’s shadow, Bobby investigating things, and Cindy’s struggling with tattling. Maybe the 90s neighbors and classmates look at the Brady family as freaks, but the movie is an affectionate love letter to the source material. Several original cast members make cameos, as do three-fourths of The Monkees. Yes, Davy Jones appeared!




The finale of the original series—when David Janssen’s Dr. Richard Kimble, on the run from Lieutenant Philip Gerard, finally tracked down the one-armed man who killed his wife—was the most-watched episode of television up to that point. In 1993, the TV series was adapted into the successful movie starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. The film was a late-summer blockbuster and was nominated for SEVEN Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Jones won Best Supporting Actor, in perhaps one of the tightest fields for the award ever. His character’s name was changed to Samuel Gerard and was upped to a U.S. Marshal, but he got all the great lines. Search “every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in that area.” When he and Ford face off in the dam and Ford insists he didn’t kill his wife, Jones gives the simple response: “I don’t care.” It’s tense and suspenseful, and it shows both characters doing what they think is morally right. Even while on the run, Ford’s Dr. Kimble helps people. It’s easy to root for both of them as the movie progresses, all the way to the end.


I hope this list gets some good ratings!

Poster art for these movies are copyrighted to their original artists, and these images are linked from Wikipedia.

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