80s & 90s Cartoons that Could be Great Blockbuster Movies

Published 1 year ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 8:57 pm, This is a list post.

80s & 90s Cartoons that Could be Great Blockbuster Movies

Voltron Defender of the Universe Movie Following the success of the Transformers film franchise, which after only three installments (and counting) has already earned over $2.5 billion at the global box office, Hollywood producers scrambled to mine 1980s and 1990s childhood nostalgia for other potential blockbuster adaptations. Paramount Pictures has been especially eager to turn fan-favorite toy properties into big screen ticket profits adding two G.I. Joe adaptations (Rise of Cobra and Retaliation) as well as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot to their production line-up. That said, Paramount isn't the only studio attempting to revive beloved properties from pre-2000 - given that, among several other in-production projects, Sony Pictures is taking a stab at the retro cartoon-to-movie formula with a feature-length Captain Planet adaptation. Following recent reports that X-Men: Days of Future Past actor James McAvoy wants to see (and star in) a live-action ThunderCats movie, we started thinking about other cartoons from the 80s and 90s that could actually make for exciting, and profitable, blockbuster movie franchises - if done right. Or course, our list is not all-inclusive, so once you've had a chance to read our picks, share your ideas in the comments.

COPS

Cops Cartoon Show Movie Show: C.O.P.S. Original Run: 65 episodes (September 19, 1988 – February 20, 1989) Premise: The Central Organization of Police Specialists fight CROOKS in the year 2020. Why It Could Work: Not to be confused with the reality/police TV series, the animated show C.O.P.S. (later rebranded CyberCOPS) was actually based on Hasbro's C.O.P.S 'N' Crooks toy line. The show featured police officers (and villains) with cybernetic enhancements, futuristic weaponry and vehicles, as well as a robotic canine companion. It was campy kid-friendly programming but a big screen version could provide an exciting future-set world to explore - elevated by an elite batch of police characters with neat gadgets and/or super-human enhancements. On top of explosive visual effect possibilities, there's a solid human story at the heart of C.O.P.S. (which should be familiar to RoboCop fans) - as protagonist Baldwin P. "Bulletproof" Vess is implanted with cybernetic components after being injured in the line of duty. Watch the animated intro from C.O.P.S.HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

Dino-Riders

Dino Riders Cartoon Movie Show: Dino-Riders Original Run: 14 episodes (October 1, 1988 – December 31, 1988) Premise: Pulled back in time, the courageous Valorians and evil Rulons use telepathy and brainwashing, respectively, to ride laser-fitted Dinosaurs into battle. Why It Could Work: There's a long history of love for dinosaurs on film: from Brute Force in 1914 to The Land Before Time in 1988, among others. That said, after Jurassic Park set a new standard for realistic dinosaurs on screen, the only sensible way to raise the bar higher is to add futuristic weapons into the equation. Universal Pictures toyed with the idea of weaponized dinosaur hybrids for Jurassic Park 4 - so, comparatively, Dino-Riders offers a significantly more grounded approach. After the neural-handshake in Pacific Rim and the Tsaheylu in Avatar, audiences should be prepared to suspend disbelief for the cartoon's sillier story elements - so that they can revel in watching a Tyrannosaurus Rex marching into battle with shoulder and head-mounted laser guns. Watch the animated intro from Dino-Riders - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

Freakazoid!

Freakazoid Cartoon Movie Show: Freakazoid! Original Run: 24 episodes (September 9, 1995 – June 1, 1997) Premise: A teenage superhero with a manic personality. Why It Could Work: Designed from the ground-up to satirize comic book hero tropes through self-referential dialogue and tongue-in-cheek applications of familiar superpowers, Freakazoid! also incorporated parodies of established evildoers - and included a variety of entertaining cameo appearances (including Steven Spielberg, Brain from Pinky and the Brain, as well as Wakko from Animaniacs). Considering countless superheroes have made a successful jump from comic book pages to cartoon serials to big screen blockbusters, it's easy to imagine that Freakazoid! could deliver fun counter-programming to the current slate of "grounded" DC and Marvel film offerings (especially if the Deadpool film never gets a green light). Freakazoid's sixteen year-old alter ego, Dexter Douglas, is also ripe for a fresh origin story approach - since the titular antihero is, after all, a deranged lunatic - who could cause plenty of havoc in Dexter's school and home life. Watch the animated intro from Freakazoid! - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

Gargoyles

Gargoyles Cartoon Movie Show: Gargoyles Original Run: 78 episodes (October 24, 1994 – February 15, 1997) Premise: Heroic Gargoyles team with NYPD cops to fight supernatural threats. Why It Could Work:  Awakening from a 1,000 year imprisonment, the Gargoyles must adjust to the life in the modern era while saving the world from nightmarish creatures and evildoer David Xanatos - a rich genius with ties to the Illuminati. For a kids show, the core story and individual character arcs explored in Gargoyles were surprisingly dark (with poignant moments of betrayal, moral ambiguity, and even death) - meaning that, despite the campy set-up, a big screen version could manage to marry slick visuals with rich thematic elements and solid storytelling. Furthermore, much like fellow genius billionaire, Lex Luthor, Xanatos also developed a (Gargoyle-inspired) mech suit - which could make for an exciting showdown in the final act between Goliath and a tech-heavy Xanatos. Watch the animated intro from Gargoyles - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

M.A.S.K.

MASK Cartoon Movie Show: M.A.S.K. Original Run: 75 episodes (September 30, 1985 – November 26, 1986) Premise: The Mobile Armored Strike Kommand battles V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem) with high-tech vehicles capable of transformation and weapon modification. Why It Could Work: Whether or not you're a fan of the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises, Hasbro's toy-to-film partnership with Paramount Pictures has grossed over $3 billion at the box office worldwide. As a result, a movie that mixes the two concepts could be the next big blockbuster franchise: a ragtag special ops group with high-tech vehicles that change from road-ready cars and trucks into fighter jets, submarines, and tanks, among others (including an entire mobile command center). A M.A.S.K. film would include the same eye-popping visuals as the Transformers movies, without the baggage of giant CGI aliens, and instead of heavy-handed reasons to keep humans involved, people are actually essential in piloting M.A.S.K. vehicles. Furthermore, the conflict with V.E.N.O.M. is grounded in a story of betrayal that would provide a solid foundation for worthwhile character drama on top of crazy vehicle stunts. Watch the animated intro from M.A.S.K. - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

Masters of the Universe (Reboot)

He Man Masters of the Universe Movie Show: Masters of the Universe (Reboot) Original Run: 130 episodes (September 30, 1983 – December 8, 1984) Premise: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe battle Skeletor and his evil warriors. Why It Could Work: A Masters of the Universe movie reboot is currently in the works at DreamWorks but many fans remain skeptical of its chances at delivering a worthwhile big screen adventure. However, the world of Eternia is ripe with a diverse set of heroes and villains that can make for exciting and creative feature film translation - especially weirdos like Man-E-Faces, Moss Man, Two-Bad, and Saurod - that were entirely ignored in the 1987 film starring Dolph Lundgren. While He-Man is often depicted as a one-note hero archetype (as he was in the aforementioned Lundgren movie), there's plenty of interesting and unexplored potential in his storyline - especially since his alter ego, Prince Adam, is an unassuming "mask" (similar to Clark Kent). Plus, who wouldn't want to see He-Man and Skelator stride into a live-action battle on the backs of BattleCat and Panthor, respectively? Watch the animated intro from Masters of the Universe - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

The New Adventures of Jonny Quest

New Adventures of Jonny Quest Cartoon Movie Show: The New Adventures of Jonny Quest Original Run: 13 episodes (September 14, 1986 – March 1, 1987) Premise: Jonny Quest travels the world with the Quest team, investigating sci-fi inspired mysteries. Why It Could Work: A follow-up to the popular 1960's Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Jonny Quest, which ran for 26 episodes between September 18, 1964 to March 11, 1965, the New Adventures of Jonny Quest offered a second dose of fun globe-trotting adventure with diverse, and downright clever, science fiction set-ups. In addition to Jonny, the show also features an entertaining cast of side characters, Dr. Benton Quest (father and scientist), Race Bannon (Intelligence One agent), Hadji Singh (best friend), and Bandit (dog), each possessing unique skill sets that would make for intriguing team set piece moments as well as comedic banter and interplay. A feature film version could easily utilize the best cartoon episodes into a single Indiana Jones-style adventure, one where alien technology actually makes sense, with countless other sci-fi premises waiting as for sequel material. Watch the animated intro from The New Adventures of Jonny Quest - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

SilverHawks

Silverhawks Cartoon Movie Show: SilverHawks Original Run: 65 episodes (September 8, 1986 – December 5, 1986) Premise: "Partly metal, partly real" intergalactic heroes that battle evil robots out in space. Why It Could Work: While certain elements of SilverHawks are undoubtedly campy (example: Lt. Colonel Bluegrass and his weaponized guitar), the premise could make for an incredible sci-fi blockbuster experience - since the SilverHawks sport slick armored suits and spend a lot of their time battling in actual space. A SilverHawks film would feature the excitement of a Star Wars X-Wing dogfight with the added benefit of characters that can rocket out of their transports - and continue the brawl in zero-gravity with high-tech suits, shoulder-mounted lasers, and mechanical hawk companions. The SilverHawks rogues gallery is also strong with interesting villains that would be fun to see on the big screen - such as mob boss Mon*Star (who rides a robotic octopus), cybernetic minotaur Mumbo Jumbo, and multi-bladed brawler Buzz-Saw, among others. Watch the animated intro from SilverHawks - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

ThunderCats

Thundercats Cartoon Movie Show: ThunderCats Original Run: 130 episodes (January 23, 1985 – September 29, 1989) Premise: A team of feline-like humanoids fight mutant creatures and ancient sorcerer Mumm-Ra for control of Third Earth. Why It Could Work: A ThunderCats feature film has been in the works for years - with the most recent (cancelled) version relying on CGI animation to bring the characters to life. Still, while Hollywood has struggled to adapt the characters, there's plenty of reason to think that a ThunderCats film could work, given the right approach. A live-action attempt would be challenging but, if the visual effects team succeeded in making the ThunderCats, Mutants of Plun-Darr, and Mumm-Ra look cool (not campy), the characters offer plenty of room for filmmakers to deliver slick fight choreography and cool vehicular (i.e. ThunderTank) action. Additionally, as James McAvoy recently pointed out, Lion-O is actually a twelve-year old trapped in the body of a ripped, muscly, fighting man who is destined to be king - laying the foundation for a unique hero tale. Watch the animated intro from ThunderCats - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Voltron Cartoon Movie Show: Voltron: Defender of the Universe Original Run: 124 episodes and a 1-hour special (September 10, 1984 – November 18, 1985) Premise: A mighty robot (powered by space explorers), loved by good, feared by evil, that maintains peace throughout the universe. Why It Could Work: Twenty years of The Power Rangers may have stolen a bit of momentum from a big screen Voltron: Defender of the Universe adaptation but there's no doubt that many fans still want to see a grounded take on five heroes piloting Lion-shaped space tanks that join together to form a 60 meter tall, 700 ton sword-wielding robot. Filmmaker Alex Albrecht delivered a Voltron short film that teased how it could work, and with Pacific Rim presenting epic (and believable) kaiju fights here on earth, the stage is set for Hollywood to let Voltron take robot versus monster combat into outer space and otherworldly locales. Additionally, the five-member Lion Force team, and central antagonist King Zarkon, should provide rich and interesting world-building with competent drama and character beats to round-out the CGI spectacle. Watch the animated intro from Voltron: Defender of the Universe - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE.

Honorable Mentions

Captain Planet Cartoon Movie We've listed our ten favorite cartoons from the 80s and 90s that could launch great blockbuster movie franchises but there are plenty more that we didn't have chance to include in detail - and we want to highlight two of them. Honorable Mentions: Captain Planet - Given the right script and director, Captain Planet could be a campy (albeit fun) take on Superman-like superheroing and environmentalism. Watch the animated intro from Captain Planet - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE Defenders of the Earth - Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician in one movie! Watch the animated intro from Defenders of the Earth - HERE and the entire first episode - HERE What cartoons from the 80s and 90s would you like to see turned into blockbuster movies? As mentioned the list is not all-inclusive, so share your picks and reactions in the comments. ___ Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future feature articles as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.
TAGS: captain planet, go joe, johnny quest, masters of the universe, teenage mutant ninja turtles, thundercats, transformers, voltron

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  1. STAR BLAZERS!!

    • THIS X 1000

  2. No doubt Gargoyles would make a terrific movie for sure. But as stated previously it has to be done right. After the new Frankenstein movie that was just released which had “watchers of the night” aka Gargoyles, they should have no problem creating this movie. They would just need the right actors to pull off the romantics of Goliath and the female cop. Something to the effect of what they did with the 80′s Beauty and the Beast TV show.

  3. I am disappointed that Visionaries, A Flight of Dragons or InHumanoids did not make the list. All would make for some epic live actions movies…provided they were done right of course.

  4. What about Galaxy Rangers? It was about enhanced humans patrolling planets of the future–sort of like galactic Texas rangers. There was one character who had a mysterious, possibly criminal past. Would make a good story.
    I’d love a live-action version of Eagle Riders (or whatever incarnation you want to call them: G-force, Battle of the Planets, Gatchaman)! They did an animated re-do under the original Gatchaman name back in the 90s–very dark and violent (would make a great action movie with lots of angst, explosions, and death). Would make a great movie mainly because of the characters, though. The characters were unique and a bit dysfunctional. The antagonistic relationship between the leader, Mark, and his second-in-command, Jason, was great (both were kind of hot for the same team member and Jason thought he’d make a better leader). The driven Mark with his daddy issues, the angry/violent Jason with his mysterious past. As long as they make Princess a viable action hero and not just eye-candy. And for goodness sakes, don’t make Cheyops a dork who only speaks in chirps and whistles!

    • ABSOLUTELY – without a doubt Galaxy Rangers would be the best, but only if whoever made the movie took it 100% seriously and got a good script and good actors, otherwise, leave it alone.

    • Keyops is how is should be spelled, and the chirps and whistles explain that his character is actually a clone. Just like they can’t get rid of the bellbottoms, you can’t get rid of the chirps and whistles.

  5. Thunddar the Barbarian

    • Bravestarr!

      Start with Cowboys vs Aliens, add an american indian sheriff, a cyborg transformer horse with a big gun and lots of kickass baddies. As all mentioned before, if done right, it would be a blast!

  6. Centurions

  7. G-Force? I loved that show

  8. Well being really old, I’m thinking of a couple from the 70s. The Herculoids would be awesome. Zok the lazer shooting dragon, Igoo the stone giant ape, Tundra the Armidillo rhinoserous, that shoots exploding rocks from its tusk and of course, Gleep and Gloop the stretchy take any shape ghost looking creatures.
    How about Gigantor or the Impossibles, maybe Frankenstein Jr.

  9. What about Gundam Franchise? My brother would be excited for that, even though he was huge fan of Gundam. He used to have Gundam Wing toys back then. All boys would like to see an Live action Gundam movie on big screen. For me, I would like to see Sailor Moon Live Action movie.

    • I would be happy to see Gundam simply because it would expose American audiences to the space habitat concept. I’d just as soon not mix that with giant robots and warfare, but then it wouldn’t be Gundam without the Gundams, would it?

      I have mixed feelings about a live-action Sailor Moon. SM is my “gateway drug,” what brought me into anime as a fan, instead of just somebody who had fond memories of Speed Racer, Star Blazers, and Battle of the Planets. Because of that, I have a warm fuzzy for the idea of seeing the Sailor Senshi on the big screen, but I have a less warm feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking of all the ways they could {redacted} it all up.

    • Oh heck yes, Gundam Wing would be perfect for the big screen! Five 16 year old boys forced to become terrorists to defend their space colony homes from their own rebels (who want to crash a colony into earth and stage a takeover) and the Alliance military, Oz special forces, and Romafeller Foundation. Space battles, earth battles, large mecha, large explosions, and stylish and suave bad guys. The moral and philosophical dilemmas of war, peace, pacifism, and teenagers committing atrocities in the name of freedom and lasting peace and having to somehow deal with what they’ve done and the people they’ve killed. They could make SEVERAL movies out of all that happened in that series.

      First movie could be origin stories for the guys all the way up to Oz’s coup and the death of the Alliance Doves. Movie two is Heero and the others dealing with the fact that they just killed innocents who where on their side by mistake and the re-founding and eventual second destruction of Sank kingdom. Third movie the guys take to space and the final showdown with Treize and Zechs.

      It would be so freaking awesome!

  10. DINOSAUCERS,

  11. how about Nascar Racers? done it well and would be EPIC

  12. How about MIGHTY ORBOTS, BOINIC SIX, JAYCE AND THE WHEEL WARRIORS or THE PRIATES
    OF DARK WATER? does a nyone rembeer POLE POSITIONS OR LAZAR TAG ACADEMY?
    we all know SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO was turned into a movie but SPEED RACER was a
    terrible film adaption. GODZILLA had a cartoon by HANNA-BABERA but GAMERA NEVER
    had one! (A new GAMERA film is in the works by DIAEI Pictures, due out next year
    marking the flying turtle’s 50th birthday!)

    • You are on point. I watched every toon you named and think they should have their day on the big screen. The Bionic Six would be awesome with the right actors.

    • I would also like to see all of the movies mentioned here on the big screen.I grew up in the “80″s and “90″s watching all of these movies.It would give us a break from super hero fandom to something a little different.even though all of it would have a superhero theme.its all about timimg,actors an a good director along with exaclent special affects.I nominate these directors to do the job.James cameron to do Voltron,Justin lin to do thundercats,jeb lebmanto do Bionic six,Len wiseman to do gargoyles.Dream works and pixar,industrial light and magic to be the cgi giants for these films

  13. Definitely He-Man and Thundercats! I grew up watching them and they are still my favorites to this day.

  14. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, I forgot about some of those shows. I think Hollywood should ditch that origin story approach, it’s been done to death (Batman, Spiderman, Superman).

  15. Battle of the Planets

  16. What I like about Gundam is that it centers around O’Neill habitats. I’d like for Americans to become more familiar with these. Everybody in Japan already is, thanks to the 1,873 versions of Gundam out there.

  17. No to EVERYTHING on this list! How about ROBOTECH or Battle of the Planets?!