This past 2016 fall season brought an entire batch of brand new shows, though most of their concepts aren’t particularly “new” to audiences. A growing trend in modern television is adapting a story from movies past which already have a built-in fan base. Though there are numerous instances in which this model has failed (the short-lived Ferris Bueller and recent Rush Hour series come to mind), there are times when basing a TV show on a film pays off.
The next 15 programs on this list are prime examples of when television and film collide for the better. The series in question can either be continuations of their movie counterparts, reboots with a completely different continuity or a spinoff series; we’re also counting animated adaptations of live action movies. If the story started on the silver screen first and the idiot box second, it’s up for grabs.
Here are the 15 TV Remakes of Movies That Are Actually Good.
15. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
You don’t have to be the biggest blockbuster to get your own TV spinoff. The original budget and production staff of Wet Hot American Summer was so small that Paul Rudd is still not sure whether he got paid for this movie. Made on a shoe-string budget, this 2001 raunchy comedy about slacker camp counselors was a miss at the box office and a miss with critics. Over the years, however, the movie picked up a notable cult following thanks to its offbeat humor and range of star power including Rudd, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and an almost unrecognizable Bradley Cooper.
Thanks to that cult popularity, Netflix announced in 2014 that they would shoot and air a miniseries continuation of American Summer involving almost all the same actors. Rather than a continuation, the series is a prequel following the camp counselors on their wacky first days of camp (even though the actors have noticeably aged). Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp may not be revolutionary, but it comes highly recommended for any fan of the original cult classic.
The myth that humans only use 10% of the brain is one that has been largely dispelled, although the concept does make for a good movie concept. Limitless was released in 2011, in which Bradley Cooper plays a character who takes a pill allowing him to unlock the full potential of his brain. While Limitless is a smart and unique sci-fi thriller its expanded brain-power wasn’t enough to win over the box office, which it failed to leave a dent in.
Fortunately, those poor returns didn’t stop the property from attaining its very own spinoff show in 2015. Limitless the series contains some strong performances, especially in lead Jake McDorman who takes over for Cooper. Even though it premiered to decent reviews, picked up a notable following, and featured cameos from Bradley Cooper himself, it wasn’t enough to save the program which was canceled after just one season due to poor ratings. You shouldn’t let that sway your decision to revisit the show however, which had almost limitless potential before it got the axe.
13. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
When it was announced that FOX was going to be making a Terminator spinoff series, most fans were quick to say hasta la vista before it ever got started. Most were pleasantly surprised then when Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles turned out to be quite the solid outing, mostly thanks to some fantastic casting. Lena Headey – who would later go on to play another ferocious mother as Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister – steps into the role of Sarah Connor, a character which Linda Hamilton had made so famous in James Cameron’s first two outings. There’s no beating Hamilton’s raw energy and emotion but Headey does a commendable job of taking the material seriously. Better yet is that fact that Firefly MVP Summer Glau also stars in the series as a butt kicking Terminator with a shadowy past.
Unfortunately, just as the characters and storylines were beginning to flourish the show was prematurely terminated due to poor ratings. Though it only lasted two seasons, we would say that The Sarah Connor Chronicles is at least better than the last few Terminator sequels, and that alone makes it worth a watch.
12. Lethal Weapon
Are any buddy-cop movies beloved as much as the Lethal Weapons? Dick Donner’s iconic shoot ‘em ups have a charisma like no other. They achieve a perfect mixture of comedy and action, as well as undeniable chemistry between its two leads of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. The two mix-matched officers (one a potential retiree and the other just plain crazy) who are also best friends became the blueprint for all buddy cop films to follow including Rush Hour, Tango & Cash, Bad Boys, and The Heat.
This past year, instead of copying the Lethal Weapon formula yet again, FOX decided to go directly to the source and adapt a straight reboot of the franchise as a television series. Clayne Crawford plays the unhinged Officer Riggs, and stepping into the shoes of Officer Murtaugh is Damon Wayans, who made his claim to fame with the sketch comedy show In Living Color. Though the reviews have been mixed, the show has gained a positive audience reaction so far. The two leads don’t have the same level of charisma or magic that Glover and Gibson provided, but there is still plenty of room for this series to grow and prove that the Lethal Weapon franchise isn’t “too old for this shit.”
Ever since Michael Mann’s 1986 film Manhunter, Dr. Hannibal Lecter has had a long and fruitful career in movies. He became a house hold name when played by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, a movie that spawned two sequels and a 2007 prequel titled Hannibal Rising. It would only make sense then that everyone’s favorite man-eating serial killer would eventually get his own television show, and in 2013 our wish was granted when NBC gave the greenlight to Hannibal.
It’s a tall order to follow what Hopkins did with the role in his three movies, but showrunner Bryan Fuller found the perfect replacement of Danish film actor Mads Mikkelsen, who you may recognize as the evil Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. Hannibal explores the early years or Dr. Lecter as he forms an unsettling relationship with one his patients who is a young FBI criminal profiler. The series seamlessly blends twisted gore with some dark off-beat humor, making it just as fascinating and disturbing as the novels and books that inspired it.
10. Highlander: The Series
Highlander’s own rule that “there can only be one” doesn’t apply to its own spinoff record. After the first film – about a gang of immortals duking it out for the fabled prize to live forever – was released in 1986, four sequels were produced (with a rumored reboot still on the way), as well as a 1992 television spin-off, entitled Highlander: The Series. Despite the endless sequel material, the series was a creative high point for the franchise which lasted six seasons from 1992 to 1998.
When the original star from the movies, Christopher Lambert, was written out of the show due to his salary requirements, actor Adrian Paul fills in as the fabled immortal, Duncan McLeod. Paul is perfectly cast as the stoic but empathetic highlander, who is given a lot more room to grow thanks to a fantastic writing team. The show offers plenty of fantasy elements that are only touched upon in the movies, allowing for more interesting and compelling narratives. Highlander: The Series isn’t just for hardcore fans of the original movie but for anyone who likes a great thought-provoking sci-fi series.
9. Black Dynamite
One part spoof movie, and another part homage to the blaxploitation films it satirizes, Black Dynamite is a hilarious action/comedy reminiscent of The Naked Gun and Airplane! series which inspired it. Created by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns and Scott Sanders, it follows the adventures of 70s African-American legend Black Dynamite as he hunts down “The Man” who killed his brother and pumped heroin into local orphanages and ghettos. The film is an hysterical satire of the 70s exploitation movies from which it is inspired, full of cheesy dialog, bad acting, and boom mics constantly popping into shots.
Black Dynamite was praised for its use of satire, nostalgia and cinema deconstruction so much so that in 2011 it was awarded an animated television series of the same name. While the show follows a separate continuity, it is every bit as funny to watch, with Michael Jai White reprising his role of superstar Black Dynamite. Airing on Cartoon Network, it has every ingredient for a righteous adult cartoon including stylized violence, strong sexual references, kung fu, a fantastic soundtrack, and enough jokes to keep you doubled over in laughter for a while.
Based on the 1973 cult movie of the same name, HBO’s newest show Westworld attempts to transport the viewer to the theme park of the future in which attendees get to experience the allure and grandeur of the American Old West. Made possible through a series of hyper-realistic robots and a vast landscape serving as the basis for the park, Westworld brings vacationers to the wild, wild west, fully equipped with outlaws, gunfights, prostitutes and bar brawls.
Conceptually audacious and appropriately risqué (the amount of violence and nudity is eyebrow-raising even by HBO standards), Johnathan Nolan’s ambitious Westworld is off to a very strong start for only its debut season. While it is based on the 1973 sci-fi film by Michael Crichton, this modern series update is much darker tonally by focusing more on the inner workings of the park robots who are beginning to become self-aware. Though it takes a few episodes to get the ball rolling, Westworld is high stakes television at its finest that isn’t afraid to take risks.
7. Bates Motel
Few TV shows on this list have the pleasure of mining from source material as classic and beloved as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The 1960 horror mystery is continually cited as one of the most influential movies ever made, so when it was announced in 2013 that A&E was going to produce a contemporary prequel to Hitchcock’s masterpiece, it raised a few eyebrows to say the least.
Surprisingly, A&E’s Bates Motel turned out far better than it ever deserved to be. This modern-day prequel is backed up with the strong talent of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore as the mother-son combo of Norma and Norman Bates (with Farmiga earning an Emmy nomination in 2013). It begins with the death of Norma’s husband, which prompts Norma and her son to move to Oregon where they purchase a small motel to start a new life. As the series progresses Norman’s mental state becomes increasingly dangerous as Norma desperately struggles to protect her son from himself. Praise for the show can be attributed to the performances and the writing team who paint most of the characters in a sympathetic and, sometimes, all too relatable light for a couple of psychos.
6. Stargate SG-1
While the Bates Motel had the difficult task of adapting a series from such iconic source material, Stargate SG-1 had perhaps the harder job of adapting something that most people didn’t like to begin with. Roland Emmerich’s 1994 Stargate, which stars Kurt Russell and James Spader as humans traveling through an alien teleportation device, suffered from the most abysmal reviews a film can get; Roger Ebert in particular stating “Stargate is like a film school exercise. Assignment: Conceive of the weirdest plot you can think of, and reduce it as quickly as possible to action movie clichés.”
Though SG-1 is based on the events of the 1994 film, its popularity and longevity stems from show runners Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner’s decision to differentiate itself from its source material. SG-1 took the interstellar travel premise from the original and ultimately made it more imaginative and appealing using episodic storytelling. The show also benefits from the decision to make the tone more humorous than the movie. Beginning its run on Showtime and ending its tenure on the Sci Fi Channel, Stargate SG-1 was at one time the longest-running sci-fi show in the U.S. Though it spawned several series set in the same universe, SG-1 is still regarded as the best adaptation of this now popular sci-fi property.
5. Ash vs. Evil Dead
In the realm of horror/comedy movies, there’s only one man who stands between evil zombies with a chainsaw wielding arm, and that man is Ashley ‘Ash’ J. Williams. Actor Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi started their Evil Dead franchise in 1981 with a straight forward horror movie about a group of young adults unleashing an ancient evil in a cabin in the woods. Raimi injected new life into his series by turning its sequel into a tongue-and-cheek satire in 1987’s Dead by Dawn, and took the premise even further with 1992’s time-traveling comedy Army of Darkness.
The movies were awarded with mostly favorable reviews from critics and picked up an enormous cult following in the process. Those fans couldn’t have been happier when it was announced a few years ago that Raimi would be producing an Evil Dead spinoff series with none other than Bruce Campbell making his triumphant return as Ash. Ash vs the Evil Dead reunites the director and actor along with some new faces to provide a no-holds-barred comedy/horror mashup like no other. The show is immensely entertaining, and dare we say groovy, so much so that Starz has already renewed the series for a third season. Long live the King, baby.
4. Star Wars Rebels / The Clone Wars
No franchise has cast a larger shadow over modern day cinema than Star Wars. Though Jaws may be considered the first blockbuster, George Lucas’ space opera redefined the term “popcorn movie” like no other, singlehandedly creating the formula of almost every blockbuster released today (including its own sequels). The Star Wars’ franchise is so iconic that it hasn’t cast a shadow just over movies, but television shows as well. With the massive lore that includes the likes of Starfighters and Lightsabers, the potential for TV shows set in a Star Wars universe is almost unlimited.
With so many different shows set in a galaxy far, far away, we’re choosing to go with two of the most popular for our number four slot, Disney’s Star War Rebels and Cartoon Network’s Clone Wars. Picking up where Episode II left off, Clone Wars is a vivid and entertaining look at the actual war between the opposing star systems, and is honestly what the prequels should have been. Disney’s Rebels is just as rich a show, with interesting characters and a surprisingly dark plot for the children’s network. With the release of Rogue One right around the corner, it seems that the Star Wars train is far from slowing down in both movies and television.
3. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
The buzz around the new Ghost in the Shell movie starring Scarlett Johansson is starting to pick up some steam. Though some fans are still hesitant regarding the first trailer, it’s hard to deny the massive influence that the original anime has had on cinema. Released in 1995, the movie about a cyborg policewoman hunting down a gang of criminal hackers is both complex and action packed, and went on to inspire a slew of sci-fi movies including The Matrix. The film was such a hit with the masses that it even picked up a spinoff TV series that was issued in 2002, titled Stand Alone Complex.
Earning praise for its stylized animation and smart writing, each episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is like a miniature feature film. The animation is simply stunning, and the writing is just as sharp or even sharper than its motion picture predecessor. Following different continuity than its source material, the narratives in Stand Alone Complex touch base on everything from political intrigue to cyber-crimes. Though the plots are creative, the backbone of the show is still the expansive lineup of intriguing characters, some of which are better fleshed out than most live-action movies. With action, intelligence, mystery, humor and suspense, Stand Alone Complex is a must see for not just fans of anime, but anyone looking for a great TV show.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t just one of the best TV adaptations of a movie ever made; it’s one of the best television shows of all time, period. Joss Whedon’s supernatural drama about a young woman who is destined to slay vampire and the forces of evil received critical and popular acclaim, though it certainly didn’t start out that way in the beginning.
The original movie released in 1992 was not the script that creator Whedon had written. What was once a dramatic horror story was turned into a broad comedy; Whedon himself has stated that the result of the motion picture was “crushing.” Thankfully the property was given a second chance several years later when Whedon was finally able to develop his concept into a TV series which better represented his original vision.
The horror/action hybrid has plenty of action, but the most surprising element of the show is it’s level of maturity. Though Buffy’s premise is based around conquering demons and ghouls, Whedon’s creation is more interested in chronicling the tribulations of growing up, making it relatable to almost any viewer. Imaginative and endearing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer enjoyed a seven season run, picking up a string of Golden Globe and Emmy awards along the way.
A spinoff of the Coen Brothers’ 1996 classic, Fargo just might very well be the best television show based on a movie. With talent involved like Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson, Ewan McGregor, and Bob Odenkirk, how can you go wrong? Showrunner and series creator Noah Hawley effortlessly creates a blend of edgy violence, quirky comedy, and thrilling drama that is both reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ feature film while still retaining a unique identity.
Using a model like True Detective and American Horror Story, each new season of Fargo is different from the last, featuring new characters and a brand-new storyline. Though it only has two seasons under its belt, they are two of the best seasons produced by any show within the last few years. The first outing weaves a web of destruction and betrayal set off by a very deadly Billy Bob Thornton, while the second season is set in the 1970s and centers around a criminal gang and a police officer looking to take them down. Filled with impeccable writing, fantastic performances, as well as a brilliant sense of black humor, Fargo is truly worthy of taking our top spot of best TV show based on a movie.
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