In recent years, action movies have been turned into TV shows with middling results. A TV version of the Taken movies aired on NBC and was recently renewed for a 16-episode second season. However, despite its renewal, Taken has been largely panned by critics.
Minority Report, a TV sequel to the Steven Spielberg movie of same name, premiered a few years earlier to worse reviews. The show was canceled after one season. Though other shows like FOX’s Lethal Weapon reboot have attained modest success, they haven’t truly make their mark. While TV adaptations of movies overall haven’t always gone well, action films seem to have a particularly difficult time.
However, if anything could change this, it would be John Wick. The surprise hit, which gained a sequel this year, could make the leap to television soon. While it wouldn’t revolve around Keanu Reeves’ titular main character, the series, currently titled The Continental, would take place in the same universe as the film.
Taking place before the movie, The Continental would focus on the global chain of hotels that cater exclusively to assassins. John Wick co-director, Chad Stahleski, is currently developing the project.
A John Wick TV series, especially one with a premise as intriguing as this, could very likely break the mold for TV shows based on action movies. When the floodgates open, what other action movies should lend their properties to the small screen?
Here are the 15 Action Movies That NEED TV Spinoffs.
15. The Bourne Series
The original Bourne trilogy is as revered today as it was during its release by hardcore action fans and casual moviegoers alike. However, after a poorly received spinoff, The Bourne Legacy, and a lukewarm response to Matt Damon’s return to the franchise with Jason Bourne, it looks like the silver screen doesn’t have much more to offer everybody’s favorite amnesiac hitman. However, maybe TV could offer more.
It’s unlikely that a top tier movie star like Matt Damon would have time to devote to a TV series. So perhaps a TV show could be crafted around other CIA agents– those recruited by the organization’s many ethically defunct assassination programs. True, this was essentially the premise for Legacy, which starred Jeremy Renner as another assassin at odds with the CIA but, in the absence of Matt Damon, a TV show’s strength could come in numbers.
A Bourne inspired TV series could be an Alias done in the style of The Americans, adopting the former’s “fight the power” narrative while tapping into the latter’s foreboding tone. Jason Bourne’s world is vast and warrants further exploration. Why couldn’t this exploration happen through TV?
14. The Town
It’s been a while since Ben Affleck’s second directorial effort hit theaters, and in this time it’s become easy to forget just how thrilling The Town was. As a 21st century, East Coast answer to Heat, The Town offered all the action, romance and suspense you could hope for from a heist film. If it worked onscreen as an action movie, it could work even better as a TV crime saga.
The Town starred Affleck as Doug MacTray, a notorious bank robber looking to change his life. Doug gets this opportunity when he falls in love with an employee at one of the banks he robs. Of course, a TV show couldn’t offer Doug the same ultimate break as the movie, but a show could stretch out his predicament for three or more seasons.
Whereas the movie resembled Heat, a TV version of The Town could resemble Boardwalk Empire, swapping out 1920s Atlantic City for modern day Boston. Maybe the show could find a home on TNT, which currently airs a TV adaptation of Animal Kingdom.
13. The Long Kiss Goodnight
Lethal Weapon‘s Riggs and Murtaugh is a screen pairing that has garnered four feature films and now a television series, but the rarely heard of Shane Black-created duo is Mitch Henessey and Samantha Caine (a.k.a. Charly Baltimore). Played by Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis respectively, Mitch and Samantha took centerstage in the sorely underappreciated The Long Kiss Goodnight.
Written by Black and directed by Renny Harlin, The Long Kiss Goodnight followed the story of Samantha, a stay-at-home mom who wakes up eight years before her domestic life began– pregnant and with no clue about who she used to be. She soon discovers that she’s a highly trained assassin, and seeks answers with a private investigator, Mitch.
Samantha and Mitch are among the best characters Shane Black has ever created, and that’s saying something. The oddball coupling has enough fuel for several seasons of action-comedy greatness. The Long Kiss Goodnight has a darkly humorous spin that could fit nicely on a network like FX.
12. National Treasure
If you were a preteen around the time of their release, the National Treasure movies were a big deal, and, as you got older, you probably became interested in the bland, just entertaining enough new editions of the Indiana Jones adventures. However, it’s possible that National Treasure could be something better, or at least more educational, as a TV show.
There are a few routes that could be taken with a National Treasure TV show. First, an overly gritty tone could be applied to the treasure hunts of Benjamin Franklin gates. Or, there could be a more educational angle by planting the show on the History channel. The network has experimented with scripted series in recent years, and a name brand like National Treasure could do their line of content some good.
Professional MMA fighter Gina Carano got a chance to enter action movie stardom with Haywire. The artsy, pulse-pounding revenge flick from Steven Soderbergh surrounded Carano with massive celebrities– Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, and Michael Douglas, to name a few. Haywire also opened the athlete’s doors to major franchise hits like Fast & Furious 6 and Deadpool. While the film itself is great, it deserves to live through a TV series.
Carano’s Mallory Kane is a black ops super soldier who gets double crossed on a mission, resulting in an attempt on her life. Mallory swears vengeance on those who wronged her, including a former boss (McGregor) and a former partner (Tatum)– nobody is safe from her.
Soderbergh’s style blends with a television format quite nicely, as evidenced by his acclaimed drama on Cinemax, The Knick. The retelling of Mallory Kane’s story (or expansion, if Carano was willing to dabble in a TV series) would play especially well as a binge-watch. Maybe if Amazon’s Jack Ryan series does well, the streaming site can take on Haywire.
10. Source Code
Source Code was a well-liked but quickly forgotten action thriller from 2011. Directed by Duncan Jones– then hot off the success of Moon– the film pulled influence from the classic TV series Quantum Leap (Scott Bakula, the star of Quantum Leap, even had a voiceover cameo). Fittingly enough, Source Code seems like a perfect fit for a TV spinoff.
Source Code relays the story of a soldier who gets recruited for an experimental mission. In order to prevent a terrorist attack, the soldier (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is placed on a train, the site of a previous attack, and into the body of somebody who died. Through groundbreaking technology, our protagonist is able to revisit the last eight minutes of the person’s life, and uses this time to uncover an impending threat.
Source Code melds Hitchockian suspense with a premise worthy of The Twilight Zone. Add to this some slick visuals and Source Code could make for an exciting sci-fi procedural, where each episode focuses on the final eight minutes of a different person’s life.
Sicario is more of a thriller than it is a clear-cut action film, but, since there are plenty of spectacular shootouts, the movie more than qualifies for a place in the action-thriller sub-genre. Denis Villeneuve’s tense masterpiece is already getting a sequel, which suggests that’s there’s more story to tell in this world. Why not branch out into television to further elaborate this story?
Villeneuve’s 2015 movie takes place on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It recounts the story of a special unit of various intelligence organizations, united for the sole purpose of bringing a drug organization to its knees. The movie featured killer performances from Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, and Josh Brolin, so any TV show has its work cut out for itself. However, this doesn’t mean somebody shouldn’t try.
Like The Town, Sicario might benefit from expansion by television series. On its own, the movie is already a great thriller, but there could be an epic crime saga lurking beneath the surface, waiting for thirteen episodes or more to properly come to fruition.
8. Men in Black
To be fair, an animated Men in Black series already exists, but the franchise could benefit largely from a live action TV show. As of now, the future of Men in Black is nebulous. The last movie came out in 2012, and plans for a mash-up with the 21 Jump Street series seem to have fallen through. Maybe its time to bring the extraterrestrial-policing adventures of Agents J and K to television once more.
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last few decades, you know what Men in Black is all about. A New York City cop is initiated into an extremely secretive agency tasked with monitoring alien life on Earth. The movie is a delightful blend of action, sci-fi, and comedy. Who wouldn’t want to see this on a week to week basis?
Any network that develops an MiB reboot would be wise to rope in talent from the original film. Fortunately, the movie’s director, Barry Sonefield, is well versed in television. He found high praise for his work directing for cult hit Pushing Daisies and the current Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Television networks have had varying levels of success when rebooting shows from the ’60s. Sometimes the rewards are fruitful (Hawaii Five-O-– still running on CBS), and sometimes they’re diminished (Ironside— canceled after three episodes by NBC).
Still, the premise behind rebooting classic properties has a great appeal. It can attract old audiences who recognize the property as well as newer audiences who, not knowing about the source material, will think a network has something fresh and original on their hands.
Such could be the case for a Bullitt, a classic action movie from 1968 starring Hollywood legend Steve McQueen. Bullitt is about a San Francisco cop named Frank Bullitt. Known famously for what’s regarded as the greatest car chases of all time– and great car-related stunts in general– Bullitt could make for a fun police procedural on network TV.
Of course, there are other interesting routes a Bullitt TV show could take. If a producer is bold enough, the show could keep a retro, ’60s setting, as a cable or streaming service seems more likely to take this gamble. Perhaps Amazon could place it next to their existing cop series, Bosch.
Robert Rodriguez has made his willingness to embrace television known for quite some time now. The filmmaker has already turned one of his movies, From Dusk Till Dawn, into a TV show for the network he founded, El Rey. From Dusk Till Dawn has run for three seasons now, and if Rodriguez is looking for a companion show, he need look no further than his shoot-em-up masterpiece, Desperado.
As a sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s feature length debut, El Mariachi, Desperado continues what would later be referred to as the director’s Mexico Trilogy (concluding with Once Upon a Time in Mexico). On top of being a rapidly paced, stylishly executed action movie, Desperado marks the first collaboration between Rodriguez and star Antonio Banderas. Could something this special be recreated?
Maybe not exactly, but there’s a lot of potential for a Desperado TV show. If Ash vs Evil Dead has proven anything, it’s that there is an audience out there for series based on movies made by pulpy auteur filmmakers.
5. Three Kings
A Three Kings TV show could accomplish for David O. Russell movies what the Fargo TV series has accomplished for the Coen Brothers. It could emanate a filmmaker’s unique vision while being something worth lauding on its own merit. Three Kings is a high point in Russell’s career of high points; a repertoire that includes The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. However, Three Kings seems most fit for TV redux.
Set immediately after the Gulf War, Three Kings tells the story of a group of American soldiers seeking out a hidden gold reserve in Iraq. Over the course of their expedition, the rag-tag team of rogue army men discover there are more important causes at play here than their fortune hunting. What transpires is an irreverent satire that is as funny as it is reflective on America’s militaristic shortcomings.
Three Kings tells a pretty insular story, one that very believably begins and ends within the runtime of a couple hours. However, maybe the movie could jump start an anthology series. An American War Story show that can stand alongside FX’s American Horror Story and American Crime Story.
4. The Hurt Locker
Perhaps The Hurt Locker could be another season of American War Story, but it could also be its own thing, given how the high stakes world of bomb dismantlement seems perfect for a story setting.
The Hurt Locker has the distinction of making Kathryn Bigelow the first woman to every win the Best Director Oscar. Also a Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker is a nail-biting action thriller that took many a viewer’s breath away in 2009.
It sheds light on the life of a bomb expert named Staff Sergeant William James, a role that put Jeremy Renner on the map and netted him an Oscar nomination. The film navigates the gradual deterioration of William’s composure, highlighting his ongoing struggles with severe PTSD.
Bigelow’s style carries the visceral grit of a great HBO series. If the director’s latest offering succeeds– which it should, since Detroit stars John Boyega and has churned out phenomenal trailers so far– Bigelow might see her name thrown around, giving her the authority to fast track a TV series project like this.
3. The Nice Guys
Shane Black’s rollicking action-comedy was one of 2016’s under-seen gems. Black’s third directorial effort (after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3) failed to make a big splash at the box office, earning back its budget my only seven million dollars, but The Nice Guys should not be underestimated so quickly. Since it was considered by HBO for a series at one point, there’s no reason the title can’t still find second wind on television.
The Nice Guys is a hilarious, action-packed romp that pits a two-bit private eye, Holland March, with a thug for hire, Jackson Healy, in the investigation of a porn star’s murder. March and Healy, played brilliantly by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, soon uncover a shocking conspiracy that goes all the way to the highest offices in LA’s government.
March and Healy would play wonderfully in any form, whether it be in novels, comic books, or video games, but the medium it could work best in, aside from film, is television. Hopefully HBO saw The Nice Guys and their interests have piqued accordingly.
2. 2 Guns
This one is tricky– 2 Guns is recalled mainly for the unexpectedly stellar chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, but the movie itself is just an above-average action movie. Still, the basic premise of 2 Guns remains intriguing, and could potentially sustain a decent TV series.
Based on a graphic novel series, 2 Guns tells of a deadly misunderstanding between a DEA agent and a Navy Intelligence agent. After posing as criminals in a bank heist, the two discover that each is a government agent, both assigned the duty of taking the other out. The two eventually join forces to figure out who set them up and why.
For a 2 Guns TV show, it would need a writer like Graham Yost, the creator of Justified and current showrunner of Sneaky Pete. Yost can apply sharp wit and comedic danger to 2 Gun’s twisty concept. Though the show would have to go on without Washington and Whalberg, surely an acting pair just as engaging could be arranged.
1. I, Robot
I, Robot would face a few issues if it were to become a spinoff, but it would be completely worth it.
Not only was I, Robot shrugged off by many (and reviled by a select few who were fans of the Isaac Asimov source material), but Amazon is currently developing a Philip K. Dick anthology series. If this succeeds, then TV viewers might have their fill of prophetic sci-fi entertainment. However, an I, Robot show could still work if it leaned further into the movie’s action side (though it would cause Asimov fans endless chagrin).
Will Smith plays Del Spooner, a cop constantly suspicious of the legion of robots that serve as caretakers in his futuristic society. His suspicions are warranted, as it becomes likely that a robot was behind the death of a renowned scientist. Intense robot violence ensues as robots everywhere begin subscribing to a more imperial agenda.
A fully fleshed out rendition of the I, Robot‘s world could set the stage for an entertaining sci-fi series. Ideally this TV adaptation would fall into the same holes that Minority Report stumbled into.
Which action movies do you think should spawn TV spinoffs? Let us know in the comments!
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