21 Movies Based On Live-Action TV Shows Ranked By Their Accuracy

List Rules
Vote up the movies that best capture the spirit of the original live-action TV series they were based on.

It should go without saying that TV and movies are different. Sure, it's all filmed entertainment projected onto a screen, but the actual requirements of story, character, pacing, and tone are often worlds apart. Basic elements like the names of characters or the settings of a narrative might be the same across mediums, but the execution varies.

Of course, that hasn't stopped Hollywood from producing dozens of movie adaptations of long-forgotten TV series in the hopes that their fans will flock to cinemas to see a recognizable tale given a big-screen rehabilitation. It's one thing to take an existing cast from TV and port them directly over to the cinema, as was done with films like The Naked Gun, Serenity, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and The X-Files. It's an entirely different challenge to recast and reimagine a TV property for a whole new generation. What, then, makes the best movies based on TV shows? It's some mystical combination of accuracy to the source material and clever revision that only a few of these movies ever capture. Here are the best instances of TV shows made into movies.


  • Release Date: November 22, 1991

    Years Since the End of the Original Series: 25

    Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld

    Original Series Cameos: None

    What Changed: One of the biggest challenges for filmmakers adapting TV shows is figuring out what the plot is going to be. After all, the source material is episodic and open-ended, which movies aren't. Movies have to take characters on a journey, and they have to wrap up in a satisfying way at the end. TV shows, especially those from the 20th century, are intended to go on for as long as possible, with the characters staying relatively unchanged season after season. The people behind the Addams Family film created an elegant solution to this problem. By centering the film around an impostor Uncle Fester trying to bilk the family out of their fortune, it not only mixed up the TV show's formula in a fun way, but also gave it some narrative purpose. Of course, by the end, "Gordon" is revealed to be the real Fester, but at least the getting there was fun.

    171 votes
  • 2
    113 VOTES

    Release Date: August 6, 1993

    Years Since the End of the Original Series: 26

    Directed By: Andrew Davis

    Original Series Cameos: None

    What Changed: Harrison Ford, at the height of his box-office powers, dusted off the classic TV drama The Fugitive and made a classy prestige picture out of it. The film was a massive hit that garnered seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. The biggest changes from the TV show are a shadowy conspiracy involving a pharmaceutical company that exists as the cause of Dr. Richard Kimble's wife's demise, and the changing of the name of the One-Armed Man. In the TV show, his name is revealed to be Fred Johnson in the series finale. In the film, his name is Fredrick Sykes, hired to silence Dr. Kimble, who was about the blow the whistle on an experimental drug.

    113 votes
  • 3
    100 VOTES

    Release Date: May 20, 1994

    Years Since the End of the Original Series: 32

    Directed By: Richard Donner

    Original Series Cameos: James Garner, Leo Gordon

    What Changed: Unlike the TV series, in which Bret Maverick has a seemingly unlimited number of relatives (including future James Bond actor Roger Moore as British cousin Beau Maverick), Mel Gibson's movie Maverick is a total loner. At least, we assume he is, until James Garner's character, Zane Cooper, reveals he's actually Maverick's dad.

    100 votes
  • Release Date: May 22, 1996

    Years Since the End of the Original Series: 23 

    Directed By: Brian De Palma

    Original Series Cameos: None

    What Changed: A lot changed - so much so that every original star from the TV show refused to cameo in the movie. Series hero Jim Phelps became the nefarious villain. The new hero, played by Tom Cruise, was named Ethan Hunt. Where the show was slowly paced and focused mostly on espionage, the film was preoccupied with outrageous stunts and pyrotechnic action scenes. The IMF team that was the heart of the ensemble TV show is scrapped in favor of a film that's very much about Cruise's character. One can debate whether or not this approach was fair to the TV show, but it would be an impossible mission of its own to claim the show hasn't been eclipsed by the films. The TV version was on for seven seasons. The cinematic franchise has lasted for six films (with a seventh and eighth in various stages of production) and has spanned a mind-boggling 25 years since the first film. Are they true to the show? Debatable. Are they more popular than the show? Absolutely.

    125 votes
  • 5
    141 VOTES

    Release Date: June 11, 2010

    Years Since the End of the Original Series: 23

    Directed By: Joe Carnahan

    Original Series Cameos: Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz

    What Changed: Hannibal, Face, B.A., and Murdoch went from being Vietnam veterans to Iraq veterans in order to make the story contemporary. Also, the circumstances that put the A-Team on the run from the US Army now involve a shadowy conspiracy tied to private security firms and a billion dollars of US treasury funds.

    141 votes
  • Release Date: June 24, 1983

    Years Since the End of the Original Series: 19

    Directed By: John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, George Miller

    Original Series Cameos: Burgess Meredith, William Schallert, Kevin McCarthy, Bill Mumy, Murray Matheson, Peter Brocco, Patricia Barry

    What Changed: For starters, there's no Rod Serling narration. The creator of The Twilight Zone passed in 1975, so his familar voice was replaced by Burgess Meredith, who starred in the memorable Twilight Zone Season 1 episode "Time Enough at Last." The movie also featured multiple stories, unlike the TV series' single-story format. The movie was divided into four segments, with two bookend segments featuring Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd.

    79 votes