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Movies That Would’ve Worked Better As TV Shows

February 19, 2020 630 votes 95 voters 1.5k views13 items

List RulesVote up the movies you'd rather see as a series.

We are living in what’s being called the Golden Age of Television. Between terrestrial television, cable, and streaming services, there are so many opportunities for television shows to find an audience. There was a time when film was considered the preferred medium for serious storytelling, but thanks to streaming services like Netflix and channels like HBO, shows have stepped up their game. With shorter runs and A-list stars, they can really pack a profound emotional punch. So as television is changing, it begs the question if some movies would have been better as TV shows to begin with. 

With each streaming service competing with their own blue-chip series, the power of taking the time to completely tell a story is becoming clear. Movies like Fargo, Watchmen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Golden Compass, and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events have all found success as television series. Are there other worlds that we could use a little more time in? This list collects some of the best - and worst - films that deserve more than a paltry two-hour runtime. These are movies with binge-worthy appeal or a story that needs more than a few hours to truly delve into the complex nature of the universe. Television lets storylines build, relationships refine, and the overall drama breathe and settle. Here’s a list of films that could have used a few more hours, or at least some longer legs. 

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  • There are a few issues with the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending. Despite all the star power, it ended up as a flop. This film casts Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, a cleaning woman who finds out she’s intergalactic reincarnated royalty. Channing Tatum plays Caine Wise, a hybrid wolf/man gun-for-hire sent to save her. Calling the film's tone uneven would be an understatement. It was billed as an action movie but had more humor and complex story elements than you would normally find in an action flick, leading to disappointment by leaving audiences wanting more.

    It introduced a lot of story elements like the intergalactic immortal royal family that creates planetary genocides to collect life force to keep themselves alive. That's some deep diving for a movie where Channing Tatum plays a dog boy. Between the complex royal relationships, the science fiction elements, and the problematic economy based on planetary populations, there was easily enough material for a series. The complex plot combined with some cheesy story elements would have played out so much better on television, and Jupiter Ascending could have been a successful animated series or a fun comedy/action series like Firefly

    • Actors: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Terry Gilliam
    • Released: 2015
    • Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
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  • Given the success of shows like Penny Dreadful and Once Upon a Time, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen could have been such a great series, but this film was made way before A-list actors were heading to TV, and even pre-dated the current craze of comic book movies. This film features iconic literary characters brought together to form a superhero team. These public domain superstars include Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), Dorian Grey (Stuart Townsend), and Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah). Sean Connery plays Allan Quatermain and Peta Wilson plays Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. They join forces to take down Sherlock Holmes villain Dr. Moriarty (Richard Roxburgh).

    All of these rich characters from countless fictional worlds could have been better utilized as part of a longer story. The film rushes through a lot of exposition and feels like it is ramping up to a franchise. But baiting a franchise can often leave a lackluster blockbuster. A series could have done so much more with each of these characters. Also, given the literary nature of the characters, there would have been so much room to weave in story elements. While this film is way before our current TV craze, the world is rich enough to warrant a series order. 

    • Actors: Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Shane West, Naseeruddin Shah, Stuart Townsend
    • Released: 2003
    • Directed by: Stephen Norrington
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  • Divergent
    Photo: Lionsgate

    The Hunger Games introduced a huge push for post-apocalyptic teenage drama, but even that series had dwindling returns by the time its final installment arrived. Divergent introduced a world where people are divided into factions based on how their personality can contribute to society. People who have multiple character traits, and are thus able to think freely, are considered divergent.

    Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort's star power was not enough to save this film franchise from a premature ending. The final installment, The Divergent Series: Ascendant, was never made and the plans to revive the series for Starz were canceled. A series of the entire franchise or even just one set in that world would have been rich. The book series has a few twists that would be fitting for Westworld-style reveals, and there is a great blend of action and personal exploration that is so fitting with the present state of sci-fi series like Altered Carbon and Black Mirror. Plus, the structure of the various factions would have lent itself to multiple storylines alone. 

    • Actors: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller
    • Released: 2014 - Present
    • Directed by: Neil Burger, Robert Schwentke
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  • Like Stephen King’s apocalyptic novel The Stand, The Dark Tower would definitely have worked better as a series of some sort. While there's a thrill that seems to rise around potentially creating franchises, sacrificing the universe or storylines to achieve that can be detrimental to a film's success. Filmmakers tried to incorporate elements from multiple books into the first film to draw viewers in, but in reality, it just led to generic cliches.

    Given the popularity of the book series and its comic book run, it’s clear this world has plenty to get into and a television series could have unleashed even more potential. A series would have allowed creators to really dive into the world that pits a cowboy gunslinger (Idris Alba) against the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) who wants to destroy The Dark Tower and unleash darkness.

    • Actors: Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, Matthew McConaughey
    • Released: 2017
    • Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
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