17 TV Shows That Got Big-Screen Installments (And Totally Nailed It)

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Vote up the TV shows that made the most of their big-screen upgrade.

Everyone has had a favorite TV show that's gone off the air. Maybe the series was canceled after one season, or maybe it hung on for years. Whatever the case, TV shows that get big-screen adaptations are few and far between.

These aren't just made-for-TV movies based on a series, but rather actual cinematic installments of TV shows that continued the plot of the original series in one way or another. In some cases, these big-screen installments take place within the series mythology, but a few of them eschew their dense plotting in favor of telling a streamlined story for new audiences.

Many of the film adaptations of TV shows are successful at transitioning from the small to the big screen, but a few of them just don't work. Or at least, they don't work when they're divorced from their source material. Let us know which big-screen adaptations of TV shows work the best.


  • Not only is Mr. Bean an extremely popular series across the pond, but Rowan Atkinson, who plays Señor Bean, is also a comedy icon. Before creating Mr. Bean, Atkinson starred in Not the Nine O'Clock News and Blackadder, shows that are also cultural touchstones in England. Even so, it's wild that there are multiple movies about the clumsy Mr. Bean and that the first feature was actually successful in America, despite the character not having a real following in the States.

    The series doesn't have much of a continuity, which is why its film adaptation works so well. The only thing that the audience has to know is that the titular character is a buffoon who causes havoc everywhere he goes. Rather than just throw the audience in the deep end with this character, the film thrusts Bean into a three-act structure where he's able to cause chaos while transporting Whistler's Mother to the Grieson Art Gallery. Bean was successful enough to garner another standalone film 10 years later, but as this media series is wont to do, it ignores the previous film and does its own thing.

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  • In the early '90s, Beavis and Butt-Head was built for teenage stoners who would rather laugh at music videos than follow the dense mythology of a TV show. The series follows the exploits of Beavis and Butt-Head, two high school burnouts whose whole world revolves around hanging out on the couch, eating junk food, and annoying everyone around them. It's not exactly the best foundation for a feature film. Or is it?

    Premiering in 1996, a few months after the end of the show's sixth season, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America takes the main characters off the couch and across the country to "score." There's little mythology to the series, but the film includes fan-favorite characters like Tom Anderson and Principal McVicker before completely turning the format of the show upside down for a full-blown cinematic story.

    The film works if audiences have never seen a moment of the beloved series, but it somehow manages to fit perfectly with the long-running show.

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  • In 1999, South Park was a full-on cultural force. Three seasons into the animated series and the four friends from Colorado made the jump to the big screen with an all-out, blow-the-doors-off musical that tackled censorship, Disney, and criticism about the actual series.

    The fascinating thing about South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut is that even though it exists because the series was successful, it actually serves as a great way for casual viewers - or even viewers who would never sit down to watch a late-night cartoon - to get into the series. It certainly helps if the audience knows who all of the side characters are in South Park, but this isn't Head (the acid trip of a movie made by the Monkees) - anyone can sit down to watch this movie and get it immediately.

    Even though many of the early episodes of South Park work outside of a basic continuity, the film actually ties directly into Season 4. Once again, you don't have to watch the movie to get what's going on, but it's better if you do.

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  • The Simpsons should not be able to work as well as it does as a movie. By 2007, the long-running series had grown from small stories about the Simpson family into a massive mythology about the quirky ins and outs of Springfield, which made it perfect for the big screen.

    The plot of the film involves the EPA dropping a giant, glass dome over Springfield due to a variety of environmental catastrophes caused by the locals. The only thing the audience really needs to know going into the whole thing is that most of the citizens of Springfield are maniacs who would rather store manure in a giant silo than dispose of it in a normal way.

    As successful as the film was at the box office, it's hard to imagine a Simpsons newbie watching this film and understanding the nuances of Springfield. Of course, that's surmising that there's someone out there that hasn't seen a few episodes of one of the most popular animated sitcoms of all time.

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  • For 14 glorious episodes (only 11 of them made it to air), the crew of the Firefly combined science fiction and Western tropes to the delight of a small but dedicated group of fans. The short-lived series tells the story of a small crew of former militia members who now run small-time schemes when they're not running from the Alliance, an Orwellian government with an iron grip on the galaxy.

    The crew picks up a young woman named River Tam, who's been altered by Alliance scientists to be the perfect weapon, and spends their first and only season dodging space cops and cannibals, and getting into all sorts of trouble. The series ends with the crew really, finally coming together.

    Audiences wanted more than 11 episodes of this crew of rapscallions. As fans carried out write-in campaigns and coat drives, and (more importantly) purchased the Firefly DVD box set en masse, creator Joss Whedon sold the film rights to Universal and continued the story of the space cowboys as they attempt to solve the mystery that is River Tam.

    Serenity didn't do gangbusters at the box office, but it made its money back and gave Mal Reynolds and company a proper send-off, even if a few members of the crew didn't make it out alive. The film is successful not only because it's a startlingly good science fiction film, but also because it made it to the big screen in the first place.

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  • The concept of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a simple one: A human (early on it was Joel, later it was Mike, today it's Jonah) is trapped on a space station with a group of robots, and evil scientists force them to watch bad movies. Joel/Mike/Jonah and the bots make fun of the movies and there's not much of a storyline, but that's the fun of the series.

    Somehow this was turned into a major motion picture in 1996. The film makes a Herculean effort to bring in new viewers while giving OG fans something new. The MST3K crew accomplished their goal and gave everyone an incredibly fun romp through space (and 1950s cult sci-fi), even if they didn't rake in the dough at the box office.

    At the time of its release, the film was a flop, but today, the film stands as a testament to just how malleable the format of making fun of old movies can be.

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