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The best TV-to-movie adaptations ever

In the age of streaming, it’s easy to think about TV and movies as interchangeable. The two industries have always been related, and although they tell stories in different ways, we often see movie stars doing TV or TV stars rising to become A-list movie stars.

Throughout the long history of these two mediums, there have also been a number of times when TV shows and movies cross streams. Some of the most popular TV shows in the history of the medium have come to the big screen at one point or another, and we’re here to take a look at seven of the best examples of TV shows being adapted into movies.

21 Jump Street (2012)

21 JUMP STREET - Official Red Band Trailer - In Theaters 3/16/12!

A comedy adapted from a much more serious teen show, 21 Jump Street takes the premise of young cops in high school and decides to have some fun with it. Although the movie has basically nothing in common with the TV show beyond that initial premise, that premise proves to be a remarkably workable formula.

And, thanks to exceptionally winning performances from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street is a remarkably great comedy. Throw in a solid cameo from the stars of the original show, and 21 Jump Street feels like a series paying homage to its predecessor while very much doing its own thing.

In the Loop (2009)

In The Loop | Comedy Trailer | Starring James Gandolfini and Peter Capaldi

Armando Iannucci is one of the great political satirists of the 21st Century, and In the Loop, his sequel/reboot of the TV show The Thick of It, firmly established him as one of the greats. The film is a political satire that spirals outward from a single incident after a British official describes war in the Middle East as “unforeseeable.”

The remark, and the stark consequences of it, are designed to highlight the absurd way that a single comment from some random dude can ultimately lead to the deaths of thousands. It’s bleak, funny, and a little too real, which are all hallmarks of Iannucci’s remarkable style.

Borat (2006)


Before Borat made him one of the biggest stars in comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen got his start doing a wide array of characters, including Borat, on Da Ali G Show. When Borat eventually became a feature-length movie, the comedian decided to use the character to comment on the many peculiarities of America.

Of course, things continued to get stranger in the US, which may explain why the character made his return a little more than a decade later. Borat‘s cultural legacy is irrevocably tied to these two movies, but the character started on TV, and that’s important to remember.

Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018)

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) - Official Trailer - Paramount Pictures

It’s hard to even reconcile the Mission: Impossible franchise as it currently exists with the TV show that it’s based on, but it’s also impossible to deny that these phenomenal action movies take plenty of their DNA, including the silly masks, from that original show.

Fallout is almost definitely the best Mission: Impossible, filled with action that comes at a truly breakneck pace, and several sequences that you can barely believe are real. Mission: Impossible is one of the best movie franchises out there, but we wouldn’t have it without its humble roots as a TV show.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

The Simpsons Movie | #TBT Trailer | 20th Century FOX

One of the more direct adaptations on this list, The Simpsons Movie simply imagines what The Simpsons would be like on the big screen. While the show wasn’t as funny as it had once been by the time this movie rolled around, the movie itself more than delivered. The film sees Springfield endangered after a leaky silo threatens the town, and the family at the show’s center has to split up.

What results is a hilarious, madcap adventure that more than proved The Simpsons could translate to the big screen. After the movie’s enormous success, it’s safe to say that we’d follow this yellow family anywhere.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

The first Star Trek movie has a more divisive reputation among fans, but almost everyone agrees that these movies don’t get much better than The Wrath of Khan. The movie, which follows Captain Kirk as he resumes command of the Enterprise to take on Khan, an enemy from his past (and from the original TV show), gives us exactly what every great Star Trek movie should.

It’s exciting, moves quickly, and turns out to be surprisingly tender in its closing moments. Few sci-fi movies have had more enduring legacies than this one, and the movie’s success was more than enough justification to keep this franchise going all through the ’80s.

The Fugitive (1993)

The Fugitive (1993) Official Trailer #1 - Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones Movie

Adapted from the hugely popular TV show of the same name, The Fugitive follows Dr. Richard Kimble as he flees from authorities in an attempt to prove that he’s not responsible for the death of his wife. Harrison Ford gives a commanding central performance here, and he’s matched by Tommy Lee Jones as a U.S. Marshal hell-bent on nabbing his man.

Although The Fugitive ran for years and years, its movie adaptation managed to condense the show’s core conceit nicely into a perfect thriller. In fact, the movie was so good that it earned plenty of Oscar love, even in spite of its genre trappings.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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