EDITORIAL: The 10 best movie adaptations of TV shows
With the action-comedy release of 21 Jump Street this weekend, I couldn't help but look into my deeply educated and sarcastic opinion and taste to examine what movies are the best adaptations of television shows of all-time. The big two franchises of Star Trek and Mission: Impossible came to mind immediately and could fill a top 10 list on their own, but that wouldn't be fair. So, for this new editorial, franchises are being grouped together. In doing that, you will see that the list thins in quality as you go down, but has several winners. Let's hope 21 Jump Street can crack this list after this weekend. Enjoy the fun and let me know what your favorite movie adaptations of TV shows are! I love a good debate and comparison.
10. Starsky and Hutch-- While it's far from being a great cop comedy or TV remake, Starsky and Hutch gets my props for keeping the period of the source television show. Too often (Charlie's Angels is a prime example), the movie adaptations try to modernize the old show to normally poor results. Director Todd Phillips and stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Snoop Dogg keep the 70's vibe and fun, setting itself apart nicely. (trailer)
9. Maverick-- It's always nice in a TV adaptation or remake to have the old cast pass the proverbial torch to a younger generation. Old fans can then meet new fans. The original TV Maverick, James Garner, gets a perfect chance to do that for Mel Gibson here. Teaming up with his usual Lethal Weapon crew, including director Richard Donner, Mel, James, Jodie Foster, Alfred Molina, Graham Greene, and James Coburn ham it up with a winking western charm. (trailer)
8. The Blues Brothers-- Saturday Night Live has generated some absolute bombs of movies (It's Pat, The Ladies Man, MacGruber, Superstar, and many more) from TV, proving that it takes either really good writing or really good characters to make a 5-minute skit stretch into a full-length feature successfully. The Blues Brothers is the example of really good characters. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are larger than life as Jake and Elwood Blues. A dynamite soundtrack sure helps too. (trailer)
7. Wayne's World-- If The Blues Brothers was an example of really good characters from SNL making a successful movie transition, Wayne's World is the example for really good writing to go along with really good characters. Getting to travel from their usual couch of jokes to the funny surrounding environment they exist and live in was perfectly tuned treat. Stick with the first one and skip the sequel. (trailer)
6. The Naked Gun series-- In some cases in TV and movie history, a small, obscure, or short-lived TV show gets renewed vigor when turned into a movie series. That is definitely the case with Police Squad! starring the incomparable Leslie Nielsen. It was cancelled after just six episodes in 1982, only to return as a very successful and hilarious movie franchise in 1988. The first one is the best, but the other three are great fun for fans of spoof humor. (trailer)
5. The Untouchables-- Most TV shows being turned into movies experience a big boost in scope, scale, and size compared to the original source show thanks to an increase in budget and star power. The result is marketed as "bigger and better" and "larger than life," and rightfully so. That trend is apparent on this entire list, especially right here with The Untouchables from director Brian DePalma. Pulsed by an excellent Ennio Morricone score and shot on classic old Chicago locations (that Union Station showdown is awesome), The Untouchables possesses impeccably perfect period detail and style (right down to the Giorgio Armani costumes), shocking violence, a big time villain turn by Robert De Niro as Al Capone, and an Oscar-winning supporting part from Sean Connery. The result is better than the original could have ever dreamed to be. (trailer)
4. The Muppets series -- I said this in my review of The Muppets triumphant return movie from last winter: "There will always be a place for the Muppets in Hollywood." No matter how much technology and CGI try to update (and mostly ruin) old favorites like Yogi Bear, The Smurfs, and Alvin and the Chipmunks , those classic felt characters, let by Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, proved this past year that some things are better unchanged and original. On this list of bigger and better versions of TV shows, The Muppets win with their authenticity and nostalgia. Last November's movie, a new release on DVD and Blu-ray on March 20th, is a must-see. (trailer)
3. The Mission: Impossible series-- As I mentioned in the introduction, Mission: Impossible is one of the Big Two. This four-movie (and still going) franchise lead by Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt character is extremely successful at the "bigger and better" technique of TV adaptation. Each movie, led by vastly different directors (Brian DePalma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird), all put their own unique spin on Ethan Hunt and the spy genre, including the recent Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (coming to DVD and Blu-ray on April 17th). All four films are excellent popcorn adventures and boast some of the most amazing stunt work ever filmed. My favorite entry of the franchise is J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible III because of Philip Seymour Hoffman's outstandingly menacing villain. (trailer)
2. The Star Trek series-- The other well-known TV series movie franchise is the many interpretations of the classic Star Trek. The cult following and huge fan base of this cultural phenomenon cannot be questioned and the gap from #3 to here is huge. Through three different casts (William Shatner's original series, Patrick Stewart's The Next Generation, and new stars of J.J. Abrams' reboot) and many interpretations, Star Trek keeps thrilling audiences. The best movies of this franchise are Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (trailer), Star Trek: First Contact (trailer), and the 2009 reboot (trailer). What keeps it from being #1 on this list (and the agonizing decision was a close one) are the bombing, lackluster movie fails on its resume (the 1979 opener, Star Trek IV, V, and most of the yawners from the Next Generation cast).
1. The Fugitive-- While it's hard to bounce the sheer mass and historical significance of Star Trek from #1, The Fugitive, to me, is the best single movie adaptation of a TV show ever done. Yes, I said it. On its own, one-on-one, it's a better film than either Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or 2009's Star Trek reboot and has the seven 1994 Oscar nominations to back it up (including Tommy Lee Jones' win for Best Supporting Actor). From top to bottom, everything about The Fugitive, is well-crafted and perfected from the television medium it was born from. In just two-hours and change, director Andrew Davis and stars Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones achieve the suspense and epic chase feel that a whole TV season would have in a single film. No other movie on this list does that as well as The Fugitive. (trailer)