11 Worst Movies Based On TV Shows, Ranked
While there are great original movies made every year, Hollywood prefers the lower-risk approach of adapting, rebooting, and sequalising properties with pre-existing audience recognition and fanbases. Television has long been a source of movie material, as filmmakers and studios attempt to replicate the popularity of TV shows on the big screen.
And there are many successful examples. Movies such as the Jump Street films, The Naked Gun, The Fugitive, The Untouchables, The Addams Family, and, of course, the Mission Impossible series all took what made these shows so successful and adapted them with big stars, bigger budgets, and interesting new approaches to the material. Other great examples, such as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Serenity, saw their creators given the opportunity to expand their visions beyond the confines of the small screen.
But inevitably, there are many more examples of bad movies based on TV shows. Obviously there are terrible films that never really had much of a chance of being good--did anyone ever expect films of CHiPS or Mr. Magoo to be a success? And there are many that, while not entirely bad, add absolutely nothing to what existed before, such as The Dukes of Hazzard and Bewitched. The best thing you can say about these films is they make you want to rewatch the far better shows they are based on, but it’s hard to think of a good reason they were made.
However, some bad movies adapted from TV shows seem even worse because they at least had a chance of being good. There are examples from high-profile directors like Tim Burton and M Night Shyamalan, who were fans of the shows they adapted but seemingly misjudged what made them successful to start with. And there are other films that seemed made for a big-screen reworking--whether a self-referential reimagining or a great concept given a modern twist--but that failed utterly.
So here's our ranking of the worst movies adapted from TV shows. And after you've read that, check out our guide to the worst TV shows based on movies.
11. Dark Shadows (2012)
Tim Burton was an obvious choice to helm a feature version of the '60s creepy soap opera Dark Shadows, but sadly his affinity for the dark and weird couldn't help make it any good. For all the stylish camerawork and lavish set design, the whole thing just feels lazy, with Burton and regular star Johnny Depp mining the same campy gothic territory of far more successful movies such as Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd. Not funny enough to be comedy or scary enough to work as a horror movie, only Eva Green's entertaining, strange performance as vengeful witch Angelique makes it worth watching.
10. Charlie's Angels (2019)
The classic '70s show Charlie's Angels was reworked for the big screen in the early 2000s, in two successful movies starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz. The property was rebooted again in 2019 by director and co-star Elizabeth Banks, but it fails to bring anything new to the story of the Townsend Agency and its crime-fighting 'angels.' Stars Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska do their best to inject some energy into proceedings, but there's little they can do with a tired plot and formulaic action scenes. The movie died at the box office, with Sony pulling advertising support within a week.
9. Inspector Gadget (1999)
Like many of the titles on this list, it's easy to see why Inspector Gadget was chosen for the live-action treatment. The original is a much-loved '80s animated show with built-in nostalgic appeal and the opportunity for some crazy visual effects. Sadly, what works as a breezy, silly 20-minute cartoon simply doesn't work at feature-length--the movie is only 78 minutes but feels way longer. Matthew Broderick does his best as the wise-cracking, semi-mechanical cop, but Gadget is barely a character and far more effort was put into the now-dated visual effects than writing an entertaining or engaging script. There's another reboot on the way for Disney+, so let's hope for better results.
8. Baywatch (2017)
There are many bad movies based on bad TV shows. But it's easy to see that a decent Baywatch movie could have been made, had it gone down the Jump Street route and become a clever, knowing pastiche of glossy image-obsessed '90s TV. Or maybe even a more serious movie about dangerous work performed by lifeguards. But of course, that's not what we got--this is a painfully unentertaining film that works neither as self-referential nostalgia nor as a straight modern action-comedy, and not even the star power of The Rock can stop the movie from drowning quickly. A cringe-worthy cameo from the show's star and producer, David Hasselhoff, only serves to remind us that Baywatch should've remained back in the 1990s.
7. Lost in Space (1998)
The classic '60s series was given the blockbuster makeover in 1998, which saw the warm family sci-fi drama turned into a boring, overlong action movie populated by charmless characters. The big-name cast included Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Heather Graham, and Matt LeBlanc, but it was clearly just a payday for them. The movie's commercial failure meant the franchise stayed lost for another two decades, until the recent, much better, Netflix reboot.
6. The Flintstones (1994)
The Flintstones was the first cartoon series to hold a prime time slot on US TV and remains one of the most successful animated shows ever made. So it's surprising it took 30 years for a live-action version to reach screens--but having seen it, many viewers wish they'd waited another 30 years. The script went through no fewer than 35 writers, and the results were, unsurprisingly, a tonally muddled mess, with moments of silly juvenile humour alongside themes and subplots definitely not suitable for a family comedy, including extra-marital affairs and corporate crime. John Goodman is well cast as Fred Flintstone, but he later admitted he felt "sandbagged" into the role by producer Steven Spielberg, who announced that Goodman would play Fred during a table read for his film Always, before the actor had actually agreed to do so. An equally poor sequel followed, 2000's The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.
5. Aeon Flux (2006)
Aeon Flux was an acclaimed animated sci-fi series that started life as a series of short films on MTV's Liquid Television in 1991, before becoming its own 10-part series in 1995. Created by Peter Chung, the series was highly experimental, with an unusual animated style, very little dialogue, and challenging storylines. In 2005, a live-action movie adaptation starring Charlize Theron as the futuristic warrior of the title hit theaters. Unfortunately, all the things that made the show so popular were everything Paramount, the studio producing the movie, seemingly hated. The film was taken away from director Karyn Kusama and heavily re-edited without her involvement, turning what she intended as an "art movie" into a boring, generic sci-fi adventure that utterly bombed at the box office. Kusma and Theron were highly critical of the movie, the latter stating, "We f***ed it all up."
4. The Last Airbender (2010)
Avatar: The Last Airbender is regularly acclaimed as one of the best animated shows of all time, a thrilling, emotional, and socially-conscious modern fantasy classic with a dedicated fanbase. M. Night Shyalaman's live-action 2010 remake is none of these things. Despite the early support of creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and Shyalaman's seemingly genuine love for the show, the movie misjudges nearly everything. The plot is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't seen the series, characters bear little resemblance to their animated counterparts, the white-washed casting leaves a bad taste, and the whole thing is drowned in a sea of CGI. The only upside is that the movie's mediocre commercial performance spared us any more movies. That said, the recent departure of DiMartino and Konietzko from the upcoming Netflix adaptation doesn't bode particularly well for that ether.
3. Entourage (2010)
After eight seasons and nearly 100 episodes, it's doubtful that even the most ardent fan of HBO's Entourage needed a feature-length movie--but we got one anyway. While early seasons of the show did provide a funny and insightful behind-the-scenes look at movie star life in Hollywood, the series eventually became a repetitive celebration of what it initially set out to satirize, and the movie doubles down on this. It's a plotless, cameo-laden, and tone-deaf experience, and the "fun" of seeing the main characters back together again barely makes up for its regressive depiction of success, privilege, and gender politics.
2. The Avengers (1998)
The sad death of Diana Rigg this month led to much coverage of her role in the classic '60s series The Avengers, in which she played iconic secret agent Emma Peel. This was a part that Uma Thurman took on for the 1998 movie version, which also starred Ralph Fiennes as Peel's colleague John Steed (played by Patrick Macnee in the original). Sadly, the effortless chemistry that Rigg and Macnee brought to Peel and Steed's relationship is woefully lacking in the film. The signs were bad when distributors Warner cancelled press previews and pushed the movie into the dumping grounds of a late summer release. The film itself was cut down from nearly two hours to just 89 minutes after negative test screenings, resulting in an incomprehensibly plotted film that was met with savage reviews. This is one director's cut that no one is interested in seeing.
1. Wild Wild West (1999)
With Will Smith as the star, and director Barry Sonnenfeld directing once more, Wild Wild West was clearly intended to replicate the huge success of Men in Black from two years earlier. Unfortunately, the results were not remotely as good. The film was adapted from an ambitious TV show that ran between 1965 and 1969 and focused on a pair of secret agents who work to protect President Ulysses S. Grant during the 1800s. It's easy to see why the concept--an unusual mix of sci-fi, action, and James Bond-esque spy thrills--would appeal to contemporary filmmakers looking for another offbeat sci-fi movie for Smith to star in. But the film itself was a critical and commercial disaster, a hugely expensive but utterly unfunny, unexciting, and deeply annoying movie, that swept the Razzies and became one of the decade's most notorious flops.
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