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The 22 Best TV Shows Based on Movies, Ranked

The 22 Best TV Shows Based on Movies, Ranked

Sometimes a great movie is just the beginning of the story.

Many big-screen hits have been turned into TV shows by networks looking to ride the coattails of their box office success. Sadly, some of those shows crash and burn. (And we have plenty of examples of that.) But once in a while, a TV show based on a movie can live up to, or even surpass, its cinematic inspiration, expanding its world and taking familiar characters to new heights. In fact, some of the greatest TV shows in history have been based on movies, so we’re thankful they didn’t just stick with the film version.

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We here at TVLine are celebrating the very best TV shows inspired by movies — and ranking them, too, while we’re at it, based on longevity, creativity and overall excellence. (Note: We’ve excluded shows like WandaVision with characters that do derive from movies but were already well-known from other media like comic books.) Join us as we count down the greatest movie-to-TV conversions of all time and see who landed in the top spot… and did we leave off one of your favorites? That’s what the comments are for: Head down there to make your voice heard.

22. Cobra Kai

22. Cobra Kai
22. Cobra Kai

A TV offshoot of The Karate Kid could’ve suffered the same fate as The Next Karate Kid — no offense, Hilary Swank — but instead, it examined our favorite ‘80s karate movies from a fresh perspective, finding a surprising emotional depth inside William Zabka’s macho bully Johnny Lawrence and adding in fun winks to the original trilogy. It became a hit when it moved to Netflix for Season 3 and even earned an Emmy nomination for best comedy series. 

21. In the Heat of the Night

21. In the Heat of the Night
21. In the Heat of the Night

Adapting an iconic and influential film like the Rod Steiger-Sidney Poitier classic is a daunting task, but NBC managed to pull it off with this long-running cop drama, which debuted in 1988. A post-All in the Family Carroll O’Connor played Mississippi police chief Bill Gillespie (and won another Emmy), with Howard Rollins stepping in for Poitier as detective Virgil “They Call Me Mr.” Tibbs. The show delved into hot-button issues like racism, corruption and police brutality, and it was a Nielsen Top 20 hit, ultimately running for seven seasons along with four TV movies.

20. Teen Wolf

20. Teen Wolf
20. Teen Wolf

The premise of a teenage boy discovering he’s a werewolf was played for light laughs in the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie, but it was taken deadly seriously by MTV’s version, going the Twilight route with Tyler Posey as teen werewolf Scott McCall. The Teen Wolf series built out an elaborate mythology of shapeshifters, demons and other supernatural creatures, and Posey and his castmates became instant teen idols. A rabid fan base propelled it to a six-season run, along with a follow-up movie that aired in 2023.

19. A League of Their Own

19. A League of Their Own
19. A League of Their Own

TV’s first try at adapting the Geena Davis-led women’s baseball movie swung and missed: CBS’ 1993 version lasted just five episodes before getting the axe. But Amazon got another at-bat and made the most of it, with Abbi Jacobson and D’Arcy Carden starring in a new take on the 1940s all-ladies baseball league. The series highlighted Black and LGBTQ characters in a way that the movie didn’t, and fans and critics stood up and cheered. Alas, it suffered the same one-season-and-done fate as the CBS version, but it’ll be fondly remembered for years to come.

18. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

18. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
18. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

The delightful 2010 action comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World became even more delightful in animated form, with the entire movie cast — including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin and Chris Evans — returning for Netflix’s reinvention. And what a reinvention it was, throwing a huge twist at us right from the start and embracing the film’s chaotic prankster energy. We’d award it a million gold coins if we could.

17. Westworld

17. Westworld
17. Westworld

The ‘70s sci-fi movie about a Western theme park full of murderous robots got a much-needed firmware update when it landed on HBO in 2016. Yes, it eventually went off the rails, but the early episodes were a fascinating meditation on what it means to be human, with standout performances from Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton and Jeffrey Wright. We won’t hold the show’s steep decline against it; we’re still happy we spent time inside this park.

16. Chucky

16. Chucky
16. Chucky

One of the horror genre’s all-time greatest villains came to TV in 2021, with Child’s Play’s killer doll Chucky getting his own Syfy series. With Chucky mastermind Don Mancini on board as series creator and plenty of Easter eggs for die-hard fans, Chucky was clearly made by people who love Chucky and his wicked sense of humor. Film favorites like Jennifer Tilly returned to reprise their roles, and fans are still bloody loving it, with the second half of Season 3 set to air later this year.

15. 12 Monkeys

15. 12 Monkeys
15. 12 Monkeys

Syfy’s adaptation of the 1995 Bruce Willis sci-fi thriller benefitted from a much bigger canvas, unspooling its tale of time travelers going back to prevent a humanity-ending virus across four seasons and 47 episodes. Critics eventually warmed up to the series and its bold twists, with Aaron Stamford stepping into the Bruce Willis role and Amanda Schull replacing Madeleine Stowe, and Stowe even gave the show her blessing via a Season 2 guest role. Plus, its final episode was good enough to land on our list of TV’s best series finales ever.

14. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

14. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
14. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

This Fox drama actually became one of the Terminator franchise’s most well-received iterations ever, wisely ignoring Terminator 3 and picking up right after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. A pre-Game of Thrones Lena Headey played Sarah Connor, with Thomas Dekker as her son and future resistance leader John. A writers’ strike and high budgets condemned it to a quick death — but the more mediocre Terminator sequels pile up, the better it looks.

13. Alice

13. Alice
13. Alice

Martin Scorsese’s low-key character study about a widowed single mom and diner waitress was an unlikely inspiration for a broad TV sitcom, but CBS’ punchline-heavy version became a top-ten hit and ran for a whopping 202 episodes. Linda Lavin played the title role of Alice, working alongside diner owner Mel, sassy waitress Flo (of “Kiss my grits!” fame) and the bird-brained Vera. It also had a healthy syndication run throughout the ‘80s, ensuring that “Kiss my grits!” would live on in the hearts of Gen X kids everywhere.

12. High Fidelity

12. High Fidelity
12. High Fidelity

John Cusack’s big-screen comedy about a lovelorn music nerd might make our Top 5 Underrated Rom-Coms list, but the Hulu series was even better. Zoe Kravitz made a charming substitute for Cusack as record store owner Rob, who overanalyzes her past relationship failures, and the whole thing had a cool hipster hangout vibe to it, with an impeccable soundtrack and nice turns from future stars Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Kingsley Ben-Adir. Unfortunately, Hulu unplugged the amp after just one season, but we’ll always cherish that debut album.

11. La Femme Nikita

11. La Femme Nikita
11. La Femme Nikita

The French action thriller about a female assassin also inspired The CW’s Nikita, starring Maggie Q, but we actually prefer the USA Network version that ran from 1997 to 2001. Peta Wilson starred as the highly trained killer, forced into a life of death-defying missions by the government and getting romantically entangled with her handler Michael, played by Roy Dupuis. Stylish and action-packed, La Femme Nikita was one of USA’s top-rated shows for years, and when the network tried to cancel it, fans went on a mission of their own, launching a passionate “save our show” campaign that resulted in the show getting a fifth and final season.

10. The Odd Couple

10. The Odd Couple
10. The Odd Couple

The original Neil Simon play about a mismatched pair of divorced roommates had such a sturdy premise, it inspired not only a hit 1968 movie starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau but also an ABC series that ran for five seasons. Tony Randall played neat freak Felix and Jack Klugman played slob Oscar, and their clash of personalities led to classic sitcom fireworks. It earned three Emmy nods for best comedy series and ran for years in syndication — but alas, that luck didn’t extend to a short-lived CBS remake starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.

9. Bates Motel

9. Bates Motel
9. Bates Motel

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is considered an untouchable film classic — see: Gus Van Sant’s critically maligned 1998 remake — but A&E’s prequel series defied expectations by digging even deeper into Norman Bates’ twisted psyche. Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga both shined as young Norman and his mother Norma, respectively, establishing a creepy mother-son bond that served as the backbone of the series. The final season even put a new spin on Psycho (with Rihanna as Marion Crane!), paying the ultimate respect to its source material.

8. Andor

8. Andor
8. Andor

The Mandalorian proved how well the Star Wars universe could fit into a TV series, and Andor took that even a step further, offering a richly conceived and psychologically complex prequel to the Rogue One film. Instead of relying on lightsabers and Jedi force tricks, Andor got real, showing us how everyday people lived during the Empire’s reign while still delivering heart-poundingly tense set pieces. It was a slow burn but a rewarding one, with a superior freshman season cementing it as the best Star Wars series yet.

7. What We Do in the Shadows

7. What We Do in the Shadows
7. What We Do in the Shadows

Behold! A goofy big-screen comedy about vampires transformed into a goofy TV show about vampires, and the tongue-in-cheek tone remained, too, with mockumentary cameras following a humdrum clan of bloodsuckers sharing a house in Staten Island and doing their best to blend in. The cast was to die for, highlighted by Matt Berry as lascivious vamp Laszlo and Mark Proksch as lethally dull “energy vampire” Colin Robinson. The upcoming sixth season will officially be its last… but we’re not ready to close the coffin on this one just yet.

6. Parenthood

6. Parenthood
6. Parenthood

Ron Howard’s chaotic 1989 family comedy starring Steve Martin actually got a short-lived TV version the following year, but we’re glad they gave it another try: NBC’s 2010-15 take was a gorgeously emotional look at the ups and downs of the Braverman clan, with a deep ensemble cast led by Peter Krause and Lauren Graham. Showrunner Jason Katims knew how to get our tear ducts flowing from Friday Night Lights — more on that later — and Parenthood tugged on our heartstrings with its sensitive approach to difficult subjects and its ultimately optimistic look at how family can help get us through just about anything.

5. Hannibal

5. Hannibal
5. Hannibal

Now this was a delicious surprise: We never imagined network TV could do justice to The Silence of the Lambs and its iconic killer Hannibal Lecter, but NBC’s bloody gorgeous drama did just that, breathing new life into the classic movie villain. Mads Mikkelsen gave us a fascinating (and sexy) Hannibal that even rivaled Anthony Hopkins’ version, and his intense cat-and-mouse game with Hugh Dancy’s FBI profiler Will Graham was absolutely mesmerizing to watch. It’s a shame that the show got cancelled before it could cover the events of The Silence of the Lambs, but we’re still savoring every last bite we got.

4. Fargo

The Coen brothers’ quirky Midwest crime thriller is such a revered film that it seemed like cinematic sacrilege to bring it to TV. But Noah Hawley put an inspired twist on it, creating an anthology of new crime stories with original characters that still felt very Fargo. The FX drama’s five seasons have given us some of the best TV of the past decade, allowing luminaries like Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst and Jon Hamm to deliver some of their finest work. The original Fargo film still can’t be improved upon in our eyes, but the Fargo TV show has cleverly expanded the universe in new and magnificent ways.

3. Friday Night Lights

3. Friday Night Lights
3. Friday Night Lights

Just hearing the words “Texas forever” gets us all misty, stirring up fond memories of this masterfully moving NBC drama about a high school football team and the town that loved it with all of its heart. The 2004 movie starring Billy Bob Thornton was good, but the TV version was flat-out great, portraying humble small-town drama with stunning emotional clarity and offering one of TV’s best marriages ever in Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton’s Eric and Tami Taylor, along with future stars like Michael B. Jordan and Jesse Plemons. We rooted for the Dillon Panthers to win, of course, but it’s a credit to FNL‘s excellence that we ended up caring a lot more about what happened off the field.

2. M*A*S*H

2. M*A*S*H
2. M*A*S*H

Robert Altman’s 1970 wartime comedy was a critically acclaimed smash, but CBS’ version managed to top it, turning the tale of hard-partying Korean War surgeons into one of the greatest and most beloved TV shows of all time. It excelled at juvenile comedy, with Alan Alda’s Hawkeye pulling goofy pranks, but it did even better at drama, exorcising the still-fresh demons of the Vietnam War and pulling off some of the most heartbreaking twists we’ve ever seen on the small screen. (R.I.P., Henry Blake.) It earned more than one hundred Emmy nominations, and fans loved it, too, making the series finale the most-watched episode of a scripted show ever — still to this day.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Who would’ve thought that a mildly received 1992 teen comedy co-starring Luke Perry and Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens would be turned into one of TV’s most obsessively adored shows ever? Joss Whedon transformed his mediocre movie script into TV gold for The WB, with Sarah Michelle Gellar in a star-making role as the titular vampire slayer. Endlessly influential and undeniably groundbreaking, Buffy brought a level of sarcastic self-awareness and smart-aleck sass to the supernatural genre that’s still being shamelessly imitated to this day, and it also served up shocking plot twists that we’re still reeling from decades later. The Emmys may have largely ignored this show, but we won’t make the same mistake. She saved the world (a lot), and she tops this list, too.

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