Did you know that there was a Fantasy Island movie that came out this weekend?
Well, it did fine at the box office (it’s a low budget horror film, they never lose money by design), but critics and audiences alike have torn the movie to pieces, adding it to the LONG legacy of shitty adaptations of TV shows into films.
But just listing out the failures wouldn’t be fair. Some truly excellent movies have come from TV shows, so we’re going to run down both sides here.
21 Jump Street (2012) and 22 Jump Street (2014)
We’re going to start with these two films for a couple of reasons. One, they’re unbelievably funny, which is not only rare for these sorts of films, but they managed to actually make lightning strike twice with a killer sequel (and, arguably, one of the few good comedy sequels in existence).
But the other reason we’re starting with these is that the TV show
21 Jump Street wasn’t exactly a comedy. The comedic duo behind these films, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, decided to blow apart the premise of the TV show and basically make fun of itself. And, unfortunately, a lot of the worst TV adaptations tried to follow the same formula and… Didn’t quite make it work.
Fun fact: During my senior year in college, a couple friends of mine and I actually wandered into the set for this movie at night (if you’ve seen the movie, it’s the obstacle course bit).
But that light bit of trivia didn’t make this any more enjoyable. What should have been a slam-dunk for parody just ends up being the worst kind of
21 Jump Street ripoff, that also commits the inexplicable sin of being a little over two hours long. The funniest thing about it is that its budget was quite literally $69 million.
The Fugitive (1993)
Damn, remember Harrison Ford in the 90s? Between playing Jack Ryan and some great dramas, his career has some pretty great highlights back then. But the best just might be
The Fugitive, which is one of the best examples of what made 90s action movies so great.
From the incredible train crash sequence to the iconic final chase (and Tommy Lee Jones showing up as one of the all-time great lawman movie characters, which managed to earn him an Academy Award),
The Fugitive is so good that I barely remember that it’s based on a 1960s TV show.
The Avengers (1998)
Conversely, if you want an action movie that represents some of the worst parts of 90s action movies, look no further than this absolutely awful film. Now, it didn’t really stand a chance, as the studio just cut chunks of the movie out for its final release, which is why the plot doesn’t make any sense, and basically everyone involved with it just mocks it relentlessly.
(Star Ralph Fiennes was quoted as saying “I think It’s a badge of honor to have a real flop on your resumé,” when asked about the film.)
The Muppet Movie (1979)
The Muppet Movie is a timeless classic, and maybe one of the most effortless leaps from TV to film I can think of. Well, it looks effortless to us, but the reality of shooting this film in the 1970s in the pre-digital effects era made this movie RIDICULOUSLY complicated to film (every time I see Kermit ride that bicycle, my mind reels). Filled with incredible cameos from some of the biggest comedy legends of all time, The Muppet Movie is basically a perfect family film.
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)
So, picking the “worst” live-action Flintstones movie is definitely a toss-up. They’re both awful, and while the original has Rosie O’Donnell in it, this one has… The creepiest goddamn version of the Great Gazoo imaginable, so it “wins” for me personally.
The Flintstones is one of those cartoons that should NEVER have been put in live-action, and both movies were doomed no matter what they did.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
I think a lot of people forget that The Naked Gun movies only exist because of the 1982 cult TV show
Police Squad!, which only lasted for one season (which is a crime in of itself). But even if you don’t know that, The Naked Gun is absolutely hysterical, and features multiple candidates for “funniest scene in a movie in the 1980s.”
Wild Wild West (1998)
It’s pretty incredible that Will Smith, in less than a year, went from headlining
Men in Black, one of the best comedy blockbusters of the 1990s, to a disaster like Wild Wild West (the director of Men in Black doesn’t get off easy though, he also directed Wild Wild West).
Infamously, Smith turned down the part of Neo in
The Matrix to be in this movie (yes, really), and the biggest contribution Wild Wild West has to modern pop culture at this point is its bizarre history with a Superman movie that never happened (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch this, and then this).
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
The fact that this movie was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Original Song, for “Blame Canada”) will always bring a smile to my face (that, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone showed up to the Oscars that year wearing dresses, bad make-up, and were tripping balls on LSD).
But the movie still holds up as one of the hilarious South Park storylines, and really pushed the show further than it had ever gone before. While I personally think some of the multi-episode storylines are even funnier than this movie (“Imagination Land” is seriously some of my favorite TV ever), it’s still fun as hell.
The Last Airbender (2010)
The Last Airbender isn’t just a shitty TV adaptation, it’s a SHITTY movie on its own. I mean… Good god, this movie’s just awful. Horrible acting, horrible writing, terrible digital effects, no sense of pacing, I just… I hate this movie. In my personal opinion, it is the absolute worst blockbuster budgeted movie I have ever seen. Nothing has “topped” this movie for me, and I didn’t even grow up watching the cartoon when I was a kid. This just sucks, period.
Best: Mission: Impossible franchise (?)
I put the question mark on this one because… I really don’t know which one of these to choose. It feels miraculous that the first one from 1996 is still a spy movie classic, and while the second movie is a mess (I can’t hate a John Woo movie from the 90s, I don’t have it in me), the rest of these movies range from “pretty good” to “holy fucking shit, did you see that stunt, how did no one die while making this.”
Of all the franchises to spin-off from TV, this is one of the very best, to the point that the last one (
Mission: Impossible – Fallout) was a legitimate contender for one of the better action movies of the 2010s. They’re making two more of these back-to-back, and I can’t wait to see how they almost kill Tom Cruise this time (he did a fucking HALO jump and piloted a helicopter for the last one, where do you even go from there?).
Lost in Space (1998)
Damn, I just noticed that three of “the worst” are all from 1998… In any case, this is a pretty bad way to make a movie out of the 1960s show, but what makes it damn near unwatchable now is the awful digital effects from the late 90s. They are beyond distracting, and the fact the rest of the movie isn’t particularly good doesn’t help things a whole lot. Especially when a certain other TV show migrated to film with much better results…
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture wasn’t great, but I wouldn’t call it awful either. It’s just very slow-paced, but its sequel is quite possibly the best movie ever made that’s rooted in TV. Not only does it bring back one of the best villains from the show, but it’s also done in a way that’s accessible for newcomers (you don’t need to have seen “Space Seed” for this movie to pack a punch).
Huh, come to think of it, two of the “best” TV adaptations here (this and
The Naked Gun) both have Ricardo Montalban in them as villains. That can’t be a coincidence, right?
As always with these posts, there are plenty of movies (good and bad) that I didn’t have time to mention, and I’m sure y’all will be more than happy to fill in some of those blanks (and let’s be real, I’m sure at least a few of you didn’t mind the
Baywatch movie for… Reasons).
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