Not every television show is built to withstand a move from small to big screen. (Scooby-Doo and The Dukes of Hazzard, anyone?) When done right, though, a movie adaptation can be just as good as, if not better than, its television counterpart. With Sex and the City 2 right around the corner, now’s a perfect time to revisit films that started on the boob tube and flourished on the silver screen.
10. Jackass: The Movie and Jackass Number Two
It’s excruciating enough watching Johnny Knoxville and his cohorts brutalize their bodies for half an hour, let alone 90 minutes — which makes the Jackass movies nothing short of brilliant horror flicks. The idiotic stunts make you grimace, cower, and gag, but you can’t deny that it’s mesmerizing cinema. Even if you have to cover your eyes half the time.
9. The Brady Bunch Movie
The movie is set in modern times, but the filmmakers wisely decided to keep the Bradys obliviously ensconced in seventies costume and manners. No one’s calling The Brady Bunch Movie a masterpiece, but it’s definitely a perfect homage: Jan is jealous of Marcia, Cindy’s a whiny tattletale, and Greg is trying to break into the music biz. Not much has changed in twenty years!
Da Ali G Show only ran for two short seasons, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s hirsute alter ego lived on in multiplexes all over the country. Unfettered by the limitations of sketch humor, the movie allowed Borat to push his moronic ignorance to absurd new heights. It also gave audiences a chance to meet Borat’s backwards Kazakh family — to the chagrin of the real-life Kazakhstan government.
7. The X-Files
When the movie finally came out, fans wondered if a two-hour running time would permit Scully and Mulder to hook up already. They came close, until Scully got stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock. The paranormal gumshoes didn’t consummate their relationship, but the movie did release a lot of pent-up anticipation among fans who’d been dying to see what came next.
6. The Simpsons Movie
Like many thriving television series, The Simpsons was sparking movie rumors long before Matt Groening and James L. Brooks finally made it happen, in 2007 (nearly two decades after the series began). It was a momentous occasion that Homer honored by pulling the ultimate numskull move: turning Springfield into a giant biohazardous zone.
For a show that lasted only fourteen episodes before it was booted off the air, Joss Whedon’s Firefly amassed an impressive cult following. Fans disappointed by the show’s demise were temporarily placated when Whedon came out with Serenity, which picks up where the final episode left off. The sci-fi show was the perfect movie fodder, with a slew of Western influences and a sexy, accessible cast.
4. The Fugitive
Harrison Ford’s best role of the nineties (besides Jack Ryan, perhaps) was Richard Kimble, one of the most wronged doctors in movie history. Kimble’s pursuit of the one-armed man lasted four seasons in the sixties television series. In the movie, though, Ford tracks down his wife’s killer in a relatively trim two hours. All that swift detective work made for riveting entertainment.
3. The Untouchables
Brian De Palma’s Untouchables was considerably more violent than its black-and-white boob-tube predecessor and, consequently, more affecting and disquieting. Let’s just say that in the sixties TV series, nobody was whacking anyone’s brains out with a baseball bat and little girls weren’t getting killed by explosive briefcases. You can’t fail when you cast Robert De Niro as Al Capone.
2. Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
The small-to-big-screen transition was bumpy for the Star Trek franchise, but The Wrath of Khan proved that the Enterprise crew was perfectly capable of carrying at least one out of every two of its feature-length movies. The film embodied all that is great about Star Trek: the drama (Spock dies!), the villains (Ricardo Montalban!), and the creepy modes of torture (mind-controlling ear worms!).
1. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
Here’s a television show that was destined to become a movie for reasons succinctly explained in the title’s final word. Without the censorship of cable television, Kyle, Kenny, Stan, and Cartman are free to cuss and be crass with impunity — or as much impunity as the MPAA would allow. Nearly 400 profanities in 81 minutes? You can’t do that on television!