The 10 Worst TV-to-Film Adaptations

A couple of days back, our own Judy Berman posted a wonderful essay called “In Defense of Turning TV Shows into Movies.” Give it a look, if you haven’t; it’s a reasoned, thoughtful, and persuasive piece. There’s only one problem: The Smurfs.

Yep, the 3-D CGI film adaptation of the inexplicably popular 1980s cartoon show hits theaters tomorrow, and every bit of information, every still, every trailer, and every promotional move (the movie’s website is — GET IT?!?!) has given us an unsettling, nauseous feeling, as though The Smurfs might be not only the worst movie ever made, but the worst thing ever made, our single lowest achievement as a species.

Okay, we might be overreacting. (But only slightly.) In fact, if The Smurfs merely turns out to be the worst movie adaptation of a TV show, that’s still a mighty tough competition. Though there have been occasional exceptions (The Fugitive, Mission: Impossible, Firefly), the boob tube has seldom proven a starting point for fine cinema. After the jump we’ll take a look at the ten worst TV-to-movie adaptations — and trust us, it was a hard list to narrow down:


Okay, in all fairness, Transformers isn’t technically based on a TV show — per the credits, it is (and we quote) “Based on Hasbro’s Transformers™ Action Figures.” But it was Gen X’s fond nostalgia for the half-hour commercial for those toys disguised as an afternoon cartoon series that prompted Michael Bay’s 2007 film — a thuddingly serious, bloated, overlong (it’s endless at two and a half hours), loud, obnoxious headache. Its basic problem is one of tone: it’s an utterly ridiculous story about cars that turn into giant robots and blow things up, but the entire enterprise in invested with a tone that is only slightly less somber than that of United 93. There are occasional scenes of “comic relief,” but they’re quickly overtaken by the picture’s relentless jingoism and laughable robot-on-robot dialogue (including Hawksian exchanges like “IT’S JUST YOU AND ME NOW, MEGATRON!”, which prompts the retort, “THEN IT’S JUST ME, PRIME!”). It made an estimated gagillion dollars, of course, so it was followed by two sequels so relentlessly, punishingly terrible that people have come to refer to the “original” (if such a word is appropriate) as “the good one.” Neat trick.