Before Entourage: Charlie's Angels, Star Trek and More TV Series on the Big Screen
A look at the many TV series that preceded Entourage in spawning cinematic sequels
This week, Entourage fans get to watch the boys bring their brand of Hollywood bro-ishness to the big screen, nearly four years after the TV series aired its final episode. Of course, it’s far from the first cinematic adaptation of a TV series, but in this age of reboot upon reboot, it’s notable that this one has migrated to the silver screen intact – it’s a movie “sequel” featuring the same actors and characters as the original TV show.
Here’s a short history of the many other TV shows that have continued their stories in the form of theatrical films.
It might just be Dragnet that takes honors for being the first TV series to get a cinematic spin-off. The show began airing on NBC in 1951, but the TV series itself was a spin-off of a radio series that began in 1949. Dragnet was transmedia before the term even existed.
Back in a time when it was rare to see caped superheroes jumping around on movie screens, the Adam West Batman series spawned a feature-length escapade that saw most of the TV series’s actors reprising their roles. One exception? Lee Meriwether played Catwoman, whereas Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt had done so on the show.
The Man Called Flintstone (1966)
It’s a very weird concept: A feature-length James Bond parody featuring Fred Flintstone as the globe-trotting super spy. It hit theaters nearly 30 years before the live-action version with John Goodman.
House of Dark Shadows (1970)
Way back before it became fashionable to spin TV shows into movies – and before Tim Burton put his spin on the show with a 2012 remake – the ABC horror soap opera Dark Shadows scored not one but two cinematic adaptations: this and 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
It’s tough to say whether the various Muppet movies count as reboots, since the Muppets are always reinventing themselves, playing themselves playing versions of themselves in productions-within-productions, but we’re willing to give Kermit, Piggy and the rest the benefit of the doubt.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek might hold the record for the TV series to generate the most movies. Counting the original series, The Next Generation and the Leonard Nimoy cameo uniting the 2009 reboot and its sequel with the rest, there have been 12 Star Trek films.
The Nude Bomb (1980)
A full decade after Get Smart concluded its TV run, Don Adams reprised the role of Maxwell Smart for a big-screen outing.
The Naked Gun (1988)
This one is a rarity even among the rarities. While most of the movies on this list grew out of successful TV shows, The Naked Gun grew out of the 1982 ABC TV series Police Squad!, which lasted exactly six episodes before being canned. Miraculously, it was revived as a film franchise six years later. Leslie Nielsen starred as Detective Frank Drebin in both the TV show and the movies.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
When Twin Peaks was canceled in 1991, fans were clamoring for resolution to all the show’s loose ends. And they thought they had it in Fire Walk with Me, but it ended up featuring few of Twin Peaks‘ beloved characters. Little did they know that waiting 25 years would pay off.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
The Power Rangers never looked better, and gaggles of young fans agreed: The film raked in $66 million, which was enough to generate a sequel in 1997.
Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996)
Before you laugh off this big-screen adaptation of the MTV cartoon as a ’90s relic, know that it actually had the biggest December box-office opening ever, until it was beaten the following year by Scream 2 and then Titanic.
The X-Files (1998)
Those who want to believe got not one but two X-Files movies. Now with Mulder and Scully returning for a miniseries, The X-Files joins the ultra-exclusive club of TV shows that migrated to the big screen and then back again to the small screen.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
It’s not enough that the South Park guys snuck that title past the censors. They also managed to score an Oscar nomination for the show’s big-screen spin-off, and that’s something very few TV-spawned movies can claim.
Charlie’s Angels (2000)
One thing separates this big-screen adaptation of the classic TV action series from others such as Mission: Impossible and Miami Vice: It retained John Forsythe as the voice of Charlie, the Angels’ heard-but-never-seen boss, thereby keeping the new films in the same universe as the original series. Also, the sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle featured Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett, her role on the TV series.
Jackass: The Movie (2002)
Surely few people would have expected that the MTV masochism-fest would translate well to the theaters. They would have been wrong. The Johnny Knoxville-led film made nearly $80 million and spawned two theatrical sequels.
Ali G Indahouse (2002)
Borat and Brüno are better known, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s first big-screen spin-off was the only one of the three to feature the character for which his original show was named.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)
Long before Hannah Montana got her own movie, Hilary Duff’s Disney Channel character got hers, and it saw her going on a post-graduation class trip to Rome because graduated high schoolers totally go on class trips to foreign countries together, right?
Fans of the one-season wonder Firefly got to spend a bit more time with their beloved characters in this cinematic conclusion to the series. Many hoped that Serenity could lead to a film franchise, and in interviews since, series creator Joss Whedon has said he was keen on the idea, even if it seemed unlikely.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (2007)
If you’re asking “What on earth is Aqua Teen Hunger Force?” then just note that it has the words “Movie Film for Theaters” right there in the title and keep on moving to the next item.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
After nearly 20 years on the air, The Simpsons finally got around to releasing a big-screen epic, but fans know that plans for a cinematic adventure had been in the works for years. In fact, the 1992 “Kamp Krusty” episode was at one point considered as the plot of a possible movie outing.
Reno 911!: Miami (2007)
Two years before the Comedy Central series concluded, the incompetent deputies of the Reno Sheriff’s Department stumbled off to Miami, and yes, it was gratifying for fans to see Lt. Dangle’s short-shorts realized on the big screen.
Sex and the City (2008)
Few need reminding that before the Entourage guys took to theaters, Carrie and her girls did – twice. The first Sex and the City film has made $415 million to date, and it seems safe to say that if it hadn’t found such success, the Entourage movie would have never happened.
Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)
21 Jump Street (2012)
By all accounts a reboot that took the original cop drama series and transformed it into a comedy, it technically weasels onto the list just because it features original series stars Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, and Holly Robinson Peete reprising their characters in cameos. Continuity!
Veronica Mars (2014)
And finally we have the one film that came into existence simply because its fans wanted it so badly. A massively successful Kickstarter campaign brought Kristen Bell back to seedy Neptune, California, for one more big mystery.
Plenty of kids’ cartoons have spawned movie adaptations, from Rugrats to Pokémon, DuckTales to Batman: The Animated Series, Transformers to My Little Pony. This list focused on live-action shows and prime-time cartoons.
On more than one occasion, a non-scripted show has generated a scripted, fictional big-screen adaptation, such as with The Gong Show Movie or The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course.
Saturday Night Live has spawned a good number of movies, The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World and MacGruber among them, but since those sketches were never TV shows in their own right, they don’t quite make the cut. Ditto for the Monty Python movies, Good Burger, which spun off from a sketch on the Nickelodeon series All That, or the Kids in the Hall movie, Brain Candy.
The 2004 version of Starsky & Hutch featured the series’ original stars, Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, reprising their characters from the original TV show, but alongside Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson playing those same characters, so we’re saying it doesn’t quite count.