10 TV Shows That Were Nothing Like The Movies They Were Based On

Summary

  • TV adaptations of movies often diverge by expanding character depth, introducing new storylines, and exploring themes beyond the film’s scope.
  • Many of the best TV shows based on movies have diverged greatly from their source materials, reshaping dynamics and introducing new cast members.
  • TV adaptations have the flexibility to address contemporary issues and offer a fresh and extended perspective on familiar stories, allowing for more complex world-building and exploration of themes.


TV shows that were nothing like the movies they were based on underscore the inherent strengths and limitations of the series vs film formats. TV shows based on movies often diverge by expanding character depth, introducing new storylines, and exploring themes beyond the film’s scope. Unlike the limited runtime of a movie, TV series can develop intricate narratives over multiple seasons, providing a more in-depth exploration of the source material. Changes in tone, pacing, and genre are common, with TV adaptations adapting to the episodic format.

Notably, many of the best TV shows based on movies have diverged greatly from their respective source materials. This is typically due to the prolonged evolution of character arcs, the introduction of new cast members, and the overall reshaping of the dynamics from the original story. Additionally, TV shows have the flexibility to address contemporary issues, adjusting the source material for more modern audiences. The shift from a singular, self-contained story to a serialized or anthology format also allows for more complex world-building. Overall, the transition from film to TV often involves a reinterpretation of the material, offering audiences a fresh and extended perspective on familiar stories.


10 Bates Motel (2013-2017)

Psycho (1960)

Bates Motel

Release Date
April 18, 2013

Cast
Vera Farmiga , Freddie Highmore , Max Thieriot

Seasons
5

From the series’ narrative approach to its expanded character development, there are several ways Bates Motel differs from Psycho. While Psycho focuses on Norman Bates’ murderous actions, Bates Motel delves into his formative years, exploring his complex relationship with his mother, Norma. The series introduces additional characters and subplots, and unlike the swift pacing of the film, Bates Motel unfolds a more gradual and intricate storyline. Set in modern times, Bates Motel reinvents the classic, creating a fresh perspective on the iconic tale while maintaining its core elements. Casting horror legend Vera Farmiga to give a face and personality to Norma was a stroke of genius as well.

9 Teen Wolf (2011-2017)

Teen Wolf (1985)

Teen Wolf

Release Date
June 5, 2011

Cast
Holland Roden , Tyler Posey , Dylan Sprayberry , Melissa Ponzio , Tyler Hoechlin , Arden Cho , Crystal Reed , jr bourne , Shelley Hennig , Colton Haynes , Dylan O’Brien , Linden Ashby

Seasons
6

Unlike the lighthearted comedy of its 1985 cinematic predecessor, the modern Teen Wolf series adopts a darker tone with elements of horror and supernatural drama. While the movie centered on comedic aspects of a teenager’s werewolf transformation, the series delves into intricate mythologies, complex character relationships, and overarching supernatural conflicts. Characters in the TV adaptation are more developed, facing challenges beyond typical high school antics. The show embraces a serialized coming-of-age narrative, exploring a broader range of themes such as identity, morality, and the consequences of supernatural existence. Essentially, Teen Wolf reinvents the source material into a multi-layered and engaging supernatural saga.

Related: Teen Wolf: 10 Best Episodes, Ranked

8 MASH (1972-1983)

MASH (1970)

Loretta Switt as Margaret, Jamie Farr as Klinger, and Alan Alda as Hawkeye in MASH

The MASH movie and show share an anti-war sentiment, and both explore deep character development, addressing the psychological toll of war on the medical personnel stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. However, the TV series expands beyond the film’s satirical take on the Korean War, unfolding over 11 seasons and allowing for more intricate story arcs and thematic exploration. Outlasting the Korean War setting, the show navigates through societal changes and retains relevance beyond its initial premise. While both the MASH show and movie combine humor with poignant reflections on the human cost of conflict, the film’s dark comedy is arguably more compelling than the show’s sitcom appeal.

Related: Why MASH’s Original Creator Disliked The TV Show

7 Westworld (2016-2022)

Westworld (1973)

Westworld

Release Date
October 2, 2016

Cast
Anthony Hopkins , Evan Rachel Wood , Shannon Woodward , Ed Harris , James Marsden , Jimmi Simpson , Jeffrey Wright , Tessa Thompson , Thandie Newton , Rodrigo Santoro

Seasons
4

The TV series Westworld significantly expands on the original film’s concept of a futuristic theme park with android hosts. While the movie primarily explores the consequences of the hosts malfunctioning and turning against guests, the series delves into profound philosophical questions about consciousness, free will, and the nature of reality. Unlike the movie, the series weaves a complex narrative across multiple timelines, adding layers of mystery and intrigue. Character depth is heightened in the series, as it explores the ethical implications of creating sentient beings. The show transforms the initial premise into a thought-provoking and immersive experience that goes far beyond the action-oriented focus of the original film.

6 Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)

Friday Night Lights (2004)

Kyle Chandler as Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights

Chronicled in the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by HG Bissinger, Friday Night Lights’ true story was adapted into a film by director Peter Berg, who also developed the series. While the movie primarily focuses on the events of one high-stakes football season, the TV series expands beyond the gridiron. It delves much deeper into the personal lives of characters, exploring the challenges faced by both students and adults in the small, football-centric community. Unlike the film, the series’ format allows for in-depth character development and addressing social issues like racism, class disparity, and the pressures of life in a football-obsessed town.

5 Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)

Stargate (1994)

Teal'c (Christopher Judge), Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), and Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) in a promotional image for Stargate SG-1

Stargate SG-1

Release Date
July 27, 1997

Cast
amanda tapping , Richard Dean Anderson , Michael Shanks

Seasons
10

While the film introduces the concept of a Stargate – a portal to other worlds – the TV series expands and enriches the one-shot adventure into an epic galactic narrative. Indeed, Stargate SG-1 takes a more serialized approach, exploring a vast and interconnected universe with various alien civilizations, political intrigues, and ancient technologies. Unlike the Stargate movie’s limited scope, Stargate SG-1 develops a complex mythology, introducing new characters and delving into the overarching threat posed by the Goa’uld. The series embraces a more comprehensive exploration of science fiction themes, making it distinct from the initial standalone adventure presented in the formative sci-fi movie.

Related: How To Watch Stargate In Order

4 Fargo (2014-present)

Fargo (1996)

Billy Bob Thornton as Malvo, holding a brief case by the side of a snowy road in Fargo

Fargo

Release Date
April 15, 2014

Cast
Billy Bob Thornton , Allison Tolman , Martin Freeman , Kirsten Dunst , Patrick Wilson , Jesse Plemons , Ewan McGregor , Carrie Coon , Chris Rock , Jessie Buckley , Jason Schwartzman , Juno Temple , Jon Hamm

Seasons
5

Whereas Fargo is a standalone crime comedy-drama movie, the TV series adopts an anthology format, with each season featuring new characters and storylines connected by the overarching theme of crime in the Midwest. The series explores different time periods, characters, and criminal activities, offering a broader narrative canvas. It delves into intricate character development, nuanced storytelling, and a deeper exploration of social issues. While the film maintains a darkly comedic tone, the series amplifies its dramatic and sometimes surreal elements. Essentially, Fargo the series uses the film as a springboard to create a distinctive and multifaceted exploration of crime and morality.

3 The Odd Couple (2015-2017)

The Odd Couple (1968)

Matthew Perry as Oscar Madison and Thomas Lennon as Felix Unger standing beside each other in a promotional image for The Odd Couple

Unlike the original The Odd Couple‘s focus on Felix and Oscar adapting to living together after divorces, the series explores modern relationships and friendships. The show’s comedic style is also updated, incorporating contemporary humor and cultural references. While the film is a self-contained story, the series unfolds over multiple episodes, allowing for more extended character development and diverse story arcs. Moreover, the TV series introduces new characters, Emily and Dani, as well as significant changes to the supporting cast. Indeed, The Odd Couple series reimagines the classic premise for a new era, infusing it with fresh comedic elements and more character dynamics through its ensemble cast.

2 Hannibal (2013-2015)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter eating dinner in a suit in Hannibal.

Hannibal

Release Date
April 4, 2013

Seasons
3

Curiously, Hannibal never adapted The Silence of the Lambs – the book on which the movie is based on. Instead, Hannibal focuses on Thomas Harris’ other books about Hannibal Lecter. As a result, the series extends beyond the events of the movie from which it originated, incorporating new storylines and characters. It also portrays Hannibal Lecter in a more complex light, offering a nuanced and empathetic perspective on the ’90s horror icon. Both the movie and series share the source material’s distinct psychological thriller formula, and although the cultural value of The Silence of the Lambs is unparalleled, Hannibal extends the source material’s influence on the genres it touches.

Related: Hannibal: How It Could Have Remade Silence of the Lambs

1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers with cuts on her face in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Created by Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie co-scriptwriter Joss Whedon, the series eschews the film’s comedic campiness for a more complex and character-driven coming-of-age story. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s portrayal of Buffy is more nuanced and mature than Kristy Swanson’s in the original film. The TV show also introduces a host of new characters and delves into darker and more emotional themes, creating a rich and serialized storytelling experience. Additionally, the series explores the challenges of adolescence and the burden of responsibility in ways that far surpass the scope of the original film. This is how Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series exceeded the success of the relatively obscure movie.