The 6 Most Successful Movie Franchises Based on TV Shows

Successful movies often get a second life as television shows, as studios try to duplicate the popularity of major motion pictures such as Stargate, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, or MASH in a small-screen series format. However, when it comes to recycling popular stories or characters, the road from the movie studio to the television studio is a two-way street. Just like some popular television shows have taken their inspiration from films, there are also several successful films that have been based on television shows. Here are six successful film franchises that began as television programs.

6. The Addams Family film series (1991-1993)

Based on a dark comedy television program of the same name that ran from 1964 to 1966, the enduring popularity of The Addams Family characters inspired two major motion pictures. Starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya, and Christina Ricci, the 1991 film was a box office hit with a total domestic gross of $113.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Although 1993’s Addams Family Values was less commercially successful, it still collected a respectable domestic gross of nearly $49 million, giving this film franchise a total domestic gross of $162.4 million.

5. The Naked Gun film series (1988-1994)

Like the short-lived Police Squad! television show that this film series was based on, The Naked Gun movies also starred Leslie Nielsen as the bumbling and dim-witted detective Frank Drebin. Although the original television series was cancelled after only six episodes, it became a cult hit and spawned three major motion pictures, including The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!; The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear; and The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. According to Box Office Mojo, The Naked Gun trilogy raked in a total combined domestic gross of nearly $217 million. Although Nielsen passed away in 2010, a reboot of the popular comedy film series is in the works, according to Variety.

4. The Fugitive and U.S. Marshals (1993 and 1998)

Although starring different protagonists, both of these films were inspired by The Fugitive, a television series that ran from 1963 to 1967. The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford as the wrongfully accused Dr. Kimble, follows the storyline of the original television series more closely than the sequel, which only borrowed the general premise of the source material. However, Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the U.S. Marshal hunting the fugitives in both movies, offers a thread of continuity between the films.

The Fugitive was more commercially successful than 1998’s U.S. Marshals, with a total domestic gross of nearly $184 million and a worldwide gross of $369 million, according to Box Office Mojo. U.S. Marshals, starring Wesley Snipes, pulled in a total domestic gross of $57 million and a worldwide gross of $102 million. However, both films are considered successful adaptations of a television series with a combined domestic gross of $241 million and a combined worldwide gross of over $471 million.

3. The Muppets film series (1979-2014)

The Muppet Show television series that featured the lovable puppets created by Jim Henson has spawned eight theatrical films, including this year’s Muppets Most Wanted. While the television show only ran for five seasons, the films have been raking in box office receipts since 1979’s The Muppet Movie. After taking an 11-year hiatus from theatrical releases after 1999’s Muppets From Space, Kermit and the gang returned in a big way with 2011’s highly successful The Muppets film that starred Jason Segel and Amy Adams. According to Box Office Mojo, the eight Muppet movies released in theaters have achieved a total combined domestic gross of almost $339 million.

2. Mission Impossible film series (1996-2011)

Inspired by the iconic television series of the same name that ran from 1966 to 1973 and again from 1988 to 1990, the Mission Impossible franchise gained a new generation of fans after it was rebooted as a film starring Tom Cruise in 1996. The success of that film spawned three sequels, including 2000’s Mission Impossible II; 2006’s Mission Impossible III, and 2011’s Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol.

All together, the four Mission Impossible films have pulled in a total domestic gross of $739.8 million and over $2 billion in unadjusted worldwide gross, according to Box Office Mojo. The fifth film in the series, Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation, is due to be released on July 31, 2015.

1. Star Trek film series (1979-1991, 1994-2002, 2009-2013)

Based on a television series that ran from 1966 to 1969 and another that ran from 1987 to 1994, the Star Trek franchise may have the most lucrative film adaptations of any television series. Although it can be argued that the films inspired by the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series qualify as a separate show, there is no dispute about the overall success of the three film series that have been inspired by Gene Rodenberry’s original science fiction television show.

According to Box Office Mojo, the twelve Star Trek films that have been released so far have pulled in $1.24 billion in total domestic gross and nearly $1.4 billion in unadjusted gross worldwide. A sequel to 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness — Star Trek 3, is scheduled to be released in July 2016, according to IMDb.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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