For decades now there has been an increasing symbiosis between TV and film. In the past there was a strong temptation to go bigger, and adapt a show for the big screen to reach a wider audience, condensing the ideals of the show into feature length. That said, in its current state, television can often be more fluid and open to casual viewers, and as such it’s not judged worthwhile to adapt shows to the big screen as often. Nevertheless, the presence of four films from the past five years on this list proves the practice is far from dying out.
10. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2005)
Back in 2004 the original creator of the series, Stephen Hillenburg, decided to leave Spongebob Squarepants. For him the show had run its natural course, and so, in the same vein as Firefly and Serenity, decided to end things with a big silver-screen adventure. The transition to the big screen loses some of the series’ roughshod charm, but makes up for it with a higher quality of animation and a quality of humour that the show never really saw again (watch out for a cameo from none other than the Hoff). While the nostalgia goggles may be on for this one, it’s still a decent enough film that parents in 2005 probably didn’t hate their lives too much when they were watching it.
9. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Remembered by your parents as “the show with the sexy Russian guy”, this 1960s cold war spy romp is one of many films in 2015 to do what Bond normally does, better than the original character. With lead performances that allow Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer to show off charm normally unseen, and a typically great performance from Alicia Vikander (and even Hugh Grant!), the film is enough fun to justify Ritchie’s often gratuitous style (the film shows an abundance of disorientating split-screen, and has about five total minutes that don’t have a music soundtrack). That said, the film is stylish and slickly directed, with action scenes that have more than their fair share of humour – a particular standout involves one agent stopping for a sandwich break in the midst of a chase. While the sequel-bait ending may end up being a little disappointing if a second never happens (it didn’t do so great at the box office), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a great time, despite its awkward title.
8. Wayne’s World (1992)
The second SNL-sketch-turned-cult-comedy-classic, Wayne’s World would probably make it onto a separate list titled “the most quotable films of all time”. Wayne’s World revels in meta humor and Bill and Ted-style escapades – a far cry from the style of the preceding SNL movie, The Blues Brothers. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey reprise their roles from the ‘Wayne’s World Minute’ sketch as metalhead buddies Wayne and Garth in a bizarre adventure that actually leads to multiple endings. Hilarious, weird, and very much of its time (Robert Patrick appears as a parody of the T-1000 from Terminator 2, Rob Lowe is a Hollywood sleaze), Wayne’s World is, for lack of a better word, excellent.
7. 21 Jump Street (2012)
With 21 Jump Street, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller proved their ability to turn a terrible idea into something great. Following the surprisingly good 2009 animated film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street took the rather ridiculous concept of 20-something cops being placed undercover in a high school, ran with it, and cranked up the ludicrousness from there. For starters, Ice Cube plays a police captain. Unlikely comedy star Channing Tatum provided a perfect display of charisma and established an endearing chemistry between him and his onscreen partner Jonah Hill. Lord and Miller imbued the rather old concept with some entertaining meta-commentary on the nature of adaptation itself, something the sequel doubled down on. 22 Jump Street may not have felt as new as its predecessor but it was all too aware of this: the best part of the film was a hilarious credits sequence detailing the plots, posters and merchandise of about 50 sequels. This approach to adaptation made 21 Jump Street a hit, and a second sequel would be more welcome than the creators themselves would suggest.
6. Star Trek (2009)
While it may have somewhat strayed from the more introspective nature of the show it was based on, 2009’s Star Trek breathed new life into the franchise under the guiding hand of J.J. Abrams. Kinetic, funny and exciting in a way that Star Trek hadn’t been in a while (some have accused it of being Abrams’ demo reel for Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Abrams bent space-time itself to his will. He created an entirely new reality for the narrative of the film, allowing him to pay tribute to, and build upon, the story of the original without really having to call it a ‘reboot’. With thrilling action setpieces, crackling dialogue, an appearance from the late, great Leonard Nimoy and a cast that absolutely brings it as new takes on the original characters, Star Trek more than manages to justify its existence.
5. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
The latest instalment of the most reliably awesome action franchise in Hollywood and the future source of Tom Cruise’s honorary Oscar highlight reel often dazzles with a mix of high flying stuntwork (mostly by Cruise), humour, and a bunch of goofy secret-agent work that harks back to the original show – often out-Bond-ing James Bond himself. With Cruise as producer there has been a policy to bring in a new director for each instalment of the franchise, which keeps the series feeling fresh and varied with each new release. There’s the psycho-drama edge of the Brian De Palma-directed first film, the lens flares and slick action direction of J.J. Abrams, the whip-smart, cartoon sensibilities of Brad Bird on Ghost Protocol, and then just the sheer intensity of Christopher McQuarrie’s recent Rogue Nation. Keeping the ‘on the lam’ atmosphere of Ghost Protocol, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation has some of the series’ most dazzling setpieces (in particular, the scenes set in the opera house), and its best new character in the form of Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, an undercover agent with ambiguous allegiances. Whatever you think of Tom Cruise, this franchise alone redeems him through his sheer will to entertain.
4. Mission: Impossible II (2000)
While it generally hits the Mission: Impossible movie checklist, thanks to John Woo it’s so radically different in tone (i.e. certifiably insane, not always in a good way) in comparison to the other films. It’s fun for the same basic reasons as Rogue Nation, only there’s less subtlety, more slow motion, doves, hair, action scenes featuring flip-kicks and/or diving through the air firing two guns at the same time and/or motorbikes and/or all of the above. Mission: Impossible II is brilliant, and there will be no further discussion.
3. Serenity (2005)
The dying breath of the beloved sci-fi Firefly, King of the Nerds Joss Whedon’s Serenity was an epic send-off to a show that was cancelled before people realised how good it was. Firefly ended too soon due to abysmally low ratings and even worse treatment by Fox, its host network. Thankfully though, the story gained a semblance of closure after Universal picked up the rights and had Whedon make Serenity. Bringing back (and in some instances, murdering) beloved characters and introducing some fascinating new blood (Chiwetel Ejiofor shines as The Operative), Serenity is an exciting, smart and typically snarky last outing for the beloved crew of the titular ship; Whedon’s trademark wit manifesting in dark ways throughout the film. The effects may not hold up to bigger-budget space-flicks, but even then, the film looks better than the show ever did. Blending styles from Westerns, anime, and a number of other sci-fi influences, the world of Serenity and Firefly is simultaneously strange and familiar, making it all the more bittersweet that we’ll never see it return. The scope is larger and naturally a little less concise than many episodes of the show, but it works simultaneously as a great gateway and a great sendoff to the little show that could.
2. The Blues Brothers (1980)
The Blues Brothers probably doesn’t need an introduction. The musical comedy chase film is a cult classic, with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s Jake and Elwood Blues finding themselves on “a mission from God” that takes them across the American country and through multiple genres of music (“country and western!”). The film boasts cameos and musical numbers from legends, with Aretha Franklin, James Brown (as the coolest reverend ever) and Ray Charles to name a few. Its script combines tongue-in-cheek comedy with one of the most ridiculous car chases this side of a Fast and Furious film (103 cars totalled, a record until its own sequel beat it); The Blues Brothers is simply unmissable.
1. Life of Brian (1979)
It lost its original funding, it was blanket-banned on release, it was accused of blasphemy, the list of uproar goes on. Life of Brian is one of the greatest satirical comedies ever filmed, and potentially the most popular outing for the Monty Python comedy group. Somewhat bizarrely funded by former Beatle George Harrison, the film tells the tale of Brian, an average joe born during the Roman occupation of Judea who ends up being mistaken for the Messiah. As fame leads him into increasing misfortune and encounters with a plethora of strange and hilarious characters, Brian’s absurd and horrible existence makes for an unforgettable film.
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