15 TV Shows You Didn’t Know Were Movies First

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER -5 Movie Clips + Trailer (1992) Kristy Swanson Joss Whedon Fantasy Movie HD

Based on: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Before Sarah Michelle Gellar, there was Kristy Swanson as the title Slayer, joined by an unusually impressive cast, including Donald Sutherland, Luke Perry, Rutger Hauer, Hilary Swank, and Paul Reubens as a memorably hard-to-kill vampire. The movie didn’t do big business but became a bit of a cult classic even before the seven-season-and-a-spin-off series took over a few years later. The TV show doesn’t entirely retcon the movie, roughly keeping the continuity intact while fudging the details as needed.

Where to stream the show: Hulu, The Roku Channel

Where to stream the movie: The Roku Channel

TEEN WOLF Clip – “Basketball” (1985) Michael J. Fox

Based on: Teen Wolf (1985)

Though dwarfed by the success of Back to the Future, the 1985 Teen Wolf film was one of two mega-hits for Michael J. Fox, released around the same time that his Family Ties series was moving from barely noticed to #2 in the TV ratings. So: good year for Fox. The following year saw an animated spin-off (sans Fox) and then a sequel, Teen Wolf Too, with Jason Bateman taking over. It bombed, but there was clearly something to the franchise, enough to inspire a the MTV revival a couple of decades later, which wound up lasting for six seasons with Tyler Posey in the lead. The sexier teen drama is to see a revival movie in 2023, with a Sarah Michelle Gellar-led spin-off to follow. There’s no real continuity between the ‘80s Wolf series and the more recent show, but there’s plenty to dig into for Wolfanatics.

Where to stream the show: Prime Video, Hulu, Paramount+

Where to stream the movie: Prime Video, Fubo, The Roku Channel, AMC+, Pluto TV

Westworld (8/10) Movie CLIP – Draw (1973) HD

Based on: Westworld (1973)

A bit of high(-ish)-brow science fiction from writer/director Michael Crichton, the 1973 film has fun with the idea of androids run amok but never quite goes all the way in exploring the premise. Some have argued that the modern series goes too far (at times) in the other direction, but there’s no question that it’s made a mark on pup culture going in to its fifth season—for more than earlier spin-offs: Sequel film Futureworld was a slog, and the 1980 TV series ran for a whopping three episodes.

Where to stream the show: HBO Max

Where to stream the movie: Also HBO Max

MASH (2/5) Movie CLIP – Sayonara to Frank Burns (1970) HD

Based on: M*A*S*H (1970)

Robert Altman’s breakthrough 1970 hit film (based on a novel) remains among his best, even when considered in the context of his long and impressive career. You might have also heard, however, of the related TV series; a show that managed to chronicle three years in the life of the staff of the title’s Korean War-era Mobile Army Surgical Hospital over the course of 11 seasons. It remains one of the most beloved and acclaimed series’ in TV history, with a finale watched by over 100 million viewers, a record for a scripted show unlikely to ever be bested.

Where to stream the show: Hulu

Where to stream the movie: Digital rental

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974, Martin Scorsese) Theatrical Trailer

Based on: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Like M*A*S*H before it, Alice stepped from the shadow of a popular and critically acclaimed motion picture forerunner to last an impressive nine seasons, expanding the story of the titular waitress from Martin Scorsese’s 1974 Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. That film version won Ellen Burstyn an Academy Award for Best Actress, while the series won Linda Lavin a couple of Golden Globes and an Emmy nomination for the same role.

Where to stream the show: Digital rental (via Apple TV & Prime Video)

Where to stream the movie: Fubo, Showtime

Black Dynamite (Official Movie Trailer)

Based on: Black Dynamite (2009)

The sharp, silly, and generally very fun live-action Blaxploitation riff became, for a time, a stylish, TV-MA Adult Swim animated series with Michael Jai White reprising his role from the film. One can be enjoyed without the other, but they’re both pretty darn enjoyable. There’s been chatter that a second live-action film is on the way.

Where to stream the show: HBO Max

Where to stream the movie: Also HBO Max

Fame (1980) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Based on: Fame (1980)

The more recent 2009 Fame film remake did decent business without staying too long on anyone’s radar, while the original 1980 Alan Parker-directed film spawned a musical, a number one hit song, a reality show, generations of theater kids screaming about hot lunch(!), and, especially, the six-season spin-off that shaved off some of the film’s rough edges (and defied all suspension of disbelief by reducing the queer representation at the performing arts school from one to zero) while expanding the world of the young, hungry talents in interesting ways. While the various iterations of Fame are largely independent of each other, the great Debbie Allen appears in both films and the TV series, providing some connective tissue.

Where to stream the show: Digital rental via Apple TV and Amazon

Where to stream the 1980 movie: Digital rental

What We Do in the Shadows (2015) – Nothing to See Here Scene (6/10) | Movieclips

Based on: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

The show has become a bit of a phenomenon, and deservedly so (it’s one of the best and weirdest things on television), but it takes some its best cues from the smaller New Zealand cult film that inspired it. The Jemaine Clement/Taika Waititi film (which shares a loose continuity with the show—if anyone cares) also birthed the charming and goofy Wellington Paranormal spin-off.

Where to stream the show: Hulu

Where to stream the movie: Kanopy

Friday Night Lights | “Tell Me Why You Can’t Hold On To The Ball”

Based on: Friday Night Lights (2004)

One of those shows that survived on viewer affection and critical acclaim more than ratings (at a time when such a thing was still possible), Friday Night Lights the series ran for five seasons without ever being a particularly big hit. The Peter Berg-directed movie, based on the same non-fiction book, was a similar case: it did OK business initially, but grew into a favorite over time.

Where to stream the show: Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu

Where to stream the movie: Freevee

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear Trailer [HQ]

Based on: The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (2004) (and sequels)

A charming, Indiana Jones-light TV movie lead by Noah Wylie (aided by Olympia Dukakis) along turned into an unlikely franchise consisting of two sequel films that were followed by a spin-off series starring Rebecca Romjin and John Larroquette. While largely a standalone take on the premise (a secret annex of the New York Public Library that catalogs magical and occult objects), the series follows the continuity of the films, bringing back Noah Wylie, Jane Curtin, and Bob Newhart for occasional guest turns.

Where to stream the show: Hulu, Redbox, Freevee

Where to stream the movies: Peacock, Freevee, The Roku Channel, Hoopla, Vudu, Tubi, Kanopy, Crackle, Pluto, Plex

Moonrunners “Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane”

Based on: Moonrunners (1975)

As with the series that followed it, Waylon Jennings narrates the ‘70s-era car movie Moonrunners, starring James Mitchum and Kiel Martin as the Hagg cousins (who became the Dukes for TV), running moonshine under the nose of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. The movie’s car is named for Robert E. Lee’s horse, but at least doesn’t bother to drape it in the Confederate flag.

Where to stream the show: Digital rental via Amazon

Where to stream the movie: Nowhere currently.

Snowpiercer Official US Release Trailer #1 (2014) – Chris Evans Movie HD

Based on: Snowpiercer (2013)

Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho’s international 2013 science fiction parable lost a little of its political bite in its translation to TV, but gained from the world-building that long-form storytelling allows for. An original TNT production, the show’s upcoming fourth season is to be its last, intended to close the door on original programming from that network.

Where to stream the show: TNT

Where to stream the movie: Fubo, Showtime

Creepshow (1982) – Clip: Beachfront Cinema (HD)

Based on: Creepshow (1982)

Anthology film Creepshow represented a fun blend of sensibilities from George Romero and Stephen King, who teamed up to create five (mostly successful) scary stories with a most-star cast. The sequel did less well, but the current series is as solid as horror anthologies come, adapting stories from King, Joe Hill, Joe R. Lansdale, Daniel Kraus, and many others.

Where to stream the show: Shudder

Where to stream the movie: Also Shudder

GOMORRAH – Official Trailer – Italian Crime Drama

Based on: Gomorrah (2008)

Each based on a 2006 non-fiction book about dealing with the domination of the Camorra crime organization in Campania, Gomorrah, the series, has been called to an Italian Sopranos (well, OK, a more specifically regionally Italian Sopranos), though it’s even a bit darker than that beloved HBO series. Both explore the global reach of crime in a modern, globally interconnected era, and pull no punches as to the brutality and cruelty of Camorra (the criminals here are far less cuddly than Tony). By its nature, the film is punchier and more succinct, while the series expands that world and allows for a broader scope.

Where to stream the show: HBO Max

Where to stream the movie: The Criterion Channel

The Odd Couple (7/8) Movie CLIP – Oscar Breaks Down (1968) HD

Based on: The Odd Couple (1968)

TV great Garry Marshall developed The Odd Couple from Neil Simon’s play and subsequent film, representing a pretty solid team-up of talent from two poles of the entertainment industry. The movie stars platonic Hollywood power couple Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, but the series still stands out by virtue of similarly good casting in the faces of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. A 1998 sequel to the film bombed, while the 2015 revival of the TV series lasted for three seasons, but faded quickly—so each has a failed reboot in common.

Where to stream the show: Hoopla, Pluto

Where to stream the movie: Paramount+