The Best Movies of the 80s Turned into Live-Action TV Shows

Some of the best TV shows in history are spinoffs from blockbuster movies. There are many ways to approach the broadcast of a series on television. Sometimes it’s the rest of the story. Other times it’s a prequel, a reboot, or even a complete reimagining in a completely different tone. Obviously some are more successful than others, but even if they don’t last that long, they have to be mentioned in the glossary. As for the 1980s, here are some examples of blockbuster movies that attempted to recreate their success on television.

RELATED: 11 Best 1980s Sitcoms, Ranked: From ‘Golden Girls’ to ‘Cheers’

Fame (1980)

Welcome to the High School for the Performing Arts in the heart of New York. The competition is fierce, but the talent is immeasurable. In the hit movie Notoriety, singers, dancers, and actors are doing whatever it takes to get noticed and get their big break. It was such a success that a TV show was launched in the fall of 1982 with Debbie Allen, Albert The Hagueand Gene Anthony Ray reprising their roles from the film. The show ran for six seasons.

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Private Benjamin (1980)

Goldie Hawn shines in Private Benjamin as a spoiled, rich, grieving young widow who, on a whim, decides to join the army. The film earned Oscar nominations for Hawn and her co-star, Eileen Brenan. In 1981, the TV show was launched with Lorna Patterson assuming the role of Judy Benjamin and Brennan reprising her role as Captain Lewis. The show ran for three seasons, but only 39 episodes when it was canceled in the fall of 1982.

9 to 5 (1980)

Still to this day, 9 to 5 is one of the best revenge comedy and fantasy films ever made. With the stellar talents of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlinand Dolly Parton starring as they get revenge on their sexist boss played by Dabney Coleman, 9 to 5 is timeless. The TV show premiered in 1982 with Valerie Curtin, Rita Moreno, and Rachel Denison (Dolly’s younger sister) reprising the lead roles. The show never quite caught on moving slots, networks, and even cast, and it ended in 1984 after just 33 episodes.

The Dead Zone (1983)

The dead zone based on a Stephen King novel of the same name was a thriller starring Christopher Walken like Johnny. When Johnny wakes up from a coma after five years, he realizes that he has the ability to see the future and also the ability to change future events on certain occasions. 20 years after its release in 2003, the American network has premiered a reboot of the show featuring Anthony Michel Salle like Johnny. The show was a big hit and ran for six seasons. Unfortunately, it was abruptly canceled and left fans with a big cliffhanger.

The Karate Kid (1984)

One of the biggest hits of the 80s, The Karate Kid came out in 1984 and surprised everyone. Ralph Macchio as Danny studies martial arts under the master tutelage of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). They train to defeat Danny’s rival, Johnny (Guillaume Zabka) and the diabolical Cobra Kai dojo. In 2018, when the idea for the TV series Cobra Kai was announced, it sounded laughable. With Macchio and Zabka reprising their roles, the show became a huge hit as Johnny and Danny immediately renewed their rivalry as they took on a whole new generation of karate disciples. Cobra Kai Season 5 will premiere on Netflix in September.

Weird Science (1985)

There’s no more 1980s than two nerds (Anthony Michel Salle and Ilan Mitchell Smith) creating a woman (Kelly LeBrock) using science and a bit of supernatural luck to satisfy all their filthy teenage desires. With a theme song kickin’ by Oingo Boingothe film was an inexplicable hit and introduced the world to the comedy styles of Bill Paxton like Chet. The television series launched almost a decade later in 1994 with John Mallory Asher and Michael Manasseri. vanessa angel took over as Lisa and Lee Tergesen as Chet. The show ran for five seasons on the USA Network.

Teen Wolf (1985)

Teen Wolf was a silly comedy about a teenage basketball star who finds out he’s a werewolf. What is strange is that once his secret is revealed, he is more popular than ever. Michael J. Fox was at the peak of its fame and even a bizarre premise like this couldn’t put a stop to it. However, in 2011, MTV decided to launch a television series with the same premise. In this version, it would be a dark fantasy thriller drama, and they would lean into the mystical side of it. And it worked. Tyler Posey took over the lead role from Scott with Dylan O’Brien at his side as companion or death, Stiles. The show ran for six seasons. There will be a follow-up movie released this year that will lead into a new spin-off series. Wolf Pack.

Mountaineer (1986)

Christopher Lambert starred as MacLeod in 16th century Scotland as an immortal warrior. In 1985, the infamous rally is to take place in New York City as MacLeod battles his rival the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) to death. However, we can all agree that the real star of the film was the soundtrack of Queen. Although the film was not a critical success, it gained a cult following and eventually resulted in a TV show. Adrian Paul took over as MacLeod and the series ran for six seasons after its premiere in 1992. It also spawned follow-up series and evolving movies mountaineer in a verified franchise.

Dirty Dance (1987)

One of the most iconic films of the 80s, dirty dance star Jennifer Gray and patrick swayze who fall in love at a Catskills resort in the early 1960s. While resort owners and parents want to freeze time, young employees and guests want to bring the resort into modern times and make dancing a little dirtier than FoxTrot and Merengue. It was made into a musical in 2004 and Gray recently announced that a sequel was in the works for 2024. CBS has been desperate to capitalize on the popularity of the 1987 film with Melora Hardin like baby and Patrick Cassidy like Johnny. It only lasted 13 episodes.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

The movie that taught us all that slacking off is a good thing and that high school doesn’t matter overall. Ferris Bueller’s day off was a huge success and a star vehicle for the already growing popularity, Matthew Broderick. And Jennifer Gray gave a jaw-dropping comedic performance as Jeannie, Ferris’ jealous sister. The TV version didn’t do as well, only lasting a few months with Charlie Schlatter play the role of Ferris. But if nothing else, the show introduced the world to a young actress named Jennifer Aniston.

Alien Nation (1988)

The unlikely pairing of a human (James Caan) and an alien (Mandy Patinkin) team of detectives who are forced to team up to solve crimes in Los Angeles. In this 1988 sci-fi movie, aliens (or “newcomers”) have been embedded in Los Angeles, and not everyone buys into the idea right away. It was a fascinating concept with tons of underlying tones of acceptance from different people in your communities. The series turned into a critically acclaimed television show on a very young FOX network in 1989. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season and is often mentioned on lists of shows that disappeared before its time. .

Child’s Play (1988)

The concept sounded ridiculous, so naturally it was a massive hit that spawned a decades-long franchise. In 1988 Child’s play, a serial killer performs a voodoo chant to transfer his own soul into a doll before he dies, and the Chucky doll begins his reign of terror. Inexplicably, critics and fans alike loved the film, and the cult following began. In 2021, the television series chucky created as a sequel to the 2017 film Cult of Chucky. The series will return in October 2022 with season 2.


Parenthood (1989)

A Delightful Family Comedy by Ron Howard, 1989 Kinship had an all star cast including Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Rick Moranis, Keanu Reeves, Diane West, and a very young Leaf (Joaquin) Phoenix, Just to name a few. The following year it was made into a television show for NBC. Despite its cast which included Leonardo DiCaprio, David Arquette, Ed Begley Jr., and Thora Birch, it was canceled after just one season. However, in 2010, Jason Katims rebooted again for NBC. This time it was a huge success lasting 6 seasons and featuring Craig T. Nelson, Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Bonnie Bedelia, Mae Whitmanand Dax Shepard.

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