11 TV show remakes that are more highly regarded than the movie

From M*A*S*H to Gidget, which do think is better — the movie or the show?

As the flop TV series Planet of the Apes, CasablancaFerris Bueller, Paper Moon and Serpico proved, capturing lightning in a bottle twice is tricky business. The DNA of hit movies does not always lead to hit shows, especially when you replace the actors, director, time constraints, writers, size of the screen, etc. 

Of course, there are success stories. The sitcoms Alice, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and What's Happening!! are held in about the same esteem as their cinematic source material (the first and latter being Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Cooley High, in case you didn't know).

Even rarer is the TV remake that surpasses the box office original in terms of fandom and acclaim. It's subjective, of course, but with IMDb ratings, we can check the scores.

Here are 11 remake series that hold a higher rating than the original movie. We ranked them in order of the rating gap. Which do you prefer?

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1. Sugarfoot


TV: 7.4
Film: 5.8

Our first pick might surprise you, in part because some might not realize this Western was a remake. Will Rogers Jr. was the first to play the sasparilla-swilling Tom Brewster in 1957's The Boy from Oklahoma. (Oddly, the 1951 film Sugarfoot was not related to the show, despite being made by the same studio.) Will Hutchins took over the role three years later, in one of Warner Bros.' hit stable of small-screen oaters. The show aired for four seasons — a smash in that era.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Friday Night Lights


TV: 8.6
Film: 7.2

"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!" That immortal line came from the TV show, not the Billy Bob Thorton flick. That alone pushes this above, but let's be honest — Kyle Chandler is a more inspiring coach. The drawn-out seasons of network television play to the advantage of the plot, as we have more time to see the adolescent football stars grow.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea


TV: 7.2
Film: 6.1

Creator Irwin Allen was behind both projects, but lovers of undersea adventure seem to prefer the television show. It could have something to do with the greater emphasis on science-fiction, but we honestly think it could simply come down to the introduction of the Flying Sub. That thing was just cool.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Topper


TV: 8.3
Film: 7.3

As it aired nearly 70 years ago, Topper is the most obscure selection on this list. The film dates back even further, released by MGM back in 1937. The supernatural comedy centered around the stuffy, well-to-do Toppers, who are haunted by the ghosts of the young couple who previously occupied the house. It's a forerunner of Beetlejuice, basically, which was pretty out-there stuff for early television. The sitcom earned a Best Situation Comedy Emmy nomination in 1954.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. The Dukes of Hazzard


TV: 7.1
Film: 6.1

Nobody remembers the movie. Not a lot of argument here. Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that the 1975 film was titled Moonrunners, which sounds a lot more like sci-fi, to add to the confusion. The main characters were named Grady and Bobby Lee Hagg in the movie, but there were some familiar elements in place — Waylon Jennings narrated, Sheriff Rosco Coltrane was on their tail, and there was an Uncle Jesse. One key element was missing, however: Daisy.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. M*A*S*H


TV: 8.4
Film: 7.5

At last, we get to M*A*S*H! Its lower position here might surprise you, but remember, the movie was quite acclaimed. Heck, it earned five Oscar nominations and was one of the first selections for the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress. So the fact that the TV show is significantly more acclaimed and beloved than the Robert Altman gem is truly something. And we can't argue. In hindsight, it feels weird seeing anyone other than Alan Alda playing Hawkeye.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Naked City


TV: 8.2
Film: 7.6

Both the movie and the show blended noir grit with documentary-style realism. Writer Stirling Silliphant (Route 66), inspired by the Beats, heightened the poetic aspirations of the TV version, and the documentary approach was simple just more novel on the small screen, all of which lead to greater acclaim. The original was one of countless noir thrillers; the TV show was a pioneer.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Twelve O'Clock High


TV: 8.1
Film: 7.7

The legendary, charismatic Gregory Peck starred in the original 1949 war film, but 15 years later, people seemed to connect more with the network version. Perhaps the distance removed for World War II had something to do with that.

Image: The Everett Collection

9. Fame


TV: 7.0
Film: 6.6

"I'm gonna live forever!" Irene Cara sang in the hit theme song to the 1980 musical drama. However, unlike her costar Debbie Allen, Cara did not make the jump (well, jete?) to the television adaptation. The show also used different versions of the title song, sung by Erica Gimpel and, later, Loretta Chandler. But here's something the TV show had — rising stars. Namely, Janet Jackson and Nia Peeples in later seasons.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. Flipper


TV: 6.3
Film: 6.1

Chuck Connors, the beloved Rifleman, starred in the 1963 movie as Porter Ricks. Either people preferred Brian Kelly as Porter (Luke Halpin played son Sandy Ricks in both versions) or the "aquatic Lassie" concept was more apt on the small screen. Or maybe it was the dolphins. It could have been the difference in the dolphins.

Image: The Everett Collection

11. Gidget


TV: 6.8
Film: 6.7

Sandra Dee or Sally Field? Ready, set… fight!

Image: The Everett Collection

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WilliamJorns 13 months ago
I disagree with the author's comments about "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." The TV show had far less science fiction than the film had. What we saw on TV was pure fantasy that Irwin Allen tried to pass off as science fiction. I'll take the original movie any day.
tvnutt76 32 months ago
Not on the list...The Farmer's Daughter. I think both the movie and tv show were charming and endearing.
RichLorn 32 months ago
I'll take the movie version of Twelve O'clock High over the small screen remake. Gregory Peck's nuanced character study of a stern general slowly being broken down by the pressures of command is masterful.
Moverfan RichLorn 31 months ago
You can have the movie--I'll take Gregory Peck (hellloooo, sailor)!
MMeans1 32 months ago
I agree with most of the ratings here, but the Dukes of Hazard movie was terrible. Willie Nelson as a pot smoking Uncle Jessie? No thanks.
Toonhead MMeans1 32 months ago
Just a case of life imitating art or vice versa. I thought it was a hilarious scene and there again life imitating art as the new generation is raising weed rather than cookin’ liquor. Sorry it upset you.😎
F5Twitster 32 months ago
Re "The Naked City," and the passage

"The original was one of countless noir thrillers; the TV show was a pioneer."

The original 1948 feature film was the FIRST police procedural, period. That makes it a MUCH bigger pioneer than the TV "pioneer."

As for

"Will Rogers Jr. was the first to play the sasparilla-swilling Tom Brewster in 1957's The Boy from Oklahoma."

The word is correctly spelled SARSAPARILLA (though PRONOUNCED sapp-a-RILL-a).
RichLorn F5Twitster 32 months ago
Totally agree with you on The Naked City!
Toonhead F5Twitster 32 months ago
Now I know where Jack Webb got the idea for Dragnet.
ncadams27 Toonhead 32 months ago
Dragnet was inspired by a movie He Walked By Night, also in 1948. Maybe inspired by both.
Toonhead ncadams27 32 months ago
I have seen that movie and I’m quite sure you are correct. I do know that Dragnet started as a radio show around 1950 before it became a tv show. Anyone out there have more solid information, I’d appreciate the real deal story. Thanks y’all 😎
EricFuller 32 months ago
The TV version of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea in their first two episodes used footage from the movie version.
Runeshaper 32 months ago
So many great shows and movies here!
vinman63 32 months ago
I thought that the Fibber McGhee and Molly radio program was bettervthan the Tv series.
ncadams27 vinman63 32 months ago
I agree - Jim and Marion Jordan were perfect as Fibber McGee and Molly - even being billed by those names for some of their guest appearances (some were even dramatic). They also made a few theatrical films. The TV show did not include either of them in the cast.
AnnieM 32 months ago
I wish someone would air or stream the 'Fame' TV series.
32 months ago
Gidget … both were equally dumb.
Toonhead 32 months ago
Oh and when I was a kid I was really disappointed when I watched The Naked City and nobody was lol
MichaelGreene Toonhead 32 months ago
The 1948 movie didn't anybody naked, either, but did give us the phrase "There are 8 million stories in the Naked City". There are a few more stories these days.
Toonhead MichaelGreene 32 months ago
Any of the naked? Just kidding y’all 😎
Toonhead 32 months ago
Ok friends first off M.A.S.H. the movie was and is a classic. The show, which started off in the light hearted vein of the film was very good. However it morphed into something entirely different. Not bad but much different. And to me Donald Sutherland will always be Hawkeye. Sorry. As for the rest, Voyages to the Bottom of the Sea and 12o’clock High were a wash; equally good. As for the rest, I depend on the good opinions of you my friends.
CoreyC Toonhead 32 months ago
I agree in the later seasons Alan Alda had control and added his liberal ideals.
Toonhead CoreyC 32 months ago
Not to mention that the show lasted eight years longer than the war it was based on lol
ncadams27 32 months ago
Although Sugarfoot aired for four seasons, it always aired as part of another series - Cheyenne and/or Bronco instead of being a weekly series. Other Warner Bros. Shows like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip had rotating leads.
wdb6357 32 months ago
One you didn't mention was the twilight zone. Both movie and show were excellent!
TheSentinel wdb6357 32 months ago
But the TV show came first (1959), while the movie came much later (1983).
Toonhead TheSentinel 32 months ago
The movie was made after Mr. Serling past, correct?
David Toonhead 32 months ago
About 8 years after Mr. Serling passed, he passed away in 1975.
Toonhead David 32 months ago
Thanks David I appreciate your kind response. FYI I have watched the Twilight Zone since I was about 8 years old and some episodes still make my hair stand on end lol.
CoreyC 32 months ago
And speaking of a TV show better than the movie: Lost In Space.
TheSentinel CoreyC 32 months ago
And the show came first (1965), while the movie followed much later (1998).
CoreyC 32 months ago
The Dukes of Hazzard is the opposite. It was a TV show first. And what about Lassie?
Toonhead CoreyC 32 months ago
Actually the show was a reboot of a little known movie “Moonrunners” but it had many similar characteristics with the show. The bow and arrows, Johnny Paycheck narrative, sheriff Roscoe and others but they toned down the illegal “likker” aspect quite a bit for the show. However it was back for the movie along with, ahem, the modern alternative, pot with a couple of hilarious scenes. But hey, they’s just a couple of good ol’ boys melanin’ no harm, right? Right! lol 😆 😎
Toonhead CoreyC 32 months ago
AUUUGH! I hate spellcheck!! Mean in’ no harm! Not melanin!! SHEESH!
Toonhead Toonhead 32 months ago
Oh one final note about the Dukes. Both the tv show and the later movie had Daisy! Man I’m getting old to have left those lovely ladies out! Honey quick! Memory pills and viagra, stat! Lol
David Toonhead 32 months ago
Waylon Jennings narrated both "Moonrunners" ( Movie ) and "The Dukes of Hazzard" ( TV show), NOT johnny paycheck.
Toonhead David 32 months ago
You are correct sir! I’m humbled and apologize for the mistake 😞
vinman63 32 months ago
Shelly Long or Florence Henderson who was the better Carol Brady?
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Toonhead vinman63 32 months ago
Florence no doubt!
CarolKelley LoveMETV22 32 months ago
I think you have it backwards; the movie is a parody of the series.
LoveMETV22 CarolKelley 32 months ago
The former- latter was to a comment ,not the order. I know the movie was a parody of the series. Thank you though. I'll add a comment to the original.
LoveMETV22 CarolKelley 32 months ago
Clarification: former- latter was a response to a previous poster comment. The movie parodies the series.
Bertpar68 32 months ago
I'm surprised In The Heat Of The Night wasn't mentioned. The tv show, in my opinion, was much better than the movie.
Toonhead Bertpar68 32 months ago
I think you need to consider the different eras. The original was made during a great deal of racial discrimination and unrest. The tv show had some of the undertones of the original but it evolved (as it should’ve) to reflect our (hopefully) more enlightened attitudes and opinions. Both good just a bit different 😎
Zip 32 months ago
The only ones I watched regularly; Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, The Dukes Of Hazzard, and M*A*S*H, I agree they were better than the movies, especially Voyage. I don't remember watching a Dukes movie, but I can't imagine it being better than the show.
Never saw the movie Fame, but I do remember attempting to sit through an episode of the tv series. Attempting. So it doesn't really matter to me if the movie or the tv show were better, because I would say neither.
Michael Zip 32 months ago
The pilot for Star Trek, the one turned into The Menagerie, almost comes across as a tv version of Forbidden Planet. It feels more fifties than sixties.
CoreyC Michael 32 months ago
It was a pilot and Gene Roddenberry did not have the budget so he had to rely on 50's special effects and props.
Shatner1 32 months ago
TOPPER! I don't care who was in the TV version you are not beating Cary Grant, Roland Young and Constance Bennett. A GREAT screwball comedy!!!
CarolKelley Shatner1 32 months ago
YES!!! How could you beat the film? It's wonderful!
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