We’re not here to bash on complex movies. Some of them are amazingly deep and entertaining, forcing us to reconsider the way we think about relationships, humanity and even our very reality. But let’s be honest for a moment — a movie can only be so long. The average movie is somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes long. Some movies even stretch to the 2.5-to-3 hour mark, but that’s about it. If the director needs more time than that, it’s time for a sequel (which is exactly what happened when Quentin Tarantino originally tried to make Kill Bill into a single four-hour film).
Sometimes that’s just not enough time to properly tell a story. Can you imagine if George R.R. Martin had allowed Game of Thrones to be a movie trilogy instead of en epic HBO television series? Could anyone really cram 70+ hours of show (by the time it ends) into roughly six or seven hours of film? We think not. For some subject matter, television is just a better choice. We think the following ten movies would have been better suited for the flatscreen in your living room than the big screen at your local cinema. Don’t get us wrong, though. We’re not saying these movies sucked. Sure, some definitely did, but others were really good or even great. But the stories told in these 10 movies would have worked so much better as a 10-hour television series.
10. The Dark Tower
We’re starting with the most recent offender, as the 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel series The Dark Tower left many fans feeling disappointed, including our own reviewer Riley Jones. Even though there were probably plans to make a few sequels, it performed poorly at the box office and was generally attacked by critics. The whole thing was doomed from the start, really. The book series spans eight novels (so far), but the movie picked up somewhere in the middle, trying to tell the story of the second book (The Gunslinger) and also act as a sequel to the seventh book (The Dark Tower). It all falls predictably flat, though, as the 95-minutes of film could never cover King’s colossal series.
While there is still a faint amount of hope for a Dark Tower TV series, the lackluster response to the movie definitely hurt its chances. Much like Game of Thrones, there is just way too much backstory, character building, and plot explaining to fit into a standard movie. If a television adaptation does eventually materialize, let’s hope they go back to the very beginning — the 1998 novel The Little Sisters of Eluria is technically the first part of the story, although it was the fifth book released.
9. The Book of Eli
Unlike The Dark Tower, the 2010 post-apocalyptic movie The Book of Eli wasn’t based on an existed book (or any existing story, for that matter). The movie, which starred Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis, was a decently entertaining romp, set in the Mad Max style of American wastelands 30-years after a nuclear doomsday destroyed most of society. However, we feel that there was a lot more story to tell.
Washington’s character (Eli) is carrying the last copy of the Bible, and has been ordered by “a voice” to deliver it to the West Coast, which turns out to be a modern day Library of Alexandria on Alcatraz Island, where a group of survivors are trying to preserve literature and music. There are a ton of religious themes that could have been explored with greater detail had the story been developed into a television series instead, including Eli’s mysterious backstory (which is barely touched on) and the rise to power of villain Carnegie (played amazingly by Gary Oldman).
The original Watchmen comic (or graphic novel, if you want to be fancy) was a 12-volume series published in 1986-87, by legendary writer Alan Moore (V For Vendetta, From Hell, Batman: The Killing Joke). It featured an alternate history take on the United States, where masked superheroes emerged in the 40s, 50s, and 60s to help change the fate of the country — most notably an easy victory in Vietnam, Richard Nixon never resigning as president, and an increased threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
The 2009 film by Zack Synder is an excellent effort, and one of our favorite comic book movies ever made. We even think that the changed ending is even better than the one featured in the comics. But the movie is 2.75 hours long, and the director’s cut is over three hours. And neither of those include the story-within-a-story of The Tale of the Black Freighter. An animated version of Black Freighter exists, but was cut from the movie. When included in the “Ultimate Cut” version of the film on DVD, Watchmen gets close to the four-hour mark!
Watchmen would have been much better served as a television series, which could have included more of the original Minutemen characters, the Black Freighter story, and a deeper look at the alternate version of history. Luckily, there are rumors that HBO is currently looking into greelighting a Watchmen TV series, although things are still in a very (very!) preliminary stage.
7. The Boondock Saints
Out of all the movies on this list, The Boondock Saints is probably the least complex. On paper, the whole thing seems simple — two Irish brothers decide they are sick of organized crime syndicates ruining Boston, so they start killing all the bad guys. The movie sprinkles in a bit of moral ambiguity, as both the audience and the fictional characters are forced to ask themselves whether it’s morally right to murder a person who is undeniably evil. And then there’s the twist ending that reveals that the holy terror known as Il Duce is actually the father of the MacManus brothers.
The movie was originally received poorly by critics, but has established itself as a bit of a cult favorite among millennials. That being said, the movie never offered a ton of explanation for it’s ultra violent vigilante scenes. Bad guys were bad because the good guys said so, and that was supposed to be good enough. Good cops not only turned a blind eye to vigilantism, but Willem Defoe’s character even actively assists the brothers. The movie offers a lot of cool slo-mo shoot ’em up scenes, but little in the way of character substance. An episodic television series that spent more time focusing on finding and explaining the MacManus’ targets would have been more entertaining.
Wanted was originally a six-issue comic miniseries, featuring a character named Wesley Gibson who discovers that he’s actually destined to become a secret assassin, just like his father (who he’s never met). In terms of plot, it’s actually quite different from the 2008 film that starred James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie. Wanted made a perfectly fine action movie, though. It has big names and cool effects, especially the bullet bending scenes. But there was also a lot of unexplained aspects that could have used more time.
For starters, there is a mysterious loom that spits out the names of evil people who need to be eliminated. Where did it come from? How does it work? The movie’s explanation is basically “hey, it’s magic!” Then there’s a double twist ending, where the bad guy is suddenly reveals to be the good guy and the good guy turns out to be pretty evil. It comes out of nowhere and feels rushed. Maybe even unearned.
And then there’s the fact that Wesley and the Fraternity are actually supervillains in the comics, and not righteous heroes! Someone should remake this as a TV show and stick to the source material. It could easily be a hit show.
We’ve watched this movie almost a dozen times, and it still hard to wrap our brains around exactly what is going on in this dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream Christopher Nolan sci-fi thriller. We’ll start by saying that Inception is a fantastic movie, and fully deserving of its eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It had an incredible cast, an incredible director, and a brilliant script. We know that it would be impossible to get those same players to commit to a long-running TV series, but just imagine for a second if it wasn’t.
Picture a weekly series where Cobb, Arthur, Ariadne, Eames and the gang go on different missions into different dreams. The possibilities are endless. Throw in the larger story arc of Cobb trying to make it home to his kids and fighting off Mal in his subconscious, plus some additional backstories for the other characters, and you’d have a surefire sci-fi/thriller/drama success on your hands.
4. The Matrix Sequels
The first Matrix movie was almost like a miracle. It was a big budgeted sci-fi action flick, directed by basically an unknown set of brothers, that was also a completely original story with brand new characters (that is, not based on a comic book or novel or anything else). Those kinds of movies just don’t seem to get made anymore. But it smashed its way to over $450 million at the box office, and sequels were basically required at that point.
The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions attempted to wrap up an incredibly complicated tale of false realities and humans versus machines, complete with a bit of religious undertones, considering Neo was the savior who was promised in a prophecy and had a number of disciples. Unfortunately, the sequels just weren’t as good as the originals, as the story became even more complicated and characters like the Architect barely made any sense. The franchise was tried to fill in the holes with multiple other media formats, including The Animatrix series of short films, a comic book series, and video games that are considered cannon. But now the story is fractured across multiple mediums, and hard for anyone but the most hardcore Matrix fan to follow. Throw this on Netflix as a television series and it would be great!
In a way, this plea has already been answered by Netflix, who turned the long and dramatic story of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel into a successful original series called Narcos. Before that, however, Johnny Depp starred as cartel member George Jung in the 2001 biographical crime movie Blow. The movie was received with a lukewarm response, getting mixed reviews from critics and making a small profit at the box office.
The reality of Blow is that an unbelievable life story of someone like Jung, who was in jail and almost 60-years-old when the film came out, is too expansive to tell in two hours. The movie managed to hit on most of the major events of Jung’s criminal career, but ran out of time to make the audience care about his relationships with his wife, daughter, or parents. And since the film ends as a cautionary tale about losing your family to greed, the audience struggled to really understand why they should feel sorry for Jung at all. Those relationships could have been full fleshed out if Blow had been a TV series — ya know, kind of like Narcos.
We’re not just talking about the first movie, but the whole damn Underworld franchise. So far, there have been five different films made in this series about vampires waging war on werewolves (and sometimes humans), with Kate Beckinsale staring in almost all of them (except the 2009 prequel Rise of the Lycans). None of these movies are really good, but audiences seem to eat up all this ancient vampire mumbo jumbo. Plus Beckinsale is easy to look at when she wears those tight leather outfits, so we do kind of get the appeal.
The whole series is a weird mess of vampire and werewolf drama. It’s basically a slightly darker version of Twilight, without the angsty teenage love triangle. This fictional universe would be better presented in weekly installments, rather than a couple hours every three or four years. Frankly, we can’t even remember what happened in the first couple movies. A more detailed television version would hopefully be less forgettable.
Dredd is the one movie we desperately want a sequel too, but we would just as happily take an extended HBO series that follows the iconic Judge Dredd as he dishes out justice in Mega-City One. The original 1995 film version of the character starred Sylvester Stallone, and it’s mostly forgettable as a cheesy attempt that barely resembles the comic series it was based on.
All that was rectified with 2012’s Dredd, starring Karl Urban as the title judge, jury, and executioner. It was dark. It was gritty. It was brilliantly written and acted. And it wasn’t enough. Just 95 minutes of excellent storytelling and then it was over. And the rumors of a sequel always seem to go nowhere, since the film barely made any money at box office despite generally being loved by both movie critics and comic book fans. Considering that big and small screen adaptations of comics are all the rage right now, surely someone out there is willing to scoop up the Judge Dredd rights and turn it into a legit TV series. Netflix? Hulu? HBO? Amazon? Someone please save this franchise!