Hollywood loves to turn classic television shows into movies. Sometimes these remakes do really well and are as good – or even better – than the original. Other times, the films fail to capture what the show is all about. A key aspect of turning old TV series into movies is the casting of famous characters everyone knows and loves.
Here are eight actors who played classic TV characters on the big screen.
Liam Neeson as Hannibal Smith in The A-Team
The A-Team is a 2010 action film based on the popular 1980s TV series of the same name. The movie stars Liam Neeson as Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, Bradley Cooper as Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck, Quinton Jackson as Sgt. Bosco “B.A.” Baracus and Sharlto Copley as Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock.
The film captures the essence of the original series by blending action, humor and camaraderie. The A-Team is known for their daring plans, elaborate stunts and resourceful improvisation, all while maintaining a playful and banter-filled dynamic. As they take on various missions around the world, they uncover a larger conspiracy and aim to expose the truth behind their wrongful conviction.
While The A-Team received mixed reviews from critics, it resonated with audiences who appreciated its action-packed spectacle, comedic elements and the chemistry among the main cast. It successfully translates the adventurous spirit of the original show into a contemporary cinematic experience, making it enjoyable for fans of action comedies, as well as those seeking high-octane entertainment.
Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) is a stylish spy action film directed by Guy Ritchie. It takes place during the Cold War, and stars Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as KGB agent Illya Kuryakin. The film is based on the TV show of the same name, which ran from 1964-68.
The story is set in the early 1960s, and amid the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, Solo and Kuryakin are forced to put aside their differences and team up to thwart a common enemy; they’re tasked with preventing an international criminal organization from acquiring nuclear weapons and destabilizing the world order.
The film blends action, humor and retro aesthetics, capturing the essence of the ’60s spy genre with its suave agents, high-stakes espionage and globe-trotting adventures. The characters’ interactions are marked by a mix of banter, rivalry and begrudging respect as they navigate their mission, often with a touch of humor and charm.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. received praise for its charismatic performances, as well as its sleek presentation and lighthearted approach to the spy genre. While it didn’t achieve blockbuster status, the film found a following among those who appreciate its blend of action, humor and retro vibes. It captures the spirit of classic spy adventures while offering a modern twist, making it an enjoyable watch for fans of espionage films and those seeking an entertaining and stylish cinematic experience.
Denzel Washington as Robert McCall in The Equalizer
The Equalizer is a 2014 thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua that’s based on the 1980s TV series of the same name. The film stars Denzel Washington in the lead role of Robert McCall, a retired black ops operative with a mysterious past.
The story follows McCall, who now lives a quiet and unassuming life working at a home improvement store. However, when he befriends a young woman named Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz) and learns about the violence and abuse she faces from Russian gangsters, his sense of justice is ignited. Unleashing his lethal skills, McCall becomes a vigilante, taking on those responsible for Teri’s suffering.
The Equalizer is characterized by intense action sequences, a brooding atmosphere and Washington’s commanding performance. The film explores themes of justice, morality and the lengths someone will go to protect the innocent. While rooted in action and suspense, the film also delves into McCall’s personal history and motivations, giving depth to his character beyond vigilantism.
With stylish visuals and a mix of gritty realism and heightened dramatic tension, The Equalizer provides a modern take on the vigilante genre. It showcases Washington’s talents in a role that allows him to embody both the calm and compassionate McCall and the fierce and ruthless avenger.
The Equalizer‘s success led to a sequel in 2018. The third movie in the series is slated for release in mid-2023.
Dan Aykroyd as Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet
The 1987 film Dragnet is a comedic crime-mystery movie directed by Tom Mankiewicz that’s loosely based on the TV series of the same name that aired from 1951-59. It stars Dan Aykroyd as Sgt. Joe Friday, who’s the nephew of the original series character.
Set in Los Angeles, it follows Sgt. Joe Friday and Det. Pep Streebek as they investigate a series of bizarre crimes that range from a mysterious cult to stolen statues. The pair find themselves in a world of quirky characters and absurd situations as they attempt to unravel the mysteries and bring the culprits to justice.
The film strikes a balance between action, comedy and satire, often poking fun at both the old-school police procedural genre and the contemporary Los Angeles culture of the 1980s. Aykroyd’s portrayal of the straight-laced Friday contrasts humorously with Tom Hanks‘ more laid-back and unconventional character, creating a dynamic and entertaining partnership.
Dragnet pays homage to the original series while infusing it with modern sensibilities and humor. The film features comedic set pieces, witty dialogue, and a mix of slapstick and clever jokes. While not a critical favorite, it found an audience appreciative of its blend of crime-solving intrigue and comedy.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in Starsky & Hutch
Starsky & Hutch is a 2004 comedic action movie based on the classic series of the same name, which ran from 1975-79. The film stars Ben Stiller as Det. David Starsky and Owen Wilson as Det. Ken Hutchinson, referred to as “Hutch.”
Throughout the film, Starsky and Hutch find themselves in various humorous and sometimes absurd situations as they chase leads, interact with quirky informants and attempt to track down the elusive Feldman. The movie balances action, comedy and nostalgia, paying homage to the original series with its iconic red-and-white Ford Gran Torino, the signature car in the original Starsky & Hutch.
The film was fairly well received, receiving an average rating of six out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes, which stated: “It’s uneven and occasionally somewhat aimless, but Starsky & Hutch benefits from Stiller and Wilson’s chemistry and a surprisingly warm-hearted script.” Most reviews were either average or mixed.
The movie did see cameos made by the original Starsky and Hutch – Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul.
Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott in The Dukes of Hazzard
The Dukes of Hazzard is a 2005 action-comedy film based on the popular TV series of the same name that aired from 1979-85. The film stars Johnny Knoxville as Luke Duke, Seann William Scott as Bo Duke and Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke.
The story revolves around the Duke cousins, Luke and Bo, who are known for their fast driving skills and their iconic car General Lee, a 1969 Dodge Charger. The pair find themselves caught up in a plot involving the corrupt county commissioner, Boss Hogg (played by Burt Reynolds), who plans to seize the Duke family’s land for his own financial gain.
To thwart Boss Hogg’s plans, the Dukes must participate in a wild and dangerous race known as the “Hazzard County Derby.”
The movie was not well received. On Rotten Tomatoes, of 168 reviews, only 14 percent were positive. It was described as “a dumb, goofy, and vacuous adaption of a TV show where the plot is simply an excuse to string together the car chases.” Roger Ebert added the movie to his most hated list and called it a “lame-brained, outdated wheeze.”
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The original cast, including Tom Wopat, John Schneider and Catherine Bach, were all offered roles in the movie. However, they all disliked the script and turned down the opportunity.