1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
As any die-hard Whedonite can (and, begrudgingly, will) tell you, network television’s favorite stake-wielding slayer wasn’t always Sunnydale’s sweetheart. Originally a shallow-end valley girl at LA’s Hemery High School, Buffy Summers’ feature film debut was a far cry from the multi-layered heroine that would later inhabit many-a-nerd’s daydreams, and 99% of fan-fiction on the Internet.
Who would’ve thought that director Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi blockbuster about alien Egyptian pseudo-gods would live on for as long as it has? 1994’s Stargate saw a total of four TV spin-offs — Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Infinity, and Stargate Universe, respectively — as well as two surprisingly solid direct-to-DVD feature films. That’s a pretty impressive amount of longevity for a movie that had French Stewart, James Spader, and the kid from The Crying Game schlepping around the same screen.
How do you turn a micro-budget black-and-white indie flick into a primetime, network-ready cartoon? Short answer: it’s not easy. Long answer: reunite the original cast, hire an esteemed Seinfeld scribe, make it as balls-to-the-wall absurd as possible, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. While it only ran for a scant four episodes before its premature cancellation, Clerks: The Animated Series was a fun and funny show that was miles ahead of its eventual feature film follow-up.
Adapting one of the most revered film franchises of the 20th century into an episodic sci-fi serial is a pretty darn tough task, but fans of James Cameron’s original flicks could do far, far worse than Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Boasting pitch-perfect lead performances from Firefly’s Summer Glau and Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey, many sci-fi fans were all too happy to consider this excellent adaptation as the true follow-up to the landmark Judgment Day.
In retrospect, the misadventures of these madcap ghost-wranglers seems like a natural fit for the half-hour animated format, so it’s no surprise that The Real Ghostbusters — named as such to differentiate from the sneakily-named, Venkman-free Ghostbusters cartoon series — ran for a staggering 147 episodes and a further spin-off, Extreme Ghostbusters. Sadly, we never got an episode where Dr. Ray Stantz sold Crystal Head Vodka out of the back of his RV.
While technically not a silver screen spin-off, HBO’s excellent Spawn series debuted the same year as the gravel-voiced vigilante’s lackluster live action adaptation underwhelmed critics and audiences across the nation. This dark, dramatic take on the hell-born anithero’s origins won quite a bit of critical acclaim over its 18-episode run — including an Emmy award in 1999 — and still holds up as a pillar of adult-oriented animation done right.
7. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Widely regarded as the only good thing to come out of the oft-loathed “prequel trilogy that shall not be named,” (sorry, Jar Jar) the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series has gone a long way towards winning over even the most stubborn of Phantom Menace deniers with its complex plots and deep, endearing characters.
8. Weird Science
Like Ghostbusters above, this self-aware sci-fi sitcom seemed like a natural fit for network TV, allowing its duo of nerdalicious leads to get into offbeat new adventures every week at the hands of digital magic genie Lisa. Weird Science ran for five seasons and 88 episodes, but sadly, that’s 88 episodes without Robert Downey Jr. as dreamy-eyed school bully Ian.
9. Men In Black
The 90s were a simpler time, where all your multimedia franchise needed to really get a foothold on American pop culture was a starring role for and subsequent rap single from national treasure Will Smith. The Men In Black animated series — based on the Men In Black film, which was in turn based on the Men In Black comic book — continued the top-secret adventures of odd couple agents J and K across four globe-trotting seasons. Sadly, Will Smith was not involved. Thankfully, neither was Pitbull.
10. Black Dynamite
Michael Jai White’s super-bad, afro-clad private dick conquered the silver screen in blaxploitation send-up Black Dynamite in 2009, and now he’s back in even more off-the-wall adventures with his very own animated series. Featuring the complete cast from the outrageous original film and super-slick animation by the team behind The Boondocks, Black Dynamite is bound to be the baddest brother on the Adult Swim block.