The best movies and TV shows based on comic strips
Paramount

The best movies and TV shows based on comic strips

Comic strips are usually pretty simple. Oftentimes they are only a handful of panels. And yet, sometimes they are still adapted into more meaty forms of storytelling. There have been several movies and TV shows based on comic strips created over the years. This includes “The Snoopy Show,” which is coming to Apple TV+ in 2021. Beyond that show, here are some more films and TV shows based on comic strips. We didn’t overload any specific strip, though, so that this isn’t all “Peanuts” and “Garfield.”

 
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“Garfield and Friends”

“Garfield and Friends”
CBS

If you are a child of the ‘90s, “Garfield and Friends” was probably your first introduction to Garfield, Odie, and of course Nermal, frequent almost-resident of Abu Dhabi. The “friends” in question, by the way, extends to the cartoon “U.S. Acres” which featured farm animals and was paired with Garfield cartoons to fill up the episodes.

 
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“A Garfield Christmas”

“A Garfield Christmas”
CBS

There were a lot of Garfield television specials in the ‘80s and ‘90s, running from “Here Comes Garfield” to “Garfield Gets a Life.” This included a few holiday specials, naturally, and the best of the bunch is probably the Christmas special. That may be because Christmas specials are easier to make more successful, but it still worked.

 
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“The Addams Family”

“The Addams Family”
ABC

Charles Addams published his first “Addams Family” comic strip way back in 1938. Almost 30 years later, “The Addams Family” debuted as a sitcom. The show was broad and slapstick, but it featured a dynamic duo at the center in John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia. Many of these shows and movies are animated, but “The Addams Family” was live-action, even if it was cartoonish.

 
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“Dilbert”

“Dilbert”
UPN

Remember when “Dilbert” was something of a cultural phenomenon? The whole satirizing of workplace environments played into that, which predates the movie “Office Space.” The “Dilbert” cartoon, which featured Daniel Stern voicing Dilbert and Chris Elliott voicing Dogbert, was a little bit weirder and out there. That may be why it ended up only running 30 episodes, though it got some good reviews at the time and has positive elements to it.

 
5 of 20

“The Popeye Show”

“The Popeye Show”
Fleischer Studios

While “The Popeye Show” aired in the 2000s, it was a show dedicated to running old Popeye shorts made by Fleischer Studios. Each episode would air three shorts, giving you plenty of Popeye. We also appreciate “The Popeye Show” because it was more curated than other Popeye outings. This includes avoiding certain shorts that have not culturally stood the test of time.

 
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“Hazel”

“Hazel”
NBC

“Hazel” was a sitcom that ran for five seasons in the ‘60s and featured Shirley Booth as Hazel, a live-in maid for the Baxter family (no relation to Ted). Given that it isn’t terribly cartoony, it may be a surprise that it began life as a comic strip. Even weirder, “Hazel” the comic was one of those single-panel comics. That means the show really didn’t have a ton of content to work from.

 
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“Dennis the Menace”

“Dennis the Menace”
CBS

Weirdly, around the same time, the American comic “Dennis the Menace” debuted a British comic of the same name debuted as well, though it is quite different. There was a “Dennis the Menace” live-action sitcom that began airing way back in 1959, featuring Dennis, well, menacing Mr. Wilson. However, we’re personally partial to the animated version from the ‘80s. Maybe Mr. Wilson’s frustration plays better in cartoon form.

 
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“The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show”

“The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show”
CBS

Strangely, given the popularity of “Peanuts,” this CBS Saturday Morning cartoon wasn’t really a hit. It only lasted for 18 episodes over two years. That being said, ratings and quality don’t always go hand in hand. Also, don’t worry. There will be more “Peanuts” on this list.

 
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“Beakman’s World”

“Beakman’s World”
TLC

“Beakman’s World” was an educational show for kids, kind of a more-rambunctious and comedic version of “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” It started on TLC back when it was really, truly “The Learning Channel.” Interestingly, given that, “Beakman’s World” was spun off of a comic strip called “You Can with Beakman and Jax.”

 
10 of 20

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”
CBS

Let’s knock out the two iconic, classic “Peanuts” TV specials. First up is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” which has many indelible images. Charlie Brown’s ghost costume. Him getting a rock while trick-or-treating. Plus, of course, Linus going to the pumpkin patch to await the Great Pumpkin. For a gentle Halloween special, you can’t do much better than this.

 
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“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”
CBS

People flipped their lids in 2020 in fear that they wouldn’t be able to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” They want to hear the music and see Snoopy, Charlie, and the gang celebrating Christmas. It gets a little overtly religious, but if that doesn’t bother you there’s a lot of sweet fun to be had.

 
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“Dıck Tracy” (1990)

“Dıck Tracy” (1990)
Touchstone

There are a lot of oddball characters and villain designs in the “Dıck Tracy” comic strip. When Warren Beatty decided to make a live-action film about the hard-boiled private eye, he decided to keep all that as well. That meant a lot of disconcerting character designs and actors in a bunch of makeup. “Dıck Tracy” is a weird movie loaded with stars. It’s a truly unique piece of filmmaking.

 
13 of 20

“The Addams Family” (1991)

“The Addams Family” (1991)
Paramount

We’re going back to the creepy, kooky family for another film. “The Addams Family” film is darker and more morbid than the sitcom, and of course it also has a bigger budget. They don’t spend 90 percent of their time hanging out in the living room like on the sitcom. The film has quite the cast, including the late Raul Julia as Gomez.

 
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“Addams Family Values” (1993)

“Addams Family Values” (1993)
Paramount

Many consider “Addams Family Values” a sequel that improves upon the original. Wednesday does destroy a summer camp, and Joan Cusack gets to have a lot of fun as the villain. It’s also a fine showcase for Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. Both movies have plenty going on in their favor.

 
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“Flash Gordon” (1980)

“Flash Gordon” (1980)
Universal

Hey, it has a Queen soundtrack, and also a ton of camp fun. “Flash Gordon” isn’t necessarily “good” in the traditional sense, but people really enjoy it anyway. It’s a silly film, but the film also seems to know just how silly it is. The comic strip took itself seriously, but the movie decided that they didn’t need to be reverent to a comic about a former star quarterback fighting an evil space villain named Ming the Merciless.

 
16 of 20

“Annie” (1982)

“Annie” (1982)
Columbia

There have been a few “Annie” movies over the years, all of which fortunately feature people with pupils, unlike the comic. “Little Orphan Annie” is a weird comic strip, unless you like reading about an old man railing against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The 1982 musical has some of that, but it just works better, at least for musical fans. There are some hit show tunes in the film.

 
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“The Adventures of Tintin” (2011)

“The Adventures of Tintin” (2011)
Paramount, Columbia, Dreamworks

“Tintin” is much bigger in Europe than in the United States, but “The Adventures of Tintin” pulled out all the stops as a movie. Steven Spielberg directed! Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy produced! Steven Moffat, Joe Cornish, and Edgar Wright wrote it! With all that, you might think that “Tintin” would have been a huge hit. It wasn’t, perhaps because Americans didn’t know the Belgian comic, but the people who saw it seemed to enjoy it.

 
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“Popeye” (1980)

“Popeye” (1980)
Paramount

“Popeye” is admittedly pretty weird. It’s a musical directed by Robert Altman starring Robin Williams at the beginning of his movie career. Everybody really commits to the characterization from the comics. It’s pretty polarizing as a result, but if you are on “Popeye’s” wavelength you’ll probably really dig it.

 
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“Marshal of Cripple Creek” (1947)

“Marshal of Cripple Creek” (1947)
Republic Pictures

We forget about how popular Westerns used to be. They dominated television, movies, and also had a big impact on comic strips as well. “Red Ryder” was a Western comic strip that ran from 1938 through 1965. It then became a radio show, a movie serial, and then a 27-movie series. Yes, they made 27 movies based on “Red Ryder,” and we’re partial to “Marshal of Cripple Creek” out of that bunch.

 
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“Over the Hedge” (2006)

“Over the Hedge” (2006)
Dreamworks, Paramount

As a more modern comic strip (it debuted in 1995) not as many people are likely aware of “Over the Hedge.” That probably includes people who say the animated movie in 2006. They got quite the voiceover cast for the film, including Bruce Willis, Steve Carell, and everybody’s favorite duo, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. “Over the Hedge” earned good reviews, and also was a hit at the box office.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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