From Breaking Bad to Sex and the City: When TV Shows Spawn Movies

El Camino, the continuation of Jesse Pinkman's story, is now streaming on Netflix.

By Billy Nilles Oct 11, 2019 10:00 AMTags
Watch: "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" World Premiere

If the last few years have proven anything, it's that "the end" on TV rarely means what it used to.

While the revival craze of late has seen shows like Will & Grace, Last Man Standing, Fuller House and Roseanne return to the small screen with most, if not all of their original casts in tact for new seasons of shows long thought dead—or season, in the case of the latter, which quickly became The Conners because, well, you know why—to say nothing of the countless reboots of classic IP, like One Day at a Time, Charmed and Lost in Space, reinvented with new casts for a new generation, there's another path to life after death for beloved series that's picking up considerable steam: the sequel film.

In 2019 alone, we've already gotten two of them, with HBO finally giving Deadwood fans closure this past May and PBS fans getting one last trip to the iconic Downton Abbey last month, with the third, and perhaps most highly-anticipated, arriving on October 11 with the debut of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie on Netflix and in limited theatrical release.

The film, which picks up after the stunning events in the seminal AMC series' series finale and was written and directed by series creator Vince Gilligan, follows Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman as he recovers from the torture he escaped while attempting to evade capture, blamed for the shootout facilitated by a dead Walter White (Bryan Cranston) that made his escape possible.

This trend, however popular it's become this year, is nothing new, though. Since the original cast of Star Trek made the leap to the big screen back in 1979, a decade after the series that spawned it was canceled, lucky shows have been getting similar treatment. In honor of El Camino, let's take a look at all the scripted series who've gotten the feature film treatment over the last 30 years. 

Twin Peaks

When David Lynch and Mark Frost's groundbreaking and mind-bending ABC series came to an end after two short seasons in 1991, the enigmatic auteur, flying solo without Frost, brought the sinister small town to the big screen in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which managed to be both a prequel and sequel to the events of the series. Reuniting much of the cast from the series, the 1992 film centered around the investigation of another unlucky teen girl while detailing the last week of in the life of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), whose death kicked off the series. It was not received well, reportedly met with boos at the Cannes Film Festival while bombing at the box office. Lynch and Frost wouldn't return to their macabre world until 2017, when a much-hyped third season debuted on Showtime.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Two years after Haim Saban had the genius idea to adapt stock footage from a Japanese TV show and launch one of the most enduring superhero franchises in children's TV history, the Power Rangers leaped to the big screen with a 1995 film adaptation that saw them battle new villain Ivan Ooze. The film was a moderate success, spawning a sequel, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, two years later. 

South Park

Two years after Trey Parker and Matt Stone introduced the world to Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny and their foul-mouthed Colorado town, they brought uniquely crass (and equally hilarious) little world to the big screen with 1999's South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, a film that pitted America against Canada and dared to imagine Satan and Saddam Hussein as lovers in Hell. Making $83.1 million on a $21 million budget, it became the highest-grossing R-rated animated film of all time until 2016's Sausage Party.

The X-Files

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully brought their pursuit for the truth to the big screen in two separate films, one while the show was still airing, 1998's The X-Files, and the other, 2008's I Want to Believe, a decade later. The former focused on the show's ongoing extraterrestrial-based mythology, while the latter was a standalone thriller more in line with the show's monster-of-the-week episodes; neither were received all that rapturously by critics. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson later returned to their iconic roles for two revival seasons in 2016 and 2018, but with Anderson asserting that she was done with the show following that last season, don't hold your breath for any more.


Fans of Joss Whedon's 2002 sci-fi series Firefly weren't able to keep the show alive past its initial run of 14 episode, but their devotion to the series in its afterlife, mostly by way of strong DVD sales, helped Universal Pictures feel confident in reuniting Whedon with his cast for the 2005 film Serenity, a continuation of the series named after the spaceship central to the series. While the film was well received by critics and fans alike, it was not a box office success, netting an underwhelming $38 million worldwide against a $39 million budget.

The Simpsons

Eighteen years into its now 30-year run, America's most beloved animated family finally made their way to the big screen in 2007 with The Simpsons Movie, which saw Homer determined to save Springfield from the EPA after he pollutes the lake and causes the town to be imprisoned under a giant dome. The film was a massive success, making over $527 million worldwide. In 2018, it was reported that a sequel was in development, but with the Disney-Fox deal, it's unclear if one is still in the works.

Sex and the City

When Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte reunited on the big screen four years after their adventures in the Big Apple came to an end on HBO, it became perhaps the gold standard of TV show sequel films. (The romp, which detailed Carrie's bumpy road to becoming Mrs. Big, made over $415 million worldwide.) The second in 2010? Less so. And don't even ask about a third one. Just don't.


Did the world really want to spend more time with Vinny Chance and his boys after the bro-tastic HBO series wrapped in 2011 after eight seasons? Not really. Did they get it anyway? Yep, in the form of a 2015 feature film loathed by critics and considered a financial disappointment. Somewhere, Ari Gold is shouting into a phone.

Veronica Mars

After the CW canceled Rob Thomas' neo-noir sluther series in 2007 after three seasons, he and star Kristen Bell joined forces in 2013 and took to crowdfunding site Kickstarter to get a feature film made. The project attained its goal of $2 million in just eleven hours and the pair were able to reunite a majority of the show's cast for a film that received a limited theatrical release in 2014. Helping to kickstart (no pun intended) our current revival-crazed era, the film also breathed new life into the franchise, paving the way for a limited series on Hulu in 2019.


More than a decade after David Milch's beloved period western set in the titular town was axed after three seasons by HBO in 2006, and following years of discussion, nearly the entire cast got back in the saddle for one final farewell. The TV movie, which debuted on the cable network in May 2019, would be the creator's final production as he went public with his Alzheimer's diagnosis the month before its debut.

Downton Abbey

Four years after we said goodbye to the Crawley family and their devoted domestic servants as the iconic ITV-PBS production went off the air in 2015, creator Julian Fellowes brought a majority of the cast to the big screen for a 2019 film adaptation, which detailed the residence preparing for a visit from the King and Queen of England. Released in early September, the film has already grossed over $139 million worldwide.

Breaking Bad

Six years after creator Vince Gilligan gave Walter White's descent into darkness a definitive conclusion with the series finale of the seminal AMC series, and while prequel series Better Call Saul plays out on the network, he returns to the saga in feature form to tell the tale of what happened to Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman once he escaped his captors thanks to Walt's (Bryan Cranston) sacrifice. Curiously, the film was released digitally on Netflix in October 2019, with a limited theatrical run, with a broadcast on AMC to come at a later date.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is in theaters and available to stream on Netflix now.