Although often viewed as second-rate movies due to their pension for excessive melodrama and tearing stories from headlines, made-for-TV movies have gained acceptance as an acceptable alternative to cinema in recent years. Along with the emergence of companies like HBO, the understanding of what a made-for-TV movie is has moved away from its Hallmark stereotype.
With their generally lower budgets and smaller casts, TV movies often don’t get the same level of respect as big productions from fans. Because of the freedom and accessibility they provide, however, many high-profile directors and actors have chosen the made-for-TV route – leading to successful results.
10/10 “Too Big to Fail” (2011) – 77%
In the early 2010s, Hollywood became obsessed with capturing what the financial crisis did to America. While movies like The big court and margin call depicts what it was on the outside, too big to fail showed what the discussion around the financial crisis was within the government. According to Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, too big to fail follows Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his attempt to fight economic collapse.
Realized by Curtis Hansonthe film features an impressive cast led by Guillaume Blessé as Paulson, a role that would see him nominated for an Emmy. Intelligent, educated and more serious than some of its thematic counterparts, too big to fail is stern and serious in its attempt to show how the financial crisis has been handled by those at the top of the food chain.
9/10 ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ (1983) – 83%
If the idea of a TV movie can be denigrated today, it certainly shouldn’t have been in 1983. Watched by more than 100 million people at the time, The day after set a record as the highest rated television film in history. Directed by the excellent writer Nicholas Meyer, The day after follows a small town in Kansas that is under the threat of nuclear war.
Similar in plot to the 1983 theatrical film Willas well as the 1984 TV movie Son, The day after had by far the greatest effect on culture of all these films. Released by news in the midst of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan saw the film a month before its release, commenting that it left him “very depressed” and ultimately changed his view of nuclear war.
8/10 ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ (2010) – 83%
Directed by the famous Barry Levinson, You don’t know Jack presents one of the great performances of the end of the career of Al Pacino. Winner of an Emmy Pacino for his portrayal, the film covers the career of Jack Kevorkian, a controversial doctor who pioneered physician-assisted suicide and introduced the idea to the public.
In recent years, Levinson has focused on making big-star TV movies based on true stories such as the ones in 2017. The magician of lies with robert de niro like Bernie Madoff or last year’s biographical drama The survivor with Ben Foster. Although they were all well received, You don’t know Jack is Levinson’s best in recent years as he walks finely the tightrope of the film’s divisive topic.
7/10 ‘Citizen X’ (1995) – 86%
Citizen X is a dark look at the sheer determination it took to catch one of Russia’s most infamous serial killers. movie stars Stephen Rea as a forensic specialist who, despite government discouragement, pursues an unknown serial killer for 12 years.
Written and directed by Chris Gerolmo, Citizen X includes some of the best acting from any film that year, with Rea perfectly desperate and Jeffrey DeMunn making a surprising character actor the role of the murderer Chikatilo. Well-paced and often legitimately dramatic, Citizen X constitutes a continuing and compelling addition to the serial killer genre.
6/10 ‘The Night Stalker’ (1972) – 88%
Sparking a film and television following, The night tracker started out as one of the ABC Movies of the Week. Written by author Richard Matheson, The night tracker follows an investigative reporter who delves into a series of murders he believes to have been committed by real vampires.
The night tracker was a success, becoming the highest-rated original TV movie on American television, while also inspiring later popular shows such as theX-Files. Highly acclaimed upon release, the films and TV show gained a cult following and are now considered one of the pioneering works of the supernatural and science fiction genre.
5/10 ‘Duel’ (1971) – 89%
The first professional film of Steven Spielberg started from humble beginnings. Made for a mere $450,000 compared to Spielberg’s current colossal budgets, Duel follows a businessman on the road who is followed by a psychopathic truck driver. Originally another ABC movie of the week, Duel was only released theatrically after its success on the small screen.
Now considered one of the pioneers in special effects and sound design, Duel was only nominated for an Emmy at the time for Best Cinematography. Although Spielberg’s direction has been praised, Duel is a fascinating watch now when placed in the larger context of Spielberg’s career and the history of TV movies in general.
4/10 ‘Gia’ (1998) – 93%
Receive praise for his role, Family is the film that put Angelina Jolie On the map. Although she had starring roles in the thriller Without evidence and adaptation by Joyce Carol Oates Foxfire, Family won Jolie a Golden Globe and remains her highest-rated film to date, according to Rotten Tomatoes. In the film, Jolie plays model Gia Carangi, a victim of drugs at the height of her career.
Co-starring Faye Dunaway as Dutch model Wilhelmina Cooper, Family is elevated beyond the cinematic trope of rising and falling through its performance, consistent direction by Michael Cristofer, and a burning score by Terrence Blanchard. While his themes of drugs, ambition and the high life have been covered in many other films, Family is always a catchy biography brought to the screen.
3/10 ‘Behind the Candelabrum’ (2013) – 94%
Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to experimentation in the film industry. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when he decided to do behind the candelabraa made-for-cable film about world-renowned pianist Liberace, played by Michael Douglasand the unstable relationship with her much younger lover Scott Thorson, played by Matt Damon.
Despite its limited release, Soderbergh assembles an A-grade cast for his film which includes – besides Douglas and Damon – Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroydand Debbie Reynolds. Douglas and Damon are sensational, both nominated for an Emmy, Douglas winner. Nominated for the Palme d’Or in Cannes, behind the candelabra is superbly acted and directed, quietly becoming one of Soderbergh’s most underrated great films.
2/10 “Bad Education” (2019) – 94%
Although made-for-television films are often adapted from true stories, few are more fascinating than the one presented in Bad Education. Written by Mike Makowski and led by Cory Finleyeach of the most promising talents in their respective fields, Bad Education follows a Long Island superintendent and his assistant as they try to cover up a scandal involving the embezzlement of their school.
Directed by Hugh Jackman in one of the best roles of his career, Bad Education is very funny and well observed, both in the writing and in the realization. The script is subtle, with Jackman nailing every facial cue and every interaction. Makowsky and Finley both have bright futures, which makes Bad Education a film that will go down as a pivotal moment in their careers as well as one of the most gripping TV movies of the decade.
1/10 “And the band played” (1993) – 100%
Adapted from the book of the same name by Randy Shilts, And the band kept on playing is one of the most remarkable television films of all time. Written by the playwright Arnold Schulmanthe film follows an epidemiologist who begins researching a rare virus that would later be known as the AIDS epidemic.
Nominated for 11 Primetime Emmy Awards, And the band kept on playing was notable for its subject matter, sprawling cast, and ending that features cameos from Magic Johnson to Freddie Mercury. Before and after films have covered the AIDS epidemic, including those from 1989 long time companion and 2014 The normal heartbut none were as important as And the band kept on playing.
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