Top Five Crime Shows Inspired by the Movies

Everyone takes inspiration from somewhere, but while some muses are kept hidden others are openly celebrated. The TV crime shows we’re concerning ourselves with here base their ideas, characters and plots on hugely successful and culturally seminal crime movies. There’s no escaping where their inspiration came from. That’s not to say that TV versions of movies need be derivative or lousy. In fact, the five crime shows we bring you here are all quite brilliant in their own right…

Here are our top five crime shows inspired by the movies:


(Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Hannibal Rising)

The murderous and cannibalistic exploits of a certain Dr. Hannibal Lecter are well known now, not only to fans of movies like The Silence of The Lambs and Manhunter and the original Thomas Harris novels, but to a newer television audience. We’re two series into Bryan Fuller’s wonderfully stylistic NBC show Hannibal – a small screen effort that many people are calling the best programme on TV. Many thought that Sir Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of the intellectual serial killer couldn’t be bettered, until they saw Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen’s take on Hannibal. The TV version doesn’t attempt to remake or copy the movies – it imagines the world created by Harris for itself, creating an entirely different, yet strangely harmonic version of Lecter and FBI profiler Will Graham’s relationship. And once you have a taste, you’re left wanting more. Truly, truly brilliant.

Lock, Stock…

(Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)

Guy Ritchie’s 1998 cockney caper inspired a thousand cheap rip-offs, most of which headed straight onto DVD and straight into the £2.99 basket at petrol stations. But the Channel 4 production in 2000 was surprisingly good. It had all the ingredients of the film: gangsters, guns, rhyming slang, colourful characters and farce. But, unlike the imposter films that copied Lock, Stock, the show had a vein of comedy and originality that was really quite refreshing. And with Withnail & I and Wayne’s World’s brilliant Ralph Brown as the bad guy – who could fail to love with it even just a little bit…?



The Coen Brothers’ 1996 Minnesota-set crime caper is a cult favourite, loved by its fans almost as much as the Coens’ other hit, The Big Lebowski. So, when news broke that a TV version would be made with The Office’s Martin Freeman, Tom Hanks’s son and Angelina Jolie’s ex-husband, people were understandably upset. But they needn’t have been. Noah Hawley’s version didn’t even use the same plot, just took the setting and ambience of the film and ran with it. And run with it he did. It’s proved a successful move: it’s already picking up a load of accolades and awards.

Bates Motel


Described, rather confusingly, as a ‘contemporary prequel’ to the events of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror-thriller classic, Bates Motel is barely recognisable in tone to its 1960 source material. The action centres around the future killer Norman Bates as he grows up with his motel-running mother in White Pine Bay, Oregon. While it might not look all that Psycho-y, it does slightly echo David Lynch’s oddball TV show and movie, Twin Peaks. So there’s inspiration all round!

La Femme Nikita


Léon director Luc Besson hit box office gold with his stylish French action film Nikita back in the early ’90s. The premise was a simple one – a petty thief, on being arrested, is offered a way out if she agrees to become an assassin. The sight of an ass-kicking female hitwoman struck a real chord with its audience, so when future 24 co-creator Joel Surnow offered Warner Brothers the chance to make it for Canadian TV, they jumped at it. And they were glad they did – the show ran for five seasons and was sold all over the world.
Is your favourite crime show in our list? Was it inspired by a movie? Let us know!

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published.

Please note: Moderation is enabled and may delay your comment being posted. There is no need to resubmit your comment. By posting a comment you are agreeing to the website Terms of Use.