12 Good TV Movies

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm

While we normally focus on theatrical films, I’ve decided to throw fans of television a bone and put together this list of 12 good TV movies. A number of these had an immense cultural impact, while others were just damned entertaining yarns. Either way, you owe it to yourself to pick them up on DVD and see what all the fuss was about. Netflix should have all of these, and we even get a small commission for sending you there. Any money we make goes right back into the site, which guarantees more quality content in the future.

The Day After (1983) – Jason Robards and Steve Guttenberg starred in this nightmarish tale of nuclear war, and it had Americans freaking out for months afterwards. A bleak tale of the residents of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, The Day After is still the most watched made-for-television movie of all time. A debate hosted by Ted Koppel followed, and Carl Sagan summed up the arms race with the following memorable statement: “Imagine a room awash in gasoline, and there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has nine thousand matches, the other seven thousand matches. Each of them is concerned about who’s ahead, who’s stronger.”

Trilogy of Terror (1975) – A three-part horror flick starring Karen Black and based on the works of Richard Matheson, Trilogy of Terror originally aired as an ABC Movie of the Week. The most enduring tale is “Amelia,” in which Black must fend off the murderous advances of a tiny Zuni fetish doll containing the spirit of He Who Kills.

12 Angry Men (1997) – This Showtime TV movie assembles an outstanding cast for the tale of 12 jurors deliberating a murder case. Jurors include Courtney B. Vance, George C. Scott, Ossie Davis, James Gandolfini, Jack Lemmon, Edward James Olmos, Hume Cronyn and Tony Danza.

Grey Gardens (2009) – Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange star in this look at the lives of “Little Edie” and “Big Edie,” the reclusive socialite relatives of Jackie Onassis. Nominated for 17 Emmy Awards, including a win for Jessica Lange and for Outstanding Made for Television Movie.

The Burning Bed (1984) – Farrah Fawcett revived her career by playing Francine Hughes, a real-life housewife who burned her husband alive after 13 years of physical and mental abuse. One of the most controversial television movies ever made.

The Rat Pack (1998) – An HBO film about the lives and loves of the Rat Pack, especially focusing on Frank Sinatra’s (Ray Liotta) friendship with John F. Kennedy. Joe Mantegna is Dean Martin, Don Cheadle is Sammy Davis Jr., and Angus Macfadyen is Peter Lawford. Cheadle won a Golden Globe for his performance, and his fantasy song-and-dance sequence is not to be missed.

The Executioner’s Song (1982) – Based on the novel and screenplay by Norman Mailer, this film takes a look at the last nine months in the life of Gary Gilmore (Tommy Lee Jones in an Emmy-winning role), the first man to die under the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1976.

Something the Lord Made (2004) – The true story of Vivien Thomas (Mos Def), a black man hired as a janitor in the Vanderbilt University lab in 1930. Much to the surprise of surgeon Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman), Thomas shows a knack for medicine and soon becomes a valuable research partner. As the two men seek to conquer Blue Baby Syndrome, they must also contend with the racism waiting beyond the doors of their laboratory.

Murder in Coweta County (1983) – Andy Griffith shows he can play a great villain by taking on the role of John Wallace, a powerful Georgia landowner who murders a man in Coweta County. Enter Johnny Cash as Lamar Potts, the county sheriff dedicated to seeing justice upheld. Fine performances all around, and I’ll never look at Matlock the same way.

The Jack Bull (1999) – John Cusack stars in this HBO western about an honest horse trader from Wyoming who gets caught up in a violent feud with a rancher (L.Q. Jones) who abused two of his horses (and their Indian caretaker). With neither side willing to back down, the vendetta even threatens to affect Wyoming’s chances for statehood.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007) – From Little Big Horn to the implementation of the Dawes Act, this HBO original movie highlights the decline of the Native American tribes throughout the United States. Nominated for 17 Emmy Awards, it stars Aidan Quinn, Adam Beach, August Schellenberg, Anna Paquin and J.K. Simmons. One of the most critically acclaimed good TV movies of the last decade.

The Night Stalker (1972) – Investigative reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) investigates a Las Vegas serial killer but ends up battling a vampire. A huge rating success (33.2), The Night Stalker spawned a sequel and eventually a series (which would strongly influence the modern-day X-Files). Nobody wore a seersucker suit and pork-pie hat like Carl Kolchak.

The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993) – This HBO film takes a lighthearted look at the true story of a Texas mother (Holly Hunter) who plots to have her daughter’s classmate killed in order to help her child’s cheerleading career. Both Hunter and co-star Beau Bridges would win Emmy Awards for their roles.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 at 4:39 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “12 Good TV Movies”

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April 8, 2010

Johnny Come Lately

Just what I needed to take my mind off after a stressful day. Excellent prose that really gets the thought across. Thank you for sharing.


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