I’ve always enjoyed watching a few episodes of The Twilight Zone during SyFy’s annual New Year’s Day marathon, and have slowly been making my way through the entire series on Netflix. Through watching episode after episode of Rod Serling’s brilliant storytelling, one thing has become abundantly clear: a lot of episodes would make great movies.
The TV show has been tapped for cinematic adaption by Hollywood before, with movies like Child’s Play (based on “The Living Doll”) and Poltergeist (inspired by “Little Girl Lost”) having their roots in the series. There’s a wealth of Twilight Zone stories ripe for big screen adaptation, but for some reason the movie studios are focused on remaking Point Break and Jumanji. Should the tides shift, here are five Twilight Zone episodes that could play well as feature films.
The original: This season one episode of The Twilight Zone might have aired 56 years ago, but its technology is only now becoming a real possibility. Rod Serling tells the story of a convict sentenced to solitary confinement on a desolate asteroid with nothing except for his thoughts to keep him occupied. Deeming that his punishment is unusually cruel, the government sends a female robot to keep him company. It doesn’t take long for the man to fall in love with his new gadget, only to be ripped away from her when a prison official arrives and tells him that he’s been pardoned and they must quickly leave.
The big screen version: We might not be sending people to live on asteroids just yet, but with the advancements in virtual reality and robotics, it’s probably only matter of time before robot girlfriends become a thing. Spike Jonze already touched on the subject matter of finding love in artificial intelligence with Her, but there’s still plenty of robotic love to go around and this Twilight Zone story could lend itself well to a sc-fi drama or romance.
Casting: Terrence Malick directing with Olivia Wilde and Michael Fassbender.
The Big Tall Wish
The original: Compared to the rest of the series, “The Big Tall Wish” isn’t exactly a standout. It doesn’t have any of the eeriness that permeates many episodes and there’s not much of a twist at the end. Hear me out, though: the story could make for a really good sports/fantasy. The episode focuses on Bolie Jackson, a once great boxer who doesn’t have many fans left except for his girlfriend’s young son. During a fight, Bolie is knocked down and just when he’s about to be counted out, he manages to get up and win the match. He later learns that his girlfriend’s son altered the outcome of the match by wishing Bolie would win. Bolie brushes it off and loses his next fight because he rejects the idea of a child’s wishes having special power.
The big screen version: The story plays out fine with the boxing premise, but could obviously be adapted to any sport and transition well into a feel-good children’s movie. While it would probably work well as a live action, it could work even better as an animated film and teach kids to never stop believing in the impossible. Probably a good idea to change the ending, though, a kid’s movie where the main character crushes a child’s belief in magic might be a real downer.
Casting: Just let Pixar or DreamWorks handle it.
The original: Without a doubt one of the spookier stories in the show’s run, this chilling episode centers on a former Nazi concentration camp officer who goes back to visit his old haunt years after WWII has ended. It’s not long before he’s visited by a ghost while strolling the grounds where he had sentenced hundreds of innocent people to die in his younger days. As his punishment, he’s inflicted with mental torture to mirror the pain and suffering that he caused his victims.
The big screen version: With the right screenwriter, Serling’s story centering around ghosts seeking retribution and hunting down their former SS captors has the potential to be an ultra creepy supernatural thriller. The WWII setting was perfect for the original, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be adapted to any sort of human atrocity. It wouldn’t even have to center on a massive black spot on humanity’s timeline. Maybe it’s just a teenage ghost waiting 20 years to hunt down the now adult jerks who committed murder in high school.
Casting: Rob Zombie directing with James McAvoy, Willem Dafoe, and Amy Adams.
To Serve Man
The original: Many Twilight Zone episodes focus on alien encounters, with this episode playing on the fear of why aliens might visit our planet. The story centers on a group of aliens that visit Earth under the guise of helping mankind end all of the problems that have plagued life on Earth. The aliens gradually gain the trust of the U.N. and humans begin boarding the alien ships in droves to start a new life on a distant paradise planet. The aliens’ ulterior motives are revealed, though, when a man cracks their code and discovers that they’re actually harvesting people for food. By then, it’s too late and he’s ushered into the spaceship for fattening up.
The big screen version: Rod Serling knew that an alien visit to Earth probably wouldn’t be good for humans, and Stephen Hawking has stated the same. We’ve seen aliens hellbent on killing humans many times over in movies like Mars Attacks! and War of the Worlds, but it’s made clear those aliens are bad news right way. A broadened version of “To Serve Man” playing on the uncertainty of alien contact and the fight for human survival to stay off the dinner menu is has summer blockbuster written all over it.
Casting: Christopher Nolan or Alfonso Cuaron directing with Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Denzel Washington.
A Hundred Years Over the Rim
The original: In classic Twilight Zone form, this season 2 episode involves time travel with actor Cliff Robertson leading a wagon train heading west towards the promise land of California. When Robertson’s son becomes sick, he sets off into the desert to find water and stumbles into modern-day New Mexico. Confused about where he is, he interacts with the townsfolk and grabs a bottle of penicillin before drawing the attention of the local authorities who chase him back over a sand dune where he returns to the year 1847.
The big screen version: Sure, Hollywood could keep the original version and just add in some extra action sequences, but why not flip it and make it a comedy? Let’s turn the story around and have a family’s car break down out in the desert while on vacation. Without a cell phone signal, the dad sets out to find a gas station to call AAA, only instead he stumbles through a time warp and finds himself in whatever year. 800 B.C., 2208 A.D., it doesn’t really matter.
Casting: David Gordon Green directing with Danny McBride and Kristen Wiig.
Obviously there are a lot of episodes that could be expanded int films. Post in the comments which Twilight Zone episodes you’d like to see turned into movies.