The Killers (1964): Movie attendance dropped with the advent of TV; by the 1960s it was back up thanks to gimmicks like cinemascope and 3-D. Execs thought they could lure them back home with “TV movies,” and by 1964 the John Forsythe-starring See How They Run became the first. But the first was supposed to be Don Siegel’s stab at Ernest Hemingway’s short story, already the source for the 1947 classic with Burt Lancaster. Alas, it was deemed too violent and thrown into theaters instead. Of course, that’s what happens when you hire the future director of Dirty Harry: John Cassavetes gets assassinated in front of blind kids and Angie Dickinson is both dangled out a window and bitch-slapped by the 40th president of the United States (in his last role).
Scenes From a Marriage (1973): Ingmar Bergman became attracted to the larger canvas TV offered right around the time he achieved Master Director status. So anything he made wound up on American screens. Originally, this grisly marital bout ran five hours, two longer than the version that most Americans once saw. Later he performed the same gouging to Fanny and Alexander.
Vincent & Theo (1990): Robert Altman spent the ’80s mostly floundering, but TV seemed to ignite his creative juices. Tanner ’88 , his faux-presidential campaign show for HBO, is a trenchant hoot, while his four-hour BBC series about the Van Gogh brothers (Tim Roth as Vincent, Paul Rhys as Theo) led directly into his official comeback with The Player.
The Last Seduction (1994): John Dahl’s neo-noir wasn’t made for TV, but it debuted on HBO anyway. This may have increased viewer awareness when it hit theaters, but it also screwed over lead Linda Fiorentino, who was disqualified for a no-brainer Oscar nomination.
The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009): Unlike Dragon Tattoo, its two sequels were TV movies. Which explains why they’re even worse than the first.
The Trip (2010): Not sure what the appeal is of having less Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon banter, but at least the editors who cut down a six-episode series to 107 minutes didn’t elide their dueling Michael Caine impressions.