IMDB's ~350 Top viewer-rated TV movies, 1950-2010by Aizyk | created - 16 Aug 2011 | updated - 24 Aug 2011 | Public
The titles in this list's default display would be ordered by rating, but IMDB only allows me to do that by means of an extremely tedious drag-and-drop or manual number input function. I therefore recommend selecting "IMDB rating" in the drop-down box next to the "sort by" option, and choosing the third "View" icon if you wish to to browse this list in a manner similar to the IMDB's "Top 250".
About this list:
This list was created in August 2011 to recognize exceptional original movies made with the typically smaller budgets of TV.
1. Movies made by the BBC and basic cable networks such as Lifetime are included, but I've attempted to exclude movies from premium-channel "pay extra" big-budget networks, such as HBO and Showtime. An exception to this is if the film was produced (entirely or partially) by a premium network, but originally aired on a non-premium network first or simultaneously.
2. Stage performances, theater, stand-up comedy acts, and reality TV series-based productions are excluded. Theatre-stylized productions are included, but not video recordings of actual theatrical/stage performances. Thus, movies like Ingmar Bergman's Trollflöjten, which was filmed in a theatrical style, are included on the list.
3. Each film on this list has (or had at the time it was added) a minimum rating of 7.5, with a minimum of around 100 votes. (A few movies with nearly 100 votes are included, if the film had a sufficiently high score and each additional vote to that point wouldn't lower it significantly, even if those new votes were all 1s.)
4. Two-part movies are included, but mini-series are not. The running time for list-eligible movies is thus limited to 240 minutes for a single production.
5. Movies without a running time of at least 70 minutes (minus commercials) are excluded. This means that several, but not all, children's and comedy specials which the IMDB refers to as "TV Movies" are excluded.
6. Titles included on this list should stand alone as movies. Because of this, sequels which would otherwise appear on the list are likely excluded if the movies which they're sequels of didn't make the list, for whatever reason (e.g. a viewer rating below 7.5). In this same vein, movies which introduce a TV series are included, but not vice-versa. This may preclude movies based on TV series which require knowledge of a series' characters/story arc/etc in order to be understood, or continuations of a season's story arc in "special episode" extra-long "movie" form.
7. This list goes back as far as 1950. Because this list was created to highlight original, contemporary works, screenplays based on plays or novels published prior to 1945 are excluded. Thus, many adapted versions of The 3 Musketeers, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens novels, Jane Austen novels, Thomas Hardy novels, Daniel Defoe novels, Shakespeare plays, etc etc are excluded. But there are exceptions to this: If a production based on a work which debuted prior to 1945 is re-imagined into an original work (e.g. classic works re-imagined as musicals, or adapted into a modern-day/future setting, or a different cultural setting, or a work intended for an adult audience is produced as an animated movie), then it's eligible for inclusion. Another exception to the pre-1945 rule is if the work is based on folk tales/folklore/unknown original authors. Thus, some versions of Cinderella are included.
8. Docudramas and mockumentaries are included, but very few documentaries; the reason being that made-for-TV movie-length "pure" documentaries aren't listed by the IMDB as "TV Movies" by "type" the way that other films here are, making such titles much more difficult to compile.
The aforementioned exclusions do not mean that the excluded movies are not to be regarded as wortwhile viewing. But they should have their own lists. E.g. "Best made-for-TV adaptations of literary classics".
It's sometimes unclear from the information available on the movie's page if the production is a play adapted for TV or just a recorded theater performance. Sometimes the run time of the film isn't listed. Sometimes I just overlook stuff. If anyone sees a title on the list which according to the aforementioned guidelines shouldn't be included, then please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks!
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1. The Girl Most Likely to... (1973 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 64 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
An ugly girl undergoes plastic surgery and becomes beautiful. She then takes revenge on all the people who mistreated her when she was ugly.
2. Prayers for Bobby (2009 TV Movie)
TV-14 | 90 min | Biography, Drama, Romance
True story of Mary Griffith, gay rights crusader, whose teenage son committed suicide due to her religious intolerance. Based on the book of the same title by Leroy Aarons.
3. Bill: On His Own (1983 TV Movie)
96 min | Biography, Drama
Bill Sackter struggles to cope after his best friend and guardian, Barry Morrow and his wife Beverly move away. Bill moves into a group home run by Mae Driscoll who teaches him how to read.... See full summary »
5. Brian's Song (1971 TV Movie)
G | 73 min | Biography, Drama, Sport
Based on the real-life relationship between teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers and the bond established when Piccolo discovers that he is dying.
6. Looking for Miracles (1989 TV Movie)
103 min | Drama, Family
Sixteen-year-old Ryan Delaney has won a scholarship, but it's not a full one, so he needs a summer job to pay for his university expenses. And although he's not eighteen, he can't swim, and... See full summary »
7. Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys (2008 TV Movie)
47 min | Comedy
It has been one year since the boys have become rich. Julian decided to keep the money safe, but when it comes time for everyone to get their share, the money is lost forever.
8. A Girl Named Sooner (1975 TV Movie)
85 min | Drama
A young girl in the hills of Indiana, who had been abandoned by her family and raised by a bootlegging old woman, is taken by the authorities and made the ward of a childless couple.
9. Who Is the Black Dahlia? (1975 TV Movie)
100 min | Biography, Crime, Drama
In Los Angeles in 1947, a police detective tries to solve the shocking and grisly murder of 22-year-old aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, whose nude body was dumped in a lot after being ... See full summary »
11. Zdravstvuyte, ya vasha tyotya! (1975 TV Movie)
98 min | Comedy
Unemployed and homeless Babbs Baberley (Alexander Kalyagin) is being chased by the police who attempt to arrest him for vagrancy. Babbs finds himself in a rich house, where he encounters ... See full summary »
12. The Adventures of Buratino (1976 TV Movie)
130 min | Family, Adventure, Fantasy
Screen version of a very popular novel by A. Tolstoy. A wooden boy Buratino tries to find his place in life. He befriends toys from a toy theater owned by evil Karabas-Barabas, gets tricked... See full summary »
13. Love Among the Ruins (1975 TV Movie)
100 min | Drama, Comedy, Romance
An aging actress is being sued for breach of promise. She hires as her lawyer a man who was an ex-lover and is still in love with her, although she doesn't know it. She realizes that the ... See full summary »
14. Fear of Fear (1975 TV Movie)
88 min | Drama
Margot, who lives in a comfortable middle class apartment, fears that she is losing her mind after having had her second child. Her husband Kurt, who is busy studying for an exam, does not ... See full summary »
15. The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975 TV Movie)
TV-14 | 96 min | Drama, History, Mystery
In Massachusetts in 1893, Lizzie Borden is put on trial for murdering her father and stepmother with an axe.
16. The Naked Civil Servant (1975 TV Movie)
77 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama
The life and times of Quentin Crisp, an outrageous and flamboyant homosexual, coming of age and growing into old age in conservative England.
17. The Magic Flute (1975 TV Movie)
G | 135 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Music
The Queen of the Night offers her daughter Pamina to Tamino, but he has to bring her back from her father and priest Sarastro. She gives a magic flute to Tamino and magic bells to the bird ... See full summary »
18. Ironiya sudby, ili S legkim parom! (1975)
192 min | Comedy, Romance
A group of old friends have a tradition of going to a public bathing house on New Years eve. Incidentally, too much vodka and beer makes two of them unconscious. The problem is that one of ... See full summary »
19. Noor pensionär (1972 TV Movie)
80 min | Comedy
One lovely day a young man, a former ballet dancer, suddenly finds himself on a pension and begins searching for a new place in life. Fate brings him together with a rather mischievous ... See full summary »
20. Bremer Freiheit: Frau Geesche Gottfried - Ein bürgerliches Trauerspiel (1972 TV Movie)
87 min | Drama
A very stylized TV version of the Fassbinder play. The set consists of a few pieces of furniture in front of a large screen on which coastal scenery is back projected. Geesche is a ... See full summary »
25. The House Without a Christmas Tree (1972 TV Movie)
Unrated | 75 min | Drama, Family
A young girl named Addie, living in Nebraska in 1946, wants nothing more for the holidays than a Christmas tree, but her widowed father is bitter and refuses due to events from the family's past.
28. An Early Frost (1985 TV Movie)
95 min | Drama
A young lawyer hasn't told his parents about his homosexuality. Now he must tell them--at a time when the diagnosis was still a death sentence--that he has AIDS.
29. Juste une question d'amour (2000 TV Movie)
88 min | Drama, Romance
After his gay cousin dies from hepatitis, young Laurent, who lives with his best friend Carole, falls in love with Cedric, a plant scientist. He's afraid to inform his conservative parents that he is gay.
30. Surviving (1985 TV Movie)
143 min | Drama
Promising student Rick Brogan discovers that his father whom he idolizes is cheating on his mother. Heartbroken, he finds comfort in the arms of his old crush but her father opposes the relationship which pushes Rick over the edge.
31. I Know My First Name Is Steven (1989– )
180 min | Crime, Drama
The harrowing true account of Steven Stayner, who was kidnapped by a perverted pseudo-priest and his lackey during the 1970s. As he gets older, he realizes that he needs to try to make an escape and get back home.
33. Cinderella (1957 TV Special)
90 min | Musical, Family, Comedy
Although mistreated by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella is able to attend the royal ball through the help of a fairy godmother.
34. Cinderella (1965 TV Movie)
G | 84 min | Musical, Fantasy, Romance
Although mistreated by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella is able to attend the royal ball through the help of a fairy godmother.
35. Death of a Salesman (1966 TV Movie)
100 min | Drama
An abridged award-winning television adaptation of a famous play about an aging travelling salesman who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His job is gone, and his family hates him for never being there. He tries mending things with them.
36. Prescription: Murder (1968 TV Movie)
100 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
A psychiatrist uses a patient he is having an affair with to help him kill his wife, but his perfect alibi may come apart at the hands of a seemingly befuddled LAPD lieutenant.
37. Mehed ei nuta (1968 TV Movie)
80 min | Comedy
A group of sleepless nerds should be taken into sanitarium for hard-therapy. They are taken to a lonely island but no sanitarium is in sight. Suddenly turns out that the nurses have ... See full summary »
38. Run a Crooked Mile (1969 TV Movie)
100 min | Drama
A man witnesses a murder in a secluded mansion. When he reports it, there's no evidence of the murder, or that anyone was there. He finds a key on the floor and goes to his boss to get help... See full summary »
39. Das Millionenspiel (1970 TV Movie)
96 min | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
A candidate in a game show is hunted by three men. He will get a Million DMark, if he survives for a week; the hunters will get the money, if they can kill the candidate. The audience of ... See full summary »
40. Sole Survivor (1970 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 100 min | Drama, Fantasy
This story is loosely based on the discovery of the B-24 "Liberator" bomber the "Lady Be Good" that was found in the Libyan desert after the crew got lost on their 1st bombing mission to Italy.
41. The Andersonville Trial (1970 TV Movie)
150 min | Drama
A dramatization of the 1865 war-crimes trial of Henry Wirz, commandant of the notorious Confederate POW camp at Andersonville, Georgia.
42. The Point (1971 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 74 min | Animation, Adventure, Family
A father tells his son a bedtime story about young Oblio, who believes that having no point in the fantastical kingdom of pointed heads and things, still has a point.
43. Welt am Draht (1973– )
Not Rated | 212 min | Crime, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Somewhere in the future there is a computer project called Simulacron one of which is able to simulate a full featured reality, when suddenly project leader Henry Vollmer dies. His ... See full summary »
44. Frankenstein: The True Story (1973 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 185 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
When the brilliant but unorthodox scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein rejects the artificial man that he has created, the Creature escapes and later swears revenge.
45. Sunshine (1973 TV Movie)
121 min | Biography, Drama
A young woman living in the woods with her husband, a struggling musician, and her daughter discover she has terminal cancer. She begins to tape-record a journal of the time she has left.
46. Steambath (1973 TV Movie)
90 min | Drama, Fantasy
TV adaptation of Bruce Jay Friedman's off-Broadway play. Tandy, Merideth and assorted others unexpectedly wake up in a steambath with no easy exit. After spending some time there, it ... See full summary »
49. I Heard the Owl Call My Name (1973 TV Movie)
90 min | Drama
A young priest named Mark is sent as a vicar to a native American village in B.C. Canada, there he learns of faith and humanity, as he watches their culture being torn to shreds.
50. Edvard Munch (1974 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 210 min | Biography, Drama, History
Following a rough chronology from 1884 to 1894, when Norwegian artist Edvard Munch began expressionism and established himself as northern Europe's most maligned and controversial artist, ... See full summary »
Votes: 2,507 | Gross: $0.04M
51. Martha (I) (1974 TV Movie)
116 min | Drama, Thriller
After the death of her abusive father, the lonely librarian Martha marries an equally vile businessman - Helmut. The cruel and torturous nature of their relationship lead Martha to believe Helmut might be trying to kill her.
52. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974 TV Movie)
TV-PG | 110 min | Drama
Story of a black woman in the South who was born into slavery in the 1850s and lives to become a part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
53. The Execution of Private Slovik (1974 TV Movie)
120 min | Biography, Drama
The story of Eddie Slovik, who was executed by the Army in 1945, the only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the Civil War.
54. The Missiles of October (1974 TV Movie)
150 min | Drama, History, Thriller
Based in part on Robert F. Kennedy's book, "Thirteen Days," this film profiles the Kennedy Administration's actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
55. A Case of Rape (1974 TV Movie)
100 min | Drama
When she was raped, Ellen thought it was the worst thing to ever happen to her. What was worse, was the treatment by the hospital staff, police and the court system, when she reported it, ... See full summary »
56. Helter Skelter (1976 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 194 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
The investigation and trial of the horrific Tate-LaBianca mass murders orchestrated by the psychotic pseudo-hippie cult leader, Charles Manson.
57. The Macahans (1976 TV Movie)
119 min | Western
Zeb Macahan, a pioneering westerner, help's move his brother's family to the wild west. They run into several obstacles, including the breakout of the Civil War. This sends the father back ... See full summary »
58. Ich will doch nur, daß ihr mich liebt (1976 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 104 min | Drama
A man is interviewed by a sympathetic woman. His tale unfolds, of hard work that never pleases his parents, of a father who denigrates his efforts, of an indifferent mother. He builds them ... See full summary »
60. One of My Wives Is Missing (1976 TV Movie)
93 min | Thriller
Daniel Corban's wife Elizabeth disappeared after they had a fight. Then she shows up, yet he insists that the woman isn't actually his wife.
63. Scum (1977 TV Movie)
78 min | Crime, Drama
This is the hard and shocking story of life in a British borstal for young offenders. Luckily the regime has changed since this TV film was made. The brutal regime made no attempt to reform... See full summary »
65. The Dog in the Manger (1978 TV Movie)
138 min | Comedy, Musical
Teodoro, the secretary of countess Diana de Belfler, is in love with her maid Marcela. Following the development of their affair, countess suddenly feels the jealousy.
66. Something for Joey (1977 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Sport
This is based on the true story about the relationship between Penn State football player John Cappelletti, Jr. and his younger brother Joey, who has leukemia. John and Joey's bond is a ... See full summary »
68. Pro Krasnuyu Shapochku (1977 TV Movie)
135 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Musical
A sequel to the well-known story about a Little Red Riding Hood (Krasnaya Shapochka). This time, a family of a slain wolf decides to avenge his death. So they falsely inform Little Red ... See full summary »
The Norman Conquests (1977– )
93 min | Comedy
A dysfunctional family gets together at the house of their cantankerous mother and old resentments, jealousies, and rivalries are reignited.
73. Obyknovennoe chudo (1979 TV Movie)
138 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Musical
A wizard invents characters who all come to life and start to arrive at his house: a King, his servants, a princes, a bear trapped in a man's body - the usual lot. The Plot mainly rotates ... See full summary »
Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1954–1991)
Child of Glass
Unrated | 93 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama
A boy continues to see a ghost of a Creole girl and he has to help her solve a riddle...otherwise he might be haunted for the rest of his life!
77. Bezymyannaya zvezda (1979 TV Movie)
140 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
"Stars never leave their orbits". The poor astronomy teacher got one more demonstration of this law when he met HER. SHE was "from the another world". SHE was strange and inappropriate in ... See full summary »
78. Tot samyy Myunkhgauzen (1979 TV Movie)
142 min | Comedy, Fantasy
A philosophical and poetic portrait of the famous (or maybe infamous?) Baron Munchhausen. His crazy, yet very merriment, stories, views and behavior is what sets him apart from others. He ... See full summary »
80. Priklyucheniya Elektronika (1980– )
215 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime
Professor Gromov constructs a robot called Electronic, which looks exactly like Sergey Syroezhkibn, a 6-grader from one of Odessa (USSR) schools. The robot also acts a lot like a human, and... See full summary »
81. Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979 TV Movie)
88 min | Drama
A woman, who had left home 20 years previously under acrimonious circumstances, finds out that she is terminally ill. She returns home and tries to rebuild her relationship with her ... See full summary »
82. Murder by Natural Causes (1979 TV Movie)
100 min | Drama, Mystery
Allison, the unfaithful wife of a famous mentalist with a heart problem, wants her lover to try to kill her husband by scaring him to death, but the whole thing goes downhill.
83. Priklyucheniya printsa Florizelya (1979 TV Movie)
206 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime
Adventure seeker Prince of Bacardia Florizel walks around London in the clothes of a simple townsman, along with his friend, Colonel Geraldine. At night on the embankment they meet a young ... See full summary »
85. Otpusk v sentyabre (1979 TV Movie)
141 min | Drama
Engineer Zilov, having woken up, finds the funeral wreath at his place - his friends' present. This rather symbolic joke makes him recollect the previous night as well as 2 last months.
87. Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980 TV Movie)
TV-14 | 192 min | Biography, Drama
The real-life story of the Peoples Temple cult led by Reverend Jim Jones and the events involving its move to Guyana and its eventual mass suicide.
88. Playing for Time (1980 TV Movie)
150 min | Drama, Music
Female prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp (Auschwitz) are spared from death in return for performing music for their captors.
89. O bednom gusare zamolvite slovo (1981 TV Movie)
167 min | Comedy, Drama, History
The arrival of a hussar regiment stirs a small town into life. The love of cornet Pletnev for the young actress Nastenka unexpectedly intertwines with the machinations of Merzlyayev, an ... See full summary »
90. Skyward (1980 TV Movie)
100 min | Drama
An aging Bette Davis is a flight instructor at an old Texas airport. When a young girl in a wheelchair finds the airport by watching gliders fly, she decides she wants to learn how to fly. ... See full summary »
91. White Mama (1980 TV Movie)
105 min | Drama
A poor, elderly white woman living in a tenement in a black ghetto is befriended by a neighborhood boy, and the two of them form a mutually beneficial relationship: he provides her ... See full summary »
92. The Pirates of Penzance (1980 TV Movie)
122 min | Comedy, Musical
A young man named Frederick leaves the zany band of pirates he was raised by to find true love and respectability, but when the Pirate King turns up to call on an old debt, Frederick must ... See full summary »
93. The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 98 min | Drama
94. Spokój (1980 TV Movie)
81 min | Drama
Filmed in 1976 and shelved for five years. A young man in his twenties leaves prison after a three-year sentence. He wants to start a new life in a place where he is not known and dreams ... See full summary »
96. Amber Waves (1980 TV Movie)
98 min | Drama
Two seemingly disparate men experience powerful life lessons when a wheat harvester gives a hitch-hiking male model a ride on what feels to be the worst day of their lives, at the peak of ... See full summary »
98. Bill (1981 TV Movie)
97 min | Biography, Drama
Bill Sackter, a intellectually disabled man, ventures out into the world for the first time, having spent most of his life in a dreary inner city institution. He is taken in by a kind ... See full summary »
99. Peter and Paul (1981 TV Movie)
198 min | Biography, Drama, History
Peter and Paul assume leadership of the Church as they struggle against violent opposition to the teachings of Christ and their own personal conflicts.