Masters of the Universe
He-Man! Skeletor! The lush and barbaric ecosystem of Eternia! Mattel’s fantasy toy line begot some of the best-loved characters of the ’80s and a totally ridiculous 1987 live-action adaptation starring Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, and Courteney Cox, among others serving major camp and power of Grayskull drama.
Once upon a time, plastic cars turned into awesome robots, then back into cars, then back into robots, then cars, and so on and so forth for endless playtime fun. And then, Michael Bay showed up in 2007 and turned the nifty shapeshifters into screeching metallic war machines who died violent digital deaths and rained sparks and destruction upon cities — for five movies and counting. Bumblebee is cute, though.
Skeptics of Warner Bros.’ intention to craft a movie based on the bare concept of a toy brick were silenced upon release of 2014’s record-setting, box office-busting adventure, starring Chris Pratt as a mini-figure who learns to eschew his building instructions. Since then, the budding LEGO Movie series has morphed into one of Hollywood’s most creative animated franchises.
There’s no major mythology to the Troll dolls invented by a Danish outdoorsman in the ‘50s, but there are specific traits—big hair, glittering bellies, and bare feet—that made their way into DreamWorks’ uber-happy 2016 adaptation starring Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake.
Arguably the best movie ever set in the Forest of Feelings, Hollywood’s 1985 welcoming of the adorable tummy-tucked bears helped solidify the power of cross-promotional merchandising. Plus, talk about expanded cinematic universes… if you thought the Care Bears were a one-species deal, in came Brave Heart Lion to undo everything you thought you knew about Care-a-Lot.
Peter Berg’s 2012 movie was critically reviled, and not just because of its decision to include aliens or let Rihanna go nuts on a chain-gun. The film had barely anything to do with the grid-guessing board game that inspired it, botching its one job: No one actually says “You sunk my Battleship” in the movie Battleship.
It’s almost unfair to even link the 1985 cult classic movie to its board game predecessor, if only because of how iconic the film became on its own comic merits in the years after its release. Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren, and the rest of the blessed cast turned the whodunit into a comedy treasure wherein death via laughter was a genuinely possible outcome for the audience.
Beyond the frequent use of the spirit board in Very Spooky Episodes of certain teen dramas, the paranormal-adjacent piece of wood inspired not one but two full-length movies (in 2014 and 2016) about conjured spirits, creepy messages, and the adrenaline rush of people spelling words slowly.
Dungeons & Dragons
The next time you see Jeremy Irons, ask him about his insane role as a villainous dragon mage in the 2000 film adaptation of the dice-based role-playing fantasy game that captivated geeks in the ‘80s. This messy movie often had a lot going on in it — not much of it worth repeating.
Channing Tatum had no trouble filling out the (action) figure of the famous military toy, which launched a 2009 movie franchise that had significantly more grit and grandeur than — but roughly the same amount of explosions as — the beloved ‘80s TV toon adaptation.
If G.I. Joe was Hasbro’s answer to the military, Max Steel was Mattel’s response to whatever robotic secret agent soldier question the ‘90s asked. (To that end, the 2016 movie achieved that rare feat of a perfect 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.)
My Little Pony
One of pop culture’s greatest mysteries is the intriguing audience that My Little Pony and its many media incarnations has managed to attract, especially in the 2010 relaunch that turned the gang of ponies into unprecedented avatars for Internet obsession. Already beloved from their appearance in the 1986 movie, the equestrian friends transformed into something wholly different in their 2017 iteration.
The Garbage Pail Kids
If you thought the Cabbage Patch Kids had a certain sentient creepiness to them, their repulsive trash-based friends made it clear that they were Generation X’s prominent nightmare inducers. Often billed as one of the worst movies ever made, the gang’s outrageous 1987 movie undoubtedly took its cues more from “garbage pail” than “kid.”
Raggedy Ann & Andy
1977 was a weird time.
Since her introduction in the ‘50s, America’s most model citizen has starred in plenty of animated features and has long found her way into greater pop culture consciousness and parody. Still, it took until the late 2010s for an official live-action studio film to materialize, with Anne Hathaway circling the role of the fashion doll after Amy Schumer dropped out.
Without the success of The LEGO Movie, there may have never been the 2015 announcement of an entire movie based the mushy brand, with director Paul Feig attached to mold.
Director Ridley Scott has long been behind a Wall Street-esque live-action adaptation of the real estate-buying board game, which would apparently follow a Baltic Avenue kid on a quest to make a Boardwalk-sized fortune…if the movie can get out of development hell and Go already.