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10 Legitimately Masterful Made-For-TV Movies

Because where else are you going to see Michael Douglas as Liberace?

Hearing the words 'made-for-TV movie' doesn't exactly fill you with hope. Despite TV's rising reputation as a contender for the entertainment media crown (it's coming for you, film), TV movies still carry the reputation of being absolutely rubbish. They lack the credibility of cinema, because, if this crew and this cast couldn't make it onto the big screen, then Lord knows they were probably doing something wrong. TV movies are saccharine blobs of mush used to fill out the daytime TV schedule, lazily-directed feature-length soaps with no personality whatsoever - or so goes the myth. And yet in reality it isn't always the case. TV movies can be where great filmmakers of the future go to cut their teeth, or where old pros go to realise projects too risky for film studios to take on. There are gems to be found amidst the made-for-TV movie wreckage. Here are ten that weren't just adequate for the TV movie, but that were genuinely excellent pieces of work in their own right.

10. The Sunset Limited (2011)

Much of the talk surrounding Cormac McCarthy's 2013 original, The Counsellor, suggested that the novelist's talents didn't translate so well to script writing, with Ridley Scott's perhaps overly-reverential take on McCarthy's screenplay walking a fine line between profundity and ridiculousness. Reviews implied McCarthy might require the filter of professional screenwriters to make his bleak prose work, evidenced by the greater success of No Country for Old Men and The Road, based on his novels but penned by the Coen brothers and Joe Penhall, respectively. But that would mean forgetting HBO's excellent 2011 TV movie, The Sunset Limited. Adapted by McCarthy from his stage play of the same name, The Sunset Limited finds perhaps the perfect star and director in the terminally grumpy Tommy Lee Jones, playing the suicidal 'White' to Samuel L. Jackson's faith-driven 'Black'. Set entirely in Black's apartment, where White is brought after Black prevents him from committing suicide, The Sunset Limited is a dialogue-heavy, extreme two-hander, in which the two characters chew over the facts of life. Topics of religion, race, mortality and more are explored, as Jackson's Black desperately tries to convince Jones' White that life is worth living.
Contributor
Contributor

Lover of film, writer of words, pretentious beyond belief. Thinks Scorsese and Kubrick are the kings of cinema, but PT Anderson and David Fincher are the dashing young princes. Follow Brogan on twitter if you can take shameless self-promotion: @BroganMorris1