A Pilot Movie is a TV movie that, while purporting to be a coherent story on its own, is obviously an attempt to get the higher-ups to turn it into a series. Think of it as a proactive version of TheMovie.

The advantage of a Pilot Movie over an ordinary {{pilot}} is that the bigger budget of a TV movie translates directly into better sets, cinematography and effects, not to mention the occasional "big-name" actor. SpeculativeFiction series which must build their entire "world" for the viewer in particular do better with a Pilot Movie.

In addition, by advertising it as a movie, a network can hype up the pilot and gauge the reaction without having to commit to showing any additional episodes. Quite often an ordinary pilot, that was not picked up first time round, is repackaged as a MadeForTVMovie in an attempt to recoup costs, and a good audience reaction can lead to a series after all.

There are both successful examples (''[[Recap/BabylonFiveS01E00TheGathering Babylon 5: The Gathering]]'' gave birth to, of course, ''Series/BabylonFive''), and unsuccessful ones (USANetwork's 2004 debacle ''Frankenstein''). An unsuccessful Pilot Movie can become an Amelia Earhart -- "the pilot that was never seen again".

Sometimes the studio will be so impressed by the movie that it will be released theatrically -- while still serving as a pilot for a series. This is especially common with {{anime}}, where the pilot may be designed from the start to be shown in theaters.

Contrast: PoorlyDisguisedPilot (a redirect of this trope name, Backdoor Pilot, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_pilot#Backdoor_pilots can also be used]] to describe pilot movies).

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!Examples:

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[[folder:Manga and Anime]]
* ''Anime/DigimonAdventure'' had a ShortAnimeMovie, unusually released a week before the series itself; it was set four years earlier and starred a younger Taichi and Hikari, and its events are later stated to be the reason why the eight heroes are {{The Chosen One}}s. It was eventually dubbed as part one of ''Franchise/{{Digimon}}: TheMovie'', and it was arguably the part that fared the best [[{{Macekre}} in translation]].
* Similarly, ''OnePiece'' had a Pilot {{OVA}}.
* The eventual ''Anime/MazingerZ'' spinoff ''Anime/UFORoboGrendizer'' started off as a 30-minute movie named ''UchuEnbanDaisenso''.
* ''Manga/DragonBall'' had a pilot movie for the American run. Funimation used "Curse of the Blood Rubies" as the pilot to sell the series. Because their initial dub had so much footage cut out from the actual movie, they had to copy/paste five minutes of footage from episode 2 to fill in for the lost time.
* ''KimagureOrangeRoad'''s pilot was a TV special loosely based on one of the chapters in the manga.
* ''UltraManiac'' started out with a one-off OVA pilot before getting picked up for a full 26-episode series.
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[[folder:Film]]
* ThisIsSpinalTap: When they were given seed money to pitch the film, the cast (being unsure how to put the style of the movie across) instead of filming scenes or developing production concepts, shot a complete twenty-minute film, Spinal Tap: The Last Tour, as their 'pitch' instead. Some sequences, such as the performance of "Gimme Some Money" are lifted from the original short film. It appears only on Criterion's long out-of-print pressing of the DVD, not on MGM's more recent pressing.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Other ''Series/BabylonFive'' examples include "A Call to Arms" which led to ''Series/{{Crusade}}'', and "Legend of the Rangers" (even giving it an episode title: "To Live and Die in Starlight") which led to nothing.
* It is said that the 1979 miniseries ''Literature/SalemsLot'' might have been considered as one.
* The first season of ''{{Lexx}}'' comprises four telemovies.
* Wesley Snipes and Dean Cain's ''Futuresport'', with its end sequence where a sportscaster talks about Dean Cain's character (a former player) becoming the coach of an FS team.
* The 1979 pilot film for the 1979-81 series ''Series/BuckRogersInTheTwentyFifthCentury'' went to theatres instead of TV.
* One weird example is ''Us'', a Pilot Movie that really wasn't. It was meant to be a normal pilot to a new series for Michael Landon, but was converted to a movie when Landon died after production.
** His first series ''Series/LittleHouseOnThePrairie'' also started as a TV movie showing the Ingles moving across the country to Walnut Creek. To this day it is sydicated as part of a movie package to stations as opposed to being cut into two parts for the series.
* ''Series/DueSouth'' began with a Pilot Movie and later became a series, with a few cast changes.
* Borderline example: The first pilot of ''Series/{{Firefly}}'', called ''Serenity'' like the later [[TheMovie actual movie]], was the length of a Pilot Movie. Fox, who wanted a more action-based pilot than a story-driven one, asked for a new one, and so ''The Train Job'' was written in haste over a weekend and then became the show's pilot episode. In one of Fox's last bits of ExecutiveMeddling that plaged the series, ''Serenity'' was eventually aired last. (The series' preferred running order was the one eventually released to DVD.)
* ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment'' also had a feature-length pilot, but had a half-hour reduced cut as well.
* The season 6 premiere of ''Series/{{House}}'' was a movie-length inversion of all the common tropes on the show, which arguably prepared the way to a different direction in the show, thereby qualifying itself as a pilot.
* ''Series/{{Eureka}}'' was planned as a TV movie on the SciFi channel. After seeing the movie, executives turned the story into a series.
* Both versions of ''Battlestar Galactica'' got a similar start; the [[Series/BattlestarGalacticaClassic original]] was envisioned as a series of TV movies, picked up as a series after ABC liked what they saw, and the [[Series/BattlestarGalacticaReimagined 2000s version]] originated as a three-hour miniseries that was successful enough to be continued.
* ''Series/{{JAG}}'' began with a pilot movie, although the female lead was changed for the series.
* Each of the ''Franchise/StarTrek'' series from ''[[Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration Next Gen]]'' on began with a movie-length pilot. The tradition actually began with the development of ''Star Trek: Phase II''; though that series would never be produced, its pilot movie, "In Thy Image", was rewritten and expanded into ''Film/StarTrekTheMotionPicture''.
* Each season of ''Series/KnightRider'' started with a double-length episode (when re-aired, they would be split into a two-parter) billed as a "Season Premiere Movie". ''Series/KnightRider'' has a long history of pilot movie revivials:
** ''Knight Rider 2000'', set TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture, guest staring Michael and Devon for the movie but not for the proposed series (Michael retires, and Devon dies), but with KITT returning as the same character in a new body. Never to be seen again.
** ''Knight Rider 2010'', a ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|Reimagined}}''-style reimagining, really more of an attempt at "Mad Max Gets a Talking Car: The Series", with no links to the original series (but adequate hooks left to add some in the proposed series). Never to be seen again.
** ''Knight Rider'' (2008), for the win. Keeping in close continuity with the original series despite an entirely new set of characters (Michael Knight makes a cameo at the end), going to series in fall 2008 despite some aggressively blatant product placement and a total IdiotPlot.
* The 1996 ''Series/DoctorWho'' TV movie was created as a possible pilot for a revival. It didn't pan out, but it gave the writers of spin off media a new canon Doctor to play with until the show was revived for real in 2005.
* The 1970s ''WonderWoman'' series had a failed pilot movie that starred Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role.
** The Cathy Lee Crosby "Wonder Woman" TV movie was produced by a different group than the one that made the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series, and was not intended as a pilot. It has about as much in common with the later series as the ''Knight Riders'' movie had to do with ''Series/KnightRider''.
* The 2002 remake of ''{{Carrie}}'' was intended as a pilot for a TV series on Creator/{{NBC}}, but it was never picked up due to disappointing ratings.
* ''Turbo: A PowerRangers Movie'', though not a pilot for the entire series, acts as a pilot for the fifth season of the long-running show ''Series/PowerRangersTurbo''.
* ''Red Skies'' (2002) Was an unsuccessful movie-length pilot repackaged and released as a MadeForTVMovie.
* ''{{Sliders}}'' started with a movie about, well, Quinn Mallory, his friend Wade Welles and his teacher Professor Arturo trying out Quinn's timer and getting stuck on an universe where the Russians won the Cold War with an unwilling companion, Rembrandt Brown. It's a coherent story on its own, and the series really starts with the movie's TwistEnding.
* The Raymond Burr series ''Series/{{Ironside}}'' started with a pilot movie.
* ''Series/TheStreetsOfSanFrancisco''.
* ''EarthStarVoyager'' was a two-part miniseries that originally aired on ABC's ''Wonderful World of Disney'' in January 1988. It focused on a bunch of young people from a late 21st century [[CrapsackWorld Crapsack Future Earth]] as they [[SerialNumbersFiledOff trekked through the stars]] to find a new home for the human race. Even though the series was never picked up, the miniseries was actually nominated for two primetime Emmys for sound editing and sound mixing.
* ''MurderSheWrote'' began as a pilot movie which showed how Jessica Fletcher got into writing in the first place and her helping to solve a murder while staying in New York City.
* ''TheLoveBoat'' had ''three'' pilot movies, all of which had different actors playing the regular lead roles.
* ''Series/SabrinaTheTeenageWitch'' had this ''sorta''. There were a lot of changes made.
** In the sense that it aired on Showtime, the tone was darker, and Melissa Joan Hart and the girl who played Sabrina's friend were the only ones ''not'' recast for the series.
* ''{{Kojak}}'' started with the pilot film ''The Marcus-Nelson Murders''.
* ''MyBabysittersAVampire'' had a pilot movie telling how main characters met the babysitter and found out she was a vampire.
* ABC Family's ''SamuraiGirl'' miniseries was supposed to lead into a TV series that never materialized.
* ''Series/{{Endeavour}}'' started as a one-off film {{prequel}} to ''Series/InspectorMorse''. It was picked up for a series, broadcast in April 2013.
* ''Level Up'' had a TV movie before becoming a full series.
* ''Series/{{Witchblade}}''
* ''{{Push}}'' has "please give us a TV series" stamped all over it.
* Same with ''Film/{{Jumper}}''.
* ''Series/CagneyAndLacey'' began with a TV movie.
* Film/TheOogielovesInTheBigBalloonAdventure. It might become a TV series in the future.
* ''Film/PopeyeDoyle'', a remake of ''TheFrenchConnection'', was intended to be a spinoff, starring Ed O'Neill. Unfortunately, it was not picked up.
* ''Film/{{Zombieland}}'' was originally written by the writers as a pilot for a television show; When no one picked it up, the director fleshed out the plot to make it a feature length film. Ironically, the film did so well that a pilot was commissioned by Amazon Studios for an online series (to be streamed a la Netflix via Amazon's Prime service). Amazon commissioned 12 different pilots and put it to a vote online as to which ones Amazon would take to series, and the ''Zombieland'' pilot did not get picked up. Online reviews of the pilot were not kind, and the series creators [[http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/news/a482557/zombieland-tv-series-not-picked-up-by-amazon-after-hated-pilot.html were not]] pleased.
* ''Series/JohnDoe'' started off with a pilot movie, which sported noticeably better special effects than the series did.
* Inverted with the ''Series/StargateSG1'' pilot "Children of the Gods," a two-hour episode that was later remastered and turned into a DVD movie.
* ''The Adventures of Superman'' had a pilot film in the form of ''Superman and the Mole Men'' in 1951. At the end of the first season, the film was edited into a two-parter called "The Unknown People."
* "The Wedsworth-Townsend Act" from ''Franchise/{{Emergency}}'', a two-hour made-for-TV movie which focuses on the effort to train L. A. County firefighters as paramedics and get the legal backing necessary for them to use their training. It features a cameo from ''Adam12'' characters Reed and Malloy (leading to a later MindScrew when the guys are discussing a recent ep of that series)
** NBC tried to create a spinoff with the ''Emergency!'' Movie "The Most Deadly Passage" aka "Seattle Medic One", but without any luck that time.
* ''Series/ForeverKnight'' started as a made-for-tv film named Nick Knight. It was overhauled a bit and chopped in half for the two part 'Dark Knight' pilot. Nick was relocated from Los Angeles to Toronto and his house went from a theater to a loft, and the male coroner was exchanged for Natalie. Don Kapelos (Schanke) was the only actor to make it from the movie to the series, however.
* ''Series/WalkerTexasRanger'' premiered with the two-hour TV movie "One Riot, One Ranger."
* ''Series/LondonsBurning'' began with a two hour pilot movie in 1986. Two years later it became a series, which ran until 2002.
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[[folder:WebComics]]
* ''WebComic/{{Precocious}}'': The "Disorganized Sports" arc was partially used to introduce some of the main cast of the {{spinoff}} strip ''Copper Road''.
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[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/SamuraiJack'' had a pilot movie that was actually the first three episodes with some footage taken out for pacing.
** Similarly, ''WesternAnimation/FostersHomeForImaginaryFriends'' had a premiere movie that was later re-aired as a three-part episode, and renamed to "House of Bloo's".
* ''WesternAnimation/JimmyNeutron'' had a pilot theatrical movie that preceded the TV series on Nickelodeon.
** Similarly, ''Barnyard: The Original Party Animals'' ended up being a pilot for a Nick TV series from the same creators of ''Jimmy Neutron''.
* ''Fluppy Dogs'' -- The 1980s Disney cartoon that never was a series, but ''was'' an animated made-for-TV-movie. [[http://www.alligatorjuice.com/fluppylove.html This article explains it better.]] While the film received a substantial marketing blitz, with a line of all kinds of brightly colored toy dogs, the cartoon itself never came to be.
* ''StarWarsTheCloneWars'' had a theatrical release, though it should be pointed out that the series was already green-lit well in advance.
* ''BuzzLightyearOfStarCommand'' had a direct-to-video movie, which was later aired as the [[FiveEpisodePilot three episode pilot]] of the TV show (Tim Allen reprised Buzz for the VHS and DVD, but in the pilot version and the series he was replaced by Patrick Warburton).
* Many of the Disney cartoons from the 1980s and 1990s had a Pilot Movie, which would turn into a FiveEpisodePilot in normal airplay. Among them ''WesternAnimation/ChipNDaleRescueRangers'', ''WesternAnimation/DuckTales'', ''WesternAnimation/TaleSpin'', ''WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck'', and ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}''.
* ''Disney/AladdinTheReturnOfJafar'' was a backdoor pilot for ''WesternAnimation/AladdinTheSeries'' (establishing things like Abis Mal as a villain, Genie being somewhat weaker and his powers being on the fritz so that he couldn't solve the problem-of-the-episode easily, Iago being something of an ally to Aladdin and Co.) in addition to tying up some dangling threads from the first film.
* The DirectToVideo ''WesternAnimation/StitchTheMovie'' was effectively the pilot for ''WesternAnimation/LiloAndStitchTheSeries''.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheMagicAdventuresOfMumfie'' had its first thirteen episodes combined into one movie called Mumfie's Quest, [[AdaptationDisplacement which is more well-known than the original episodes it comprised of]]. Unlike most examples, it did get a a theatrical release-as part of a summer movie program in 1997 only camp and daycare groups could attend!
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