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Big Damn Movie
Little girl, BIG ADVENTURE.

This trope refers to the habit of movies based on TV shows casting the main characters as heroes trying to save something, despite whether or not anything remotely similar happens in the show itself. This can be as big as the world or as small as recess, just so long as it is made "epic". Oddly, often seems to involve neighborhoods being torn down to build shopping malls.

Due to the fact that nearly all movie adaptations use this trope to some degree (after all, it's hard to keep up an epic tone across a 13-52 episode season), examples shall be limited to things that involve a change in dynamic.

Can sometimes overlap with Summer Blockbuster, but is generally distinct from an Epic Movie, which is inherently epic to begin with. Compare Sequel Escalation, a similar phenomenon.


Examples of films adapted from:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • It looks like the Axis Powers Hetalia movie is going this way, with there being the world being in danger.
  • The Golgo 13 manga had Duke Togo traveling the world and working for and against the world's superpower nations while changing the course of history. Still, the original movie (The Professional) had the father of one of his targets angry and powerful enough to send the combined forces of Eagleland - the FBI, the CIA, the U.S. Military, and a Carnival of Killers - against the lone wolf Anti-Hero.
  • Lupin III:
  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (based on the book of the same name) Has Kyon hopping through time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong when someone re-writes the world.
  • Not to say Pokémon isn't action packed but the movies tend to be more dramatic, the battles more actiony, and there always seems to be some sort of big dilemma involving the fate of the world.
  • You're Under Arrest! is a goofy anime about a couple of cops. It has its action scenes, and its drama, but it isn't as dramatic as other Lovely Angels series. The Movie is dark, action packed, and deals with terrorists.
  • Crayon Shin Chan is a slice-of-life anime about a Wise Beyond Their Years boy and his family and friends. Every movie is about said boy and his friends and family saving their town, country or even the world.
  • The Moomins is about weird creatures of Finnish imagination having cute (albeit scary) adventures in Ghibli Hills. The movie is about End of the World as We Know It.
  • Doraemon LOVES this trope. The regular manga and TV series involves just the mundane daily life of the protagonist, his robotic cat, and his other elementary school friends in suburban Tokyo. However, the series' movies will always be huge epic adventure stories (often set in elaborate sci-fi/mythological/high fantasy locations) and the main characters are inevitably portrayed as the brave action heroes.
  • Long before the series itself underwent Cerebus Syndrome, Ranma ˝ was a series that mainly concentrated on the wacky martial-arts hijinx Ranma and company got into. The first movie has Akane getting kidnapped by a mystical Chinese fighter and leaving the rest of the cast going an an epic journey halfway across the country trying to rescue her.
  • Mystery series Detective Conan can often have action chase scenes, but they're always of a much smaller scale. The films are more akin to action-packed adventure summer blockbusters like Die Hard: Not only is there still the Victim of the Week, but in solving the movie cases Conan generally has to get through giant set pieces that in turn yield several amounts of property damage and enough explosions that would make Michael Bay proud.
  • Not even Cowboy Bebop could ignore this trope. The tv series primarily focused on the five main characters just trying to earn enough to get by. The movie has the Bebop crew fighting to stop a bio-terrorist from annihilating all of Mars.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Trope Namer by way of Fan Nickname is Serenity. In the series, the Firefly team is mostly sailing around The Verse trying to make ends meet and keep out of the Alliance's hands; they aren't setting out to be Big Damn Heroes. Come The Movie, it's time to get off their duffs and Bring News Back about the Alliance's biggest screwup yet, while being chased by a superhumanly-dangerous Operative. The series may have been meant to eventually build up to such large actions, but its early cancellation meant that it had to be wrapped up all at once.
    • Word of God has it that the second season was planned to conclude with what happens about 3/4 of the way through the film (i.e. the discovery of the planet Miranda)
  • The Brady Bunch Movie has The Brady Bunch save their home (and, by extension, their neighborhood) from a Corrupt Corporate Executive that wants to convert the area into a shopping mall.
  • Hannah Montana: The Movie has the title character saving her hometown in Tennessee from a land developer seeking to build a mall.
  • Movie versions of popular comedy skits frequently aim for an "epic quest" type of story, which is self-evidently insane. I.e. A Night at the Roxbury, about two one-note characters and their epic quest to get into the best nightclub in the world.
  • Possibly parodied in The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, in which characters have to save the show itself. Not only do they fail, but they accidentally kill nearly all of the creators.
  • The Sesame Street movie Follow That Bird involves the other characters tracking down and rescuing Big Bird from some seedy amusement park operators. Note that this is a film for a PBS educational TV series aimed at toddlers—it does not make for sweet dreams among its target demographic.
    • There's also The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, where the title character goes down Oscar's trashcan (That's what she said!) to retrieve his stolen blanket.
    • And "Don't Eat The Pictures" had them helping the spirit of an Ancient Egyptian boy escape a demon and pass into the afterlife.
    • In Big Bird in China, Big Bird and Barkley go to China on a very slow boat - and encounter two shape-shifting Chinese gods once they get there.
  • Barney had one himself: Barney's Great Adventure.
  • The Red Green Show has Duct Tape Forever, where Red and Harold must save Possum Lodge from demolition by entering a duct tape contest. Road Movie antics ensue.
    • Note that the only real difference between the movie and a regular episode's plot is that Red and the gang are actually shown doing it instead of Red telling the story after the fact.
  • The Thick of It was a dialogue-driven political dramedy about petty grudges and in-fighting in the British government, and most episodes featured the spin doctor Anti-Hero Malcolm Tucker dealing with PR blunders and keeping his fellow party members in line. The movie spin-off, In the Loop, involved Malcolm getting involved with international diplomacy in the United States on the eve of a full-on war in the Middle East.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie is about wizard-in-training and rebellious teenage daughter Alex Russo wishing away her parents' meeting and marriage out of spite, and she and her brothers have to Set Right What Once Went Wrong... IN THE CARIBBEAN! Keep in mind that this movie is based on a Fantastic Comedy with a Laugh Track.
  • The Sweeney generally dealt with small scale crimes such as bank robberies. The 1977 movie dealt with a complex espionage plot with an attempt to assassinate a foreign ambassador. However they seemed to realise this was silly, so in the 1978 movie they went stuck to foiling particularly nasty bank robberies.
  • The Brothers Garcia had a TV Movie involving Ancient Mayan magic, reincarnation, and antiquities smugglers.
  • The plot of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie revolved around attempts by Mike and the bots to escape the Satellite of Love. Even though the plot has been done before in episodes of the series, the movie actually shows consistent attempts at escape, all usually ending in spectacular failure.
  • The TV-movie for Are You Afraid of the Dark? definitely counts. The TV series was simply a story every episode, where a member of the Midnight Society tells a scary story with made-up characters enduring the peril. The movie was about the Midnight Society themselves, beginning with the death of the main character's grandfather, leading into the group having to gather pieces of a broken record to find clues as to the location of a mysterious "Silver Sight," which turns out to be a silver marble that has to power to erase people from existence, and adds a creepy old man and a Creepy Child who are both a little too interested in the situation. Ladies and gentlemen, Tale of the Silver Sight.
  • Drake & Josh Go Hollywood . Exactly what you might expect happens. While in Hollywood, Drake and Josh get mixed up with a counterfeiter. Also, Josh wears an earring.
    • And said criminals in this (TV) movie are some of the most wanted men in America; they even threaten at one point to drown Drake and Josh. Er...this film's based off a... FAMILY show, right?
  • Suite Life Movie involves Zack and Cody stopping a experiment called Project Gemini, and this is coming from another kids sitcom.
  • The various "Wayne's World" sketches on Saturday Night Live were about a public access cable TV show put on by a couple of teenage boys. So, naturally, the Wayne's World movie is about underdogs overcoming corrupt network executives and saving the world.
  • Strange Brew which is the film starring Bob and Doug McKenzie. It's basically Hamlet in a Canadian Brewery with Hosers.
  • Pictured: One episode of So Random! makes fun of the concept by having the first sketch be a trailer to a fake movie about a Strawberry Shortcake copycat saving her land from an alien invasion.
    Coming soon from We're Running Out of Toys to Turn Into Action Movies!
  • The Lizzie McGuire Movie: Lizzie and her class (minus Miranda) goes to Rome, and Lizzie has to impersonate a missing famous Italian pop star who happens to look exactly like her.
  • The 2011 Muppet movie is about saving the studio from demolition by a greedy oil tycoon.
  • Most of the Heisei Kamen Rider films have been BDMs, pitting the stakes to post-apocalyptic levels in some (namely Faiz and Kabuto).
  • Star Trek, in all of its various TV incarnations, typically tells character-driven stories about politics and day-to-day exploration in space, typically ending with An Aesop about cultural understanding and the importance of avoiding violence. Even the relatively Darker and Edgier series in the franchise, which are more likely to involve proper "bad guys", never quite take it all the way to "action thriller IN SPACE!" The movies, on the other hand, invariably involve the Enterprise crew going on epic quests through space and time and facing off against unsavory characters in cool space battles with lots of Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Big Time Rush's Big Time Movie involves the band fighting off MI6 to rescue a secret agent from a supervillain.
  • Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: Radio Norwich is being held hostage by a disgruntled DJ and the hapless presenter becomes a seige negotiator.
  • Da Ali G Show is a Mockumentary series about the titular chav-talking wannabe rapper running his own talk show, and conducting unscripted interviews with people in amusing locations. Sacha Baron Cohen's first big-screen Spin-Off, Ali G Indahouse, was a fully scripted political satire about Ali running for Parliament and fending off a plot to depose the Prime Minister of Britain.
    • Baron's two other movie spinoffs, Borat and Brüno, both avert this trope, as they're actually pretty close to the show in scope and style. Interestingly, they turned out to be much more critically and financially successful than Indahouse (particularly the runaway hit Borat), demonstrating that this trope isn't always required for a successful adaptation.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Short Films 
  • The 2012 feature film of The Three Stooges puts the titular trio on a quest to save an orphanage from demolition.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Hey Arnold! movie. The show itself never features any of the characters saving anything other than their treehouse and usually deals with problems faced by individual characters. And yet when the movie rolls around, suddenly everything needs to be "bigger" note .
  • Animaniacs had Wakko's Wish. The movie itself isn't as "epic" as most Big Damn Movies, but it definitely qualifies for this trope by the standards of Animaniacs. It's a sort of Elseworlds set in an indefinite vaguely European time period, where the Warners are poor young orphans in a small village called Acme Falls; it's the only time all the show's normally segregated segments come together. Wakko accidentally wishes on the one star in the sky that grants wishes and it falls to Earth, leading to a massive race between the characters to reach the Wishing Star first.
  • The Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie has the main characters trying to save their city from an evil exercise machine. They fail get sidetracked.
  • South Park Bigger Longer And Uncut, where the main characters have to save Terrance and Phillip and, eventually, the world...with musical numbers!
  • Transformers: The Movie took a show where the villains would mostly steal energy sources in order to Take Over the World into a galaxy-spanning epic involving the deaths of virtually the entire main cast of the previous series and the protagonists facing a powerful entity intent on wiping them out entirely. This has since rolled back into the franchise, and now "save the universe and everything in it" is a rather common Transformers series plot.
  • The Recess movie, Recess: School's Out where the main characters have to save summer vacation from perpetual winter.
  • Double subverted in Beavis And Butthead Do America. It starts off with a Godzilla-esque giant monster fight between the boys that turns out to be All Just a Dream. The two then set out to try and find their stolen TV...and end up getting massively sidetracked into a plot involving a biological weapon that takes them all over America.
  • The first live-action Flintstones film has ambition, loyalty, betrayal, corporate intrigue, and a climactic battle upon an elaborate makeshift Death Trap. An average episode of the TV series is basically just Wacky Hijinks.
    • A Man Called Flintstone: The animated movie had Fred turn out to be the exact look-alike of a secret agent who was hung up in the hospital and thus couldn't go back to work. Fred is immediately made into a secret agent himself, and must stop the Big Bad and two Moles from blowing up an entire city—oh, and fix his relationship with Wilma. And it was a musical.
  • Subverted in terms of themes with Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show. The trio don't become heroes, but it played like a standard episode on a grand scale. Again, one of the Eds' scams fails miserably. We never learn what the scam was, but we see that it injured the other kids greatly. This leads to the Eds having to escape the cul-de-sac via a car chase. Eventually, every character in the series is trekking the countryside, all with the destination of Eddy's Brother's house. And the fact that we actually SEE his brother, who has been The Ghost all this time, makes the movie even bigger.
    • Also lampshaded with a "In Case of Movie, Break Glass" case, containing a single peanut with a car key inside.
  • The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie was much more epic than the show. While most episodes of the show were (and still are) basically about anything and didn't take themselves very seriously at all, the movie involves SpongeBob and Patrick going on an adventure to retrieve King Neptune's stolen crown and, while generally lighthearted, still has some very dramatic moments and unconventional moments.
    • Plankton finally stole the krabby patty recipe and the consequences of it were worse than merely driving the Krusty Krab out of business.
  • The Simpsons Movie involves the family attempting to save Springfield from destruction, by the E.P.A.
  • Rugrats is about a bunch of babies and everyday life through their perspective. The Rugrats Movie is about the same babies being stranded in the forest with a robot dinosaur car and their ringleader's new baby brother. Then they did it again with Rugrats in Paris, which involves the babies hijacking a Humongous Mecha to stop one kid's dad from marrying a manipulative Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, and again with Rugrats Go Wild!, a Cross Over with The Wild Thornberrys that sees the kids and their families stranded on an island.
  • Pretty much any one of The Fairly OddParents movies.
  • Hey There Its Yogi Bear! sees Yogi and Boo-Boo moved to the San Diego Zoo and Cindy getting kidnapped by the circus. The film reaches its climax at a construction site.
    • The new live action Yogi Bear adaptation also falls into this, as Yogi and Boo Boo will have to team up with Ranger Smith to prevent Jellystone Park from being closed for good.
  • Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension: Phineas and Ferb finally find out that Perry is a secret agent, and go into an Alternate Dimension where a more evil version of Dr. Doofenshmirtz rules. And there are lots of killer robots. All the characters have alternate selves who (except for the title characters) are part of La Résistance. In the TV show, they're usually enjoying the summer making cool contraptions in their backyard. However, this was definitely an example of Tropes Are Not Bad, as the fandom rejoiced both before and after the film premiered.
  • Pingu: The Wedding Episode, where Pingu and his family attend a best friend's wedding. There is a lot of mischief and havoc in this, but at least the ending is happy.
  • Ben 10: While the series is all about the Tennyson's adventures on Earth, Ben 10 Secret Of The Omnitrix is all on a galactic scale. Much like the Transformers example, saving the galaxy became a regular thing as well.
  • The 1990 movie of The Jetsons repurposes Mr. Spacely into a Corrupt Corporate Executive trying to mine an asteroid inhabited by cute aliens. He's given a mild redemption at the end, at least. There are also some '80s musical numbers.
    • An earlier (made for TV) movie, Rocking With Judy Jetson, had the family (primarily Judy, who is given musical aspirations) caught up in a scheme by an alien overlord to remove all music from the universe.
  • Teacher's Pet was about a talking, thinking dog who disguised himself as a boy so he could go to school. The movie was about said dog and his owner having a summer adventure in Florida where Spot (the dog) sees about becoming a human permanently, though he ultimately decides he'd rather be a dog.
  • The Proud Family movie (which also served as the Grand Finale) involved the titular family getting lured to an island by a Mad Scientist trying to steal Oscar's Proud Snacks recipe, peanut-shaped clones, and a concert at the end featuring Penny and her friends. The TV series did have some bizarre episodes, but nothing as extreme as saving the world from evil clones.
  • The original Grand Finale of Kim Possible could count as this as not only did the world come second closest to ending (this was overtaken by the events of the second finale), but it ended with a Relationship Upgrade that a lot of fans had been wanting to see.
  • Felix the Cat: The Movie has Felix traveling to Another Dimension called Oriana. There he must help a Princess reclaim her kingdom, escape a Circus of Fear and defeat an Evil Overlord with help from his friends and his Magic Bag Of Tricks.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine is a TV series about a group of talking steam engines. The Movie, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, features a truly villanious diesel engine, who made a magical steam engine crash For the Evulz, and a Save Both Worlds plot. It was originally supposed to be even more epic, but Executive Meddling changed all that.
  • 1993’s The Ottifants were Germany’s failed attempt at creating their own animated sitcom ŕ la The Simpsons. Most episodes of its only season had fairly mundane Random Events Plots that were adapted from the newspaper comic it was based on. Then, in 2001, eight years after the show aired, they hit us over the head with an (also unsuccessful) movie in which Paul, Grampa, and Baby Bruno go on an epic quest to find Störtebeker’s treasure to replace the donations Paul accidentally lost betting on pigs in order to save his job and the hospital the donations were for, all the while being hunted by gangster who want to find the treasure first.
  • The Magic Roundabout the series: Five minutes of funny and mildly surreal dialogue. The Magic Roundabout Movie: Zebadee's Evil Twin is released from his prison under the Roundabout, and the characters must prevent him from creating a new Ice Age.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie was first conceived to have all the main villains on the show battle over who would take over Townsville, but creator Craig McCracken found it left little screentime for the girls. He eventually pitched the movie as an origin story for the girls (based on the show's usual opening and in part on the episode "Mr. Mojo's Rising") with the main plot of them unwittingly helping Mojo Jojo set the table in creating a race of supermonkeys.
  • The '80s Alvin and the Chipmunks has The Chipmunk Adventure.
  • In the movie ˇMucha Lucha!: The Return Of El Malefico, Rikochet, Buena Girl and The Flea who are The Chosen One must prevent El Malefico from taking over the world.
  • Several of the Scooby-Doo movies come to mind.
  • Averted by DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Uncle Scrooge and the kids find a magic lamp with a genie in it, but that's barely impressive by the already outlandish standards of the TV show - which, in addition to its famous "racecars, lasers, [and] aeroplanes", also treated viewers to battles with powerful witches and such.
  • While a few Futurama episodes threaten to destroy the universe (For instance, The Farnsworth Parabox and Time Keeps on Slippin') the movies usually have more at stake.
  • Sort of averted by My Little Pony Equestria Girls. In a series that's already featured many high adventure episodes and multiple highly competent and dangerous villains, chasing a jealous former student of Princess Celestia's into a High School AU to retrieve a stolen crown is rather tame in comparison. Even if said jealous former student transforms into a demon for the climax.
  • The Magic Adventures Of Mumfie has "Mumfie's Quest", where the characters try to save The Queen Of Night's island. Even though it first aired as separate episodes, the other episodes try to pretend it didn't happen at all!
  • The 2014 Postman Pat movie involves Pat retiring to pursue a singing career and having his duties carried out by robot copies of himself. No bonus points for guessing where this is going.

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