The 'Bonanza' Movies: Everything You Need To Know
Bonanza aired for 14 legendary seasons on NBC (1959-1973). But did you know there were three movie sequels made in the 1980s and '90s? Here, we'll revisit the TV movies—The Next Generation, The Return, and Under Attack—which even featured descendants of original cast members Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, and Dan Blocker in main roles.
Bonanza may have wrapped up back in 1973, but that was far from the end of the popular show.
Of course, the NBC Western concluded after 14 seasons, but an additional three sequel movies were produced in the decades that followed. Here's everything you need to know about the Bonanza TV movies of the 1980s and '90s.
Bonanza movies: The Next Generation, The Return, Under Attack
For fans who craved new Bonanza content, a first project under the show's name came to fruition in 1988 — TV movie Bonanza: The Next Generation. It, and the sequels that followed, covered the descendants of the original "Cartwrights."
No Bonanza actors appeared in the three TV movies, titled The Next Generation (1988), The Return (1993), and Under Attack (1995). Lorne Greene ("Ben") had actually signed on for the first movie, but he passed away in late 1987, before filming began. He was replaced by John Ireland as "Aaron Cartwright," the brother of "Ben."
The Bonanza movie casts: Greenes, Landons, and Blockers
But children of the original actors appeared in all three of the TV films. Michael Landon's son, Michael Landon Jr., portrayed "Benji," the son of "Little Joe," in all three films. Lorne Greene's daughter, Gillian Greene, gave a rare acting performance as a love interest to "Benji" in The Next Generation. And Dan Blocker's lookalike son, Dirk Blocker, starred as "Fenster" in the latter two films.
Original Bonanza creator David Dortort received partial writing credit on all three made-for-TV productions, and Landon Jr. co-wrote The Return. The films themselves feature new conflicts on the Ponderosa Ranch, as the new "Cartwrights" carry on after the deaths of "Ben" and "Hoss," and the absence of "Little Joe." Other notable stars to appear in the films include Leonard Nimoy, Robert Fuller, and Ben Johnson.
The movies originally aired on NBC, to mixed receptions, but fans no doubt enjoyed revisiting the show and seeing the cast's descendants on-screen. Today, you can find the movies on YouTube and around the web. Another TV revival, titled Ponderosa, also aired one season in 2001, as a Bonanza prequel with the original characters in their youth. If this is all old news to you, test your Bonanza knowledge here with our quiz.