Movie Remakes That Are Way Better Than the Originals
As much as people complain about the lack of creativity in Hollywood, they will still line up around the block to see a remake of a popular flick. With so many past hits to choose from, it's hard for executives to resist dusting off a proven script and trying to make it work its magic all over again.
Not all remakes shine, of course. In fact, some are downright disastrous and all but ruin a film’s good name. The best ones manage to successfully pay homage to the original while adding something special and new to the experience.
Little Women is a tough sell for modern audiences. When most people think of this era of storytelling — the 1860s — they think of stodgy period romances with ancient English thespians playing out sleep-inducing plotlines.
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Count Dracula is one of the most popular fictional characters of all time, popping up in dozens of movies since the invention of film. However, it was director Francis Ford Coppola who took the original book source material and adapted it into a sweeping epic, throwing the full resources of Hollywood behind it.
How do you top a swinging '60s heist movie starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.? You write a much tighter script and hire actors who aren’t still moonlighting as nightclub acts.
Fans of great westerns will always love the original True Grit (1969), a film that pairs a cranky, nearly washed-up bounty hunter named "Rooster" with Mattie, a young girl desperate to avenge her father's death. It's one of John Wayne's greatest movies.
Most horror films from the 1950s don't age well. That being said, the original The Thing from Another World (1951) uses a premise that is still popular today: an alien threat. The Thing (1982) remake, starring Kurt Russell, has become one of the best-reviewed horror films of all time.
Heaven Can Wait
The 1978 version of Heaven Can Wait was a remake of the 1941 film, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which was well received in its day. In fact, modern critics still give it high marks.
The original thriller Cape Fear was a popular film with a threatening performance by Robert Mitchum as the villainous Max Cady. The remake in 1991, directed by Martin Scorsese and featuring Robert DeNiro as Max, set a super high-water mark for thrillers.
The Jungle Book
Is it insane to remake the classic Disney animated film with talking jungle animals into a live-action fantasy film? Ask director Jon Favreau, who transcended the original to make a hit modern classic in 2016.
War of the Worlds
Originally a book by H.G. Wells that was way ahead of its time in 1897, War of the Worlds became a radio drama read by Orson Welles in 1938 that caused a real-life panic among Americans who thought the alien invasion was real. It was first adapted into a hit sci-fi film in 1953.
Yes, Apocalypse Now (1979) is a remake. The original was a television movie called Heart of Darkness (1958), which was adapted from the book of the same name that was set in the Congo.
The Great Gatsby
Oh, look, it's that book everyone was forced to read in high school! A classic, The Great Gatsby was adapted into several film versions in 1926, 1949 and 1974 as well as a TV movie version in 2000. None will be remembered as fondly as Baz Luhrmann's adaptation in 2013.
Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005) is the second remake of the classic monster movie, and it was far superior to the previous remake set in the 1970s. Jackson expanded on the possibilities on the prehistoric island where Kong lived and kept the 1930’s New York setting.
Star Trek (2009) is not technically a remake of the first movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). It’s simply the first movie with a new cast playing the same characters but in a reimagined franchise. This approach qualifies it as a remake and a reboot at the same time.
The original Scarface was filmed in 1932 and follows the life of a ruthless and unpredictable bootlegging gangster in Prohibition-Era Chicago. Like the remake, it is a story all about a rise to power and an intense fall from grace.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was a great horror film that featured alien pods that hatched replacements for people. The movie reflected the public’s paranoia at the time about communist influences.
The Wizard of Oz
You might be surprised that the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland was not the first film adaptation. There were actually two films before it, one a silent version in 1925 (What? No music?) and the other an animated short in 1933.
The Manchurian Candidate
Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury starred in the original The Manchurian Candidate (1962). The movie featured a military man who was unknowingly brainwashed to become a political candidate secretly working for Chinese agents.
Originally a French film titled La Cage aux Folles (1978), the plot of this film features a gay couple pretending to be straight when their newly engaged son introduces them to the conservative parents of his fiancee. It's the chemistry between the couple, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), that makes this 1996 remake shine.
The Fly in 1958 had a similar plot to the remake in 1986, which depicts a scientist experimenting with a teleportation device. Of course, things go terribly wrong when a common housefly gets in the way and foils his scientific genius.
The Magnificent Seven
You can trace the story of The Magnificent Seven (1960) to the Japanese film The Seven Samurai (1954). The original features seven unemployed samurai hired by peasants to defend their village against pillagers. The remake moves the setting to the Old West and depicts seven hired guns tasked with defending a Mexican village.
A Star Is Born
This recent cautionary tale is the fourth version and the best remake. The others were made in 1937, 1954 and 1976. The first two versions feature an actress on her way up the ladder who is helped by an alcoholic actor on his way down. The second two versions depict singers instead of actors.
Dawn of the Dead
The first Dawn of the Dead (1978) is still a great horror movie. Taking the zombies out of creepy cemeteries and houses and dropping them into a bright, seemingly-safe shopping mall was an ingenious move that made viewers feel like they weren’t safe anywhere.
In 1925, the original silent film, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, was a huge spectacle, capturing chariot races and incredible set pieces that audiences had never seen before. The huge hit made the studio known as MGM a major player in the film industry.
The Sylvester Stallone version of Judge Dredd (1995) has become a laughable oddity, which is unfortunate for the hard-edged character born out of independent comic books. The man who served as judge, jury and executioner got a second chance in Dredd (2012), starring Karl Urban.
This is the horror movie that scared the bejeezus out of an entire generation and helped usher in other American remakes of Asian horror films. While the original, Ringu, is still a classic, the remake is the one most Western audiences have seen.
The Thomas Crown Affair
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) has an unusual premise. Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) is a wealthy man who pulls off multi-million-dollar heists just for fun. Of course, to spice up the deal, he romances the very insurance investigator (Faye Dunaway) sent to solve the crime.
Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006) is based on the Chinese-language film Internal Affairs (2002). Both films feature an undercover cop and a mole trying to discover each other’s identities.
3:10 to Yuma
The original 3:10 to Yuma (1957) was a highly regarded western starring Glenn Ford as a rancher hired to make sure a captured outlaw gets on the 3:10 train to Yuma. It sounds simple enough, but nothing was as simple as it seemed in the Old West.
The Italian Job
Heist movies are highly formulaic, but that's what makes them so fun. The remake of The Italian Job (2003) is a heist movie and a revenge movie, giving it a slight edge over most heist films.
It: Chapter One
It: Chapter One (2017) has a huge advantage over the network TV mini-series from 1990. With an R-rating, It could go places the network never could, upping the ante on scares and gore, essential ingredients in any worthy horror film.