Remakes, reboots, re-imaginings… whatever you want to call them, at this point in our moviegoing lives they’re everywhere. Studios flock to recognizable brands in order to turn a buck and it seems that every new film announced is a reworking of a much-loved classic. At last count, there are currently 109 in development… 109!! That means that 109 creative teams are spending their time not making an original story, which makes me a sad panda. The cynic in me wants to write-off all remakes as terrible, but the responsible movie writer in me needed to make sure. For every Total Recall or Psycho (surely the quintessential unnecessary remake), there’s got to be a few good ones too right?
Well get comfy, because I found the cinematic unicorn – a remake that doesn’t suck – and it seems they’re more plentiful than I originally thought. But they’re a skittish beast, get too close and they turn and run away never to be seen again. So approach cautiously, hold out some sugar and get ready to bask in the magic that is the REMAKES THAT DON’T SUCK.
The Fly (1986)
Jeff Goldblum takes the scientific discovery one step too far and his life (and body) falls apart. David Cronenberg body-horror at it’s best.
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
The Zack Snyder movie that isn’t terrible and full of slo-mo, this is a tense, claustrophobic zombie thriller with more than a few laughs to cut the tension. Why can’t he do more like this?
True Grit (2010)
The film that almost gave Jeff Bridges a back-to-back Oscar repeat, and launched the career of Hailee Steinfield. The Coen’s do a western, what more is there to say?
The Ring (2002)
The remake of the Japanese horror Ringu left a generation afraid of little girls with long hair and thankful that DVD’s didn’t need to be rewound.
The Departed (2005)
Can a gritty Hong Kong thriller be transplanted to the underworld of Boston successfully? It can if you have Marty Scorsese at the helm. Adapting Infernal Affairs, and taking the real-life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger as local inspiration, this crime thriller about traitors and double-crossings features a tightly wound game of cat and mouse, an all-star cast on the top of their game, and a master filmmaker taking a victory lap around the kind of mob movies that he helped pioneer. It all added up to 4 Oscars, including Scorsese’s very first one for directing, and $290 million in the bank. Not too shabby.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
This is how you remake a movie! Take a middling Rat Pack heist film from the 60’s that time forgot, add an auteur director (Steven Soderbergh), a starry cast (you know who’s in it), and shake it into Box Office gold. Ocean’s Eleven was a huge success both critically and commercially, generating two sequels of varying quality and earning $450 million worldwide. Whereas the original was a straight-forward heist film that tried to coast on the charm of its stars alone, the remake used its cast to fulfill the promise of the original, dialing up the comedy and creating a breezy, fun movie from beginning to end.
I admit that I wasn’t aware that Michael Mann’s classic crime opus Heat was a remake of an early TV movie that he had directed called L.A. Takedown. Not many directors get the chance to make their movie again, and with a bigger budget, better actors and a tighter script, Mann shows why this story was a winner. The quintessential crime drama, DeNiro and Pacino create fireworks of small moments, and it marked the first time they were on screen together (Godfather II doesn’t count). It also features one of the best shootout scenes ever committed to celluloid.
The Thing (1982)
The only movie on this list that has the distinction of being remade again, John Carpenter’s Antarctic set sci-fi horror classic is still one of the benchmarks of the genre. A remake of the 1951 sci-fi Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World, the original has been largely forgotten because of the reverence people hold for the Carpenter version. Whilst it was pretty much ignored upon its initial release (it was released the same year as Blade Runner and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – tough break), it has since grown a passionate fanbase and is rightly admired for its mix of atmospheric tension and gross-out scares. Plus, it features a kick-ass turn from Kurt Russell, and if you’ve got Snake Plissken fighting shape-shifting aliens, what else do you really need?
True Lies (1994)
Others on this list might be more critically acclaimed, but in terms of sheer fun and definite rewatch-ability, True Lies wins hands down for me. Another movie you might not know is a remake (although you totally should, it featured in another Top 5), James Cameron’s action comedy is actually a retelling of the French film La Totale! by Claude Zidi. The films contain the same basic plot, but the one-two punch of Arnie being Arnie and Cameron’s bombastic blockbuster credentials sends this far and above its predecessor. Over-the-top action sequences, a cast that’s having an absolute ball (Jamie Lee Curtis is a particular standout), and a director in full control of the mayhem, long before all that “King Of The World” bullshit. An action classic.
So there you have it! What movie remakes float your boat? Be sure to join in the conversation below or on our Facebook page!