Remakes tend to get kicked around a lot, because Hollywood has a propensity for churning them out without concern for their quality. With the built-in awareness that comes along with remaking a previous film, studios often can’t help themselves but to crank out cheap, unworthy movies that capitalize on the fact that there’s a pre-existing fanbase ready to buy tickets.
There are exceptions, however. Remakes that turn out to be great movies. In many cases, better than the original! Every time we want to curse out and swear off remakes forever, these are the movies that makes us say, “Yeah, but…”
Click through to check out the Top Ten!
10) “3:10 to Yuma” (2007)
Original: “3:10 to Yuma” (1957)
“3:10 to Yuma” takes the 1957 classic and makes a “modern western” out of it, with improved cinematography, big name stars, and a heavier emphasis on action. The stakes are high from the outset as a rancher gets caught up in delivering an outlaw to a train so he can be taken to trial. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe both turn in excellent performances in what turned out to be a critically and commercially successful movie.
9) “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964)
Original: Yojimbo (1961)
Based on Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo”, a tale of a lone Samurai who rids a town of corruption and evil by pitting two rival gangs against each other, “A Fist Full of Dollars” Americanized it by turning the hero to a gunslinger and setting it in the old west. Its success would launch a Spaghetti Western craze in the 1960s, and would begin Clint Eastwood’s career as a movie star (he was previously best known for his work on the tv show “Rawhide”).
8) The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Original: “Seven Samurai” (1954)
Another Kurosawa remake, “The Magnificent Seven” takes “Seven Samurai”‘s tale of a group of Samurai who defend a village and turns it into a western where a group of gunslingers defend a small Mexican border town. With a loaded cast featuring Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson (amongst others), “The Magnificent Seven” successfully Americanized the Kurosawa classic and went on to create a legend of its own.
7) “The Fly” (1986)
Original: The Fly (1958)
1958’s “The Fly”, starring Vincent Price, was a critical and financial success that spawned two sequels: “Return of the Fly” (1959) and “Curse of the Fly” (1965). David Cronenberg’s version took the instant transformation of the original film’s hero and turned it into a gradual, disgusting metamorphosis, deriving horror from the stomach turning transition. With a vision of its own, horrifying special effects, and excellent direction, 1986’s version of “The Fly” carved out a reputation for itself as a horror classic in its own right.
6) “True Grit” (2010)
Original: “True Grit” (1969)
The Coen Brothers tackle one of John Wayne’s most iconic films, by pulling the tried and true remake end-around of going back to the source material and making a more faithful adaptation. The resulting film is a grittier, grimmer western with damaged heroes and a determined, irrepressible heroine. With legends like the Coens at the helm, you knew it wouldn’t be a cheap knockoff remake, and indeed, “True Grit” surpasses its predecessor.
5) “The Departed” (2006)
Original: Infernal Affairs (2002)
Scorsese’s “The Departed” takes the 2002 Chinese thriller and crafts it anew for American audiences, with a star-studded cast. Twists, turns, double crosses and shocking deaths abound in this tale of the Boston mob and the cops out to take them down. DiCaprio and Damon parallel each other as two moles on opposite sides of the coin from each other. “The Departed” is a Best Picture winner, but probably better known for earning Scorsese his first (and only, to date) Oscar for Best Director.
4) “Scarface” (1983)
Original: “Scarface” (1932)
Fourth? Ju gonna put me %#&$ing fourth?
Few characters ever have lodged into pop culture as deeply as Al Pacino’s Cuban immigrant drug lord, Tony Montana. With his thick accent, taste for the high life, unmitigated ambition, and near utter ruthlessness, Montana is the bad guy you love to watch. And point your finger at. Based loosely on a 1932 pre-code film of the same name, “Scarface” is absolutely “Class A chit”.
3) “The Thing” (1982)
Original: “The Thing From Another World” (1951)
Carpenter’s “The Thing” eschews the Frankenstein’s monster-esque aspects of Howard Hawk’s 1951 version and goes back to the source story in order to create a tale of paranoia, fear, and suspicion. A shape changing alien, complete isolation and sub-zero temperatures mix together to create a chilling film. Hailed as a classic in both the Sci-Fi and Horror genres, “The Thing” is deservedly often hailed as one of the greatest remakes of all time.
2) “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)
Original: “The Maltese Falcon” (1931)
Dashiell Hammett’s novel had actually been adapted for the screen twice before… in 1931 as “The Maltese Falcon”, and loosely, in 1936 as “Satan Met a Lady”. It’s Huston and Bogart’s version the world remembers, though. With its fast talking tough guy hero Sam Spade and two of the best villains ever in the Fat Man and Joel Cairo, “The Maltese Falcon” isn’t just one of the greatest remakes ever, it’s one of the greatest movies ever.
1) “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
Original: “Wizard of Oz” (1925)
That’s right! The beloved classic “The Wizard of Oz” was not the first film version of L. Frank Baum’s book. It was preceded by a 1925 silent film (in addition to some shorts). Reportedly the ’25 version differed wildly from the novel, but it still makes the famed 1939 version the second pass at the source material, and thus? A Remake. “The Wizard of Oz” so overshadows its predecessor that it’s not even a well-known piece of trivia, but it goes to show about remakes – the first pass isn’t always the best!
Honorable mentions/Also considered: The Birdcage, Dawn of the Dead, Man on Fire, Scent of a Woman, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78), Ocean’s 11, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Well, there you have it folks. Proof that “Remake” should not automatically be considered a bad word, in spite of how hard Hollywood tries to make it one!
What do you think? Want to debate the definition of the term with me? Some that are too high or too low? Which remakes do you feel I unfairly omitted?
Let’s hear it!!