The Top Ten Remakes

BT-Top-10-May-2012Remakes 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.

RemakesThere 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!

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10) “3:10 to Yuma” (2007)

three_ten_to_yumaOriginal: “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.  

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9) “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964)

Fistful of DollarsOriginal: 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”).  

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8) The Magnificent Seven (1960)

magnificent_sevenOriginal: “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.

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7) “The Fly” (1986)

flyOriginal: 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.

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6) “True Grit” (2010)

true_grit_ver7Original: “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.

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5) “The Departed” (2006)

departedOriginal: 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.  

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4) “Scarface” (1983)

scarface_ver3Original: “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”.

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3) “The Thing” (1982)

thingOriginal: “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.

Movies That Everyone Should See: “The Thing”

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2) “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)

maltese_falcon
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.

Movies That Everyone Should See: “The Maltese Falcon”

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1) “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

wizard_of_oz 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!  

Movies That Everyone Should See: “The Wizard of Oz”

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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!!

Remakes HUU

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111 thoughts on “The Top Ten Remakes

    • Oh! I should have added that one to the honorable mentions/considered list.

      Yeah, I thought about that one… the only thing I didnt like on The Ring was the “second ending”. I thought it would have had a perfect ending at the well. :( But you know how it is… gotta leave it open for sequels!

      Good flick though, nice choice. ;)

  1. Ben Hur, A Star is Born, King Kong, Robin Hood, His Girl Friday, are all remakes and four out of five are better than the Originals. I was a big fan of the Glenn Ford/Van Heflin 3:10 to Yuma and I loved what they did to make it more stylistically contemporary. Russel Crowe needs to play cowboy more often, he is in two of my favorite westerns from the last twenty years (This and The Quick and the Dead). I still would have liked to have seen Tom Cruise in the role as was originally cast. Dawn of the Dead 2004 is a more fun film than the original but not necessarily a better film (I do know that was not your criteria, I’m just saying). The Two Japanese Samurai originals are also superior except in casting. Yul Bryner and Steve McQueen are star power times ten. And like you said, A Fist full of Dollars made Clint a Star. Although they have iconic status, I don’t think either version of Scarface is very good, although both have entertainment value and Pacino chews the scenery so much it spawned the disgusting thug culture that so many seem to be enamored of these days. The Fly is so different in tone from the original it is almost not a remake, but the bare bones are the same so it’s a fair call. No one remembers the prior versions of The Maltese Falcon because the Huston/Bogart version is the equivalent of the memory clearing Process in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, all previous experience has been erased from anyone’s brain. Pissing on the Departed because Scorsese did not get the Academy award twenty years earlier is ridiculous. I still need to catch up with Infernal Affairs. The True Grit Remake was excellent but lacked the magnificent Strother Martin so although great, it is second in my esteem. Carpenter’s The Thing was also so different it feels like an original, it is an excellent choice. Never saw the silent Wizard of Oz but by this criteria, you have the right film at the top of the list. This was a fun post and I approve of your selections. Some others have been mentioned in the comments that might justify a second shot at this. Who says you can’t just piggyback and have a sequel to your own post?

    • Thanks Richard, I dont anticpate revisiting/revising at this point, though its interesting to note how many films are remakes and we dont even realize (like I just learned Some Like it Hot was, in spite of researching remakes for a good three hours or so in order to post this)

      I think we dodged a bullet by having no Tom Cruise in 3:10. I dont see him in a western….

      Just a reminder, though, no blashphemy allowed here Richard. I think you actually may have spoken ill of SCARFACE in there at one point… 8O

  2. True Grit. A classic western homage to the Portis novel. 4 Stars from Roger Ebert, may he rest in peace.

  3. There are a few I haven’t seen here Fogs but totally agree w/ 3:10 to Yuma, one of my fave Westerns! I quite like True Grit too which is also a remake I think. I echo 70sRichard who said Ben-Hur, that’s perhaps one of the greatest remake ever as nobody probably remember the original, ahah.

      • I think not many people realize it was a remake. A testament of how great William Wyler was, it’s one of my all time fave films!

  4. Great list Fogs! Although, I’m unhappy at the exclusion of Scorsese’s Cape Fear ;-)
    One that I think shouldn’t be on that list, though, is 3:10 to Yuma. Have you seen that lately? It starts off brilliant but becomes absolutely ridiculous in it’s denoument. I can’t fathom why people like it so much. It verges on being an absolute stinker.

    • Funny, Ruth calls it one of her favorite westerns right above this. LOL. I love it man, ever think you’re the one on the wrong side of things on that one?

      Meanwhile, you’re winking cause you know we’ve gone over this Cape Fear thing before! LOL :D

      • LOL. so you remember our Cape Fear conversation? As you know, I liked it.

        As for 3:10, thought it started well but the progression of Crowe’s character was unconvincing. It ruined the whole film for me.

  5. Great list, Fogs. Nothing I object to — though admittedly my Swiss cheese viewing history comes into play again. I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon, The Departed, and The Magnificent Seven. All are great films. The rest all have great reputations.

    I’m glad you mentioned in the comments that it’s not a comparison list between the remakes and the originals, though — then I’d be considerably more lost. :D I’ve seen Seven Samurai, and the original True Grit but not the remake.

    I think Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven are both great films. I don’t know if I would even try to compare them to each other on an absolute scale, but each is definitely a better film for their respective cultural audience.

    • Yeah, I had to clarify the whole “how much better they are then the originals” thing, that would get messy. Plus, I wouldnt even be able to create a list like this. As imperfect as it already is, at least I’ve seen all of these… if I had to compare them all to their first movies, I wouldnt be able to, there’s four or so on here I havent seen.

      I give the edge to Samurai, Kurosawa’s awesome, he’s a great director. Everytime I check out one of his movies, I’m amazed, they’ve all been great so far! Thats not to say Magnificent Seven isnt great, too…

      Thanks for the support as always, brother! :D

      • Absolutely. I’ll admit, I’ve had “Superior Remakes” penciled in on my Top X ideas list for a while, but it’s going to remain there for a while for just the reason you state — it’s not easy to view all the films needed to make that call. I think right now it’s “Oceans 11″ and “Thief of Bagdad”. :D

      • It’s actually why I’m not going to launch a “WORST” remakes list for awhile, LOL. I started looking at that too, and the list is just chock full of movies I steered miles away from :(

  6. What, no Psycho? No Planet of the Apes?

    Really nice list, I also did not know there was an earlier version of Wizard of Oz. Kind of stunned not to see Casino Royale on it though. WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH FOGS?

    • You know? The Casino Royale that DID adhere to the book was like an hour long TV show. Then the movie Casino Royale had pretty much absolutely nothing to do with the book. Uhhh… I mean, technically, I guess, maybe there’s an argument to be made, but I came across Casino Royale on several lists while researching here and I rejected it as a candidate. IMO, Casino Royale has only been made as a movie once… the predecessor wasn’t even… close to it. I guess that argument could probably be made about Wizard of Oz too, maybe, so I might have some inconsistency there, but still.

      Suffice it to say I didnt forget CR, I rejected the notion it was a remake.

      Fair ‘nough?

    • Yeah, you’ll see the remakes of Psycho and Planet Of The Apes on a worst remake list.

  7. Fascinating write-up. I wouldn’t consider The Wizard of Oz a straight remake, but I can understand why you included it. Personally I have always felt Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) was one of the greatest direct remakes of all time. I’ve seen the 1956 film and I enjoy Philip Kaufman’s take more than the original. Have you seen both versions of all of these films?

    • Same name, same source material? Today we’d call that a remake, regardless of how little they took from the first film.

      No one blinks at calling True Grit or The Thing remakes, and both of those basically ignored the first film and went back to the source to film it again, so…

      In other news… yes, I’ve seen both. But I have to admit its been a lonnnnnng time since I’ve seen the first one. And just a plain old long time since I saw the 78 version. LOL. I was really debating put it in at 10, but 3:10 won out. :( Sorry Mark!

  8. Liked the list. True Grit remake does surpass the original because Glen Campbell was terrible in the original. Now all you need to do it come up with the worst remakes.

    • Thanks Al! Does the remake lose points for not having a young Dennis Hopper though? ;)

      Meanwhile, I may, in the future do a worst remakes list. Apparently, there’s some demand out there for it, its been brought up a bunch of times. LOL. Of course, that means having to watch a ton of crappy movies, but that’s never scared me before ;)

  9. Well there’s actually a few on here I don’t realise were remakes so you’ve made me that little bit wiser today! Glad to see True Grit on there, I thought it was brilliant. I’m quite a fan of Ocean’s 11, so pleased to see that got an honorable mention.

  10. Two things: 1) the True Grit remake is indeed better than the original, but it is less faithful to the book than the John Wayne version – and yes, I have read the book, 2) props for including The Maltese Falcon, practically nobody knows it’s a remake, and a great one at that.

    • Huh! Really? I thought the big buzz about the Coens version was that it was going to be more faithful to the book? I have NOT read the book (surprise), so that’s news to me. Thanks… huh.

      And yeah, surprising, right? About the Falcon? Nice piece of trivia, I think. :D

    • Mnnnnmmmnmnnn…. (<- Me, hemming and hawing)

      They did a great job with that one. It was a good flick in its own right, but I can't see supplanting any of the ones that made the ranking with it. :(

      Definitely an excellent remake though.

  11. Although I haven’t seen a number of films on the list it seems pretty good.

    My only thing is that I have a personal distinction between a film remake and a separate adaptation. For instance, with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I never considered it a remake because Fincher wasn’t basing it off the Swedish movie. A film remake should have to be based on redoing a previous film. Fincher wasn’t remaking the novel.. he just happened to have the same source material.

    It gets a little tricky though when it becomes really apparent that a “separate adaptation” was heavily influenced by the first film. Like when Matt Reeves claimed Let Me In wasn’t a remake, but when you watch both films they are almost scene for scene the same.

    It all comes down I guess to the subjective opinion of the film watcher how they want to label a movie. Just because everyone else might refer to Fincher’s TGWTDT as a remake doesn’t mean I have to consider it one.

    Your list definitely served as a reminder though that I need to check out Infernal Affairs because I loved The Departed so much.

    • First off, thank you Jess.

      I have to see Infernal affairs, too, if thats any consolation. LOL Departed WAS great, wasn’t it? Always shocks me that it draws so many haters. Its that damn “Thats not the film Scorsese should have won an Oscar for” thing. :roll:

      Now, onto your point. Which is a good point, and I actually expected to take more heat for Wizard of Oz over it. Here’s the thing to me. “Remake” isn’t a full sentence, you know? It doesnt say WHAT its remaking. Remaking the movie, remaking the book, all it says is remake.

      To me, the way the term is used nowadays is anything that’s not the first feature film adaptation is a remake. Because many of the most famous “remakes” (Take “The Thing” for example, which 7/10 people will call the best remake ever) go back to the source material rather than the movie. Like Fincher did with TGWTDT.

      I dont think its just Matt Reeves and Let Me In, either, I think a lot of studios and movie makers use the “returning to the source” nowadays as the standard rationale for remakes, reboots, what have you. So… to me, I can’t discount them, there’s too great a proliferation of them :(

      I understand where youre coming from though, absolutely.

  12. When I read the title I wondered how you’d get 10. But you actually did. Nice job.
    The only thing that taints your list is the number one most over-rated movie of all-time sitting there in your number 4 spot.

  13. I haven’t seen all of the originals, but every single remake in your top 10 is a great choice. Has anyone complained about your inclusion of Scarface? I’m always surprised to see so much negativity toward that movie these days.

    • Yeah, Ian “The Cool” :?

      Whatever man, I know how awesome and important and fun Scarface is. I was sad I could only put it fourth!!

      I definitely know what you mean though. All these young punks today watching that movie without any context… :x

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