The saying “nothing new under the sun” could be applied to the world of filmmaking — and so can the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While many movie remakes leave fans and critics shaking their heads wondering who, how, and why, others have managed to hit it out of the ball park. These classic remakes have brought their source material new life. So which ones are the best? Read on and find out which films top our ranking.
25. The Ring
In 2002, moviegoers were scared to turn on their television sets after seeing the terrifying horror film, The Ring. Even more frightening than seeing an eerie ghost crawling out of a television is the fact that two of these movies exist: a 1998 Japanese film, Ringu, and the American movie remake, The Ring.
Both films centered on a woman investigating an urban legend about a videotape that is said to lead to death for anyone who watches it. Critics were impressed by the director keeping relatively true to the original Japanese film, while adding an additional layer of morbid creepiness by shooting the film in rainy Seattle. The Ring opened the door for many more remakes of popular Japanese horror movies, proving that fear is indeed an emotion that transcends language.
24. King Kong
When Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong roared into theaters, critics were applauding the dazzling special effects and similarities to the original film from 1933. Using Jackson’s eye for detail, and Andy Serkis’s unbelievable ability to bring fantasy creatures to life, King Kong proved that some classics can be artfully redone using modern technology with jaw-dropping results.
The Academy Award-winning remake of the 1933 stop-motion film had critics and fans impressed with Jackson’s recreation of the character. Fans enjoyed how Jackson paid homage to the original film with its classic Empire State Building scene, and the expertly choreographed action scenes that mimicked the ones in the original.
23. Ocean’s Eleven
It takes a masterful director, and cast, to out-style a film that starred members of the original “Rat Pack”. The 2001 film Ocean’s Eleven proved that it was possible to outshine even the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, with this fresh new take on the casino heist genre.
Critics of the original 1960 casino-caper film felt that it had depended too heavily on its star-studded cast, and less on the story line. The 2001 version however, which starred Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and a slew of other A-listers, became so successful that it inspired several sequels. While both films captured the style of their time, the remake was able to retain its “cool factor” even years later.
22. The Mummy
This new twist on the classic 1932 horror film became one of the most popular action films of the ’90s. The original Mummy film focused on Egyptian mythology, inspired no doubt by the discovery and unveiling of King Tut’s tomb just a decade earlier. While both films revolve around an ancient vizier being resurrected and the carnage that follows, the remake immediately won over fans with its action-packed scenes and charismatic leads.
The remake starring Brandon Fraser and Rachel Weisz had all of the makings of an old Hollywood swashbuckling blockbuster: incredible sets, intriguing special effects, humor, and a love story. The film did so well that it not only resulted in several sequels and spin-offs, but it even inspired a roller coaster in Universal Studios theme park.
21. The Jungle Book
The revered Rudyard Kipling tale of a little boy raised by animals in the Indian jungle has been told in many reincarnations. One of the most popular retellings of the story was the 1967 animated Disney version, The Jungle Book, which amazed critics and fans alike.
In the 2016 live action movie remake, dazzling special effects were used to authentically capture the real-life animals, bringing a sense of realism to the otherwise fantastical film. The intricately designed CGI animation, coupled with voice work by some of Hollywood’s most talented actors, resulted in a critically acclaimed film that fans feel did justice to their favorite stories.
NEXT: This movie remake managed to leave literature snobs smiling.
20. Little Women
Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women captured the hearts of readers with its touching description of a group of young American women’s lives in the late 1800s. The timeless story had been adapted repeatedly into both stage and film versions, but the 2019 movie remake, directed by Greta Gerwig, became a hit for literary fans and film critics alike.
In the most recent adaption of the beloved novel, Gerwig and her immensely talented cast gave the story a more modernized take on the classic story while still staying true to the novel’s essence. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, and its cast was heavily lauded for their strong acting “across the board”.
19. IT: Chapter One
Author Stephen King has an uncanny ability to make even the most innocent seeming thing truly horrifying. In his 1986 novel It, King made readers never want to see a clown again, thanks to his terrifying depiction of a shape-shifting clown monster devouring the children of a small Maine town.
The novel was remade into a well-received miniseries several years after its publication. It became a full-fledged pop culture phenomenon thanks to the 2017 remake, It: Chapter One. The film even fueled an interest in deadly clowns, and multiple sightings of “creepy” clowns were reported around the time of the film’s release. It also inspired a spin-off television show, centering around the children tasked with defeating the murderous clown.
18. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Before Robert Pattinson was causing teens to swoon with his disheveled hair and chiseled jaw, there was a different kind of vampire — a far more sinister one. Francis Ford Coppola’s movie remake of the Bram Stoker vampire novel Dracula brought animal attraction out of the coffin and onto the big screen. Dracula was presented as a cool, lustful, designer sunglasses-wearing Casanova, simultaneously irresistible and murderous.
Although the famous bloodsucking character had been depicted in many forms, fans and critics were captivated by Coppola’s take on the classic monster. Critics were impressed by Gary Oldman’s memorable performance, the film’s detailed sets, and the traditional filming methods used. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was able to convey a sense of excess and passion that had never been seen in any other retelling of the monster.
17. True Lies
Many moviegoers remember the infamous strip dance sequence involving Jamie Lee Curtis, but most fans didn’t know that the action comedy True Lies was actually based on a 1991 French film called La Totale. While both films received mixed reviews from critics, the modern remake directed by James Cameron had audiences begging for a sequel.
In both films, a civilian employee actually moonlights as a secret agent. When the carefully orchestrated cover is blown, chaos and action follows. The French film became a hit in France, but the remake True Lies, powered by Arnold Schwarzenegger and other big names, became a worldwide sensation.
16. Casino Royale
The James Bond franchise had started going cold before it was shaken and stirred up by actor Daniel Craig. But even the most devoted fans of the international man of mystery would be shocked to know that before Casino Royale was synonymous with luxurious sports cars and suave men, it was the title of a 1967 widely panned spoof film.
Despite starring famous actors Orson Welles, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen, the spy caper parody couldn’t steal the hearts of audiences the way a traditional James Bond film would. Critics and fans of the spy franchise were dazzled by Craig’s performance, with some even claiming his Casino Royale remake resurrected a once-stale series. Craig’s nuanced performance, coupled with his dashing charm, helped the series move into the new millennium with a new following of young fans.
The 1980’s had lots of films centering on characters switching bodies and identities. So it is no surprise that the classic switch-up film, Big, is really a remake of the 1987 Italian comedy, Da grande. In both films, a young boy, tired of being treated like a child, is magically transformed into the body of an adult man.
While the Italian film had some problematic elements, including a much darker story line, the 1988 American film became a heartfelt classic. The film became a fan favorite mostly due to Tom Hanks’ widely praised performance as the kid who became a man overnight. His charming interpretation of a child dealing with sudden adulthood, made him a world-famous star. The movie’s giant piano scene, set in famous New York toy store F.A.O Schwarz, has become a classic movie moment.
While many Hollywood remakes are adaptations of foreign films, the 1995 criminal thriller Heat was based on an American television pilot written and directed by Michael Mann. Six years before the widely praised crime film hit theaters, Mann had written a pilot for a television series based on the same concept. The TV movie L.A. Takedown failed to take off, and Mann went back to work on a movie remake.
Both films center around an LAPD detective and the criminal he wants to put behind bars. Taking inspiration from a real-life criminal investigation, Mann sought to make his characters well-rounded. This resulted in the film standing out from a sea of other crime films. Starring acting heavyweights like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Val Kilmer, the well-written thriller helped cement Michael Mann’s career as a talented filmmaker.
NEXT: This remake of a classic film did everything right — and had fans begging for more.
13. The Fast and the Furious
Most fans of the adrenaline pumping action film The Fast and the Furious would be shocked to know that their favorite drag-racing film is actually a remake of the 1954 film of the same name. The original film was considered a forgettable film. The 2001 remake, however, grabbed audiences and has taken them on a road trip for over a decade, with at least 8 sequels.
The remake took inspiration from real illegal street racers, giving it a more modern feel. While film critics hoped the franchise would hit the brakes on what they considered were poorly written films, fans disagreed. The action-packed sequences, exotic cars, and memorable leads had fans racing back for more, leading to a long lineup of Fast and the Furious movies to date.
12. Pride & Prejudice
Bringing a classic story to the big screen is always a challenge, particularly one that had been previously remade into a very much beloved television series. Prior to the 2005 romantic drama Pride & Prejudice, the most recent adaptation had been a BBC production starring Colin Firth. Though it was critically acclaimed, the television adaptation was overshadowed by the big-screen movie remake starring Keira Knightley as Jane Austen’s protagonist.
The more recent adaptation was geared towards a younger audience, and helped in launching a resurgence of awareness and appreciation for Jane Austen’s work in popular culture. Viewers and critics alike were mesmerized by Knightley’s strong performance, welcoming a new generation of Austen fans.
As cinematic technology improved, so did the desire to remake Hollywood classics using modern technology. The epic drama, Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, made history at the time with its huge budget and elaborate film sequences. The biblical historical drama was based on the novel, and later a 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
While the original silent film remains a widely-revered piece of cinematic history, the 1959 remake is more widely remembered. At the time, the film made news with its use of cutting-edge technology and intricate action scenes. It and has remained one of the most widely lauded films in history. The award-winning movie has since become a vital part of cinematic history, and made Charlton Heston a household name.
10. Fatal Attraction
It’s not often that a film will inspire an original phrase to describe a person. In this infamous 1987 thriller, audiences queasily learned what exactly it meant to be a “bunny boiler”. What most viewers didn’t know, however, is that the Michael Douglas and Glenn Close drama is actually a remake of a less popular British film called Diversion.
Fueled by unforgettable performances from its leads, the American version took the psychotic tale of a casual encounter gone wrong into the stuff of Hollywood legend. The result? One of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history and an eternal reminder of what happens when love and infatuation goes badly, badly wrong.
9. The Departed
The 2006 Boston-set crime film The Departed actually has its roots in a country very far away: China. The Irish mob crime flick is surprisingly a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. Although both films received praise, the Martin Scorsese-directed remake became a career-defining film for both the director and actors involved.
While the director of the film Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, was not impressed with the Hollywood remake, the film world saw it very differently, bubbled over with praise. The highly successful crime film not only won Academy Awards, but it became known as one of Scorsese’s most successful films. What’s more, it was the film that finally landed him an Oscar for Best Director.
Known as one of the funniest films in movie history, the disaster film parody Airplane! careened into theaters in 1980. The comedy film, known for its outrageous and quotable scenes, was actually based on a more serious film, Zero Hour!, featuring the same characters and even similar dialogue.
Blending surreal humor, zany puns, and pop culture references, the film had fans and critics holding their sides. The parody film has become a canon of comedy, and even decades later, fans are still quoting their favorite scenes. The disaster movie spoof is still widely considered to be one of the greatest comedy films of all time.
NEXT: This remake took many fans by surprise.
7. The Thing
In his movie remake of the 1938 sci-fi story Who Goes There?, horror director John Carpenter discovered that using gruesome special effects to bring the classic to life would be at the expense of his career. Luckily, his 1982 remake of the horror story, The Thing, later found a cult following and resurgence of popularity.
Critics initially criticized the tale of an alien life form attacking a group of American scientists isolated in Antarctica. Years later, however, filmmakers came to realize how valuable the story was in the horror genre of filmmaking. Not only has the remake been considered one of the “greatest horror films ever made”, but it frequently makes the lists of best films in other categories.
Already an award-winning stage musical, the 2002 movie remake of the film Chicago had critics and moviegoers dancing in their seats. The film, and the show of the same name, tell the story of a murder trial during the Roaring Twenties in Chicago.
The musical film, based on the 1926 play of the same name, immersed viewers into the decadent world of the Jazz Age. Complete with elaborate dancing, memorable songs, and powerful acting, the film went on to win six Academy Awards. The instant classic also inspired a rebirth of the musical film genre, leaving audiences razzle-dazzled for years to come.
5. A Star is Born
Critics may say that it would be difficult to outshine a performance from Barbara Streisand, understandably. However, the remake of her 1976 film A Star is Born (itself a remake) did just that. In the most recent reincarnation of the popular story, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper starred as love-swept musicians struggling to keep their relationship together against the difficulties of fame.
This 2018 movie remake managed to amaze critics with its talented cast, as well as the scorching chemistry between leads Cooper and Gaga. Not only was their chemistry described as “electrifying”, but the award-winning film was called a “transcendent Hollywood movie”. The music soundtrack also inspired legions of adoring fans. Lady Gaga and Cooper even performed a duet of one of the film’s famous songs at the Oscars.
4. The Birdcage
One of the most memorable roles of the late comedic genius actor Robin Williams was as nightclub owner Armand Goldman in the remake of the French film La Cage aux Folles. In the American movie remake, The Birdcage, Williams plays an openly gay South Beach nightclub owner forced to conceal his sexuality, as well as the fact that he’s Jewish, when his son brings home a woman whose father is an extremely conservative senator.
The outrageous comedy starred Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and Hank Azaria in one of the funniest films of the ’90s. While the original French play and film also delighted audiences, the film was heavily criticized and considered by critics to not be as funny. However, Williams and Lane’s groundbreaking and well-acted portrayal of a couple forced to conceal their identities and alternative lifestyle won everyone over.
3. The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz has such a magical quality to it that even the lead character’s ruby red slippers have become part of pop culture legend. While most people have seen the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, few know that the groundbreaking cinematic masterpiece was actually a movie remake. L. Frank Baum’s book inspired several silent film adaptations, including a 1925 one featuring Oliver Hardy of the future comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
Since its premiere in the late thirties, several other renditions of the tale have graced the silver screen, yet none have been as successful as The Wizard of Oz. The film, using advanced techniques like Technicolor and other cinematic effects well ahead of their time, had an inimitable ability to transport viewers down the Yellow Brick Road, and into the world of Oz.
Most movie fans can agree that the 1983 crime action film Scarface perfectly epitomized the excess and greed of the early eighties. What many fans of the ubiquitous substance abuse-fueled drama weren’t aware of was that the Al Pacino-headed film was actually a remake of a 1932 Pre-Code gangster film of the same name.
While the original film is still considered a masterpiece, the modern remake has become a symbol of an era. The film captivated audiences with its topical story line about a Cuban refugee trying to make it in the land of opportunity, by any means necessary. Not only praised as one of the best crime dramas, it is considered one of the greatest cult films.
1. Apocalypse Now
In 1899, Polish-English writer Joseph Conrad wrote about the horrors of colonialism and war on foreign soil. The story, set along the Congo River and featuring Belgian ivory traders, would inspire a movie remake that would leave audiences just as sickened by the depths of human barbarism. In 1958, a television adaptation was aired on Playhouse 90, starring horror legend Boris Karloff opposite Roddy McDowall, and such stars as Eartha Kitt.
Then along came Coppola, taking the source material in a very different direction: Vietnam. Apocalypse Now premiered in 1979 with most moviegoers still reeling from the horrors of the Vietnam War. It provided an uncomfortably real account of what they had either witnessed on television, or had experienced themselves in the field. The haunting and at times psychedelic war drama continues to reveal frightening questions about human nature decades after its release.
Honorable Mention: Mad Max: Fury Road
We’d like to preface this entry by saying we are in no way condemning the original Mad Max films. In fact, it’s a testament to the original films that 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road is merely an honorable mention, and not a part of the overall ranking. The remake was so good that it scored a nearly flawless Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%.
Compared to the originals, its quality was understandably a lot better; but what took it over the top was the fact that they implemented modern tech without giving up the original source material’s rawness and grit. Diehards will swear by those original classics, but objectively it’s fair to say the remake took things to another level.
Honorable Mention: Planet Of The Apes
Here’s yet another movie which was born from an absolute classic; and again, if it wasn’t for the sheer iconicness of the original Planet Of The Apes, this remake would have deserved to be a lot more than just an honorable mention. But while there are elements of the original films that can’t be touched, the remakes were simply a CGI treat for the eyes to feast on.
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the 2011 film which kicked off the latest series of remakes, took us into the origin story of Caesar, the ape to lead the revolution. Starring James Franco, John Lithgow, and Andy Serkis (as Caesar), many felt that this remake really hit it out of the park.
Honorable Mention: The Great Gatsby
When you have a novel as timeless as The Great Gatsby, it stands to reason that countless versions of it would get made on screen. Indeed, the F. Scott Fitzgerald-penned novel has been made into a movie four times – in 1926, 1949, 1974, and 2013.
Considering how far technology advanced from the 70s to the new millennium, it’s not surprising that the newer version was lauded like it was. From an aesthetic standpoint, 2015’s The Great Gatsby was head and shoulders above the rest. However, the reason we only put it as an honorable mention was because some critics felt the plot was too bland.
Honorable Mention: Star Trek
If we’re really getting technical, 2009’s Star Trek wasn’t an actual remake of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was released in 1979. The plot was different in a handful of ways, but it was reimagined in a way that spawned a whole new generation of Star Trek fans.
The thing about the original Star Trek movies (and the television series as well) is that so much of the fighting scenes are cringe worthy to watch; and yet some loyalists will argue that’s where the charm lies. However, aesthetically and objectively, it’s safe to say that the revitalized take on the iconic franchise was a massive success, overcoming the ancient films just a tad.
Honorable Mention: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
Horror movies may have existed back in the 50s, but they were nothing like they are now. When Invasion Of The Body Snatchers hit the silver screen in 1956, people were shocked by the premise of humans being replaced by aliens from another world.
But over 20 years later, a new version was unleashed onto the world, featuring the talented Donald Sutherland. The plot for the new film, however, was spaced out quite cleverly, with the fear settling in gradually and ending in a terrifying climax. With a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say that the remake satisfied the moviegoers’ itch.
Honorable Mention: The Manchurian Candidate
On the one hand, the original Manchurian Candidate from 1962 starred Frank Sinatra himself – so how could it be improved? On the other hand, Sinatra could sing the heart out of Dorothy’s Tin Man, but that doesn’t mean he’s an A-list actor. Regardless, the original film was still a classic, enough to inspire a complete new reboot over 40 years later.
This time, the lead star was none other than Denzel Washington, with an extensive acting portfolio unmatched by most. Washington shined in the role like he usually does, but ultimately it was the screenplay and the modern production that gave this 2004 reboot the edge over the original.
Honorable Mention: Dredd
Sylvester Stallone already had an impressive resume when he starred as the eponymous Judge Dredd in the 1995 original film. But unfortunately, people weren’t able to take him as seriously in this role as they did in Rocky, making for a less-than-impressive film. It was based on a hard-nosed comic book character, and Stallone didn’t seem to cut it.
In 2012, however, it seems they finally found the right man for the job. They cast Karl Urban in the remake, who possessed the perfect mix of grit and humor, just enough for us to fall in love with the film.
Honorable Mention: The Italian Job
Even for people who don’t enjoy “heist movies”, this one just might sway them. The Italian Job originally came out back in 1969, starring a young and talented Michael Caine, and a handful of sleek Mini-Coopers. But what the original lacked, the remake more than made up for.
The main addition that 2003’s The Italian Job brought was the jam-packed screenplay, with a handful of new twists and turns. Furthermore, the remake boasted an all-star cast of Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Jason Statham, and Donald Sutherland. It was a blockbuster success when it came out, and most people consider it to be the better version.
Honorable Mention: True Grit
Considering the fact that old western-style movies were extra popular back in the mid-19th century, it makes sense that True Grit made a big impact. As Rooster and Mattie teamed up to avenge the death of her father, it provided viewers with an action-packed flick for the ages. Some consider it to be one of John Wayne’s greatest films – but they spoke a bit too soon.
The 2010 remake was good enough to inspire a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, shocking those who didn’t expect it to live up to the original. You simply can’t go wrong with Jeff Bridges, especially if he’s being asked to play a raw character such as Rooster. Teamed up with him was young actress Hailee Steinfeld, who certainly proved her grit 20 times over on screen.
Honorable Mention: War Of The Worlds
The original H.G. Wells novel known as War Of The Worlds was said to be ahead of its time back when it was released in 1897. The concept of an alien invasion was so foreign, wild, and frightening that readers started to really take it seriously. Eventually a film of it was made in 1953 – and the special effects were, well, worth of 1953.
When the Steven Spielberg 2005 remake hit theaters, it didn’t matter that the screenplay was a tad lukewarm. The CGI effects were off the charts, and certainly leaps and bounds from anything the 1953 version could’ve dreamed of. So was the remake a better movie? By most accounts, it definitely was.
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