Doesn’t it feel that almost every movie you go and see at the theatre is something you’ve seen before? Now, don’t be making an appointment for the head doctor as you are right. Remakes are everywhere. Hollywood seems to think that making sequels or remakes is less of a gamble. They are film believers that if it was successful once it will be again. And again and again. I’m not convinced about that because I have seen tons of expensive sequels and remakes that have done awfully at the box office. Most remakes do fail miserably both critically and financially. It does work occasionally, though. Here is my list of the best film remakes of all time:
10) The Fly directed by David Cronenberg (1986): This was a sci-fi classic film first made in the 1950s. Canadian director David Cronenberg remade the film with Jeff Goldblum in the title role. The effects and gore are bang on. What he does maybe a little better than the original are the strong characters and the surprisingly touching love story. Cronenberg also really changed it from a B-movie to a horror film. The line “Be afraid…be very afraid” has become a classic.
9) The Thing directed by John Carpenter (1982): Again from a 1950s sci fi film and Carpenter uses all the technology available to him to the film’s benefit. Kurt Russell brings a realistic intensity to the film. There were a few changes done to the story in the 1982 version. The monster was changed to a shape shifter. This made the being that much scarier in that it was killing and then changing how it looked in order to get away plus stay hidden. The sense of helplessness and isolation is really played out well with the remote setting of an arctic research base. It is rare that a well-done and a well-liked film is redone successfully but again Carpenter was a success.
8) Scarface directed by Brian DePalma (1983): In DePalma’s revisioning of Howard Hawk’s 1932 version of the film alcohol is becomes cocaine and the Italian immigrant becomes a Cuban. Other upgrades are Oliver Stone’s crazy script and Al Pacino is delightfully over-the-top turn as Tony Montana. The film also launched the career of the beautiful and talented Michelle Pfeiffer. Updating it as a gangster/Godfather film was a smart move and one that audiences loved. One of the most watched films in all of history.
7) King Kong directed by Peter Jackson (2005): There has been multiple remakes of the tale of the giant gorilla that falls in love with a woman. The original was a strong film but this version is right up there. Using modern technology Jackson made wonderful visuals that accentuated the story. The slow build up Jackson uses during the film is very effective making the heartbreak of the film even more deeply felt.
6) Casino Royale directed by Martin Campbell (2006): Based on the first Ian Fleming James Bond novel the original took a more comedic slant on things whereas Martin Campbell/Daniel Craig’s version is much darker and gritty. It was really a wise move to remake this James Bond of the lot of them as it really wasn’t a spy film but a spoof of the genre. With the swagger that Daniel Craig brought to the role it was a completely different beast. It really revived the whole franchise.
5) The Italian Job directed by F. Gary Gray (2003): Now some of you might be shocked at the inclusion of this film on the list. The original was über cool and how could it be topped? Instead of trying to better what the original did F. Gary Gray’s film is an homage to Peter Collinson’s. He moves it from Venice to Los Angeles but most everything else stays the same. The film was good but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t do with an update for modern viewers. More modern effects and stuntwork really help.
4) The Departed directed by Martin Scorsese (2006): The revered Scorsese has taken a film about the streets of Hong Kong and transferred it to the mean streets of Boston. Though this is not Scorsese’s best work it is still well done and finally won him an Oscar.
3) True Grit directed by Ethan and Joel Cohen (2010): Proof that the Coen brothers are geniuses. They have taken a loved film starring the iconic John Wayne and constructed a remake that people also loved. The brothers have changed very little in the remake but still have made it all their own.
2) The Magnificent Seven directed by John Sturges (1960): This one is a little different because it is a remake of a Japanese film by director Akira Kurosawa that was about samurais. Sturges has reimagined the film into a Western about guns for hire helping the citizens of a poor Mexican city against a gang of bandits. The seven big stars portraying the gunslingers (Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallach, Brad Dexter) are worth the price of admission alone. It features epic gunfight sequences, Elmer Bernstein’s great score and is a lot of fun.
1) An Affair to Remember directed by Leo McCarey (1957): Watching the remake starring Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant you can truly understand why Meg Ryan’s character in Sleepless in Seattle would watch it every time she came across it on television. Considered one of the most romantic films of all time. It is a unique type of remake in that Leo McCarey directed the original (1937) called Love Affair. Scene-by-scene it is almost an exact remake. There is a tight bond between the two films for many different reasons. The betterment comes from the better cast and Kerr and Grant’s strong performances.