10 Movie Remakes Worth Your Time
With ‘House of Wax,’ ‘Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Psycho,’ ‘The Pink Panther’ and a flood of other craptacular remakes washing over Hollywood over the past few years, it seems like filmmakers have nothing better to do than butcher once-great source material for cheap cash-grabs.
For every ‘Let Me In,’ there are a dozen bastardizations of classic movies like ‘Carrie‘ or ‘Total Recall‘ that just leave us screaming, Why would they remake that?! So we’ve assembled a list of 10 Movie Remakes Worth Your Time to remind you that not every redo is a soulless collage of garbage — just most of the recent ones. Also, we didn’t include any reboots on this list — like ‘Star Trek’ or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies — which tend to restart an entire franchise or movie series from scratch, usually rebuilding from the ground up.
‘Cape Fear’ (1991)
Both ‘Cape Fear’s include one of the most sinister villains to ever grace a movie screen. Robert De Niro had already racked up stellar performances in ‘The Godfather Part II,’ ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘The Deer Hunter,’ ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Raging Bull,’ but his performance as Max Cady takes the seasoned actor into the villain’s hall of fame. While Robert Mitchum does an excellent job playing Max in the original 1962 version of ‘Cape Fear,’ De Niro’s Machiavellian level of scheming helps push the remake into a level of excellence (and terror) that the original rarely comes close to. Even though many of its scenes are shot-by-shot copies of the original movie, the 1991 remake personifies the pure evil that men are capable of.
That’s right — one of the world’s funniest movies is actually a remake. On top of that, ‘Airplane!’ was based on a serious and heart-wrenching story about a fighter pilot suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Here’s the plot of ‘Zero Hour!': Ted Stryker inadvertently led his entire flight squadron to its doom during the war, and he now deals with a depression so deep that his girl Ellen leaves him. She gets on a plane, coldly telling Ted that she can’t be with a man she doesn’t respect. But Ted can’t let her go and decides to get on the same plane, where most of the passengers and the pilots get violently sick because of the spoiled fish that was served for dinner.Ted steps into the cockpit to take over, and to overcome his fear, he gets advice from his former war captain via radio to help land the plane safely. Sound familiar?
‘Ocean’s Eleven’ (2001)
We had our doubts going into ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ about whether or not George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and the rest of the cast could top the Rat Pack’s amazing heist. But they pull it off. One interesting change of direction involves the decision to end ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ with a lighthearted opening for ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ Quite a change from the bleak ending of the original, where the Rat Pack’s cash heist is accidentally cremated in the casket used to smuggle it away. With advancements in technology and Las Vegas’ booming casino industry, the remake’s plan to rip off three top-tier casino vaults at the same time is a way more ballsy move than the original’s tamer caper.
‘True Grit’ (2010)
John Wayne’s portrayal of U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the original 1969 version of ‘True Grit’ is timeless. But Jeff Bridge’s take on the character in the 2010 remake focuses more on the character’s weaknesses while retaining the Duke’s badass style deep within Rooster’s drunken stupor. But what truly makes the 2010 remake of ‘True Grit’ amazing is the cinematography and script by the Coen brothers. Plus, a supporting performance by 13-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld left us in awe of her amazing presence and cadence throughout the film..
‘The Fly’ (1986)
The original 1958 version of ‘The Fly’ often feels like a elaborate but excellent episode of ‘The Twilight Zone,’ which would debut soon. The remake builds on the same premise: A scientist tries to create a transporter but ends up getting his DNA spliced and mixed with a tiny fly. The original, guttural and sad ending of the original — the main character, human head but fly body, is trapped in a spiderweb — is pretty terrifying. But it can’t compare to the grotesque, graphic and disturbing changes Jeff Goldblum’s character goes through in the 1986 remake. Plus, the things Gena Davis (as his girl) has to endure are just as horrific — which makes the remake so much more disturbing than any actor in a fly mask.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986)
The 1986 big-screen version of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was based on an off-Broadway musical, which itself was inspired by the 1960 movie. Follow that? The original movie has a dark sense of humor and just enough over-the-top kookiness to lend it some credibility. But the 1986 remake turns the best parts of the 1960 movie into a cheery musical. Wth Frank Oz’s direction steering things, there’s plenty of his past Muppets influence to keep everything in a more positive light. Performances by Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Candy and the stellar voice of the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs are all spot-on perfect.
‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960)
‘Seven Samurai’ has been hailed as one of the greatest films ever made, and we wholeheartedly agree. The 1954 Japanese movie tells the story of a village of farmers who hire seven ronin (samurais without a sworn lord or master) to fight off a large group of bandits threatening to steal their crops. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ follows a similar storyline but features cowboys, led by ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”s Tuco, Eli Wallach. While it doesn’t necessarily top ‘Seven Samurai,’ ‘The Magnificient Seven’ comes pretty close.
‘The Departed’ (2006)
Martin Scorsese’s Boston-based undercover crime thriller is actually a remake of a Hong Kong movie from four years earlier. The premise of ‘Infernal Affairs’ should sound familiar to fans of the Irish offspring: A police officer is actually a mole sent in by a gang to find out what the cops have on them. Meanwhile, a police officer is undercover, infiltrating the gang. A mental chess match occurs between the two men, with each trying to discover the other’s real identity before his cover is blown. Any way you look at it, ‘The Departed’ is an absolutely brilliant Americanization of a great Chinese film.
The 1983 remake of the pioneering gangster pic helped seal Al Pacino’s legendary status (of course the first two ‘Godfather’ movies had a little something to do with this). Brian De Palma’s tale is much gorier, which is to be expected considering their 50-year age difference. But even with the time span and a new setting, De Palma’s version retains most of the original’s plot and openly pays tribute to Howard Hawks’ 1932 original (for example, both movies end up with gangster Tony killing his best friend for sleeping with his sister, unaware that the couple was married). But in Hawks’ version, Tony cowers when he’s surrounded, pleading for mercy and frantically running from the police before being gunned down. The remake features an infamous last stand amid coke and bullets.
‘The Thing’ (1982)
John Carpenter’s 1982 movie uses the same basic premise of 1951’s ‘The Thing From Another World.’ But the delivery is quite different. Both movies revolve around an alien found in the arctic ice that eventually thaws and breaks free. The original alien looks like a cheap version of a low-rent Frankenstein monster; in Carpenter’s take, the alien is a shape-shifter with some truly gory special effects. Carpenter takes the relatively simple concept of an alien crash-landing on Earth and openly terrorizing the people it encounters, and turns that concept on its head. This monster can take on the looks, personalities and memories of whomever it conquers. Best of all, the remake invites multiple rewatching just so you can figure out who has turned and when . . . especially in the end, which is hinted at in the very beginning of the film.