Deciding to remake a movie, especially a classic is a little like playing with fire; more likely than not you’re going to get burnt. Just ask Tim Burton. However sometimes it pays off, and when it does not only can it result in commercial success and critical acclaim, but it can also allow audiences to experience joys that were only afforded to those of another time or place.
After heavy debate, we’ve pulled together a list of our very favourite movie remakes, followed by a look at some remakes that truly missed the mark.
1. The Departed (2006)
Not only was The Departed the only remake of a foreign film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture, it also saw Scorsese awarded his first Academy Award for Best Director. This remake of the Hong-Kong organised crime film Internal Affairs was full of some of the greatest actors of this generation and past, who all provided first-rate performances. Need we say more?
2. Insomnia (2002)
Christopher Nolan’s version of the Norwegian thriller of the same name featured one of Al Pacino’s best performances in a long time and helped to establish Nolan’s distinctive visual style and editing technique. This was perfectly complimented by a chilling performance by Robin Williams, who funnily enough played a psychopathic murderer in three films that were released in 2002.
3. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Although it never entirely reaches the genius of Akira Kurosawa’s three-hour samurai epic, Seven Samurai, John Sturges’ film is no doubt a classic in its own right. The film set the precedent for American filmmakers taking Japanese themes and myths and applying them to distinctively American genres. Boasting an all-star class that offers up Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, The Magnificent Seven does justice to Kurosawa’s story by implementing the heroic cowboy archetype in place of the noble Samurai.
4. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Men dressing up as women is a tried and tested comedy routine since the stone age – but drag was never funnier than in this Billy Wilder classic which was the highest-grossing comedy in movie history upon its release. The film’s top-flight comedy cast included Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and the scene-stealing Marilyn Monroe who earned a Golden Globe for her performance. What makes this remake-of-a-remake (1935 French original, Fanfare d’Amour and 1951 German remake, Fanfaren der Liebe) so impressive is that when the American Film Institute made its list of the funniest movies of all time in 2000, Some Like It Hot scored the No. 1 spot.
5. Birdcage (1996)
Robin Williams plays the perfect yin to Nathan Lane’s camp yang in this American remake of the 1978 popular French film La Cage aux Folles. Whilst it took conservative Hollywood twenty years after the original’s release for the idea of a comedy about homosexuals pretending to be straight to be considered mainstream enough for wider audiences, it was perhaps worth the wait considering the marvellous comedy chemistry Williams and Lane produced.
True Lies (1994)
Based on the French comedy La Totale!, James Cameron’s blockbuster starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis and was packed full of action, humour and big budget special effects. Dare we say it, it was possibly even better than the original.
1. Godzilla (1998)
Not the first remake of the 1954 Japanese classic Gojira, but this was America’s first attempt at it. The result? A laughable, overblown action monstrosity with no surprises, no exhilaration and no thrills, filled with cheesy dialogue and endless product placement.
2. The Tourist (2010)
The Tourist serves as a great reminder that even having two of the biggest film stars in the world and an award winning team behind the camera does not always equal a recipe for success. Based on the 2005 French romantic thriller Anthony Zimmer, the film is an uninspired romantic comic adventure that encompasses an absurd plot, beautiful scenery and lack lustre performances from the lead actors.
3. Tim Burton (Planet of the Apes/ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)*
* Alice Wonderland could have easily been here as well but we decided to pick the greater of the evils.
It’s sad to say but Tim Burton has become the poster boy of poorly executed movie remakes – and deciding to remake the 1986 classic Planet of the Apes staring Charlton Heston really was a very ballsy decision. The resulting film lacked Burton’s famed imagination as well as pretty much everything that worked in the original, all in favour of a glossy big-budget production that fails to excite. Arguably as off-the mark is Burton’sattempt to remake the lovable 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Making a film that is more true to the book than the original is the only facet in which the film succeeds. The result is predictably twisted, lacking the iconic soundtrack of the original and Johnny Depp’s Michael Jackson-inspired take on the famous chocolatier is downright creepy.
4. The Wicker Man (2006)
What’s a bad Hollywood remake without Nicolas Cage? The Wicker Man is a remake of the 1973 British film of the same name, which combined eroticism with violence to titillate viewers in the way that 70’s horror flicks did so well. The remake removed most of the sexual elements (probably so it could achieve a box office friendly PG rating) and in doing so produced a boring, fright-free catastrophe that’s remembered more for its unintentional comedy and fails.
5. The Eye (2008)
This 2008 American remake of the Hong Kong film Jian Gui stars Jessica Alba and features some truly mediocre acting. There’s an attempt to replace the religious aspects of the original with pseudo-scientific nonsense, and a script completely reliant on jump scares.
(Not so) honorable mention:
The Grudge (2004)
Do yourself a favour by forgetting you ever watched this version, and see the original written and directed by Takashi Shimizu instead – Ju-on: The Grudge.