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20 Movie Remakes That Actually Got It Right

31 October 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

best movie remakes

Like many of you, I shudder a bit when I hear that an old classic is being “remade.” We cry, “why can’t it just be left alone?!” Because remakes guarantee an audience…that’s why! Most often the remake doesn’t match up to the original, but every so often we are pleasantly surprised. The movie remakes below might not be as good as the originals, but they definitely lived up to the hype.

Just so ya know, my interpretation of a “remake” is a film that uses an earlier film as its main source material or source of inspiration.


20. Let Me In

Let Me In

Why mess with a modern classic? Far from messing with it, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves instead crafts a sensitive companion piece to original Swedish vamp flick Let The Right One In that is as far from a money-grabbing cash-in as it’s possible to get.

Sensitive and elegant, with Let Me In he draws haunting performances from young leads Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee as a vampire and her new friend, and sets a new standard for fang flicks here on in. Stellar stuff.


19. The Departed


The Academy finally awarded Martin Scorsese a best director trophy for this crime epic in 2007. And though some might argue it’s not the film he should have gotten the award for (Raging Bull, anyone?), there’s no denying The Departed retains its own sucker punch power.

Jack Nicholson throws his weight around as crime boss and all-round meanie Frank Costello, while the dual paths of Leo DiCaprio’s undercover cop Billy and Matt Damon’s undercover cop mobman Colin reap all kinds of white-knuckle rewards. Not least the bloodbath ending. Oh, and it’s a remake of the equally-brilliant Internal Affairs.


18. Twelve Monkeys


Terry Gilliam’s gritty, no-nonsense sci-flick takes its inspiration from French romantic short The Pier (1962), which itself follows post-World War III humans who attempt to invent time travel in order to go back in time for food supplies.

In Gilliam’s version, Bruce Willis is a convict sent back through time from a future that is crippled by disease. His mission? Fight out what went wrong. Annoyingly, he’s banged up in a mental asylum when he gets there… Willis knocks his performance out of the park, while the multiple plot twists corkscrew in genius ways. And no, there aren’t any actual monkeys involved.


17. Dangerous Liaisons

dangerous liaisons

Alright, not technically a remake as much as a fresh adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’ debauchery-stuffed novel, but still just one of many such adaps. As tight-bound as any of the numerous corsets on display, Stephen Frears’ version is a luxurious, opulent affair, as Glenn Close and John Malkovich exchange barbs between the fan-flicking.

Of course, Cruel Intentions did it just as wella decade later, swapping tiaras for teen tantrums and pushing the high life sexcapades to the limit…

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  • Ana

    David, firstly thank you for all the interesting ‘lists’ you post. I enjoy reading them – a quick and easy way to engage with multiple films, and learn something new from your keen insights. What I would really love, however, is if you provided dates of release in brackets each time you introduce a film. Being able to place the film in its historical context while reading would add a further, valuable dimension to the discussion. Just an idea.

    About The Departed (2006) by the way, I have a particular issue with that film because the original was so good and so recent – InFernal Affairs (2002) – that it really just emphasised Hollywood’s obsession with remaking everything in its own image. Scorsese is a very good director but yes, I agree that this is not the film he should have got his Oscar for – although the performances are excellent, it is an exact copy of the original, nothing new.

  • tooelecommuter_2011

    What’s the name of the Kurasawa movie that A Fistful Of Dollars is a remake of? It’s not mentioned in the blurb.

    • Wonko1984

      The original was Yojimbo, which was a spin on Dashill Hamitt’s “Red Harvest”, there is also a prohibition era / gangster version with Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken which is enjoyable.

  • ForwardEarth

    Goldblum’s character in The Fly was not experimenting with hybridization! He invented teleportation!

  • mrsatyre

    No, I’m sorry, “The Magnificent Seven” is a pretty awful interpretation of “Seven Samurai”. As a stand-alone Western, it’s average at best. It lacks all of the grim humor, the heart-breaking tragedy and Pyrrhic victories of the original.

  • Mike Garcia

    the departed is crap, all about if you compare it with INFERNAL AFFAIRS which is a masterpiece

  • Derek Cole

    Did I miss something? How is True Grit not on this list?

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    Ben Hur,