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15 Movies So Unique They Could Never Be Replicated

22 March 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Gavin Miller

The concept of remaking a film is an interesting one to think about. Is it respectful to the original’s legacy, or disrespectful? Remakes really vary in quality – some are great, even better than the original source material, and then some are just awful – insulting, and just plain disrespectful to the original.

Some stories are so classic that they have to be updated with time, and reimaginings of them are welcome, but there is a group of movies that remain untouchable. Not necessarily relating to the quality of the films, but more just that certain thing about them that makes them so special and beautifully unique. Maybe it’s the film’s aesthetic, tone, or characters, but whatever the case, these are 15 films that absolutely could never be remade.


15. Ghostbusters


The classic 1984 sci-fi comedy features all the zaniness and hilarity promised by its premise: three sold-out scientists decide to start a ghost extermination business – they get famous and have to save the world. While this comedy plot seems like it would be easy enough to update to present-day with modern special effects, you have to step back and think about why Ghostbusters was such a success.

The characters – Doctors Venkman, Spengler and Stantz, brilliantly portrayed by Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, respectively. These three characters (as well as Winston, the fourth and less memorable Ghostbuster), had such perfect comedic chemistry, a blend of personalities and dialog that could never be duplicated. Also, the original Ghostbusters features endearing, classic effects. Now-a-days it would of course all be CGI, and probably look like garbage.


14. Clerks


Kevin Smith’s famous first film is a day in the life of two convenience-store clerks named Dante and Randall. These two best friends hang out at their jobs, play hockey on the roof, talk about movies, and generally slack off. Clerks was a hilarious low-budget masterpiece, and was an essential part of the 90’s independent film wave.

Kevin Smith’s dialog is so funny, and rings so true, and the black and white low-budget feel of the film is so original that this story could simply never be told again. Smith even seemed to acknowledge this with his 2006 follow-up, Clerks II, which has a different tone and vibe than the original. Only Kevin Smith can direct a Kevin Smith movie.


13. Annie Hall


Woody Allen has such a distinct and unique cinematic voice. His writing is like no other’s, and his characters are honest and relatable, just like his films. Annie Hall is his magnum opus of his idiosyncrasy and quirk films, and the structure and storytelling of the film is like no other. Annie Hall is a romantic comedy told with such an original voice and directed with such uncommon flair. The characters are honestly depicted and thoroughly realistic, and the deeper themes at work in the film are fascinating.

Though the general structure of Annie Hall has been reduplicated by films such as (500) Days of Summer, the original’s legacy has never been contested. This rom-com would be impossible to replicate because of Allen’s very particular sense of humor and characterization, as well as the interesting storytelling techniques and ingenuity he utilized.


12. Pulp Fiction


Few filmmakers can make non-linear storytelling work as well as Tarantino, and no filmmakers can replicate his style or dialog. There are many imitators, but Pulp Fiction remains QT’s untouched masterwork. Every actor in this film fits his/her character so perfectly, and the dialog written for those characters defines them so genuinely.

Despite the fact that Tarantino is one of the most widely imitated directors, the darkly hilarious and clever tone that Pulp Fiction hit so brilliantly is something that could never be recreated – not even by Tarantino himself.


11. Borat


Borat may be too obvious of a pick, but it’s true, this is one film that could never be remade. Sacha Baron Cohen’s ingenious mockumentary is one of the funniest films ever made, and perfectly captured the zeitgeist of America at the time, at the same time making sly statements about how much xenophobia and racism there is to be found at the heart of America.

Through the un-scripted ingenuity of his comedy, and the real reactions of his victims, Cohen captured something so amazing, hilarious and topical all at once, and as proven by his follow-ups Bruno and The Dictator, not even he can replicate his brilliant satire.


10. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

Tim Burton’s first feature film is also one of his funniest, and showcases the director’s imagination and quirky sense of humor as well as any of best films. The obvious reason that Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure could never be remade is that Paul Reubens is not planning on playing the character again anytime soon, and no one could play this character but him.

If anyone else tried to be Pee-Wee, it would just be embarrassing and lame, and not in the intentional sense as captured by Rueben’s performances. Also, Tim Burton was the perfect director for making a film as ridiculous and dumb as this one actually something fun to watch and interesting. The colorful set-pieces are definitely something to behold, and the film’s sense of humor is odd and hilarious.


9. Being John Malkovich


Spike Jonze and Charlie Kauffman burst onto the scene in 1999 with all of their unparalleled creativity with Being John Malkovich. This one-a-kind film is truly one of the best of the 90’s, and features such wacky and wonderful ideas. Watching the film today, it holds up marvelously, and is still just as funny and moving.

No one can write a Charlie Kaufman script but Charlie Kaufman, and no one can direct a movie like Spike Jonze. They work so well together and John Malkovich an artistic and creative triumph in every way. Its bold ideas light up the screen, and almost every scene features an odd and interesting mise-en-scene.



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  • Mike B

    Saw Eraserhead coming a ml away. And any Charlie Kaufman movie belongs on this list.

  • CatfishJohn47

    Excellent list.

    Abide, Sir Miller. Abide…

  • Matthew

    “Oldboy” Should have been on here. Especially since Spike Lee completely RUINED a Perfect Movie. Disappointing….

    • Susan F

      He is referring to the original Korean Version. How ignorant can you be? The Spike Lee Film is a joke and everyone knows it but you. What ignorance.

      • Primer

        Why are you repeating what he mentioned? “Spike Lee completely RUINED a Perfect Movie.”

  • The Movie Score

    Great list, however some of these movies has sequels themselves, Doesnt that mean they were replicated? And I would say you have to include Inception to this

  • Mike Thomas

    A lot have been replicated and have sequels.

  • michael1968

    I can get you a toe by three o clock this afternoon.

  • Guest

    What about Dogsville?

  • JulieH

    what about Dogville?

    • juanchosanchez

      Great pick and I would add Requiem for a Dream, The Nightmare before Christmas & The Good,the bad and the Ugly

  • Milton Cruz

    Good topic, but I’m not wholly in sync with most of the choices (which is a given, of course). Truth is I can imagine most of these being remade. Amelie? They could make a collectable doll franchise out of her. Same with any Guillermo del Toro. Eraserhead was “remade” (in a way) numerous times during the 80’s and 90’s, in failed attempts at domestic surrealism now mostly forgotten. Now… try to imagine remaking a Cassavettes film. A remake of Faces? THAT would be difficult…

    • Susan F

      Faces. Good Choice. A Woman Under the Influence would Qualify too, don’t you think.

      • Milton Cruz

        A Woman Under is probably easier to replicate, given it´s more story and character-driven, dramatically hemmed in in comparison to the others. With Faces it´s not even about characters but something between them, pure raw human vulnerability, one long collective howl in the night. How can you remake a howl? (So with all Cassavetes’ movies, if there´s a story it´s only a pretext. Killing of a Chinese Bookie is another example.)

    • Daniel

      Didn’t they remake Gloria with Sharon Stone in the late 90s?

  • Bội Quỳnh Nguyễn Đặng

    Every movie directed by Wes Anderson should be on this list.

    • Saptashwa Pal

      The direction technique of Wes Anderson is quite unique and fantastic but some of his movies are adapted from stories i.e, a replicated version of story 🙂

      • Jenna Parks-Thomas

        I’m not really sure what that has to do with anything… other movies on
        this list are adapted from stories/books…. it says right in the
        description that Naked Lunch is adapted from a William S. Burroughs
        novel… I just had to say something because your pseudo-polite smugness
        is irritating… this is a list of MOVIES that can’t be remade, and no
        one could remake a Wes Anderson movie… and that includes ALL OF THEM.

        • Saptashwa Pal

          Mrs. Connoisseur, I was just trying to ventilate my views on the fact that the movies adapted from the stories are nothing but a brilliant improvisation but they are not supposed to count as an original creation.I don’t know about you but I believe intelligence and creativity are two different things.I hope you are not pseudo impolite cynic.

  • Ted Wolf

    Interesting, however Lebowski itself is a ‘re-imagining of the big sleep which, before the dude, had been remade already.

  • Chris Azzopardi

    I thought for sure “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” would be on this list.

  • Peter Simon

    This site’s TASTE IN CINEMA is so common-place and misguided.
    I’m bored and so back to MUBI and KG it is.
    Ta Ta.

  • ….and most of the great films from the golden age of the 70s: Taxi Driver, Don’t Look Now, Performance, Deer Hunter….. Thank God they had the good sense, for once in Hellwood, to stop trying to remake Rosemary’s Baby, but they slipped through the odious TV series, anyway. No shame.

  • F S

    Two Non-American films: as so often, an expected disappointment.

  • michaeldare

    I would love to see a dozen remakes of Being John Malkovich, each inside a different person.

    • Vincenzo Politi


  • Rick Hunter

    Interesting idea for a list…wish the year of release was included for each title

  • Saptashwa Pal

    I think “Mr Nobody” deserves a place in this list.

  • Paul J Anderson

    Too many modern films on this list. Here are a few I think are absolutely and completely impossible to remake.

    “Birth of a Nation” – one of the most influential and racist films ever made. It changed Hollywood into HOLLYWOOD. Only a fool would attempt to remake it.

    “Metropolis” – the grandfather of Sci-Fi films and also one of the most influential. Anyone attempting to remake it would most likely be tarred and feathered.

    “Psycho” – ummm…Gus Van Zant tried to remake it SHOT FOR SHOT and failed miserably. Pretty much THE definition of impossible to remake.

    And, what I consider the film that should top this list…”The Wizard of Oz” Here is something that is now beyond a film and has become part of our culture. It so revered that no one in their right mind has tried to even think about remaking it over the past 75 years. Sure Baum’s novel has had other adaptations, but none have attempted to recreate the masterpiece we grew up with.

  • giallopudding

    I might substitute Blue Velvet for Eraserhead, simply because it incorporates all the signature Lynchian elements, but is actually watchable for people who aren’t either A) College students or B) Cinephiles.

  • giallopudding

    Also, I’d substitute Raising Arizona or Fargo for The Big Lewbowski, based purely on the former films’ higher degree of originality (as noted by a commentator below, TBL was based loosely on the Big Sleep). But all these films are amazing accomplishments, and comedic masterpieces in their own rights.

  • Allister Cooper

    Thank goodness Being John Malkovich can’t be duplicated. It doesn’t have to be. It’s such a shitty film. And Maxine and eat dung and die. The worst film of that year.

  • BK207

    Why not Tropic Thunder?

  • Richard McLin

    Lost in Translation

    • Vincenzo Politi


  • John Davidsson

    Ichi the killer, or any Miike film for that matter

  • giallopudding

    Any Lynch or Coen Brothers films…

  • Susan F

    This blog’s writers are rank amateurs with no knowledge of film history. Rather, they are movie fans fancying themselves experts. Pathetic. I have more credentials to write for this blog than any of the authors of this blog given that I am a graduate of the world’s most prestigious film school, Tisch School of the Arts (NYU Film School) with a B.F.A. in Film Production and History. I am also a lawyer – a litigator and trial lawyer. A few of the films do merit mention such as Eraserhead, Borat and Being John Malkovich. But Ghostbusters, Big Trouble in Little China and Clerks!!! Give me a break. If the individual writing this article had any sense of cinema history or real love and knowledge of films, it would have included the following films, all of which I have seen: Un Chien Andalou (the personification of this subject), L’Age D’or (the personification of this subject), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, A Trip To The Moon, Nanook of the North, That Obscure Object of Desire, La Dolce Vita, Dreams (the Kurosawa tour de force), Entr’acte, Man With a Camera, Battleship Potemkin, Der Letzte Mann, Frankenstein.I would also pick Blood Simple, Pink Flamingos, Scorpio Rising and The Original Hairspray (the one with the divine Divine). The ignorance of the author is astounding.

    • stupid guy

      of course, those films are also important…

    • Aitor

      In spite of all your educational background, you don’t seem to learn anything about the repulsiveness of arrogance, don’t you? Give it a go and honor us pathetic lo-lifeforms with your so-original-super-duper-uber-intelligent-academic bullshit!

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      That’s a pretty big generalization considering the number of writers on this website.

  • Siham Bsn

    I’m not really sure i fully understand the concept on this article …
    Any movie could be in here, or any remake could be done from any of the movies in this list, no ? I mean, I don’t really understand the critères.

  • luke

    I can’t understand why there’s so much hate on some articles here and on other film sites…. As if anyone is in competition with anyone else… We share such a beautiful love for the art of Film…. that should not crete all this anger …. disagreement; YES by all means…. but simply say – In my opinion : etc etc etc…. no need to bash the bloody article… its not as if they’re ‘wrong’ (whatever that means)… especially this article… the guy is obviously in love with the Coen’s Lebowski…. nothing wrong with that … let’s all preserve this mutual appreciation of such a beautiful art form…. no use getting all angry about it… think about the fact that we are living in the same age as many of these masters of cinema… Scorsese, Woody Allen, Herzog, Godard, Volker Chlondorff, Coppola, Wes Anderson, Iñárritu, Lynch, POlanski, Bertolucci, SPike Lee, Terry GIlliam….. these are the ones that are still alive…. think of how lucky we are to have lived in the same time of these guys… and we have witnessed their Art coming out on real actual dates that to us are simply days… passing by year after year…. …….. you film bastards… i know the feeling of strong opinions… no need to be Tarantinoesque about it though….

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      This comment is incapable of ever receiving too many upvotes.

  • Johann S.

    Well all great movies could never properly be replicated?

  • Bosma

    Repo Man

    Better Off Dead

    True Stories


    Any Errol Morris documentary

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Kusturica’s Underground

  • Vincenzo Politi

    but… like… “2001: A Space Odyssey”???

  • Jacob Kilgannon

    I feel like Izo (although not my favorite Miike film) would be pretty appropriate for this list. Psycho definitely as well, since (as others have said as well) the attempt at a shot for shot remake even failed. Valerie and her Week of Wonders might fit here as well. And Salo, mainly because I have no clue who would want to remake that one lol. Some of Terry Gilliam’s work comes to mind for me as well.

  • Boris Georgiev

    Adaptation, Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, after hours are worthy mentions
    Also its a bit weird to not have any Kubrick or PTA movies

  • Relf

    Pulp Fiction is a scrap book from scenes from other, better films. The fuck?!

  • Matthew Sutton

    Manhattan would probably be even harder to remake.

    Pee Wee’s couldn’t be remade without Burton and Ruebens…and most importantly Phil Hartman’s writing.

    Big Lebowski could probably be remade but it would be hard to imagine a remake of Barton Fink or Raising Arizona.

  • Flora Goodson

    Blazing saddles could never be made today.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover