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The 20 Best Movie Remakes in Cinema History

24 June 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Matthew Benbenek

best movie remake

Remakes of films, particularly by those in Hollywood, have a poor reputation of being cheap and sloppy movies made to cash in on the success of the original. While, unfortunately this is true for the majority of these films, many directors manage to revive the plot of a film successfully and put a new spin on a cinematic classic. This kind of project presents a unique challenge for directors who are pushed to stay true to the source but at the same time to try and convey the plot in different ways.

Remakes are not exclusive to any genre, with drama, comedy action and horror films all appearing on this list. Some of the remakes start as personal projects of directors who admire the works of past filmmakers and try to pay tribute by imitating their style.

Others start by directors seeing more potential in classic films, sometimes causing directors to remake their own films. Many others are simply remade to capture a wider audience, usually from a foreign country to the United States . The following list features remakes of films of all different genres and eras showing the variations with which directors approach the challenge.

 

20. Insomnia (Christopher Nolan, 2002)

insomnia-2002

A remake of a terrific Norwegian thriller, Christopher Nolan’s third film is an intriguing crime mystery. Al Pacino stars as detective Will Dormer of the LAPD who is called up to Alaska by his old friend to help out with a murder. Back in Los Angeles, Domer is under investigation by internal affairs due to his mishandling of evidence in a prior case and his partner is testifying against him.

When pursuing the murder suspect in Alaska, Dormer accidently shoots and kills his partner, covering pinning the murder on the suspect when realizing nobody would believe him. He then has to try and catch the murderer while undergoing insomnia due to guilt.

Led by a great ensemble cast including Robin Williams and Hilary Swank, the film is an effective crime story filled with psychological turmoil and thrilling action.

Although it is not as mind-bending as many of Nolan’s film try to be later in his career, it is a very polished and exciting thriller filled with twists, featuring beautiful tense cinematography and successfully utilizing the setting of Alaska effectively. Nolan’s remake manages to capture the excitement of the original while still setting it apart as a notable film itself.

 

19. Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010)

Let-Me-In-movie

One of the highest rated horror films of the 21st century so far, this critically acclaimed horror remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In is an important film in the vampire genre. Switching the location to New Mexico,

The story follows a young middle schooler Owen who is unpopular and is neglected by his parents who are divorcing. He becomes friends with a new girl Abby, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who moves in next door. He notices that Abby has some unusual quirks, and the viewer soon learns that Abby is a vampire and her father has to go out often, killing people and draining their blood so she can survive.

This beautiful and bloody tale of friendship and sacrifice is much more than just a horror film. It addresses various themes of morality and death, as well as acting as a touching coming of age story. The juxtaposition of the brutal violence and the two kid’s relationship is both simultaneously unsettling and peaceful.

Although some have commented that the remake was largely unnecessary because of the similarity in both time and plot, Let Me In is still indisputably a well constructed and exciting vampire film with much more depth than most modern horror films.

 

18. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Frank Oz, 1988)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Michael Caine butts heads with comedy superstar Steve Martin in this comedy about two con men fighting for control over a section of the French Riviera full of rich gullible women. Caine suave, slimy crook finds a perfect balance in Martin’s zany and ambitious scammer.

After getting into a few initial conflicts, they decide to face off in a winner-takes-all competition to see who could con a certain beautiful and rich heiress. As the competition goes on, they find the heiress more formidable than they expected and their hijinks grow increasingly desperate (and hilarious).

Based on the 1964 film Bedtime Story featuring Marlon Brando and David Niven which featured a very similar plot, but was a bit less successful than the remake, if only due to Brando’s lack of comedic experience.

Frank Oz, of the Muppets, directs this goofy comedy, successfully revamping a somewhat forgotten film into a popular hit. One of the funniest films in the careers of all those involved, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a smart and entertaining comedy classic.

 

17. Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004)

dawn-of-the-dead-1

Zack Snyder’s remake of George A. Romero’s horror classic helped spawn the zombie craze in the following decade along with the “Resident Evil” series, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead.

The plot follow a group of humans in a small Wisconsin town who have to band together when a zombie outbreak occurs. They are forced into defending themselves from the horde, fortifying inside of a mega mall. Soon, however, they realize that they will need to escape.

Snyder’s directorial debut keeps the same plot as Romero’s original but features more on the action scenes than on the horror element. The film features many bloody and high intensity action sequences against endless hordes of the walking dead.

There are still scary elements, however, especially in the chilling conclusion that runs during the end credits. Highly influential to both modern actions and horror films, Dawn of the Death is an exciting and bloody flick.

 

16. Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker’s novel has been made into countless films over time, with many not resembling the plot at all, but the vast majority of these are low grade horror films. Francis Ford Coppola returned to the source text and closely adapted the story, bringing respect and legitimacy back to the story.

Gary Oldman stars as the titular Count Dracula who meets lawyer Jonathan Harker, played by Keanu Reeves, and then travels to England to seduce his bride. When Dracula starts causing widespread terror and violence, Harker must team up with Professor Van Helsing, played by Anthony Hopkins, to stop him.

Because Coppola’s film stuck very close to the novel instead of previous film incarnations of the story, the atmosphere as much more ominous and less focused on jump scares. The slower pacing of the film also offered much more character development and gave more depth to the setting of the film.

The exceptional ensemble cast also brings new levels to the classic horror story that usually featured B-movie actors. A revolutionary approach to a horror tale, Dracula is a beautiful and scary recreation of the legendary character.

 

15. True Grit (Ethan and Joel Coen, 2010)

True Grit (2010)

The Coen’s send up of the Western genre, which also helped revitalize it, is one of their most polished and exciting works of the decade. Starring in this remake of the 1969 revisionist classic 1969 is Jeff Bridges playing John Wayne’s legendary character Rooster Cogburn, the abrasive alcoholic U.S. Marshal.

Cogburn is hired by a young girl to pursue and kill her father’s murderers. Joined by a Texas Ranger, played by Matt Damon, the group sets out on an exciting and bloody adventure.

While the Coen’s don’t take any major risks with the remake, keeping the spirit and themes of the original intact, the film does not feel stale or pointless at all. With the help of a brilliant ensemble cast including Josh Brolin and Hailee Steinfeld as well as those previously mentioned, the film stands on its own with the imposing stature of the original.

Although the unique personality of the Coen is not as strong in this film as in others, their expert craftsmanship is on full display. True Grit is one of the greatest modern western films, featuring excellent acting and beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins.

 

 

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  • Ciamon

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?
    Funny Games?
    Vanilla Sky?

    • lando

      funny games?, c’mon dude.

      • Bryton Cherrier

        I’m actually not surprised it’s not on here. Lmao.

    • Funny Games and The Girl with the Dragon Tatto… I agree, but Vanilla Sky? Really?

  • Ibrahim Barghouth

    Reservoir Dogs !!!?

    • ladyofargonne

      Reservoir Dogs is a remake?

      • Bryton Cherrier

        A lot of people think it’s a remake/rip off of the Hong Kong film City on Fire.

      • Ibrahim Barghouth

        Yes, it is, The original movie is (City on Fire)

  • Ajit Unni

    Fistful of dollars though an ok film was nothing compared to Yojimbo. There is no way that should be top or even in the top 10 of this list. Even Sergio Leone ans Clint Eastwood hated the film. Though lists and rankings are difficult to make…. I think this choice really has put into question the quality of this list.

  • Klaus Dannick

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, Francis Ford Coppola) is not a remake. As the author of this article themselves stated, it is a new film based upon material which had been previously adapted. And, although the film is faithful to the novel in a narrative sense, its fidelity to Stoker’s novel is tragically flawed in at least two ways: (1) the novel Dracula is not a love story in any way; and (2) the historical figure Vlad Tepes is never directly referenced in the novel. The latter point can be taken as the film’s fanciful embellishment, but the former reveals the film as a failed representation of Stoker’s source work. Visual opulence and flamboyant performances aside, there is little “great” about Coppola’s take on Dracula.

    And, if this Dracula is considered a remake, does that mean that Kenneth Brannaugh’s Henry V is a remake of Laurence Olivier’s earlier film? And is Polanski’s MacBeth a remake of Orson Welles? Or is Shakespeare exempt from “remake” status? And what of Purple Noon and The Talented Mr. Ripley?

    • Veronica Clarke

      Yes, I actually disliked ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ because it is NOT really faithful to the novel in that way at all. And it cannot be called a remake of any other film because it is not like earlier adaptations of Dracula, so doesn’t really belong on this list.

  • Susan F

    You are out of your minds. The remake of Scarface, which is a bad joke, better than the original? The original legendary german expressionist Nosferatu is inferior to the silly remake? A Fistfull of Dollars better than Yojimbo? Insane! The Magnificent Seven better than The Seven Samurai. You should be banned from commenting on film. I won’t even address others like Dracula.

    • Klaus Dannick

      To be fair, the article is entitled “greatest remakes”, not “remakes which are better than the originals”. Otherwise, I’m totally with you.

      • Susan F

        You are being facetious, right. This is not semantics. if the author is not saying the remakes are better than the originals than I don’t understand English and its my native language. The Man Who Knew Too Much. This author is the only individual who thinks that the remake is better than the original. Hitchcock made and directed both. Does the “ambiguity” apply to that film too?

        • Klaus Dannick

          In reading the reviews, I can see a handful of titles in which the author suggests that the remakes are better than the original works (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dracula, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ocean’s Eleven). Otherwise, it seems that the author is being careful to avoid such jugements, calling Scorsese’s Cape Fear a relatively minor work for the director (which it is) and calling a few of them distinct works unto themselves. I’m not defending the writer’s opinion on these choices, and I feel this is a bad list for several reasons, but the author never states that they consider the remake of Scarface or the western versions of Kurosawa’s films to be better films than the original works.

          • Sam Henry

            you have an amazing amount of restraint, and a calm demeanor lol. I wouldave lost my temper a bit at the previous response lol.

          • Klaus Dannick

            Hey, it’s just film criticism… We all have our personal opinions, and it’s simply not important enough to raise one’s blood pressure over the matter.

          • Sam Henry

            Oh I completely agree with you there, I was referring more to the tone of the response. We can all learn a lot from you though! 🙂

          • Klaus Dannick

            Thank you. I’m glad to have been of service.

          • BrainSync

            Hmm, it is implied in “The 20 Best” in the title though, that each remake mentioned in this list is better than the original. For which I mostly disagree, except for The Thing and The Fly.

          • Klaus Dannick

            Personally speaking, I understand the terms “original version” and “remake” to be distinct terms, and neither term implies quality. As such, a “best remake”, to my reading, does not imply “remake which bested the original work”; it states only what is on the surface. For instance, out of two given remakes of King Kong, the BEST of them is Peter Jackson’s version (as opposed to the 1976 version); the original 1933 version is not part of that particular equation.

          • BrainSync

            Why even bother to mention a remake in such a list if is not to point out that is better than the original? Personally I find most of remakes pretentious attempts to do better than the original. In most cases that attempt fails miserably, where the original brilliantly succeeded. That said, there are exceptions, such as “The Fly” and “The Thing”, which were able to enhance the story and its impact, with improved script, visuals and special effects.

          • Klaus Dannick

            I suppose because, as I mentioned earlier, a number of these (The Fly, The Thing, Dracula, True Grit) are films based upon the same source material, not necessarily remakes of an earlier film. Perhaps these directors are interested in presenting an approach to the material which the earlier work does not. In many cases, I feel that the term “remake” is inaccurate as these works should be viewed as distinct works unto themselves. In the case of Nosferatu, Herzog, who dearly loves Murnau’s original, made his 1979 film as an homage to Murnau’s work, a way to introduce the contemporary public to the original work, while adding his own personal metaphors to the story. The same, I think, can be said of Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong: the 1933 version is a film Jackson dearly reveres (he’d be a pompous man indeed if he felt he could better the original film given his affection for the work). I recall very few calling The Talented Mr. Ripley a remake of the 1960 film Plein Soliel, and, perhaps, this critical approach should should be taken in most cases.

            Incidentally, though I personally love much of David Cronenberg’s work, I do prefer the earlier film version of The Fly to his later version.

          • BrainSync

            Semantic. A remake IS a re-make of the same material. You either love it, or you hate it. I usually prefer the original of most classic films, but as I said, there are a few exceptions that deserve mention, once in a million times.

          • Klaus Dannick

            Not really. Of which of the many Dracula films is Bram Stoker’s Dracula a remake? None of them. It is a film based upon the same source material with an approach unlike its predecessors. The same can be said of The Thing ( of which the John Carpenter film is more faithful to the source than it is to Howard Hawks’ film).

          • Klaus Dannick

            Also, don’t forget that some remakes (as in the case of the 1976 King Kong and the 1990 Night of the Living Dead) are the projects of producers whose first priority is to turn a healthy profit with very little regard for art or artistry (indeed, this is the genesis of most films). Needless to say, it’s unlikely in this scenario that the directors involved believe that they are improving upon an established work.

          • BrainSync

            True

  • Klaus Dannick

    Branagh’s Henry V is better than all of these, IMO. And that’s just the BEGINNING of what’s wrong with this list.

  • Andrés Alafita

    True Grit is not a remake but a readaptation of the Charles Portis Novel.

    • Andrés Alafita

      The same for The girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dracula. Somebody didn’t make his research.

    • Klaus Dannick

      Definitely agree. The same applies to the Dracula film (incorrectly identified as “Dracula” when the actual title is “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”).

    • Jason Siegel

      It was a readaptation that was better to its source material, no less…..I’d read the book before seeing the Coen/Bridges version, and I was happy that it hewed very close to Portis’ book.

  • Bryton Cherrier

    Assault On Precinct 13 should be on here if A Fistful of Dollars can be on here.

  • Caseman

    Sorry…the original “Cape Fear” was much much better (and I love Scorcese). Scarface is terrible as well.

    • Klaus Dannick

      Once again, though I completely agree with this comment, the article is, as its title states, “best remakes”, not “remakes which are better than the originals”.

  • Michel Muñoz

    Dredd should be here. The original Judge Dredd is an awful movie and the 2012 remake made serious justice to the comic.

  • dawnofmegiddo

    Strongly disagree with Let Me In (Let The Right One In) and Dawn of The Dead …the originals are superb, the remakes run from luke warm so-so in parts to flat out atrocious.

    However, I definitely agree with Kaufman’s 1978 re-working of Invasion of The Body Snatchers (one of the best paranoia-inducing sc/fi-horror films made!) as well as John Carpenter’s grueling adaptation of the shape shifting/copying organism (thanks to fx guru, Rob Bottin) in John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” (The Thing) – – another monumental cult film within the science fiction/horror canon. Incidentally, the recent prequel to that is actually pretty decent.

    • Brett

      I’m 100% with you on Let The Right One In.

    • CAPSLOCKMAN

      I REALLY LOVED THE DAWN OF THE DEAD REMAKE. FUN MOVIE!

    • Klaus Dannick

      Awesome screen name!

  • Praise Thod

    for me the best remake is True Lies, of this shit “La Totale”.

  • RHCdG

    Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant” with Nic Cage is much better than Ferrara’s version.

  • Thomas RH

    Insomnia was a Norwegian thriller, god damn it!!

  • Jason Siegel

    I have to call “fowl” on this list, for not including 1996’s THE BIRDCAGE, one of THE funniest films of the 1990’s!!

  • Rebel Ravi

    Yojimbo was again remade as Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis, aint it?

  • Sam Henry

    The Fly and The Thing completely outshine their source material (in my opinion, of course) The Fly was just absolutely emotionally draining. The 1980s version of The Blob is an awesome remake as well!

  • Ozz Wald

    I think technically The Thing is s sequel of 1950s film The Thing From Another World.

  • Marcell Chateaubriand

    Why isn’t The Parent Trap on this list? Somebody didn’t make his research.

  • Matthew Sutton

    I might take exception to the consideration of the remake of Cape Fear superior to the original.

  • Byron Keith

    How can we possibly overlook DeMille redoing “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” as color talkies?

  • Louie

    He didn’t say it here, but the remake of True Grit is WAY better than the original John Wane vehicle because that’s all the original really was…a JW vehicle. No different than the “vehicles” we see today with action stars. Let’s be honest here, JW really isn’t a very good actor. Jeff Bridges is though, and his portrayal of RC is far more believable & natural than Wayne’s.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Thought the Dawn of the Dead remake was pretty dire to be honest, generic action horror with little to nothing in the way of real atmosphere, character or tension, and for the most part not gory or imaginative to make up for these lacks. If any semi recent horror remake is worth including it would probably be Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes.

  • Stephus

    Coppola’s Dracula is an adaptation to the book. Insomnia and let me in are two of the most horrible remakes ever. Specially let me in.

  • Miguel Valdez-Lopez

    Heat (1995)?
    Some Like It Hot (1959)?
    Ben-Hur (1959)?
    Red Dragon (2002)?
    True Lies (1994)?

  • Eri Taide

    The Girl with the dragon Tattoo does not count as a remake, right? I mean it is a readaptation, so with that same logic, i don’t think Bram Stoker’s Dracula should be in here or even True Grit. However, if we ignore this and call it a remake, then why on earth ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ is not here?

  • Tim Evans

    “Coppola’s film stuck very close to the novel instead of previous film incarnations of the story” – really? Coppola’s making Dracula a romantic hero is pretty much the complete opposite of the novel.

    Read more: http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2015/the-20-best-movie-remakes-in-cinema-history/#ixzz48Z34SKAR

  • Tim Evans

    The 1940 version of The Thief of Baghdad.

  • Relf

    Reservoir Dogs should be on this list ….