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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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.