14. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)
The first film on this list to be remade by the same director who created the original, it is an updated version of Hitchcock’s own 1934 film of the same name.
Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day star as a wealthy American couple who are vacationing with their son in Morocco. While there, they meet a mysterious man named Louis Bernard whose behavior unsettles the Americans. After the two witness a startling murder, they become wrapped up in an international web of assassination and corruption.
Hitchcock remade his early film due to his unhappiness with the execution of the plot which he was quite fond of, and wished to put his experience to the test. The improvement between the early and later films is certainly impressive and as Hitchcock put it “Let’s say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional.”
The plots are, for the most part, the same but with more polished all around filmmaking The Man Who Knew Too Much was transformed into one of Hitchcock’s classic thrillers.
13. 3:10 to Yuma (James Mangold, 2007)
This remake of the classic 1957 western of the same name starring Glenn Ford based on an Elmore Leonard short story is a powerful and violent crime story.
Christian Bale stars Dan Evans, a wounded civil war veteran who is now a rancher with his sons. When his cattle are stolen by the bandit Ben Wade, played by Russell Crowe, Evans gathers up a posse to confront Wade in Bisbee and arrest him. When Wade is being escorted to the titular train that will take him to prison, however, he breaks free and a bloody hunt led by Evans begins to catch him and bring him to justice.
Many important themes are addressed in this brutal and complex western, such as familial ties, sense of honor, and survival and morality in the South following the war. Crowe’s selfish and nasty but principled outlaw clashes with Bale’s disgraced and determined veteran, causing many fascinating ideas and themes from their interactions.
The film is also a wild and exciting Western with very dark undertones and events. Helping to bring back the popularity of the western, 3:10 to Yuma is a captivating tale of betrayal and desperation.
12. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
Philip Kaufman’s creepy sci-fi thriller was adapted Don Siegel’s 1956 cult classic and is one of the earliest examples of how a remake can surpass the quality of the original. Set in San Francisco, the peaceful lives of the citizens are interrupted when alien life forms fall from the sky.
Donald Sutherland and his friends discover that these life forms are making doubles of all the people in the city and replacing them when they sleep, leaving emotionless copies in their place. When more and more people are replaced, nobody remains trustworthy.
This peculiar blend of mystery and science fiction is a goofy, bizarre and terrifying film that outdoes the original film both technically and in creating a tense atmosphere.
The film’s slow build that quickly grows out of hand results in one of the most unsettling and thought provoking horror endings ever. With an excellent cast including Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a highly intriguing remake of a unique sci-fi story.
11. Cape Fear (Martin Scorsese, 1991)
Scorsese moved the classic 1962 thriller to the modern day, with Nick Nolte playing Gregory Peck’s role as the lawyer Sam Bowden and Robert De Niro replacing Robert Mitchum playing the disturbed criminal Max Cady.When Cady is released from prison, he hunts down and torments Bowden who intentionally withheld evidence that would have allowed for Cady’s aquittal. Through stalking Bowden and his family, Cady continually breaks the lawyer’s spirit and resolve, leading to a desperate actions.
Living up to the performances by Peck and Mitchum is no easy task, but Scorsese manages to bring out intensely flawed and powerful portrayals, especially from De Niro whose twisted, bible-quoting lunatic is truly terrifying.
Filled with disturbing violence and themes, the film is a carefully constructed event with increasing tension and thrill, building up to a legendary and often referenced conclusion. While Cape Fear may not be Scorsese’s most important work, it is one of the most intense and creepy films of the era.
10. Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1979)
Remaking F.W. Murnau’s classic silent horror film Nosferatu, Herzog combined both elements of Bram Stoker’s novel on which the earlier film was unofficially based while sticking closer to the imagery and legendary scenes of Murnau.
Frequent Herzog collaborator Klaus Kinski takes over the role of Count Dracula, played by Max Schreck in the original,oozing menace. The plot is in essence the same as most every “Dracula” incarnation including the previously mentioned Coppola film, with the Count traveling to the city to pursue Lucy Harker and Jonathan and Van Helsing must stop him.
Herzog considered the original Nosferatu to be the greatest German film ever made and he kept true to the original’s intense creepiness. Kinski played his role very well, and contrasting with the suave Dracula played by Gary Oldman in Coppola’s film, this depiction is grotesque and delightfully frightening.
The film in general follows this trend, focusing more on building tension to the the horrifying moments of the original than it does keeping true to the feeling of Stoker’s novel. Interestingly shot in both English and German to appease the producers, Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre is a chilling and masterful recreation of one of the most important horror films ever.
9. Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983)
One of the most iconic gangster films of all time, De Palma’s crime epic is a gritty reboot of Howard Hawks’s 1932 film starring Paul Muni. While the original was based on Al Capone’s climb to power in the Chicago crime world, the remake takes the plot and moves it to Miami.
Al Pacino stars as the Cuban immigrant Tony Montana who moves to Miami and gets quickly roped into the drug industry. He quickly rises through the ranks and takes over as a malicious kingpin. As his power gets to his head, he loses balance and struggles to keep control of his empire.
When it first came out Scarface was one of the most controversial films of the time, with gratuitous violence and heavy language splitting the critical consensus between filth and a brutal masterpiece. The film’s immense length also drew complaints as some said Oliver Stone’s script did not have enough content to merit the run time.
Nonetheless, Pacino’s hammy performance and the dynamic script all compiled to make an extremely memorable and quotable film. Lines like “Say hello to my little friend” have become mainstays in the public’s lexicon. An update from the early classic, Scarface manages to modernize the film while still conveying the social messages of the original and make a similarly lasting impression on the gangster genre.
8. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
This thrilling film of crime and corruption is a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs and is one of the most straightforward adaptations on this list. While sometimes this strategy of remaking can be boring or uninspired, Scorsese shows us that it is not always the case.
This high intensity gangster film is a cat and mouse game between a police informant in the mob and a mob informant in the police form as they try and discover each other’s identity. Their lives and surroundings quickly spin out of control, however, as criminal lives tend to do.
Scorsese’s brutal violence and creative imagery bring to life the recent hong Kong film and imbue with a definite Americanness, separating itself as a standalone classic and a highlight of Scorsese’s career.
The extremely talented cast of actors is also a defining feature that caused the film’s immense success, including Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg and many others. Highly powerful and incredibly tense, The Departed is one of the greatest modern gangster films and proof shows Scorsese incredible vision.