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10 Failed Movies With Good Premises That Should Be Remade

03 February 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Jason Lovell

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

In modern day cinema, it is becoming increasingly difficult to create original content. One of the ways in which movie studios attempt to combat this is to remake classic movies. The logic does make sense, remaking a movie which is much loved seems like a fool proof plan, but, what studios fail to consider is the effect that nostalgia has on how a new version is received.

Many people take offence when they learn that their favourite movie is to be remade and will already have an expectation that the movie will fail. The 2016 version of Ghostbusters was deemed a critical failure; in reality, it wasn’t that it was necessarily a bad movie, it just fell short of the bar set by the original, resulting in it being considered much worse than it actually was.

So the question is, instead of remaking movies which were highly rated, why not remake movies where the bar is already low? Over the years there have been many movies which failed either critically or financially but actually had a good premise. A bad script, poor casting or a busy release window can all be reasons why a movie fails. But that doesn’t mean that at the heart of it there wasn’t a good movie waiting to be made.

The following ten movies are examples of movies with a good premise that, if remade, could be far more successful than the original.


1. The Golden Compass (2007)

The Golden Compass was a 2007 fantasy-adventure film based on Phillip Pullmans His Dark Materials trilogy. The film tells the story of Lyra Belacqua, a young orphan who discovers that a mysterious group called the Gobblers are kidnapping poor orphan Gyptian children. After being rescued by the Gyptians, Lyra sets off on a quest to the land of the armoured polar bears (yes that’s a real thing) in an attempt to rescue the missing children.

Although the film contained an all-star cast (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Sir Ian McKellen to name a few), reviews of the movie were mixed at best. Watering down the themes of rejection of religion and abuse of power resulted in the film failing to replicate the success of the books. Had the studio doubled down on these themes, things could have looked a lot different.

Even before its release, the film received criticism for the dilution of some of the most interesting elements which made the book series so popular, as well as from some religious organisations for the trilogy’s anti-Catholic themes.

In 2014 Pullman criticised the film, stating: ‘They needed an ending that would work for a single film, but one that would also work if it was the first of a trilogy. They wanted a cliff-hanger and a resolution. You just can’t do that.’


2. Hancock (2008)

Hancock movie image Will Smith

If there was one shining moment in the 1983 film Superman III – except any scene with Richard Pryor – it was when Superman, under the influence of cheap imitation Kryptonite, goes on a bender and begins to act like a complete douche. It raises the question, if you had super powers, would you use them for good or for your own entertainment?

Peter Berg’s superhero comedy Hancock took this theme and made it the film’s premise. Played by Will Smith, Hancock is an alcoholic superhero with amnesia that saves the life of a corporate public relations consultant called Ray (Jason Bateman) after he becomes trapped on railroad tracks with an incoming freight train. In return, Ray offers to improve Hancock’s public image.

Although the plot starts well, it never quite lives up to the premise and takes a dramatic nosedive about half of the way through, as the tone takes a more serious turn.


3. Alien Vs Predator (2004)


One of the most debated topics among film fanatics is who would win out of two film characters. Whether it is Robocop vs Terminator or Hulk vs Superman, debating these dream matches creates as much delight among fanboys as it does animosity.

One matchup which has created much discussion is Alien vs Predator. So much so that it spawned multiple books, comics and video games over the years. So you can imagine the excitement when 20th Century Fox announced that they would be releasing an Alien Vs Predator movie, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.

Sadly, this was another case of a film not living up to the hype and the movie spent too much time focusing on the cardboard cut-out human characters whose purpose was really only to act as fodder for the two franchise monsters. The film also failed to replicate the horror which made Alien and Predator more than just dumb sci-fi action.


4. Hackers (1995)

Hackers, directed by Iain Softley and starring Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie is a 1995 American crime film that follows a group of adolescent hackers who attempt to expose a corporate extortion conspiracy. The film is based on the ideals of The Hacker Manifesto, a 1986 essay written by a computer security hacker who went by the pseudonym of The Mentor.

In a lot of ways, the film was ahead of its time. As the film was released in an age when the internet was still a relatively new thing, many of the themes were lost on the audience and as a result, the critical response suffered. On top of that, the film made only $7.5 million at the box office compared to the production budget of $20 million.

With the internet and hacking being very much a part of today’s culture, a remake of Hackers could fare much better on modern audiences and could experience a level of success akin to the NBC hit show Mr. Robot.


5. Red Sonja (1985)

Red Sonja (1985)

Eager to capitalise on the success of the Arnie-starring Conan movies, MGM attempted to launch their own fantasy franchise featuring one of Robert E. Howard’s other characters, Red Sonya of Rogatino. Unfortunately for them, the film was a complete failure both critically and financially.

Arnie, who portrayed Lord Kalidor in the film, stated ‘It’s the worst film I have ever made’. Now, when my kids get out of line, they’re sent to their room and forced to watch Red Sonja ten times. I never have too much trouble with them’ – ouch!

In the current climate, a remake of Red Sonja would expect to fare much better. In an age where we are seeing an increase of strong female characters on the screen, Red Sonja would be the ideal intellectual property and character to build a franchise featuring a strong female role model to young girls around the world.



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  • B12345

    BBC is doing Dark Materials as a mini series unless plans have changed.

    • Afrikoka

      Yay! Only YA I really want done and done well.

      • B12345

        It’s changed from mini series to actual series. Game of thrones style

  • Timecop and Hackers maybe a product of their time but I still think they’re really good films as the latter is a favorite of mine that I still like to watch a lot.

  • G Jones

    I re-watched Dune recently ….. damn what a Turkey of a film.

    • B12345

      Yup. It’s lol cheesy at points.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Dune was meant to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowski, but then there were troubles with the production. I invite you to watch the amazing documentary “Jodorowski’s Dune”: believe me, if you love cinema, and especially sci-fi cinema, you should really watch that documentary!

  • Dejan Trajković

    Hobbit is totally failed and should be remade.

    • Arshad Khan

      Its major blockbuster worldwide if you make money its a success.

  • Carsten Nilsson

    I had the feeling when seeing “Enders’ Game” that the concept and story was really good, but the movie itself was unbearable to watch.

  • zak1

    Very interesting list; I agree with more than I’d expected.

    The Golden Compass was quite a bit of fun with all the ingredients you’d think they’d need – my sense was that this narrative needed another entry to really kick in, but it seemed they spent so much on the first one that they probably needed it to explode at the box office to justify a second gamble.

    I think the premise of the Hancock film would have worked best in a sequel. Let the hero spend at least one whole film being totally antisocial – Sergio Leone spent his whole career making his heroes antisocial. The idea of a PR guy is cute, but in a way it shows a certain lack of faith in the basic premise. Ideally, a story like this would end best with Hancock catching a glimpse of what it might be like to be rehabilitated, before ultimately sliding back into his old habits. Given the premise, reforming someone like this sort of defeats the whole purpose.

    Alien vs Predator – One thing I really did like was the idea of Sanaa Lathan being groomed as a Predator-in-the-making, Alien-hunting, potential franchise heroine. I think if they picked up where they left off there, that would be an exciting franchise.

    Hackers I saw a few years after it came out, and it really seemed to catch the zeitgeist exactly, from the hot up and coming indie cast, right down to the Dungeons and Dragons bearded persona of their hacker antagonist.

    Red Sonja – no, it’s true, it’s hard to find anything redeeming about this ridiculous film – the best thing about it is the hilarious review it got on Siskel and Ebert, where they basically erupt into laughter when they try to discuss it.
    It looked for a while like Robert Rodriguez was going to do a proper version with Rose McGowan in the lead – I was sorry that that never came off. IMDB still lists Red Sonja as “in development” – I’m definitely keen on seeing that happen.

    Cutthroat Island I actually thought was a lot of fun. Geena Davis was fine in the lead, Frank Langella made for a full-blooded adversary, and the locations and swashbuckling action setpieces were well handled. It was a perfectly serviceable picture – my thinking is that it got stuck between critical biases about pirate movies and about female action heroes.

    Waterworld really didn’t interest me enough for me to think about this, except in its sadly likely prescience.

    Timecop was probably the best Van Damme picture this side of JCVD – but beyond that the premise doesn’t interest me enough to care about a remake (unless they cast Ronda Rousey in the lead?)

    Johnny Mnemonic was an oh so painful near miss. At the time everyone was waiting for the film that would launch the cyberpunk virtual universe into the stratosphere. Again, all the elements seemed just right – great source material with a great screenplay by the cyber-maestro himself, William Gibson, great visual effects overseen by experimental artist turned filmmaker Richard Loncraine, and one of Keanu Reeves’ best performances (the look on his face when he sees the cyber-dolphin is truly priceless). Sadly, the film just sat there on the screen instead of taking off. We’d have to wait till The Matrix before a film was fully able to connect all the dots and launch itself into the Zeitgeist.

    Dune – I’m actually a big fan of this film. It’s still the best adaptation in that it has a truly visionary sensibility, and a mature, sophisticated take on the material. It was ahead of its time in taking the fantasy material so seriously when audiences were expecting tongue in cheek popcorn fare. I think if someone took this same film and updated the special effects, a la Lucas (without sacrificing their strangeness), then this film could be rereleased successfully today as a financially viable cult classic.

  • Klaus Dannick

    I like the premise of this list, and I’ve said many times that I’d rather see a remake of a mediocre film with some interesting ideas than a remake of a classic film.

    Having said that, there are no interesting ideas in “Alien versus Predator” which haven’t already been explored by the Toho studio in the 1960s. Other than that, and the fact that I believe “Dune” to be unfilmable, I’m onboard with the remainder of this list.

  • johnjohnphenom

    The happining…..

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  • Robert Crawford

    I dunno, I liked The Golden Compass. I saw it as a kind of steampunky adventure flick with a good cast, watchable characters and good production design. Of course I’d never heard of the books, let alone read them, so I just took it at face value.

    One of those times that, for some anyway, the expectations of how something should be ruins what it actually ends up being.

  • DominicTorretoAss

    Hancock was the best superhero movie during the 1st half of it.

  • Mr Braithwaite

    It might have been lost on audiences in the mid nineties but ‘hacking’ has surely been done to death by now to the point where you know a script has run out of ideas the moment a laptop comes out. Surveillance is another one. Old.

  • Arshad Khan

    Denis villeneuve is making Dunes as his next major project.