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The 15 Worst Movie Remakes of The 21st Century

05 July 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Ethan Wilson

In the early 2000s, Hollywood discovered a temporary cure for “sequelitis”, the disease that gave them the uncontrollable urge to make a sequel to every successful movie. By remaking previous hits instead, they could trade upon famous titles and wouldn’t have to come up with new stories.

Convincing audiences to watch remakes of lousy 80s movies ranks as one of greatest tricks Tinseltown ever pulled. The very idea of someone wanting to reboot Footloose, Annie and Fame is horrifying, and the fact that those movies broke even at the box office is surely some sign of impending social collapse.

Even more mystifying are all those attempts to reboot a classic by throwing out everything that worked, miscasting the lead character and grafting on a new ending that doesn’t make any sense. There are eight million rubbish remakes in The Naked City. Here are fifteen of them.

 

15. Conan The Barbarian

After several years working in television and enduring humiliating roles in junk like Hercules In New York, Arnold Schwarzenegger finally got the chance to prove himself in Conan The Barbarian (1982). Adapted from Robert E Howard’s stories, it’s a long, bloody sword and sorcery tale.

After several years working in television, including a two-year stint on Baywatch, Jason Momoa finally landed a role in a movie that people would want to see. It’s another long and bloody movie, but this one gives the impression that the filmmakers were more interested in cool shots and special effects than in honouring Howard’s pulp tales. The director is Marcus Nispel, whose previous films (Friday The 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc) were all reboots, so skull-cracking originality was never going to be on the agenda.

The king of flop remakes, Conan cost $90 million to produce and only made $48 million worldwide. Momoa went on to play Aquaman, but Nispel’s next movie went straight to DVD.

 

14. Robocop

robocop-2014

This reboot of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original isn’t a movie at all but a glorified series pilot, so bland and asinine that it belongs on the SyFy Channel. The wit, violence and satire have been stripped away, and all that remains is a generic revenge story told in PG-13 fashion.

There’s a funny scene in the original where Ronny Cox’s corporate villain says he had a guaranteed military sale with ED 209 – renovation program, spare parts for 25 years, the works. Then he says, “Who cares if it worked or not?” That’s this movie in a nutshell.

Even a watered down, forgettable Robocop remake has an audience, not to mention franchise potential – who cares if it works or not? Just add some cool effects, throw in a bunch of name actors (something the original didn’t really have) and you’ve got a guaranteed sale.

 

13. Alfie

Three years before he took the Michael Caine role in a forgettable remake of Sleuth (opposite Caine, who had the Laurence Olivier role), Jude Law took the Michael Caine role in this vanilla remake of Alfie, but the story’s been diluted and relocated to NYC.

Law still talks to the camera, moaning about his lot and explaining his actions, but all of the darker moments from the original (remember Denholm Elliott as a seedy abortionist?) have been excised and replaced by….well, nothing much. There’s a touch of feminism, life lessons are learned but the film still doesn’t add up to very much.

The director is Charles Shyer (Father Of The Bride), who’s not known for edgy humour, and his attempts to make us like the character cost the film dearly at the box office. In the US, it grossed $13 million on a $60 million production budget.

 

12. The Truth About Charlie

Starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Donen’s Charade is one of the great comedy thrillers of the 1960s, as charming as it is exciting. Directed by Jonathan Demme, this reboot makes so many odd choices that it distances the viewer and calls attention to its shortcomings at every available opportunity.

Winning Best director for The Silence Of The Lambs must’ve gone to Demme’s head because he’s not interested in making a chase thriller – for some reason, he just wants to reference French New Wave cinema, and even has Charles Aznavour (as “himself”) make an appearance. All in a movie starring Mark Wahlberg, no less.

Throw in a cacophonous musical score, overbearing camerawork and Tim Robbins as a too-shifty-to-be-believable government official and you’ve got a film that instead of exciting the audience leaves them wondering what they just witnessed.

 

11. Arthur

The fourth most popular movie of 1981, the original Arthur made $95 million at the US box office. The story of a spoiled millionaire who must choose between true love and wealth in a planned marriage cemented Dudley Moore’s status as a leading man and won Oscars for its theme song as well as John Gielgud’s turn as Moore’s butler.

Directed by Jason Winer, this 2011 reboot trades down from Moore and Liza Minelli to Russell Brand and Greta Gerwig in the lead roles, though it has the sense to cast a previous Oscar winner (Helen Mirren) as Arthur’s valet. In no other aspect does the movie display sound judgment. Brand is being pressured to marry Jennifer Garner, whose character is such an inhuman, status-seeking monster that you’re never left in any doubt which direction the story will take.

After opening at #3, the movie took $33 million in the US, less than its $40 million production budget.

 

10. A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

When Platinum Dunes rebooted the Elm Street franchise in 2010, they ran smack-bang into the franchise’s biggest problem: how do you re-introduce a villain who’s such a part of popular culture that he was a “nostalgic” gag in Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer?

Unfortunately, the company wasn’t interested in Freddy Krueger and viewed him only as money in the bank, hence this sluggish, humourless reboot that pleased nobody. “Actors register as body count,” wrote one critic, “characters go undeveloped and sensation trumps feeling. A nightmare, indeed.”

Had the movie been given to French filmmakers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, who made Inside (2007), the film would’ve been “a dark version of The Goonies.” Instead, Platinum Dunes went the tried-and-tested route and even though the film made $115 million worldwide, we’ve still to see a sequel.

 

9. Day Of The Dead

Sensibly dumped on DVD by its distributor, this Day follows neither 2004’s Dawn Of The Dead (which also starred Ving Rhames) nor 2006’s Night Of The Living Dead 3D, it’s just another stand-alone rip-off hiding behind a famous title.

And what a rip-off. Gone is the briskness of George Romero’s original set-up and in, courtesy of screenwriter JeffreyReddick (Final Destination), comes lots of running around as a bunch of boring, interchangeable nobodies behave in stupid ways. If our last line of defence against the living dead consists of Mena Suvari, AnnaLynne McCord and Nick Cannon (later a judge on America’s Got Talent), we really are in trouble.

The director is Steve Miner, who also helmed Friday The 13th Part 2 & 3, House and Halloween H20, so he knows how to squeeze thrills out of limited budgets (and ideas), but Day looks and plays like a TV movie. Rushed and poorly staged, with indifferent make-up effects, it’s enough to make you nostalgic for Flight of the Living Dead.

 

 

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  • The Wicker Man is actually awesome in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Always you with your guilty pleasures!

  • David Pollison

    I would add:
    Pulse
    Taxi
    The Next Three Days
    Mirrors
    The Amazing Spider-Man
    Death Race

  • sailor monsoon

    1. The wicker man is a remake of a cult classic that itself became a cult classic
    2. The Hitcher is exactly what a Michael bay directed horror film would be like.
    3. How the fuck is Friday the 13th on this list? The first 15 minutes are better than every other film in that series. I think we forget how shitty those films are.

    • Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter is an incredible entry in the slasher genre (and my personal favorite, which you could argue is the best slasher).

  • Scott Nicholls

    Oldboy…. Spike Lee, what the hell happened?

    • Can’t believe how unwatchable that was….Samuel L….ughhh

    • ArmitageX

      Yeah, terrible. Just terrible.

    • Quite right you are, Scott Nicholls. Spike Lee’s efforts is, to my mind, the rotten cherry on top of the remake cake.

  • Fredrik Johansen

    The Departed
    The Ring
    Hunger Games (terrible remake of Battle Royale)

    • ray gudel

      How is the departed one of the worst remakes ever? Even if you hate that movie, which is fine if you do, it definitely doesn’t deserve to be on a list like this one.

      • Fredrik Johansen

        The shittiness was amplified by the hype surrounding it. The film won a truckload of Oscars and heaps of other awards, and everyone hailed it as the greatest thing since the discovery of masturbation. Several critics even claimed it surpassed the original by leaps and bounds, and made Scorsese out to be a god of cinema.

        But then you watch it yourself, and what do you get? An ocean of melodrama, overacting, and screenwriting so patronizing, it was like being raped by Dr. Seuss.

        It also cemented the downfall of Scorsese. After the deplorable Gangs of New York, many had hope Scorsese had simply hit a slump, but The Departed proved that not to be the case. And indeed, he would follow it with even worse dreck, like Shutter Island and Hugo, which proved once and for all that the Oscars has absolutely nothing to do with quality.

        • ray gudel

          I’m beginning to think that you’re hatred might be more for Scorsese than the movie itself. There really is no legitimate point to argue that the departed would ever deserve to share a list with the goddamn wicker man remake. That is just obscene.

          • Fredrik Johansen

            Sure, now that his name has become synonymous with shit, I do not have much love left for the guy. But after having gone through that same story with so many other old legends, like Coppola, Lucas, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Burton, Zemeckis, Scott, Spielberg, Shyamalan, Proyas… the list just goes on and on. And let’s not forget Pacino, Deniro, Depp… everything turns to shit.

          • ray gudel

            2 movies from the aughts don’t (at least in my opinion) make shyamalan an old legend. I don’t see anything wrong with cronenberg, his interests have just changed with his age. I still don’t understand how the departed could realistically have a spot on this list? Forgetting about Scorsese, the departed stands on its own as a far better movie than anything else on this list. Bar none.

          • Fredrik Johansen

            You’re right that Shyamalan was never in the same league as the others I listed, though he was at one point hailed as “The next Spielberg”.

            As for Cronenberg, it wasn’t only his interests that changed, but also his whole style, and way of approaching a subject. He used to make complex and thought provoking stuff, that had people debating for ages what it all meant. Then he turned into a commercial director who pretty much did light thrillers and straight dramas. And while his latter work is not terrible, it’s certainly nowhere near the greatness of his youth. But he was on a roll for a long time there, so I guess it had to end at some point.

            I stand by The Departed being absolutely terrible though. It’s not so much a movie, as an expensive joke where every big star in Hollywood got together to see if they could get away with dialing it in. And nobody had the guts to stand up and call out the emperor’s new clothes.

          • ray gudel

            Do you actually think the departed is THAT bad? Or can you not see past your obvious hatred towards Scorsese? I agree that it was not the masterpiece everyone thought it was when it came out, but it was still a very good movie. You seem to have a problem with these directors you listed because they don’t have the same quality output they had decades ago, I think it is unrealistic to expect these directors to always be able to pander to your specific interests. If you prefer the films of yesteryear, as you seem to, then Scorsese is on your side. He’s notorious for his work in preserving mostly forgotten classics and shows a real passion for the artform through it. So whats the issue man?

          • Fredrik Johansen

            Hehe, now it seems that you’re the one who somehow wants to defend The Departed mostly because you’re obviously a fan of Scorsese 😉

            But I’m really not exaggerating when I say it is an absolutely terrible film, and when I first saw it together with my wife, we both actually cried out in disproval throughout the film. Also, this was actually before I’d really grown to really dislike Scorsese, and at the moment of release, I still had hopes it would redeem him. It wasn’t before the abysmal Shutter Island that I truly understood what a terrible hack he’d become.

            But even though I laid the blame on all those people in my previous post, I actually suspect it might not be so much their fault, as it is simply how the movie business has changed. Because there used to be a whole segment of cinema marketed towards adults, and many of the greatest and most talked about films before the year 2000, were multifaceted

            and intricate plots, that reveled in making the audience think for themselves, and whose whole climax were a celebration of nuances.

            But with the evaporation of the whole mid-budget scene, and genres which used to be meant for adults only, like horror, action and thriller, now turned into billion dollar kid franchises, there is no more room for intelligent American cinema. Sure, every once in a while, a little gem pops up, but the fact that “adult films” now actually means porn, and that what was previously dubbed “exploitation” has come to be shunned as “torture porn”, are sad examples of how Pixarification has ruined cinema.

          • ray gudel

            I agree that the climate has changed for the worse lately in cinema, but it also happens every decade. The bulk of Hollywood’s directors have been under the studio thumb since the seventies. As for liking the departed because of Scorsese, I’m a filmmaker first and a fan second, when I judge a film, I do so on its own merits or lack thereof, I put the filmmaker aside and watch the film like he doesn’t exist. With that in mind, the departed is STILL miles above any movie on this list. Again, its NOT a masterpiece, just a very good movie.

          • Fredrik Johansen

            We’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this one.

            I truly cannot see anything good with The Departed, and if you compare it to the original, it’s obviously a botch job. And I’m not even a big fan of Infernal Affairs either, but there’s no denying the two films are miles apart quality wise.

            But hey… that’s just like.. my opinion, man 😉

          • ray gudel

            That’s true man, and you are wholly entitled to it. Till next time el duderino!

          • Fredrik Johansen

            You too. Have a nice weekend =)

  • Jeroen Ledderhof

    Ben Hur maybe?

  • Grace Skerp

    Psycho

  • Fernando Barba

    Ghostbusters?

    • Vincenzo Politi

      I am not sure whether that count as a ‘remake’ though. Still a bad movie nonetheless.

  • Thomas Culver

    Martyrs & Point Break come to mind. However list is solid and not sure which would come off to put these on so…..