More than ever, the last ten years of cinema has offered more remakes and reboots than ever before. It’s often said that Hollywood has no new ideas, and it’s hard to not get cynical when looking at the number of remakes that are released. However, they’re not all bad; many remakes are good, even great, and sometimes revisiting the same material more than once can produce a new and exciting film.
A good remake can outshine the original and have a fresh spin on its themes, story, and concept. Some of these films are remakes of films that didn’t work initially, and some take a fresh approach on an idea that wasn’t done to its full potential. Either way, these films have benefited from the talented filmmakers who took a chance on improving the material. Here are the top ten best remakes of the 2010s.
10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The 1939 short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has long been an adventure ripe for a big screen adaptation, but the 1947 film starring James Thurber failed to capture the spirit of the original text. Ben Stiller directed the 2013 remake and also starred as the titular character Walter Mitty, an employee at Life magazine who has wondrous daydreams and embarks on a real globe-trotting adventure to find a famous photographer. Stiller has always been an underrated director and has excelled with comedies like Reality Bites, Zoolander, The Cable Guy, and Tropic Thunder, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is easily his most visually dazzling film to date.
Stiller often gives over the top, eccentric performances, but here he is phenomenal at playing a normal guy who feels disenfranchised from real life. Walter’s elaborate daydreams give Stiller the chance to show a more exaggerated side of the character, but his performance is still rooted in Walter’s unspoken desires and inability to express what he wants. Stiller’s exchanges with Adam Scott are often very funny, but it’s also a much more meditative and introspective film than one may expect, specifically when it comes to the gorgeous sequence set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
9. The Beguiled
Don Seigel’s 1971 film The Beguiled, which starred Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, is undoubtedly a classic in its own right, but Sofia Coppola’s excellent 2017 remake was able to revitalize the material with a more feminist perspective and an unforgettable ensemble. The story could’ve easily slipped into melodrama, but Coppola is able to mix the satirical with the shocking to create a savage takedown of 19th Century gender roles that also features many shocking plot twists. Coppola is known for her patience as a filmmaker, and The Beguiled is a great example of a film where every character interaction escalates the tension.
The story is set in 1864, where Union soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell) becomes injured and is taken in by an all-female school led by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman). McBurney’s arrival immediately throws the social structure of the school into chaos, particularly as he begins to lust for the teacher Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst). Coppola is keen to set up the nuances of the girls at the school and how they interact, and the character dynamics are so well established that the eventual shocking elements of the story all feel earned.
1995’s Judge Dredd was a disaster, a terrible comic book movie that took the gritty source material and transformed it into a generic action vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. Thankfully, 2012’s Dredd was a better film in every way; Karl Urban nailed the character’s grim, unflinching approach to justice, and the film was able to use Dredd’s black and white worldview to explore his ideology. Urban’s excellent performance was accompanied by Olivia Thirlby as Cassandra, a psychic training to be a Judge, and Lena Headey as Ma-Ma, one of the most genuinely unnerving movie villains of the last ten years.
Of course, Dredd is best known for its incredible action sequences, and the Die Hard inspired plot strips the story to its bare bones as Dredd and Cassandra are trapped within a tower filled with criminals. The violence is brutal and the visuals are inventive, particularly when it comes to the way in which Cassandra’s psychic powers are visualized. Few films have been able to capture both the pulpy fun 80s action cinema and the mythic sci-fi world building this well. Dredd isn’t only a great remake, but a modern action classic that didn’t spawn the sequels it deserved.
7. Little Women
There have been numerous adaptations of Little Women onscreen before, most notably the 1994 film starring Winona Rider, but Greta Gerwig’s 2019 film managed to approach the story’s timeline in a bold and inventive way. The film poignantly ties two different timelines together, exploring the characters’ origins and fates all at once. The material could easily get confusing, but using Jo (Saoirse Ronan) and her development as a writer to guide the story is one of the best decisions of the film.
The chemistry between Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, and Eliza Scanlen is all excellent, and the film takes its time to set up each of the characters and how their aspirations differ from one another. Timothee Chalamet is also great as Laurie, a character who manages to be snotty and charismatic all at once. Gerwig’s dialogue is as fun and exciting as anything she’s ever written, but she also relies on more subtle visual cues, utilizing a great score from Alexandre Desplat. As the years go by, 2019’s Little Women may be viewed as the definitive version of the story.
Stephen King’s It is one of his most powerful and thematically rich works, and while the 1990 miniseries had its highlights, it didn’t grasp the full weight of the story. However, the 2017 remake of It solidified itself as a modern horror classic, and perfectly captured the mix of tender coming of age moments and horrifying nightmare sequences. Ultimately, It is about the perils of growing up and the ways in which children must contend with the adult world, and the film captures and personifies specific fears that each of the main characters face.
Often times it is hard to find a great child actor, but It featured a compelling ensemble of young actors that interact well together. There’s a lot of great comedy that comes from the ways in which these characters interact, but the film also has a lot of emotional moments when it reflects upon the deep bonds of friendship that the Loser’s Club forms. Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise is suitably creepy, and the film doesn’t shy away from the novel’s most gruesome details. One of the best Stephen King adaptations of all-time, It is a remake that completely outshines the original.