The Best (and Worst) Movie Remakes of All Time
Cheapism

The Best (and Worst) Movie Remakes of All Time

The Best (and Worst) Movie Remakes of All Time
Cheapism

Double Feature

For your viewing pleasure (and to avoid some displeasure), we took a tour through cinematic history to revisit some of Hollywood’s efforts to revamp old chestnuts. Some of these remakes have been hits and some have been pretty big misses. We feature a bit of critical commentary along the way, but, of course, everyone’s a critic so feel free to disagree.


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A Star is Born
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Good: “A Star is Born” (2018)

The storyline — the relationship between a successful man in the entertainment industry hitting the downturn and an up-and-coming young lady — is one that has sparked a total of four cinematic versions. The 1937 debut featuring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March was followed in 1954 by a Judy Garland-James Mason pairing. It was 1976 that saw the Barbra Streisand-Kris Kristofferson effort, which the Los Angeles Times described as a film that “rarely stops seeming manufactured; it can't disguise its manipulations or the process of the storytelling. You see the tangled strings, not the puppets.” That all faded into the background with the 2018 blockbuster starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, who also directed. It won three Academy Awards.


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Godzilla vs. Kong”
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Bad: “Godzilla vs. Kong” (2021)

This 2021 flick keeps the epic monster battle, first seen in the 1962 Japanese epic, “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” alive and kicking. Special effects aside, perhaps it’s time to let the giants rest. The New Yorker called it “a distracting jumble that reduces the stakes of the movie's mighty showdown nearly to a vanishing point, and turns the title titans and their other colossal cohorts into the incredible shrinking monsters.


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Good: “The Talented Mr. Ripley”
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Good: “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999)

Drawing from the 1955 Patricia Highsmith novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” this 1999 film is often considered a remake of the crime thriller “Purple Noon.” That 1960 French film, which starred Alain Delon in his first major role, had its legacy further cemented by re-releases. The updated (but still twisted) take on the idea of identity featured Matt Damon and Jude Law and was considered a true hit. The New York Times said it was “carnal, glamorous and worth the price… ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ offers diabolically smart surprises wherever you care to look.”   

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
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Bad: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005)

The 2005 Tim Burton version of this fantastical Roald Dahl tale of a quirky chocolatier starred Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. While some critics lauded this version for having more back story and character development, Depp’s creepy performance and the overall grim tone had us agreeing with a critic from the Observer: “I wonder if even children will respond to the peculiarly humorless and charmless stylistic eccentricities of Mr. Burton and his star, Johnny Depp.” The 1971 version, called “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and memorably starring Gene Wilder as the title character, remains a cult favorite.


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The Money Pit
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Good: “The Money Pit” (1986)

Starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a couple attempting to rescue a woefully dilapidated house, “The Money Pit” featured scenes as funny as they were scary (collapsing staircases, a bathtub falling through the floor, and more). It captured its own audience and is believed to be based on a little-known 1948 Cary Grant-Myrna Loy film “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” in which the title character sets off to create a country escape. The remake, says The A.V. Club, “has had staying power mainly thanks to its impressive visual stunts and gags.”


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Ocean’s Eleven
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Bad: “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)

This one, it seems, comes down to personal preference. Danny Ocean “gathers a group of his World War II compatriots to pull off the ultimate Las Vegas heist,” says IMDB, of the 1960 original. Star power came from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Angie Dickinson, Peter Lawford and more. The 2001 version came up short in some eyes. Karen Croft wrote on Salon: “The original ‘Ocean’s’ is fun, fun, fun… The new version is dumb, dumb, dumb. It’s a heist caper that was an excuse for a bunch of highly paid actors (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, et al.) to get together and make big box office.” That didn’t stop the sequels “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen” or the all-female spinoff “Oceans 8.”


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Little Shop of Horrors
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Good: “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986)

You may not know that “The Little Shop of Horrors,” a tale of a clumsy florist and a carnivorous plant, was originally a 1960 Roger Corman film starring Jack Nicholson and became a 1982 off-Broadway play. Most people know of the 1986 Frank Oz “black comedy musical” with Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and other stars, making the remake the bigger hit. Time said, “You can try not liking this adaptation of the Off-Broadway musical hit — it has no polish and a pushy way with a gag — but the movie sneaks up on you, about as subtly as Audrey II.” Yet another version is set to be on the way, announced last year).


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Father of the Bride
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Bad: “Father of the Bride” (1991)

Spencer Tracy as a father flipping out over the upcoming wedding of his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) made the 1950 film “Father of the Bride” quite a hit. Despite the remake starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton as the parents — and Martin Short as the outrageous wedding planner — the 1991 remake, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “has taken Vincente Minnelli’s resonant, human comedy and reduced it to a series of sitcom gags about the awful bother of throwing a $150,000 wedding.” Perhaps there will be better luck with the recently announced Cuban-American spin on the story, set to star Andy Garcia.


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“Alfie
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Good: “Alfie” (2004)

The Swinging ’60s gave us so much, including Michael Caine’s turn as the unrepentant London ladies man known as Alfie. Jude Law took on the role in 2004, his Cockney-accented character now driving a limo in Manhattan. As the San Francisco Chronicle movie critic wrote of the remake, “The new script raises the emotional stakes of the old scenes it retains, cuts plot elements that can't be updated and creates new story lines that are just as effective as those it replaces.” This remake did its job, more a character study than time capsule.

Sabrina
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Good But Unnecessary: “Sabrina” (1995)

How do you compete with Audrey Hepburn? You really don’t. Still, the 1954 film starring the iconic actress as a chauffeur’s daughter hopelessly in love with the son of her father’s employer got another spin. And while that 1995 version, starring Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford, and Greg Kinnear, earned some positive reviews, the original is a classic for a reason. Time says, “We remain outside the fourth wall looking in but are never drawn in; bemused perhaps, even agreeably complaisant, but never entirely amused.”


The In-Laws
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Bad: “The In-Laws” (2003)

How’s this for the wacky description of the 1979 action-adventure-comedy starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin, courtesy IMDB? “On the eve of their children’s marriage, NYC in-laws Sheldon Kornpett and Vince Ricardo embark on a series of misadventures involving the CIA, the Treasury Department and Central American dictators.” So good it needed a second take? Perhaps not. The 2003 version with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks earned just two stars from Roger Ebert, whose review noted, “‘The In-Laws’ is an accomplished but not inspired remake of a 1979 comedy which was inspired and so did not need to be accomplished. The earlier movie was slapdash and at times seemed to be making itself up as it went along, but it had big laughs and a kind of lunacy. The remake knows the moves but lacks the recklessness.”

The Manchurian Candidate
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Good: “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004)

Denzel Washington was back for another remake in the 2004 Jonathan Demme-directed take on “The Manchurian Candidate,” which also starred Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep. Both this and the original (1962) movie were political thrillers that drew from the Richard Condon novel. While the original remains beloved to film buffs, Newsweek said, “Jonathan Demme's new ‘Manchurian Candidate’ is a gourmet-popcorn movie — a hugely entertaining thriller shot through with dark shards of agony and paranoia. It takes nothing away from the original while delivering pleasures all its own.”



The Hustle”
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Bad: “The Hustle” (2019)

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (1988) featured Michael Caine and Steve Martin as a pair of con men who want to settle their rivalry with a bet over who can be the first to swindle a young heiress. It was a comic success. The Anne Hathaway-Rebel Wilson remake, which landed in 2019 complete with a new name, was not a success. As NBC News noted, “‘The Hustle’ is no ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.’ It’s a lesson in how poorly sexism ages… Audiences deserved more than a gender-swapped remake with a few updated details in the age of hipster grifters.”


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The Champ
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Good: “The Champ” (1979)

An alcoholic former boxer tries to provide for his young son, a poignant story was played out on film by Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper in 1931 and Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder in 1979. Each version is gripping. The remake has gone on to do more than just entertain, as Smithsonian Magazine reported “The Saddest Movie in the World” was used in numerous scientific experiments to gauge people’s emotions and more.


Dumbo 3D”
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Bad: “Dumbo 3D” (2019)

This elephant tale got its start as a 1941 animated Walt Disney family musical with a message. It was remade in 2019 as a live-action film, in what The Los Angeles Times called “more sweet-natured than soaring,” noting that “Tim Burton’s ‘Dumbo’ is as clunky as an elephant learning to fly.” At least you can look at Colin Farrell for two-plus hours in the remake.


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Good: “The Three Musketeers”
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Good: “The Three Musketeers” (1993)

When “The Three Musketeers” are on the scene, expect more than a few hijinks — and more than a few versions. Based on the 19th century adventure novel by Alexander Dumas, there was the little-known 1948 version starring Gene Kelly; the 1973 movie featuring Michael York, Oliver Reed and Richard Chamberlin; a 1993 action-adventure comedy with Charlie Sheen, Chris O’Donnell, Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt and Tim Curry; and then 2011’s spin was a major effort featuring Matthew Macfadyen, Logan Lerman, Ray Stevenson, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, and Christoph Waltz. The best? The 1993 version wins the vote from the Odyssey cultural site: “First place easily goes to Disney's 1993 adaptation full of stars like Tim Curry and Charlie Sheen. This version makes for a fun film for the entire family. It changes up the traditional story of the musketeers and adds a few twists to make it interesting for those who are familiar with the book.”

Bad: “The Magnificent Seven”
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Bad: “The Magnificent Seven” (2016)

Steve McQueen, Yul Brenner, Charles Bronson, and other stars teamed up for the 1960 Western thriller about gunfighters hired by Mexican peasants to liberate their village from oppressive bandits. In 2016, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio headed up a reworked version — but things misfired. As The Guardian (UK) wrote: “Antoine Fuqua’s superhero-style take on the 1960 western has a starry cast, from Denzel Washington to Ethan Hawke, but his gunslingers seem to have taken their cue from ‘Blazing Saddles.’”

Good: “The Wiz”
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Good: “The Wiz” (1978)

The 1939 musical fantasy “The Wizard of Oz” starred a young Judy Garland and is considered one of the greatest movies of all time, part of the original induction group of the National Film Registry, and a multiple honoree by the American Film Institute. The L. Frank Baum children’s novel was once again brought to the screen in 1978 as “The Wiz,” an African-American interpretation adapted from a 1974 Broadway musical of the same name. It was bold and fresh, starred Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Richard Pryor — and it was successful. As Roger Ebert noted, “Is the movie a match for the 1939 Judy Garland version? Well, no, it's not (what movie could be?) but as a new approach to the same material, it's slick and energetic and fun.”


Good But Unnecessary: “Carrie”
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Good But Unnecessary: “Carrie” (2013)

Who is ever going to forget Sissy Spacek standing on the stage covered in blood? Brian De Palma’s 1976 thriller about the telekinetic teen scarred many a young moviegoer’s memory. In 2013, Chloë Grace Moretz was cast in the same role, an updated version of the Stephen King tale that, despite it being wholly unnecessary, did find an audience. As Variety wrote, “Although it doesn't threaten the supremacy of Brian De Palma's 1976 classic, Kimberly Peirce’s latest film manages an intermittently effective retelling.”


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Psycho
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Bad: “Psycho” (1998)

Anthony Perkins is Norman Bates — his truly unforgettable performance as the owner of a rundown hotel in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic is one fans still shudder to remember. Fast forward to 1998 and the thriller was remade in a version directed by Gus Van Sant. Hailed as experimental, it wasn’t exactly considered better. As Roger Ebert wrote, after cataloging the discrepancies in the scene-by-scene recreation, “All of these details would be insignificant if the film worked as a thriller, but it doesn’t. One problem is the casting of (Vince) Vaughn in the Norman Bates role. He isn't odd enough.”


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The Preacher’s Wife
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Good: “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996)

“The Bishop’s Wife,” the 1947 Cary Grant holiday staple, got this update in 1996 with a Penny Marshall-directed vehicle. The film starred Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston and Courtney B. Vance in the story of a preacher in crisis who’s visited by a heavenly spirit. While reviews weren’t raves, a remake with Black stars is a welcome addition to holiday programming. The Los Angeles Times said, “‘The Preacher's Wife’ is one Christmas picture that actually is in the spirit of the season. It's warm, sentimental, amusing yet serious, bringing fantasy to bear upon the painfully real.”


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The Birdcage
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Good: “The Birdcage” (1996)

The whole storyline seems quite outdated by today’s times, yet this 1996 Nathan Lane-Robin Williams vehicle followed a longtime gay couple trying to “act straight” to appease the morals of their son’s future in-laws. The remake of the 1978 foreign film “La Cage aux Folles” got plenty of attention and still has a dedicated following, evidenced by Out’s “20 Reasons ‘The Birdcage’ Is Still Hilarious Over 20 Years Later.” Out credits the American remake of the French film with having provided a modern sense of family “when marriage equality was still a distant dream.”


Planet of the Apes”
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Bad: “Planet of the Apes” (2001)

The sci-fi franchise about an astronaut crew landing on a seemingly desolate planet in the distant future only to find a society of evolved apes debuted in 1968 with Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall leading the cast. Its success would spark sequels during its time, but the original was remade in 2001 with Tim Burton directing a cast including Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, and others. It was a flop, according to CinemaBlend: “Tim Burton’s remake was supposed to be a hit. It had fans of the long-forgotten series, which had not released a new film for almost three decades, salivating at the thought of what the great Tim Burton could do with the world they loved. Surely his unique way of looking at things and his distinct style of filmmaking was perfect for a remake. After all, his ‘Batman’ movie in 1989 reinvigorated that franchise. Instead, sadly, this ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie was a total disappointment.”



Good: “Cape Fear”
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Good: “Cape Fear” (1991)

Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, and Jessica Lange star in the 1991 film about a convicted rapist who, when released from prison, stalks the family of the lawyer who withheld evidence that would have led to his acquittal. It was a remake of the powerful 1962 film starring Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Polly Bergen. Spectrum Culture notes the remake was more than merited: “Martin Scorsese’s ‘Cape Fear’... is a prime example of a successful director-driven remake, honoring what made the original film interesting while expanding and enriching it according to the instincts of one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.”


Bad: “The Blob”
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Bad: “The Blob” (1988)

Sometimes the first is the best. In the case of the 1958 sci-fi classic starring Steve McQueen, that seems to hold true. Did you even know the story about the amoeba-like organism that grows and grows, destroying all in its path, was remade? Yes, it was, but the 1988 version inspired People to say, “All we get is sullen Kevin Dillon subbing for Steve and a bigger, nastier lump that bloodies up its victims in stomach-churning close-ups.”


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The Nutty Professor
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Good: “The Nutty Professor” (1996)

Jerry Lewis as the title character of the 1963 original put a nerdy spin on the Jekyll & Hyde story. In the original movie, a magic potion turned a timid professor into a suave ladies man, with hilarity ensuing. Eddie Murphy as Sherman Klump (what a name!), the brainy-though-obese professor, plays out the same story in the 1996 remake. Who did it better? ScreenRant offers a look at the strong points of each version but tips its hat to the Murphy production for reflecting the 1990s, “one of those glorious times in Hollywood when people of color were starring in a lot of their own films… Thankfully, the film has still aged well and is still a joy to watch.”


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The Parent Trap
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Good But Unnecessary: “The Parent Trap” (1998)

Sorry, but we’re not budging on this one — original all the way. Scene after classic scene, the 1961 original is an all-time fave. Starring Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith as divorced parents and Hayley Mills in an unforgettable turn as twins Sharon and Susan, it’s comedy gold (and sweet to boot). Sure, the 1998 remake with a pre-scandal Lindsay Lohan as the twins was a critical favorite (The New York Times called it a “lavish, super-cute new version”) but it simply seemed unnecessary.

Bad: “Swept Away”
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Bad: “Swept Away” (2002)

Lina Wertmüller’s 1974 film was a Mediterranean odyssey, a searing look at society’s take on the rich and the poor. It starred Giancarlo Giannini and, Roger Ebert wrote back then, that it “resists the director's most determined attempts to make it a fable about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and persists in being about a man and a woman. On that level, it's a great success, even while it's causing all sorts of mischief otherwise.” Now think of the 2002 version starring Madonna … yes, we remember the hubbub. As Rotten Tomatoes’ Critical Consensus reminds, “Muddled and lacking the political context of the original, ‘Swept Away’ offers further proof that Madonna can’t act.” Enough said.

cinderella
Amazon

Good But Unnecessary: “Cinderella” (2015)

The Cinderella story — poor girl who lands a prince — has provided the materials for countless stories, interpretations… and daydreams. The 1950 Disney animated version is considered the gold standard and is included in the National Film Registry. It’s likely never going to be topped, though the 2015 version, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James (“Downton Abbey”), was far from panned. Vanity Fair called it, “traditional and straightforward, but plenty charming.”

Meh and Unnecessary: “Beauty and the Beast”
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Meh and Unnecessary: “Beauty and the Beast” (2017)

This classic is another case of the remake taking animation to reality. The 1991 animated fantasy was pure romance, a Walt Disney Pictures release featuring the voices of Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson. A beloved family favorite, it would earn a live-action reboot in 2017 starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles. Not surprisingly, it didn’t improve on the original. Film Comment says, “Bill Condon's live-action remake of Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise's Beauty and the Beast (1991), the high point of Disney's animation renaissance, is as bloated, awkward, and aggressive as the cartoon feature is fleet and graceful.”