Movie Remakes That Are Better Than the Originals

The 15 Movie Remakes That Are Better Than the Originals


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The 15 Movie Remakes That Are Better Than the Originals

Everything Old Is New Again

You might think Hollywood's enduring interest in remaking films is a sign of creative bankruptcy, and you might be right. But the practice is viewed by studios as a way to develop less-risky films, especially if the original was popular. The only problem is that most remakes don't fare well against the original. Here are 18 remakes that topped the original based on critical reviews and audience scores from Rotten Tomatoes (RT) and IMDb.

Related: The Best — and Worst — Movie Remakes of All Time

‘The Wizard of Oz’
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'The Wizard of Oz'

Original: 1925, Oliver Hardy, Larry Semon (IMDb 5.0 out of 10)

Remake: 1939, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger (RT 98% critics/89% audience)

The classic 1939 version of L. Frank Baum’s story remains the champ, although there have been numerous incarnations over the years. It had a few distinct advantages over the 1925 original, including sound (the original was a silent film), stunning visuals (the original was in black and white), and memorable songs (as opposed to no sound, duh).

Related: 29 Small-Budget Films That Went on to Win Oscars

The Maltese Falcon
Wikimedia Commons

'The Maltese Falcon'

Original: 1931, Bebe Daniels, Ricardo Cortez (IMDb 6.9 out of 10)

Remake: 1941, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor (RT 100% critics/91% audience)

These two films were both adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel (as was the 1936 film “Satan Met a Lady” with Bette Davis), but it’s the remake — John Huston’s directorial debut from his screenplay — that went on to be considered one of the best films ever made.

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A Star is Born
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'A Star Is Born'

Original: 1937, Janet Gaynor, Fredric March (RT 100% critics/78% audience)

Remake: 1954, Judy Garland, James Mason (RT 98% critics /81% audience)

While the 2018 Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga version of this tale was popular, it’s tough to outdo the second effort (of four — don’t forget the Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson update in 1976) with Judy Garland giving one of her best performances on film.

Related: Most Romantic Movie the Year You Were Born

Heaven Can Wait

'Heaven Can Wait'

Original: “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” 1941, Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains (RT 85% critics/ 75% audience)

Remake: 1978, Warren Beatty, Julie Christie (RT 88% critics/68% audience)

Both of these films received a lot of praise from critics, but the version directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry has the edge with great performances from Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin.

The Fly

'The Fly'

Original: 1958, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price (RT 95% critics/71% audience)

Remake: 1986, Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis (RT 93% critics/83% audience)

A better director (horror master David Cronenberg) and nearly 30 years of special effects advancements may have helped put this remake ahead of the original. Gene Siskel said viewers could “empathize with the ‘monster’ rather than merely fear it” despite some grotesque aspects.

Related: This Was the Scariest Movie the Year You Were Born 

Little Shop of Horrors

'Little Shop of Horrors'

Original: 1960, Mel Welles, Jack Nicholson (RT 92% critics/55% audience)

Remake: 1986, Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene (RT 90% critics/79% audience)

It seems like a pretty good bet that Roger Corman never expected to see his campy B-movie horror film paired with catchy tunes and a star-studded cast. “You can try not liking this adaptation of the Off-Broadway musical hit … but the movie sneaks up on you, about as subtly as Audrey II,” Richard Corliss said in Time Magazine.



Original: “L.A. Takedown,” 1989, Scott Plank, Alex McArthur (IMDb 6.0 out of 10)

Remake: 1995, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro (RT 87% critics/94% audience)

Michael Mann’s second shot at his own original property — a TV movie originally intended as a series pilot — hit the mark with audience and critics alike. No surprise with a cast like this, including one of the few face-to-face performances from Pacino and De Niro. And the shootout scene is the stuff of legend.

The Birdcage

'The Birdcage'

Original: “La Cage aux Folles,” 1978, Michel Serrault, Claire Maurier (IMDb 7.3 out of 10)

Remake: 1996, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane (RT 81% critics/81% audience)

Roger Ebert said director Mike Nichols’ version of the popular French film was “about character and about the twisted logic of screwball comedy, in which everybody acts the craziest just when they’re trying to make the most sense.” A great cast and a screenplay by Elaine May didn’t hurt either.

Ocean’s Eleven

'Ocean's Eleven'

Original: 1960, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford (RT 48% critics/81% audience)

Remake: 2001, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts (RT 83% critics/80% audience)

While the original film was popular in its day with its Rat Pack cast, the remake — featuring another star-studded cast in the hands of director Stephen Soderbergh — took this caper film to another level and spawned several sequels.

Batman Begins

'Batman Begins'

Original: “Batman,” 1989, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger (RT 71% critics/84% audience)

Remake: 2005, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman (RT 84% critics/94% audience)

Entertainment Weekly called Christopher Nolan’s reboot a “triumphant interpretation” of the Dark Knight’s story. And this time the title character wasn’t overshadowed by the film’s villain. It also bests the campy 1964 Adam West/Burt Ward version from the TV series.

‘Casino Royale’

'Casino Royale'

Original: 1967, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven (RT 25% critics/34% audience)

Remake: 2006, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen (RT 94% critics/90% audience)

The opening film of the Daniel Craig era as James Bond is deadly serious, unlike the Peter Sellers spy parody, though both are based on the first of Ian Fleming’s books about the British secret agent. Critics weren’t kind to the first one — though it did have some good music.

‘I Am Legend’

'I Am Legend'

Original: “The Omega Man,” 1971, Charlton Heston, Rosalind Cash (RT 65% critics/53% audience)

Remake: 2007, Will Smith, Alice Braga (RT 68% critics/68% audience)

Will Smith’s version was more of a post-apocalyptic zombie movie than the Charlton Heston film (itself a remake of 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth” starring Vincent Price), but the core of Richard Matheson’s story of a world overcome by a mystery plague remained intact — albeit with far superior special effects.

3:10 to Yuma

'3:10 to Yuma'

Original: 1957, Van Heflin, Glenn Ford, Felicia Farr (RT 96% critics/79% audience)

Remake: 2007, Russell Crowe, Christian Bale (RT 89% critics/86% audience)

Both adaptations of Elmore Leonard’s story impressed the critics, but audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes give the edge to the remake over the original classic. Roger Ebert said, “James Mangold’s (film) restores the wounded heart of the Western and rescues it from the morass of pointless violence.”

True Grit

'True Grit'

Original: 1969, John Waye, Glen Campbell (RT 89% critics/84% audience)

Remake: 2010, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon (RT 95% critics/85% audience)

This version may not have been as faithful as the original to the Charles Portis book, but with Joel and Ethan Coen at the helm, it charmed critics and audience alike. John Wayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the original and Jeff Bridges was nominated for one in the remake.

The Jungle Book

'The Jungle Book'

Original: 1967, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima (RT 88% critics/82% audience)

Remake: 2016, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley (RT 94% critics/86% audience)

Here’s a case of Disney one-upping itself. Director Jon Favreau reimagines the animated family favorite based on the Rudyard Kipling story, combining live action and special effects — a formula it would follow to renew several animated franchises.

‘Little Women’

‘Little Women’

Original: 1994, Winona Rider, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon (RT 93% critics/84% audience)

Remake: 2019, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern (RT 95% critics/92% audience)

Since 1917, Louisa May Alcott’s classic has been adapted for the screen six times (seven if you include the modernized 2018 version), according to But the versions directed by Gillian Armstrong and Greta Gerwig are the latest and, arguably, greatest, following the footsteps of earlier films featuring Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Janet Leigh.



Original: 1984, Kyle MacLachlan, Sting (RT 42% critics/65% audience)

Remake: 2021, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin (RT 83% critics/90% audience)

Film special effects have advanced dramatically since David Lynch first attempted to adapt Frank Herbert’s epic story in 1984. So it’s probably no surprise that the modern version of this complex sci-fi story — where the planet is as much a character as anyone in the cast — would be light years ahead of the original.

‘West Side Story’

‘West Side Story’

Original: 1961, Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno (RT 92% critics/84% audience)

Remake: 2021, Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, Rita Moreno (RT 91% critics/93% audience)

Steven Spielberg might be the only director alive that could recapture the magic of the beloved 1961 Robert Wise original. The New York Times said the remake “reaffirms its indelible appeal while making it feel bold, surprising, and new.” 

Related: Best Movie Musicals of the Past 7 Decades