Movie remakes are a gamble. Sometimes they strike gold, and other times they miss the mark. Here’s a look at 7 of the best and 7 of the worst movie remakes of all time.
In the grand scheme of cinema, remakes are akin to a high-stakes gamble, where filmmakers attempt to capture lightning in a bottle not once but twice. Some remakes transcend their originals, becoming cinematic masterpieces in their own right. Others falter, unable to recreate the magic that made their predecessors beloved. Here are seven movie remakes that soared to new heights and seven that regrettably missed the mark.
Best: ‘The Departed’ (2006)
Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, a remake of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, is considered a masterclass in filmmaking. This gritty, intense drama set in the Boston underworld, offers a labyrinth of intrigue and deception. It’s not just the stellar cast that elevates it but the way Scorsese deftly adapts the story to an American setting. The film was both a critical and box office success, grossing over $290 million worldwide, and sweeping the Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Worst: ‘The Wicker Man’ (2006)
In stark contrast stands The Wicker Man, a remake of the 1973 British horror film. This version, led by Nicolas Cage, transforms the eerie, unsettling atmosphere of the original into an unintentionally comedic spectacle. Its deviation from the hauntingly subtle horror of the original to a more overt, less nuanced approach, left audiences and critics underwhelmed. The film also struggled at the box office.
Best: ‘Scarface’ (1983)
Brian De Palma’s Scarface, a reimagining of the 1932 classic, is an explosive journey through the rise and fall of Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant turned drug lord. Al Pacino’s iconic performance, coupled with Oliver Stone’s riveting screenplay, offers a raw portrayal of ambition and corruption. This film, unlike its predecessor, delves into the excesses of the cocaine boom of the 1980s, making it not just a remake but a cultural touchstone. Its box office success and cultural impact have cemented its legacy in cinematic history.
Worst: ‘The Pink Panther’ (2006)
2006’s The Pink Panther, fails to capture the charm and wit of the 1963 original starring Peter Sellers. Steve Martin’s portrayal of Inspector Clouseau felt more like a caricature than a character, losing the subtlety that made the original a classic. Despite a modest box office performance, the film lacked the critical acclaim and enduring appeal of its predecessor, becoming a forgettable addition to the Pink Panther series.
Best: ‘The Fly’ (1986)
David Cronenberg’s The Fly is a horrifying yet poignant retelling of the 1958 sci-fi film. This remake is a masterful blend of body horror and tragic romance, driven by Jeff Goldblum’s unforgettable performance. Cronenberg’s vision brought depth to the narrative, transforming it into a tale of love, loss, and the perils of unchecked ambition. The film was a box office success and won an Oscar for Best Makeup, showcasing its impressive practical effects.
Worst: ‘Total Recall’ (2012)
The 2012 remake of Total Recall, despite its advanced special effects and a strong lead in Colin Farrell, falls short of the 1990 original’s inventive storytelling and charisma. This version trades the original’s playful balance of action and humor for a more straightforward sci-fi action approach, losing much of the charm that made Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version memorable. It performed decently at the box office but failed to leave a lasting impression.
Best: ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ (2001)
Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven is a sleek and stylish heist film that outshines its 1960 predecessor. This remake is packed with charm, wit, and a star-studded cast that brings a fresh, vibrant energy to the story. It’s a rare example of a remake that improves upon the original, with tighter pacing and more coherent storytelling. The film was a huge box office hit, spawning a successful franchise.
Worst: ‘Oldboy’ (2013)
The American remake of Oldboy, a South Korean cult classic, struggles to capture the original’s raw emotional power and shocking twists. While Josh Brolin gives a commendable performance, the film dilutes the complexity and depth of the original’s narrative. It was both a critical and commercial disappointment, proving some stories lose their essence in translation.
Best: ‘A Star is Born’ (2018)
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut in A Star is Born, the fourth remake of this iconic story, is a heartfelt and beautifully crafted film. Both Cooper and Lady Gaga deliver powerhouse performances, breathing new life into a timeless tale of love, fame, and sacrifice. The film was a box office triumph, earning over $435 million worldwide, and garnered multiple Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture.
Worst: ‘Point Break’ (2015)
The 2015 remake of Point Break misses the mark set by the 1991 original. This version strips away the nuanced character dynamics and thrilling tension that defined the original, replacing it with generic action sequences. Lacking the charismatic performances of Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, the remake failed to resonate with audiences and critics alike.
Best: ‘True Grit’ (2010)
The Coen Brothers’ True Grit, a remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic, is a remarkable Western that stands on its own merits. With strong performances, particularly from Hailee Steinfeld as the fierce and determined Mattie Ross, and Jeff Bridges in the role originally played by Wayne, the film offers a more authentic portrayal of the Wild West. The Coens’ signature blend of humor and drama, along with their faithful adherence to Charles Portis’ novel, elevates this film beyond a mere remake. It was both a critical darling and a box office success, earning several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
Worst: ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)
2016’s Ghostbusters, while an attempt to modernize the 1984 classic with a female-led cast, struggled under the weight of its legacy. Despite the cast’s comedic talent, the film was mired in controversy and comparisons to the original, hampering its ability to establish its own identity.
Best: ‘The Jungle Book’ (2016)
Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is a stunning, technologically groundbreaking remake of the 1967 animated classic. This film not only pays homage to the original but also expands upon it, creating a rich, immersive world with lifelike CGI animals. It was a massive box office success, grossing nearly $1 billion worldwide, and won an Academy Award for its visual effects.
Worst: ‘Robocop’ (2014)
The 2014 remake of Robocop pales in comparison to the 1987 original’s sharp satire and social commentary. This version, while visually polished, lacks the depth, wit, and subversive edge that made the original a cult classic. Despite a respectable box office showing, it failed to resonate with audiences looking for more than just a modern action reboot.