14 Remarkable Movie Remakes

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Dating back to the beginning of the cinematic art form, filmmakers have been remaking beloved films for audiences to once again enjoy. It’s always interesting to see how a new artist interprets the work of those who came before, remixing and recontextualizing to make something that feels wholly original while remaining true to its original source. Though film remakes don’t always work—more often than not, they end in abject failure—it’s always good to take the time to acknowledge the ones that do. 

It’s always nice when artists bring their unique spin to source material audiences already know and love. For this list, we’ll look at the best movie remake the art form offers. It’s important to go in with an open mind because, in some cases, the remake may even be better than the original.

1. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Photo Credit: The Geffen Company.

An adaptation of the 1982 Off-Broadway musical, which is a remake of the 1960 Roger Corman horror film. This big-budget horror-comedy stars Rick Moranis as Seymour Krelborn, a lowly floral shop clerk who strikes gold after stumbling upon an alien plant during a total eclipse. Terror strikes, however, as Seymour discovers the one miracle food that keeps the plant alive… human blood! Funny and frightening in equal measure, this remake bests the original by expanding its scope and scale. Despite the dark humor and low-budget charms of the Roger Corman classic, this is one remake that bests the original!

2. King Kong (2005) 

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

Peter Jackson’s big-budget remake of Merian C. Cooper’s and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 pre-code monster movie is not even the first time King Kong has been remade. The eponymous 1976 film by John Guillermin and Dino De Laurentiis was the first time this giant ape was resurrected for the big screen. Jackson’s remake, which follows the original plot fairly closely, uses its $200 million budget and 210-minute runtime to give this story the epic scope it needed.

3. Scarface (1983) 

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

Brian De Palma’s remake of the 1932 Howard Hawks film follows Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as he makes his violent ascension to the top of Miami’s drug trade. Soundtracked by the great Giorgio Moroder that accentuates De Palma’s extreme violence, Scarface takes a mid-tier Howard Hawks film and elevates it to a transcendent degree.

4. Heat (1995) 

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

In a rare instance of a director remaking their film, Michael Mann remakes his 1989 TV movie, L.A. Takedown. The film follows a showdown between LAPD detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and career criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). Featuring one of the best action set pieces ever to be captured on film, this sprawling crime epic also marks Pacino and De Niro’s on-screen reunion after acting together in 1974’s The Godfather: Part II. 

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5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 

Photo Credit: United Artists.

Philip Kaufman’s remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 sci-fi Invasion of the Body Snatchers sees Donald Sutherland take up Kevin McCarthy’s role. He plays a doctor whose paranoia grows as the people around him are replaced with emotionless duplicates. Kaufman popularized the term ‘pod people,’ and his expansion of scope in this paranoia thriller is rendered especially potent in the age of Watergate and the Vietnam War—the platonic ideal for a film remake.

6. The Ring (2002)

Photo Credit: Dreamworks Pictures.

Gore Verbinski’s remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 J-horror film Ringu closely follows the original. It centers on Rachel (Naomi Watts), a journalist who, after the death of her niece, starts investigating the urban legend that surrounds a VHS tape that kills anyone who watches it in seven days. A smash hit at the North American box office, this thrill-a-minute jolter clears the high bar set by the original due to Verbinski’s slick and stylish direction and a truly haunted performance from Watts.

7. Cape Fear (1991)

Photo Credit: Amblin Entertainment.

Martin Scorsese’s reimagining of J. Lee Thompson’s 1962 thriller of the same name follows Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), an attorney who withholds information that would get Max Cady (Robert De Niro), a violent sexual predator, acquitted of rape charges. After Cady is jailed for fourteen years, he uses his time and new-found legal knowledge to destroy the life of the man he feels has wronged him. Slick and energetic, Scorsese’s film moves with a propulsion that the original movie lacks, ending with a riveting climax on a riverboat during a tropical storm. One of Scorsese’s most underrated films!

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8. The Thing (1982)

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

Released a week after Spielberg’s gentler extra-terrestrial outing, E.T., this John Carpenter remake of Christian Nyby’s 1951 monster movie, The Thing from Another World, takes a much darker look at aliens making contact. The film focuses on a group of scientists stranded in the Antarctic with a shape-shifting alien lifeform that feasts on human blood. Featuring some of the best scenes in Carpenter’s entire filmography, the film’s critical reevaluation in recent years has rightfully reclaimed it as one of the greatest horror films ever made.

9. The Fly (1986)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

This remake of the 1958 sci-fi film The Fly stars Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who, after a drunken night of experimenting on himself, goes awry and transforms into a giant human-fly hybrid. Dropping the mystery elements of the original in favor of a film about the AIDS epidemic refracted through the lens of a repulsive body horror film. With Oscar-winning make-up effects by Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis, this is one of the rare instances where a remake has become more famous than the film it’s remaking.

10. The Mummy (1999)

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

Stephen Sommer’s globe-trotting remake of Karl Freund’s 1932 Universal Monster film The Mummy, the film stars Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz as an odd couple tasked with stopping an Egyptian priest from gaining power and resurrecting his dead queen. A decidedly more melodramatic take on the material, Sommers would return to this series with two more entries, The Mummy Returns (2001) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008).

11. True Lies (1994)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

James Cameron’s remake of the obscure French spy spoof La Totale! (1991) was the first film to cost $100 million to produce. The film follows Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a double agent who must decide whether or not to reveal his secrets to his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). Sexy, smart, and always exciting, this action comedy from Cameron will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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12. The Blob (1988)

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures.

Chuck Russell’s remake of the 1958 Steve McQueen vehicle is a decidedly meaner affair. It focuses on the violent carnage caused by the titular alien and the government’s inaction towards the alien invader. It’s a nasty good time!

13. A Star is Born (1954)

Photo Credit: Transcona Enterprises.

George Cukor’s remake of the 1937 William A. Wellman film A Star is Born—which would be remade twice more, once in 1976 and again in 2018, respectively—follows waning star Norman Maine’s descent into alcoholism as he helps struggling musician Esther Blodgett rise to superstardom. The film marked Judy Garland’s triumphant return to the silver screen, netting her an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

14. The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Photo Credit: United Artists.

John Sturges’ 1960 remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic, Seven Samurai, follows a group of cowboys who band together to protect a small Mexican farming village after a bandit terrorizes it. A classic in its own right, the film would go on to cement the legacies of its stars, Steve McQueen, Yul Brenner, and Charles Bronson.  

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