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What are the best movie remakes
Image source: Frank Dicksee

What Are the Best Movie Remakes? I Thought You’d Never Ask


Jonny_Sweet_itcher_contributorWhat are the best movie remakes, I hear you say? Well, try on Let Me In, Twelve Monkeys or The Manchurian Candidate for size. ~ Jonny Sweet

As a general rule, I’m fairly opposed to movie remakes.

If something was good, why not let it be? However, there are certain circumstances under which I can appreciate their value. For example, if they improve or expand upon a previous film, add something new to the story or the way it is told, then this is acceptable to me.

Similarly, there are often great foreign films largely unknown to an English-speaking audience, and bringing these to the public consciousness can improve their popularity and make people actually go back and watch the original, which can’t be a bad thing.

Therefore, though there is a whole raft of bad movie remakes out though, every now and then, a good one comes along.

What are some Good Movie Remakes?

Top film remakes are not that hard to find.

Take, for example, the 2013 newly-released version of Oldboy, starring Josh Brolin. The cast is exemplary, the action fairly well-paced, the action scenes shot artistically, the dialogue satisfying. In fact, the film as a whole could be described as satisfying, and nothing more.

Why nothing more? Because it is completely, entirely, 100% unoriginal. Virtually every aspect of the story is copied – almost verbatim – from the sensational Korean original, which happens to be one of my favourite films of all time.

For the newer Oldboy to make the leap between a decent attempt up to the next level of awesome movie remakes, it needs to add something. Bring something of its own. Anything! Just changing the names, locations and skin colours of the main characters doesn’t cut it for me.

Similarly, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a decent replica of the Swedish version… nothing more. Indeed, the stories were exactly the same, except that in the American version everyone seemed to be that little bit more beautiful. Not going to cut it.

Ditto The Departed. For these reasons, none of these films make it to my list of top movie remakes… which is as follows.

6. ‘Let Me In’, (Matt Reeves, 2010), USA, remake of ‘Let the Right One In’, (Tomas Alfredson, 2008), Sweden

Two fantastic twists on the vampire genre when the whole world is getting their pants in a twist by the dreadful Twilight saga (sorry, Twilight fans! It is awful though).

Let Me In follows the story of Let the Right One In closely enough to not have it bashed by all the purists, but adds enough new layers and touches of its own to make it worth the viewing.

For example, I’d say almost all of the characters, though especially The Father, are more fleshed out and believable in the remake, and engage more with the audience.

There are also differences in storyline enough to make you want to watch both.

Whilst I still personally prefer the original, this is more than likely because of the natural attraction I feel to foreign films when dealing with this sort of subject matter, as it adds another layer of foreignness or unreality, and is not a slight on the remake at all.

5. ‘Casino Royale’, (Martin Campbell, 2006), UK/USA, remake of ‘Casino Royale’, (Val Guest, Ken Hughes, 1967), UK/USA

Okay, so while this may not be a typical remake, in that it in no way resembles the original, it is a fantastic new take on the Bond series as a whole.

The original was a comedy spoof written by 10 writers and directed by 5 directors, and starring a ridiculously famous ensemble cast including Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, David Niven and Woody Allen.

But while that film relied on beautiful women, poorly-constructed plotlines and pie fights to keep it going, the new Bond film is completely the opposite.

Stylish yet gritty, suave yet violent, Casino Royale brings the Bond series into the new era by making Bond out to be an actual, believable person, rather than the cliché-spouting, Martini-toting caricature of previous films.

For its transformation of the Bond franchise into a respectable canon, it deserves a place on this list.

4. ‘Twelve Monkeys’, (Terry Gilliam, 1995), USA, remake of ‘La Jetée’, (Chris Marker, 1962), France

The original was a 28-minute-long featurette, comprised mostly of still pictures, telling the story of a post WWII slave sent back in time. It won the Prix Jean Vigo award for a short film.

Twelve Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt, borrows elements from that tale to tell a longer, fuller story set further in the future.

The remake not only expands upon the original, but has great performances from Willis and Pitt and fantastic direction from Terry Gilliam.

It also includes nice touches, such as the time-travellers getting it wrong and sending Willis back to a time they had not intended, Willis bungling his missions, and a satisfying ending which is both poignant and powerful.

3. ‘Romeo and Juliet’, (Baz Luhrmann, 1996), USA remake of various

Whilst I normally am not a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s work, believing him to be a firm proponent of style over substance (and fairly disgusted with what he did with one of my favourite books of all time, The Great Gatsby), I have to respect what he did with Romeo and Juliet.

Luhrmann retains the Olde English speech from Shakespeare’s text whilst transplanting the action to a trendy modern-day Verona.

The swords are replaced by guns, the tunics by garish Hawaiian shirts, horses by low-rider cars. The whole thing has a vibrant, pulsating feel, whilst still keeping true to the original language.

Again, not to everyone’s liking, and certainly not one of my favourite directors, but a great remake for the new twist it places on one of the oldest love stories of all time.

2. ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, (Jonathan Demme, 2004), USA, remake of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, (John Frankenheimer, 1962) USA

Like with Let Me In, the update here tells a very similar story but chooses to develop upon that by adding more layers of emotional intensity.

Acting came secondary to plot in the original film; here it is exemplified in the performances of Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and even minor characters.

Of course, this is not to take away from the acting skills of Frank Sinatra, who is almost as impressive on the screen as he is behind the microphone, but I feel that the original film neglected character development somewhat in favour of plot twists and shocks.

Here, the characters are more fleshed-out, more believable, and as a result, the audience becomes more emotionally involved.

The story perhaps does not pack the same punch as it did in the 60s, due to the jaded pessimism and cynicism of the modern world, for which it does not outshine the original.

It does, however, compliment it very well.

1. ‘Titanic’, (James Cameron, 1997), USA, remake of ‘Titanic’, (Jean Negulesco, 1953), USA

These are two very different takes on the sinking of the famous ship back in 1912.

The earlier film focuses on the embittered marriage of two jaded aristocrats who squabble over custody of their two children until disaster hits… by which time we have become emotionally invested in the pair.

Meanwhile, the James Cameron version (check out this article for more similar films) sets up more of a fairytale romance between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; the traditional poor-boy-meets-rich-girl yarn. With an iceberg thrown in for good measure.

While the plot of the original is a good deal less schmaltzy, less typically Hollywood; the remake does bring a lot to the table.

For example, the CGI and special effects alone are far superior, making the sinking of the great ship all the more visceral and involving.

The poorer classes of the ship are also shown in much more detail and with more compassion than the original, and a fantastic score (with the admittedly overplayed and incredibly annoying Celine Dion number spearheading it) adds to the atmosphere of the remake.

All in all, it didn’t win a record number of Oscars for nothing.


Have your Say

Any other remakes I missed?

Or do you find fault with my selections, and actually despise those films?

Or perhaps there is a particular film you would like to see remade?

Let me and the rest of the world know your opinions below.


I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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