With the new version of horror classic The Evil Dead topping the charts in the US and earning a torrent of critical praise, there’s never been a better time to look back at some of the greatest movie remakes ever created.
From Hollywood translations of foreign gems to inspired takes on forgotten greats, Mark Butler picks out 14 of the best movie remakes.
The Departed (2006)
Remake of: Infernal Affairs (2002)
Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs was a terrific crime movie – but Martin Scorsese’s blistering take manages to better it, thanks in no small part to magnificent performances from Mark Wahlberg as a foul-mouthed cop and Jack Nicholson as a charismatic but vicious gang boss.
Hinging on the original’s neat premise of two resourceful, rival moles – one embedded in the police, and the other in the mob – Scorsese’s expert vision finally won him an Oscar for Best Director, while William Monahan’s sparkling script is a thing of compelling beauty.
Remake of: Scarface (1932)
Based on the 1932 movie of the same name, Brian De Palma’s ferocious, violent and stylish gangster classic shares a number of key plot elements with its source material – including protagonist Tony’s obsessive over-protectiveness towards his sister and the climactic shoot-out frenzy.
That aside however, De Palma’s film is a far removed and superior beast: changing the anti-hero from Italian to Cuban, setting the action in glamorous but seedy ’80s Miami, and casting a fiery and unforgettable Al Pacino in the title role. “Say hello to my little friend!”
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Remake of: Bedtime Story (1964)
A comedy masterpiece starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin as rival conmen vying for the same dream target, this delightful movie takes its cue from ’60s Marlon Brando flick Bedtime Story – and is an absolute joy from start to finish.
Martin has never been better, turning on an anarchic performance of supreme slapstick and energy, while Caine is a perfect foil as the smooth, deadpan opponent. This is a fantastically fun film.
The Ring (2002)
Remake of: Ringu (1998)
While not as subtle or considered as the haunting Japanese original, Gore Verbinski’s remake retains the key creepiness associated with the mystery of a video tape that kills those who view it, and the ‘twisted face’ image is a horrifying and enduring one.
Aside from a silly moment with a CGI horse on a ferry, the high-concept horror gets assured direction and some solid acting work from Naomi Watts and Brian Cox, resulting in a surprisingly satisfying translation.
The Grudge (2004)
Remake of: Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
Sticking with the Japanese horror theme, Takashi Shimizu’s genuinely disturbing Hollywood reworking of his own breakout film had cinema-goers everywhere dreading a certain gutteral croaking noise, issued forth from a lank-haired phantom with a terrifying knack for delivering death.
Benefiting heavily from utilising the same director and retaining its atmospheric Tokyo setting, the frightening and tragic tale offers numerous skin-crawling scenes and arguably surpasses the more limited scope of its predecessor.
Cape Fear (1991)
Remake of: Cape Fear (1962)
The second Scorsese entry in our list, this smart and suspenseful update of the ’60s thriller features a monstrous Robert De Niro on peak form as a vengeful ex-con looking to get even with the mild-mannered defence lawyer who let him to go to jail by burying a report.
Drawing on influences ranging from Hitchcock to Night Of The Hunter, Scorsese’s version deservedly received Oscar nominations and boasts a stellar supporting cast of old meets new Hollywood: including Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis.
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Remake of: Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
It may have largely lost the satirical element that defined George Romero’s B-Movie classic, but Zack Snyder’s dark, intense and distinctive 2004 version proved his considerable directorial chops – and is a damn fine siege-horror movie into the bargain.
As with the original, a group of survivors flee a zombie apocalypse and seek refuge in the confines of a shopping mall. Highlights include the unsettling and frenetic opening scenes, the group’s interactions with a distant gun shop owner, and an eventual break-out in fortified buses.
The Thing (1982)
Remake of: The Thing From Another World (1951)
John Carpenter’s superior creature feature is a true masterpiece of sci-fi horror, proving far more satisfying than ’50s forebear The Thing From Another World with its wonderful depiction of chaos and paranoia as a shapeshifting alien lifeform takes over an Antarctic research station.
Superbly paced and brimming with fantastic animatronic special effects that still look impressive today, the end result is a feast of gung-ho gore and nail-biting suspense.
13 Assassins (2010)
Remake of: 13 Assassins (1963)
Bold, bloody and brilliant, this magnificent remake of an old black-and-white film is a tour de force from prolific and eclectic Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, hinging on an astonishing extended ambush and battle sequence that lasts almost the entire second-half.
The action sees the warriors of the title attempt to kill sadistic noble Naritsugu; relying on inspired cunning and superior skill as they take on a force more than 15 times their number.
Remake of: Insomnia (1997)
Adapted from the Norwegian drama of the same name, Christopher Nolan’s gripping thriller stars Al Pacino as a troubled detective investigating the murder of a teenager in a remote Alaskan town.
Complex, multi-layered and mysterious in its construction, Hilary Swank offers fine support – but the real revelation is Robin Williams. Channelling the same dark energy as in One Hour Photo, he delivers a performance of true creepiness as the sly writer who provides a slippery and skin-crawling adversary.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Remake of: Ocean’s 11 (1960)
Forget the awful sequels, and Don Cheadle’s hideous attempt at a Cockney accent: Steven Soderbergh’s ultra-slick heist movie boasts an absolutely stellar ensemble cast all having a whale of a time, in a flick that struts all over the Rat Pack original.
George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts top the bill in an entertaining and smartly judged crime romp that sees a crew of likable rogues teaming up to rob a Vegas casino. It’s witty, energetic and – most importantly of all – fun.
King Kong (2005)
Remake of: King Kong (1933)
A $200 million labour-of-love from B-Movie whizz turned blockbuster king Peter Jackson, the famous giant ape from the 1933 classic gets a 21st century makeover courtesy of sumptuous CGI and astonishing motion-capture work by Andy Serkis.
Smartly however, the depression-era setting is retained; plunging a poverty-stricken actress, ambitious director and their rag-tag colleagues into an intense adventure on an uncharted island. Kong is rendered beautifully, the action is gripping and occasionally horrifying, and it proves a perfect modern love-letter to the old original.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Remake of: 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
A fine reworking of the 1950s Western of the same name, Russell Crowe is on top form as a murderous gang leader who is captured by the law, as is Christian Bale as the world-weary rancher who agrees to help escort him on his route to jail.
That said, Ben Foster steals the show as Crowe’s psychopathic right-hand man: and the violent, edge-of-the-seat drama unfolds superbly with a heady mix of blistering gunfights, colourful characters and thought-provoking dialogue.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Remake of: Seven Samurai (1954)
Speaking of Westerns, one of the true old-school greats is of course a remake itself: with this much-loved 1960 movie based on Akira Kurosawa’s brilliant Seven Samurai.
It does its inspiration justice, of course. Starring the likes of Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson as gunslingers who agree to help defend a village against a gang of marauding bandits, it’s a timeless slice of terrific action – and packs a real punch both cinematically and emotionally.
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