Off Topic: Is There Such Thing As A Good Movie Remake?

After a slew of bad word of mouth and embarrassing delays, the reboot of Robocop will finally be limping into theatres at the beginning of 2014. Original director Paul Verhoeven had no involvement and the whole thing appears to have little resemblance to the original flick. Consequently, it's almost certainly going to suck. This got me wondering — is it actually possible to remake a movie successfully?

The original Robocop was a brilliantly shlocky sci-fi film that made headlines for its balls-to-the-wall violence. It was also notable for its satirical take on the media, privatization and moral decay, making it a hit with brainy cinema buffs and bogan action fans alike. The new movie appears to have swept most of these themes under the carpet. The studio has also plumped for a PG-13 rating which means virtually all of the elements that made Robocop special have been stripped away. You can check out the trailer for yourself below:

In recent years, we've had to suffer through a seemingly endless deluge of dodgy reboots as a creatively-bankrupt Hollywood returns to the well, over and over again. Some of the worst offenders include Total Recall, The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre, Death At A Funeral, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Straw Dogs, Clash Of The Titans, Death Race, Conan The Barbarian, The Omen and Planet Of The Apes (Tim Burton version).

And then there was the Nicolas Cage-starring remake of the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man which frankly defies all description. Check out the below highlight reel for a taste of the gibbering insanity. It's not intended to be a comedy. No really.

In addition to Robocop 2.0, we also have remakes of Gremlins, All Quiet On The Western Front, The Black Hole The Crow, Godzilla (again), The Wild Bunch, Old Boy and The Never Ending Story to look forward to.

And then there was the recent remake of Carrie which I caught a screening of last month. As the titular Carrie White, Chloë Grace Moretz is far too pretty to convince as a friendless high school outcast (if anything, their attempts to "uglify" the actress have only rendered her more attractive). The climactic showdown at the prom is also problematic; it somehow manages to both underwhelm and be too over-the-top.

The cynic in me thinks it will only be a matter of time before we get a remake of Jaws — with a completely CGI shark, natch. They'll probably give the Hooper role to Katy Perry and get Nickelback to do the end-credits soundtrack. Just thinking about it gives me nightmares.

But anyway. All these terrible movies got me wondering about the good-to-bad ratio when it comes to remakes. Are there any examples that are halfway decent or — god forbid — actually better than the original? Off the top of our heads, the only examples I can think of are John Carpenter's The Thing (which has since been re-remade badly), David Cronenberg's The Fly and Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (although this is treating the term 'remake' very loosely).

Can you guys think of any other movie remakes that managed to equal or improve upon the original? Share your nominations below. Alternatively, feel free to share your opinion in why remakes seem to fail so often. Are fan expectations or talentless Hollywood hacks to blame?

(Some ground rules: Adaptations and 'reimaginings' don't count — and no scouring movie sites for suggestions if you haven't actually seen the flick!)


    I was a fan of the remakes for The Thomas Crowne Affair, Cape Fear, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is technically one too...

    The Oceans 11 and The Italian Job updates aren't too bad for watching when they're on, but not quite as good as the originals.

    But yeah... there's not many.

    (Oh, and I didn't mind The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, but I haven't seen the original so can't compare)

    Last edited 17/12/13 11:06 am

      I thought the remake of Oceans 11 was clever and fleetingly entertaining, but nothing beats the end of the original (or the amazing cast).

        This is pretty much exactly what I think. The ending of the original was SO perfect, it was a real shame the remake couldn't hold to it. It wouldn't have even jeopardised the sequels, in fact you could even have it strengthen the relationship between Danny and Tess.

        But audiences these days would have felt cheated by it, I'm sure.

      The Italian Job remake had nothing to do with italy except for 5 minute 'job' at the start. The actual 'job' takes place in LA which is dumb given the film name.

      The Death Race films are masterpieces, although each of the 3 has something in them they shouldn't have done. (14k's navigator getting mauled by the truck blade in DR1 to name one).

      If Mary Poppins ever gets a remake there will be riots. England should legally prohibit any remake.

    The best remakes are the ones who take the premise of an existing story/movie and explore a different direction. You can take a story from decades ago and update it to explore the story through modern times to get a new take on an existing theme while still contributing interesting ideas.
    I think the point Im trying to make is not to just 'remake' a movie since nothing new thematically is being added. When a remake offers an existing idea but a new 'lens' to look at it, it has the potential for success.

    Examples of successful remakes include Scarface and The Thing.

      Came here just to say the thing! Also the new Evil Dead was pretty damn good.

        I agree the new Evil Dead was very good, technically its not a remake but a new film set in the universe but it did feel like a remake to me

          The new Evil Dead is actually pretty good? I'm a die-hard fan of the series, but I've been umming and aahing over seeing the new one, particularly with the trailers pre-cinema release making it look very little like an Evil Dead film. I may have to bite the bullet and check it out then.

      Agreed on The Thing (the John Carpenter one, not the recent prequel)

        I thought he said that Adaptations don't count? I was going to say John Carpenter's version of The Thing but didn't because it's not a remake of the movie, it's a re-adaptation of the original short story.

        Same reason I didn't mention the Coen brothers' remake of True Grit - great movie, better than the John Wayne original IMO, but again it's a re-adaptation of the novel, not a remake of the movie.

          You're probably right, but Chris does mention it in the article as one of his good "remakes".

            And the new Conan movie as a bad remake- that was a readaption, so it seems you can ignore the readaption thing.

    All Quiet On The Western Front, The Black Hole, The Never Ending Story

    These I did not know about. My faith in humanity is now completely shattered. If anyone wants me my head and I will be examining the interior of a gas oven at length.

      I guess they can't do any worse than the Neverending Story sequels.

        I liked the 2nd one... I only recently watched the 3rd one with my kid... oh my god...

    Star Trek

    I dont think they are better than the originals, but they arent worse
    They are different enough to stand on their own
    and the way that different story curve was introduced was plausible enough, and executed well enough to fly

      Star Trek is a direct sequel, it is not a remake. It has Old Spock in it from the original universe, the timeline is just parallel.

        While technically you are correct
        I think this is still valid for the topic as there are still the same underlying core tennants

    Scarface - I rest my my case

    I thought Dredd with Karl Urban was not a half-bad attempt at a Judge Dredd reboot...
    Also Gone in 60 Seconds with Nicolas Cage rates as one of my favourite movies

      Dredd was pretty damn good, pity it's going to be almost impossible to get a sequel...

      Dredd isn't really a remake of the Stallone movie -- it's a completely different story using the same comic book character. To be a remake, it would need to reuse the same plot elements (such as Dredd taking the long walk, fighting the Angel brothers, etc.)

        Yeah fair enough, i guess with remakes i was more thinking reboots of franchises rather then remaking of a movie...
        well in that case, Gone in 60 Seconds is still a pretty cool guy :P

        Then let us praise the Lord that it wasn't a remake! What a crock of shit the Stallone movie was.

        I watched this (The Raid) and then watched the new Dredd a week or two later. The Raid is much better than Dredd and basicly the same movie :)

          The plots were quite similar but I much preferred Dredd. I liked The Raid, but I actually think they followed quite different artistic visions (to be wanky about it) and I just liked the style of Dredd more. But then again, I liked the Stallone movie when I watched it as a kid.

          Yeh the Raid was great (I hear there is a sequel comin out) but it didn't have that slow mo blood splatter. Those knife fights though, damn..

      Dredd was absolutely Fantastic! Was very gritty, and did so much with such a limited set in terms of character development and story. Would definitely love that direction to be followed with a sequel.

      So much better than the 90's, campy, versace-designed bullshit.

    They’ll probably give the Hooper role to Katy Perry and get Nickelback to do the end-credits soundtrack


    "Dredd (3D)" is a fair contender. It took what was already a pretty average 90's film, stripped out the corny dialogue/exposition and left us with a simple, short, explosive story. (While also taking inspiration from Indonesian action flick "The Raid")

      If we wanted to be pedantic about these things, The Raid and Dredd were in production at the same time, with Dredd going into production a little earlier.

      The Raid was written and produced AFTER Dredd. If anything, The Raid was inspired by Dredd, not the other way round.

      Dredd was plagued by delayed release and thus The Raid came out first, which is why many people think that Dredd knocked off The Raid. It did not.

    Fright Night was a suitable remake.

    Last edited 17/12/13 12:06 pm

    The rather good Twelve Monkeys is a remake of La Jetee, a film which also heavily inspired the equally good Looper.

    I couldn't say whether True Lies is a better film than La Totale!, but it's arguably Arnie's last really enjoyable movie.

    I'd say The Departed was a pretty solid remake of Infernal Affairs too, though I prefer the original.

    Last edited 17/12/13 11:38 am

      I'd say The Departed was a pretty solid remake of Infernal Affairs too, though I prefer the original.
      I watched Infernal Affairs after hearing all about how great it was and how The Departed was a copy - IMHO The Departed is approximately 20000 times better.

        I think Infernal Affairs has a tighter plot but the acting in The Departed is just phenomenal. One of the best whole cast performances I can think of.

    Here are some what I think were good movie remakes
    Scarface - Need I say More
    Gone In 60 Seconds - Although it was loosely based on the 1974 original...was still good remake
    Oceans 11 - Hard to top the original but its good for a moden remake
    The Italian Job - Same as above
    The Thomas Crown Affair - It was good remake because it followed the premise of the original but retold in a different way

      all of the above. with specific focus on 60sec and Italian job, regardless of whether they held true as a remake, they were an entertaining stand-alone watch in their own right and they both sit up as a go to watch for me when I am bored wanting to fill time.

        Oh yeah...I have to agree...Gone In 60 Seconds was a regular lunch time movie back in the day

    Last Man Standing, Bruce Willis remake from 15 years ago of a black and white gangster flick. Fucking. Ace.

      I really thought that movie was terrible. Didn't know it was a remake, but I thought it was purely, subjectively, awful.

      Did you just rate Last Man Standing over A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo? You are banned from the internet!

        No, I just said one particular movie was ace. No attempt to crap on other movies in the process was made.

          Haha, I'm just joshin ya. But seriously, Last Man Standing is actually a remake of two CLASSIC movies.

    A recent remake I thought was a good homage to the original was Evil Dead . It definitely nailed the atmosphere, music and creepiness of the original for me.

    Also rewatched some Paul Verhoeven movies recently; Robocop, Total Recall & Starship Troopers which are some of my fav scifi movies. They sure don't make em like that anymore.

      I just didn't get what starship troopers was trying to do. It's one of my favourite books and I thought the movie would be in the spirit of that. Whilst it clearly wasn't, I have no idea what the makers were actually going for.

        Yeh do agree with u actually. The whole citizen/civilian thing was interesting but it did feel very Beverly Hills 90210 at the start. I heard somewhere that Paul Verhoeven didnt actually finish reading the book when he made the movie. I just enjoyed the humor, satire and special effects (at the time). I remember being blown away by that fort attack scene when I first saw it.

        It was a dig at the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy among other things.

        I was reminded of the movie last month when I read the following article:

        Have a read of it yourself and perhaps you will "get" more of what the movie was trying to do.

        (It's one of my favourites by the way, I actually saw it twice in the cinema! I loved the juxtaposition of crazy action and effects with the underlying satire.)

      Yeah, Evil Dead was pretty damn decent. One of the few modern horror flicks that pulled no punches. Original is still better though.

        yeh for sure. Moral of the story: If u find a book covered in barb wire with all this writing saying not to read it on the cover, do NOT f*$ing read the book out loud!

        I hear there is an Army of Darkness sequel in the works with Bruce Campbell attached. Not sure how I feel about that yet. The original was more comedy than horror, but there is potential for something great there.

        Last edited 17/12/13 2:20 pm

          I love Bruce, and 99% of the time feel like he can do no wrong, but I think the time for an Army of Darkness sequel sailed over a decade ago. I did find it interesting to see the praise he heaped on the new Evil Dead initially, only to turn around an semi-announce an Army of Darkness sequel that won't tie into that film in any way.

            Yeh I did like that little scene after the credits of Evil Dead with Bruce Campbell looking into the camera and saying "groovy".. sort of like how he approves

      The Total Recall remake was much more faithful to the book.

    I don't follow movie news as I like as few spoilers as possible when watching a film for the first time, but seriously? Robocop is PG-13?

    No mentions of Let Me in/Let The Right One In?

      That's a weird one because as far as remakes go this is as close as they get. The US version is practically a frame by frame reconstruction of the Scandinavian version with the location, actors and language changed.

      Does a copy of the original movie count as a remake? Brilliant film either way though.

      That would fall into the relatively competent but completely and utterly redundant remake category.

        That is a very, very large category.

    I haven't seen it, but didn't the US version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo get great reviews?

      It's literally a thousand times better than the Scandanavian version. Mostly because the Fincher's version has a script that doesn't read like it was written by an autistic 13 year old, but also because of virtually every other aspect.

      I am fully aware of how much flak this is going to cop from the foreign language film mafia, but honestly, how can you watch the Scandanavian version without groaning at how bad the dialog is? And even if you pass that off to "the dialog just doesn't translate very well, its actually pretty good if you speak Sweedish" that doesn't make up for the fact that the pacing is just utterly rubbish in the original and it feels like you're watching a crime-drama tv show where you've missed all the actual good episodes.

        Wasn't the Swedish version made for television?

        huh? I actually quite liked the pacing. I found it interesting and enjoyed the slow burn of intrigue it produced.

    I thought the Coen Brothers did pretty good with True Grit. I liked it better than the original.

      Agreed, although I think they are both good films for their respective eras.

    Just pointing out, that the "remake" of The Neverending Story isn't actually a remake of the original movie, but rather a re-imagining of it. The author of the original novel, Michael Ende, was apparently so upset at the direction the movie took and how little resemblence to the book it ended up as, that he tried to sue the movie studio. That didn't work, so he asked them to remove his name from the credits as he did not want to be associated with it. And they did, you won't see Michael Ende's name in the credits of the movie. The movie also ended only about a third of the way through the book, too (the following two sequels for the record did not continue the story but rather made up their own).

    The re-imaging is supposedly an attempt to make a movie that follows the book much more closely.

      We've heard that before with the likes of the modern Conan movie which was A. further from Howard's books than the Arnie version and B. Terrible.

      Maybe it'll be ok, but I'm not exactly holding my breath.

        I'm remaining cautiously optimistic.

        There are rumbling of them taking the same approach with Starship Troopers. Not remaking the awesome 90's movie, but doing another version that resembles the book more closely.

          Is the book worth reading? I'm not sure I've ever actually seen a copy for sale.

            The book was written in German in 1979, not sure if it ever got an english adaption. Apparantly the original movie was only halfway through the book.

            You talking about The Neverending Story or Starship Troopers?

            Either way, yes they are worth reading.

    Dredd was great - really surprised me - I want more of that badly.

    Also The Evil Dead was very good - not better than the original remake (read - Evil Dead II) but you could argue it wasn't worse.

    I liked the Omega Man better then the Vince Price I am Legend...the latter a bit too campy for me. But it was probably more a 'reimagining' from the book rather than a remake. And I'm a sucker for Charlton.

    Old doesnt necessarily mean better. Robocop was a great movie but certainly could have been improved. Its one I personally have been wanting to see remade for years.

    3:10 to Yuma, The Birdcage, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dawn of the Dead, The Departed, King Kong, Scarface... just a few I can think of which were as good if not better than the original.

    The 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatches was a better version than the original (though the 1993 version was inferior to both by a good margin). That's my go-to movie for this question (most people haven't seen the original, which is both plodding and hilarious, though it is neither intentionally). Though it may count as an adaptation (but seeing as you've included The Thing...).

    On the upcoming front, I've got some hope for the The Black Hole remake, though I have trouble with the thought of anyone trying to top John Barry's incredible score for that movie.

    Didn't someone do a shot for shot remake of Psycho? I imagine that'd be reasonably decent

      Gus van Sant, and ... not so much: (thought to be fair, he's always claimed it was an experiment to see if a shot-for-shot remake wold work, and it isn't awful).

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