Hollywood loves remaking movies – even classic movies. In recent years, we’ve seen remakes of movies ranging from the Karate Kid and Poltergeist, to Solaris and even the film Fame. Most of these remakes have been stinkers and pale in comparison to the original. But every once in a while, Hollywood surprises with a remake that is actually superior to the first version of the movie. While superior remakes are few and far between, they do happen. And so here is a list of 10 movie remakes that were better than the original film.
10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney has been made multiple times in Hollywood, most recently with the awful 2007 movie The Invasion starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. But it is the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers directed by Philip Kaufman that is the best of the lot. And the 1978 movie is a remake of the 1956 film of the same name directed by Don Siegel. The sci-fi thriller tells the story of an alien invasion in which humans are replaced by perfect duplicates that are devoid of any and all emotion. Frequently ranked among the best movie remakes of all-time, the San Francisco-based 1978 remake adds a gritty layer of realism that the original film lacks, while also benefitting from strong performances by Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, and a young Jeff Goldblum. Although the 1956 film remains a staple of the genre, it has not aged well and now seems dated while the 1978 remake is just as scary as it was at the time of its original release in theatres.
9. Cape Fear (1991)
The 1991 remake of Cape Fear by director Martin Scorsese is far superior to the original 1962 version. This is mainly due to the absolutely scary and gripping performance of actor Robert De Niro as convict Max Cady, who is released from prison and out for revenge against the lawyer who put him behind bars. Martin Scorsese also uses a number of great directing choices to ratchet up the suspense and tension, including going without music at critical moments and using extreme close-ups on actor’s faces. While the original movie, which starred Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, was a straight ahead B-movie, the 1991 remake is elevated to classic status by the pedigree and work of everyone involved. Actress Juliette Lewis in her screen debut is another standout in the remake.
8. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
The original 1957 film 3:10 to Yuma is a ho-hum western about a broke rancher who takes a job transporting a convict to get the 3:10 train to Yuma. Largely a rip off of the movie High Noon, the first version of the film was dismissed by critics and quickly forgotten. That is until director James Mangold remade the movie in 2007 with actors Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. The remake is a much more ambitious movie that contains bigger scenes, better acting, and more tension than the original. Crowe and Bale are perfectly cast as the bad guy and hapless rancher trying to catch the train. A much more explosive movie, this is one film that is better the second time around.
7. Scarface (1983)
The 1983 movie Scarface starring Al Pacino in the title role is a remake of a 1932 film of the same name that starred actor Paul Muni as a tommy gun wielding gangster. The 1983 version of Scarface succeeds where the original failed because director Brian De Palma completely reimagines the movie – setting it in Miami in 1980 and making the title character a Cuban immigrant who steadily rises in organized crime through a combination of brains and balls. Led by a powerhouse performance from Al Pacino and several memorable action sequences, the remake of Scarface has proven to be hugely influential on popular culture – even spawning the storylines in video games such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The remake’s focus on main character Tony Montana’s rise in the criminal underworld is masterful. Say hello to my little friend!
6. Heat (1995)
With the 1995 movie Heat, director Michael Mann remade his own 1989 made-for-TV film called L.A. Takedown. Although Heat contains a reworked and superior script than the original source material, The central story of a cop (played by actor Al Pacino) and a criminal (played by Robert De Niro) who are more alike than they care to admit remains at the center of Heat, which today is considered a modern classic and best remembered for its shootout in downtown Los Angeles. Michael Mann is not the only director to remake his own work — Alfred Hitchcock famously directed two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much. But Heat is far superior to L.A. Takedown. The remake has better actors, a bigger budget, and a sharper script. Michael Mann disowned L.A. Takedown after television network NBC edited the made-for-TV movie down to three hours in length. Michael Mann would use Heat to remake his vision of a crime epic set in the Los Angeles underworld.
5. The Fly (1986)
Director David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly out does, in every way, the 1958 original movie about a scientist who turns into a fly after an experiment goes awry. The main improvements in the remake are due to enhancements in make-up and special effects. The 1958 original looks quite dated now. But the remade movie is notable for a number of truly gross special effects, and the make-up used in the movie won an Academy Award. While popular in its day, the first version of The Fly doesn’t hold up to modern viewings. However, the 1986 remake became a launch pad to international stardom for Cronenberg, while being hailed as the best performance of Jeff Goldblum’s career. Named to many critic top ten lists back in 1986, the film has come to be known as one of the best in Cronenberg’s catalogue and a staple of the sci-fi horror genre.
4. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
The 1960 original movie Ocean’s Eleven was a vehicle for the Rat Pack, that included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. A true product of its time, the original film stars Sinatra as Danny Ocean, who gathers a group of his World War II buddies to pull off the ultimate Las Vegas heist. Together the eleven friends plan to rob five Las Vegas casinos in one night. Full of tuxedos, cigarettes, and high ball drinks, the first version is more about a group of fast talking friends and their in-jokes. The 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt in exactly the same premise and situation, with George Clooney playing the ringleader Danny Ocean. However, the remake directed by Steven Soderbergh is elevated to a high tech heist film. The pacing is a lot faster and the dialogue is snappier. While both movies are fun, the remake is more entertaining and much faster paced.
3. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The 1960 movie The Magnificent Seven starring Steve McQueen, Yul Brenner, and Charles Bronson, is considered a classic western. However, the movie is actually a remake of the 1954 film Seven Samurai, which was made by the Japanese master Akira Kurosawa and is also considered an exceptional movie. Both films centre on a group of hired guns or samurais who are tasked with protecting a village of peasants from bandits. However, the American remake is superior in terms of its plotting and characterization. The acting is also much better all the way around. And the movie just seems to translate better to the old west. Perhaps it is because the story closely follows many of the legendary elements of the western genre – good versus evil, self-reliance, Mexican bandits, and so forth.
2. Insomnia (2002)
The 2002 film Insomnia starring Robin Williams and Al Pacino is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian movie of the same name that starred actor Stellan Skarsgard. Both movies concern police officers who suffer from insomnia while in a northern region that experiences 24-hour daylight in the summer. Sleep deprived and exhausted, the police officers commit a terrible mistake that is observed by the killer he is tracking. The tables are then turned in this cat-and-mouse thriller. However, while both movies are very good, the remake directed by Christopher Nolan is superior in terms of suspense and the acting of the principle cast. The Alaskan setting in the 2002 remake is also more rugged and the sun seems more relenting than in the Norwegian version of the film. Plus, the remake contains one of Robin Williams’ best dramatic turns and a standout performance from Al Pacino as the exhausted police officer.
1. The Departed (2006)
The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong gangster film Infernal Affairs. The remake is set in Boston and involves the Irish mob and their gangster leader, played by actor Jack Nicholson. The story in both films centers on a mole in the police department and an undercover cop who have the same objective: discover who is the mole and who is the cop. The 2006 remake stars Matt Damon as the mole and Leonardo DiCaprio as the undercover police officer. Their performances, as well as that of actors Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, really distinguish the remake from the original. Martin Scorsese won his only Academy Award as Best Director for the remake, and the violence throughout the 2006 version is much more intense and believable. The Departed is also the last great screen performance Jack Nicholson has given – to date, anyway.