Top 10 Hollywood Movie Remakes


It’s often said that Hollywood has run out of original ideas, which is why there are so many movie remakes.  Actually, remakes are part of a longstanding Hollywood tradition- the very first remake was 1904’s The Great Train Robbery.

The first version of The Great Train Robbery was made in 1903 and is the “first narrative film” (sometimes referred to as the first feature film). In other words, Hollywood made its first “remake” as soon as it got the chance!

Hollywood continues to churn out remakes like the Amish churn butter, and most of them are absolutely terrible.  However, as the Amish will tell you, if you churn long enough, you’ll eventually get something good. Throughout Hollywood history, there have actually been some good remakes.  These are most of them:

10. Assault on Precinct 13

The original “Assault” from the 1970s, directed by John Carpenter, is actually a pretty good movie for what it cost.  The idea is that the different gangs, usually split by their race, have united and are going to take out the aforementioned precinct.

The remake sounds terrible on paper: Ethan Hawke as a drug addict, Drea de Matteo as her Sopranos character, and John Leguizamo as a tweaker.  And this time, instead of being in Los Angeles in the summer, it’s Detroit in the winter, and it’s a group of corrupt cops.

Yet, it works- partially because of the awesome action sequences and partially because, amazingly, the cast are all great.  In short, somebody actually decided that instead of just profiting from a title five people recognized, they should actually make a movie.  We wish all of Hollywood was so courteous.

9. The Thing

John Carpenters The Thing Movie Poster

The 1950s original took a classic science fiction short story and made into a movie about fighting a bloodthirsty plant in the Arctic.  You know, because everybody’s afraid of photosynthesis.

The 1982 remake (also John Carpenter) decided to stick to the original story, featuring a shape shifter that could take on any form it wished and incredibly gross (and awesome) special effects; i.e. the movie they should have made in the first place.

Although nobody’s face ever explodes in the movie, so we have no idea where the idea for the movie poster came from.

8. Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur, from the ’50s, is incredibly gay.  We don’t mean this in a derogatory sense, we mean this in the sense that it’s all about dudes wanting to have sex with other dudes.  It makes the Jesus parts seem a little random, but it’s nice that Hollywood spent the equivalent of Titanic’s budget on what amounts to a break-up. In fact, according to, Rock Hudson was offered the role but “his agent explained to him that the film’s gay subtext was too much of a risk to his career.”

The 1950’s version was actually a remake of a movie made in the 1920s, which mostly featured a cheap-looking chariot race and lots of bad acting, as opposed to the ’50s version, which featured an incredibly expensive chariot race with lots of elaborate stonework.  And lots of bad acting.

There’s a reason we still remember the ’50s version and the ’20s version is thankfully forgotten.

7. Ocean’s Eleven

The original “Ocean’s Eleven” is a great movie, solely because it consists almost entirely of the Rat Pack sitting around drinking, and occasionally pulling off a heist.  Sure, it’s supposedly a heist movie, but it’s basically a movie about sitting around and getting wasted.

As fun as that can be, we like the remake better, if for no other reason than the heist is clever, elaborate, and features Carl Reiner rappelling down an elevator shaft.  And really, when are you going to see that in the movies?

6. The Fly

The original “Fly” from the ’50s is…well…you see…it’s…

We’re struggling to find a description of a movie that features a scientist with a fly’s head and arm while a fly buzzes around with the scientist’s head and arm that doesn’t involve the word “ridiculous”, but that might be a writing challenge too great for anyone.

Thankfully, David Cronenberg knew this, which is why instead of limb swapping, it features Jeff Goldblum’s flesh falling off in disgusting chunks, kidnapping Geena Davis, and vomiting all over people to dissolve their flesh.  It also happens to be a thoughtful film about the boundaries of humanity and an epic tragedy.  Just not boring.

5. Heaven Can Wait

“Here Comes Mr. Jordan” is a beloved, award-winning comedy classic from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  This means, of course, that nobody watches it or has ever heard of it.  But if you get a chance, it’s pretty fun.

In ’78, Warren Beatty, tired of all the jokes about his life, decided to make a movie that didn’t involve him being a lothario and remade it into…a beloved, award-winning comedy classic from the New Age of Hollywood, which, of course, means that nobody watches it or has ever heard of it.

Maybe it’s less a remake and more the continuation of a curse.

4. The Amityville Horror

The original ’70s “Amityville Horror” is the biggest block of cheese you can get outside of a deli.  Seriously.  It’s ridiculous.  Highly entertaining, especially as James Brolin decides the best way to improve the film is to eat the scenery, but ridiculous.  And the book’s worse.

So it’s a little weird that the 2005 version actually works.  For one thing, Ryan Reynolds convincingly goes insane, and the movie has figured out that whenever you have a family with a parent going insane, the creepy parts are mostly a loving parent losing it instead of ghost effects ripped off from Japanese movies.

Also, there’s a hot babysitter.  Scantily clad babysitters can improve any movie; I hear they’re digitally inserting them into Citizen Kane.

3. Beau Geste

“Beau Geste” is a novel about stealing the family jewels and running off to the French Foreign Legion.  The 1926 movie is pretty much a straight take on the story, which means it’s like every other silent film from the time.

The 1939 remake has two distinct advantages: one, dialogue, which really helps, and two, Gary freaking Cooper.  Cooper never gets his due, but if you want a cinematic man’s man, toting a bolt-action rifle and kicking ass, Cooper’s your man.

It also helps that the movie, directed by William Wellman, has a bunch of amazing shots and some really weird, eerie effects to it, mostly achieved by depicting the relentless isolation of the fort they’re holding.  You will want Gary Cooper to jump the walls and just kick every ass there is, but Hollywood was more restrained back in the day.

2. Cat People

The original “Cat People” is one of those movies that has a lot of weird, Freudian subtext.  “No, you cannot make love to me!  I will turn into a panther and kill you!”  Yeah, seriously, that’s the plot.  It’s actually a pretty effective film, for the time, although it’s hard to keep a straight face now that we’ve had minor advances in human thought like sexual freedom and women’s rights.

What’s great about the 1982 remake is that it takes all the sexual subtext of the first one and adds liberal doses of freaky weirdness and Jerry Springer.  Now there’s incest and bestiality in the mix, which makes for an exceptionally entertaining drinking game where every time somebody brings up one of the two (or both together; it’s that kind of movie), you do a shot. You’ll probably make it past the half hour mark, but not much further.  Try to stay conscious long enough to see Natassja Kinski covered in water.

1. True Lies

This is France for you: they come up with a superb idea about a secret agent pretending to have a normal life who discovers his wife is having an affair…and DON’T make it about the action sequences.

This is why we remake your movies, France.  Because we know what they need, and what they need is Arnold Schwarznegger in a Harrier blowing away terrorists with Vulcan cannons.  We’re going to be digitally inserting that into the works of Jean Renoir next, and you’ll thank us for it.

by Dan Seitz

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  1. Holy crap…Amityville remake is horrible. And at that high on the list?

    How about The Departed (remake of Infernal Affairs)? Last House on the Left remake was pretty solid. And yeah, the aforementioned Scarface.

  2. Another great remake is the 1954 version of “A Star Is Born” with Judy Garland and James Mason. Again, this was the 3rd version of this film. It was orginally made as “What Price Hollywood?” in 1932 then in 1937 as “A Star Is Born”.

  3. Henri-Georges Clouzot -The Wages of Fear (1953) was remade by William Freidkin as ‘Sorcerer’ (1977) very different movies both very well done.
    ‘Diabolique’, another Clouzot thriller was remade but hardly worth mentioning, kind of like quite a few movies on this list.
    ‘Postman Always Rings Twice,’ both the John Garfield version and later Robert Mitchum in the 70’s, Cape Fear, These are much better examples of Hollywood doing something right, then there is ‘King Kong’ Cooper’s Classic Beauty and the Beast movie. Turned inside out in the 70’s by Delaurentis, in what could undoubtedly be the worst remake of all time, followed by the worst sequel of all time, ‘King Kong Lives.’ There was a Reason the original Kong worked and the monkey suit Kong didn’t. Peter Jackson, taking from Cooper, recreated a Kong and a world that makes Delaurentis’s Kong look like it was done by films students, very bad film students.
    The Thing, classic, Carpenter recreated it, that’s what made it as good or better.
    The Fly, the original ended with the half fly half human dying in a spider web, nature fixed the man made a mess. Davis and Goldbloom didn’t quite put the same tension in Cronenberg’s remake. ‘Heaven Can Wait’ was more a self serving vehicle for Beatty, just like his Version of ‘An Affair to Remember’ I think the Chris Rock remake was much better and funnier.
    There have been many versions of ‘Frankenstein,’ all so different that I guess they wouldn’t be considered remakes, or would they?
    True Grit, I liked both versions quite a bit and think that they could both stand alone and still be good viable stories.
    Zack Snyder, did an excellent job with Romero’s ‘Dawn of The Dead, ‘ am interested to see what his ‘Superman’ movie is going to be like. Day of the Dead, there is only one, there is another movie that used the name but bore no resemblance to the end of Romero’s Dead Trilogy.
    Tom Savini’s Rework of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ held up well and Tony Todd was excellent, I liked the way he made the twist at the end.
    There are the Remakes of some great Japanese Horror movies that just didn’t work as well, I prefer Ju-on, to the Grudge, Ringu, One Missed Call, The Eye, much better Japanese movies.
    Speaking of Japanese movies, Akira Kurosawa’s, ‘Seven Samurai’, remade as ‘Magnificent Seven’, (two of my all time favorites).
    ‘Yojimbo’ became ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘Last Man Standing’ there may have been a couple other remakes of the same story, it is a simple plot and can work well in almost any time period. Any of those are much better examples of GOOD Hollywood remakes.
    ‘Beau Geste’ and ‘The Three Musketeers’ have been done and redone and redone, The Count of Monte Cristo, ‘Of Mice and Men’ Lon Chaney and Burgess Meredeth, the John Malkovich and Gary Sinese. ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau,’ Charles Laughton, and the many remakes.
    Mutiny on The Bounty, Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Trevor Howard, Marlon Brando, Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Charles Laughton again, I saw a bad version with Anthony Quinn. Phantom of the Opera………
    I don’t think you did all your homework when looking at the remakes, you mentioned some ok and some so-so remakes, but I think you missed the big picture. If you are going to make a claim the best remakes then you might want to look a lot deeper then the last 30 years.

  4. They should do a remake of WestWorld–A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park.

  5. The Maltese Falcon (1941) with Bogart, Astor, Greenstreet and Lorrie was the 3rd version. The first was in 1931. It was remade as a comedy with Bette Davis in 1935 ( The Devil Was A Lady).

  6. There are list makers and there are list makers, but this one is incredibly bad.
    Not for the movies chosen, but for the “commentary” that seems to show a lack of movie education.
    Now, this is the internet so anyone with an opinion rules. I understand that. But come on.
    If you are going to list movie remakes at least ASK someone who might know a thing or two about movie history. Do your readers proud, or at least show THEM a little respect.

    For example;

    Ben-Hur – “bad acting” or silent movie style? And while you read about the chariot race did you watch the ocean battle between the Roman fleet and the Persian pirates? For a silent film the effects were epic. The re-make had a lot to live up to because the original pushed the boundaries of its time.

    Beau Geste – WHICH remake? There have been five? Why just pick on one?

    Heaven Can Wait – What do you mean nobody has heard of “Here Comes Mr. Jordan”? Anyone who is reading about re-makes should have seen the original. Or else why do you care about it?

    And why you may consider “The FLY” “ridiculous” it produced two of the most iconic scenes in movie history. As good as the “re-make” was, when was the last time IT was quoted or homaged?

    Some re-makes are just the same in title only. Others are an attempt by today’s generation to show they can be good too. Some work and are better, but the better re-makes are usually becasue the first was just that bad. It the first was good, the re-make will just be a pale comparison.

    They don’t make ‘um like they use to.


  8. RocketSurgery on

    I enjoyed reading this list, but I figured I would throw my two cents in anyway.

    First I would switch around "The Thing" and "True Lies". Although "True Lies" is an entertaining film, "The Thing" was the best remake ever IMO.

    I would also remove "The Amityville Horror" from the list completely, personally I don't think either version was very good. I would replace it with "Dawn of the Dead" from 2004 (I haven't seen the "Day of the Dead" remake that oak is talking about).

    Finally, "Cat People"? Really? I actually saw this movie one night at about 3 A.M. on HBO. I know this list is pretty much your opinion, but this movie is awful. There has to be something, anything better than "Cat People" to put on this list. "The Birdcage", "Cape Fear", "Man on Fire"? (I also think any of these could have replaced "Assault on Precinct 13")

    Anyway, just figured I'd give my opinion. Thank you for taking the time to create this list so we can all be entertained instead of working!!

  9. Dear god, this is why we remake your movies? We know what they need? France makes better movies than Hollywood year in and year out and has done for nearly 80 years. Im embarrassed by the stupidity of the last lines in the article. America sold its movie making soul donkeys years ago.

    • your whole post is a cliché: bad english, arrogant behaviour and maximum ignorance.

      greetings from brazil

      • Excuse me? Bad english??? Where exactly is my english below par? My english is perfect which suggests that yours is not. Read the last "arrogant" line of the True Lies review you silly little person…..and you also have to learn how to use "cliche" in the right context. And there was nothing ignorant about my post, not nearly as ignorant as your reply…if you like silly little hollywood flicks thats your problem, all im saying is they cant touch the french for comedy, the spanish or italians for realism or the asians for horror and shock. And greetings from Ireland, where english is the first language.

        • First you say you are embarrassed by the stupidity of the article and now you're taking credit for the whole thing? Make up your mind, Niall! Joao said "the whole post is a cliche," not your comment. Also I'm pretty sure those last few lines in the article are supposed to be funny… you don't really believe the writer was saying that all French films need "Arnold Schwarznegger in a Harrier blowing away terrorists with Vulcan cannons," do you?

        • First of all if you read correctly, i said the last few lines of the article….and how i am supposed to be taking credit for the whole thing as you call it is beyond me! And unless your funny radar is off, like most girls, the last lines of the article were NOT supposed to be funny and your quoting out of context doesnt help the argument. Yer man wasnt referring to the whole post as you say, he was talking solely to me as is quite clear. And again, re-read Joao's comment, it was directed towards me alone, the clueless ******. Some people. You included.

        • You're right, I was wrong, I'll admit it – Joao must have been talking about you when he said "bad english, arrogant behaviour and maximum ignorance." However, I still think you're wrong about the end of the list – the writer is not 100% serious when making any of those statements. He doesn't think that every French film needs Arnold S in a Harrier blowing away terrorists and, obviously he's joking about digitally inserting the cannons into Renoir films. But, I won't argue with you anymore about it – I can't see past your ridiculous generalizations about women or your name calling well enough to take anything you say seriously.

          Too bad the jokes sail so far over your head, otherwise maybe they would knock that chip off your shoulder.

        • “…My english is perfect …”


          ‘god’ proper noun, should be ‘God’

          ‘Im’ should have an apostrophe ‘I’m’

          and in your reply

          ‘english’ should be capitalized ‘English’

          more missing apostrophes for ‘I’m’ and ‘can’t’

          Capitalization for nationalities, ‘French, Italians etc.’

          ‘hollywood’ should be capitalized ‘Hollywood’

          Perfection is difficult to achieve, I certainly wouldn’t go making claims on such shaky ground.
          It also seems to me that the last few lines of the article were intended to be tongue-in-cheek and self-mocking.

    • You see, there's this thing Americans have, and I believe they also have this concept in France, called "humor", wherein one juxtaposes one element, such as Renoir's sensitive melancholy films about relationships, with a wildly inappropriate element, in this case, the Vulcan cannons.

      We also have this concept called sarcasm, but I can't explain it to you. But you might find an example in this comment.

  10. There was a film that was quite silly but I loved called "The last remake of Beau Geste" with Ann-Margret, Michael York, and the late great Marty Feldman. THAT flick was IMO the best remake.

  11. What about Hitchcock's own 50s remake of his 30s thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much"? The original had Peter Lorre, but that's about all; the climax was in a studio recreation of Albert Hall and the film ended with a boring shootout on the villian's lair. The remake benefitted from real location shooting from Marrakesh to the real Albert Hall, music by the great Bernard Herrmann (and that's him conducting the "Storm Cloud Cantata"!) , and Jimmy Stewart and a far better cast. And it's way more suspenseful than the original!

  12. Ben Hur (1959) is the best film ever made, oscars only equaled by Titanic says something, no bad acting

    • Titanic was an over blown piece of crap that suckered the world into awarding it. So how does that compare to Ben Hur? The oscars mean nothing to serious movie fans as more often than not they get it soooo wrong and have done from the very start.

  13. The remakes are (arguably) better than the originals but the original trailers are the best! I really enjoyed compiling them – thanks for this list, Dan!

  14. Correction: Hollywood is NOT out of ideas. They are just too chickens*** to do anything new.

  15. The original CAT PEOPLE is a masterpiece and its remake is a travesty. Get rid of it from your list and insert THE MALTESE FALCON, perhaps the greatest remake of them all.

      • "The original CAT PEOPLE is a masterpiece and its remake is a travesty."

        100% agree

        "I think The Thing is a little low on it."

        100% agree

        "and insert THE MALTESE FALCON, perhaps the greatest remake of them all."

        50% agree – it can be on the list. it's just that i don't like it at all. even though i usually dig film noir.