The Magnificent Seven hit theaters this past weekend, and while some critics are considering it more magnificent than others, it looks like it’s off to a good start at the box office. But if you thought that the new Western starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt is a wholly original production, you would be sorely mistaken. This film is not just the remake of one film, but the film before it, making this shoot ’em up a remake of a remake!
Westerns have had a long history of being recycled or borrowed for various productions, dating all the way back to the 1940s and 1950s. You might think that Hollywood rebooting classics is a new trend, but in fact it’s been around for years. It might also surprise you to learn that some of your favorite Western movies are in fact remakes themselves. Below you’ll find some Westerns, or movies adapted from Westerns, that were outgunned long before they rode into theaters.
Here are 15 Westerns You Didn’t Know Were Remakes.
15. The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Though Westerns aren’t as popular nowadays as they were in the ’50s and ’60s, they seem to be getting a second life from modern filmmakers. All sorts of actors are now throwing their cowboy hats into the cinematic ring of Westerns, including Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, who are two sharpshooting gunslingers in Antoine Fuqua’s new movie, The Magnificent Seven. Blasting bad guys with an axe to grind, the two cowboys team up with the quickest shots in the West including actors Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and Byung-hun Lee. Together they take on a life or death mission to help a poor village against a horde of savage thieves.
You probably already know that this modern Western is a remake of the 1960s version, but did you know that this modern western is actually a remake of a remake? The original Magnificent Seven from 1960 starring Yul Bryner and Steve McQueen is in fact in adaptation of Seven Samurai, a 1954 black and white picture by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. It’s spawned countless remakes and loose adaptations over the years, including the family Pixar movie A Bug’s Life.
14. Outland (1981)
Taking place in the distant future, Outland stars Sean Connery as a police marshal who uncovers a huge drug-smuggling ring on the Jupiter moon of Io. The drug is the space equivalent of crystal meth, which allows miners on the moon to work for days on end. After sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, the police marshal begins to uncover a conspiracy which has him constantly looking over his shoulder for danger.
At first glance, you might be wondering what a sci-fi film like Outland is doing on this list. Sean Connery in a space suit doesn’t exactly look like your traditional Western. However, the script for Outland was originally intended to be set during the Western period, and loosely adapted from the 1952 film, High Noon. But, after Ridley Scott’s highly influential Alien had been released, as well as Blade Runner being in production, director Peter Hyams decided to move his movie into outer space. The original title was changed, but Outland still remained as a reworking of High Noon, with Connery playing a flawed hero struggling to survive.
Recently, Relativity Studios has acquired the rights to remake High Noon with plans to produce a movie that is set in present day. With the story having already been set in the past and future, it seems rather appropriate.
13. Ned Kelly (2003)
One of Australia’s most famous outlaws and escaped convicts (“bushranger” to all you Aussies), Ned Kelly has become a legend since his days in the Victorian era. Of course, like any famous gunslinger, Hollywood has made countless movies chronicling his life including When the Kellys Rode in 1934, The Glenrowan Affair in 1951, and a 1970 adaptation Ned Kelly which was one-part biographical and one-part musical, and starred Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger as the titular outlaw.
In 2003, Kelly’s story was adapted yet again with Ned Kelly, which had then up-and-comer Heath Ledger fill the heroic outlaw’s shoes. With an all-star cast including Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts and Joel Edgerton, the story follows the beginnings of the Kelly Gang as they become a part of Australian folklore. The movie received a mixed critical reception, with some praising Heath Ledger’s grounded performance, with others criticizing it for being rather slow, and murky about its historical accuracy. With Kelly’s story so widely regarded, it’s only a matter of time before the Aussie gets another cinematic adaptation.
12. Rio Lobo (1970)
Though Rio Lobo isn’t a shot for shot remake, it isn’t entirely an original production either. Allow us to explain. In 1959 director Howard Hawks and actor John Wayne teamed up to make the classic western Rio Bravo, with Wayne starring as a small-town sheriff who attempts to hold in jail the brother of a local thug with the help of a cripple, a drunk and a young gunfighter. The film opened to worldwide success, and has since become a staple in the western genre, even earning our number one spot in our list of best westerns of all time.
Still, for some reason, Hawks must have not felt like he achieved perfection with this picture because he loosely adapted it in 1970 with his film Rio Lobo. The movie once again stars the Duke as a man searching for the traitor who caused the defeat of his unit in the Civil War and caused the death of this best friend. While it isn’t exactly a remake of Rio Bravo, “Lobo” follows a lot of the same plot beats and characters, with many deeming it a very loose remake of the original.
11. Destry (1954)
Starring James Stewart at the start of his career, Destry Rides Again was released in 1939 by director George Marshall. It has Stewart as Tom Destry Jr., a deputy appointed by the new sheriff in town, who is a drunk, in order to solve a crime involving a poker game. Though Destry Rides Again is a Western, it’s has its fair share of comedy, and even goes so far as to parody some of the genre’s more overused tropes.
Surprisingly enough, director Marshall decided to remake his own film in 1954 with Destry, which has Audie Murphy in the titular role of the famous gunfighter. This time the plot wasn’t comedic in the slightest, with Murphy as a tough as nails cowboy who shoots first and asks questions later. While many consider the original with James Stewart to be the definitive version, there’s no denying Audie Murphy’s iconic take on the character. Being Texas born, and a real life war hero, Murphy is unassuming, charming and charismatic in the role. The debate still rages as to which one is the best. Both movies are quite different, despite sharing the same plot and even the same director.
10. Last Man Standing (1996)
Okay, technically speaking Last Man Standing isn’t really a Western. It’s set during the Prohibition era (cars and all), and the traditional cowboys have been swapped out here for Italian and Irish gangsters. Still, it has all familiar beats of a Western including Bruce Willis as a mysterious gunslinger who has just breezed into a corrupt Western town being torn apart by two ruthless gangs. It even has Christopher Walken has a silent but deadly hitman whose voice box has been stabbed to shreds with an icepick.
Like The Magnificent Seven, this Bruce Willis shoot ‘em up is also a remake of a remake, or a retelling of a remake. In 1961 filmmaker Akira Kurosawa released a movie titled Yojimbo, which tells the story of a mysterious samurai who comes to a town ruled by two criminal gangs and decides the pit them against each other. Three years later, spaghetti western director Sergio Leone decided to adapt the story with his film, A Fistful of Dollars, which has a wandering gunslinger in the west turn two rival families against each other. Then in 1996, Last Man Standing was released with the exact same plot, only this time it was set during the Prohibition era. Despite its recycled plot, Standing is still an entertaining action movie, even if we know how things are going to play out even before the movie gets started.
9. Stagecoach (1966)
Often described as the “classic western,” director John Ford’s Stagecoach, released in 1939 is a staple of the genre. Dated, perhaps. Racially intolerant, sure, but still, influential beyond belief. It stars John Wayne in one of his earliest roles as the Ringo Kid, a heroic gunfighter willing to do anything to protect the passengers of a stagecoach, whose route is complicated by the fact that Geronimo and his army are on a warpath in the area. Together, the passengers of the stagecoach come together to fight off the Apaches in a final, climactic gunfight, and learn a little something about themselves in the process.
Stagecoach is a movie so classic it shouldn’t be attempted to be remade, and if it is that adaptation should do something new and exciting with the story. Unfortunately, Ford’s iconic Western was given a poor update in 1966, and then then an even worse one with the bizarre adaptation in 1986, containing a cast made up of music legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. Completely absent from all of the charm of the original, this should be Hollywood’s last sign to leave this classic alone.
8. The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)
There are some actors that are just built for comedy, and Don Knotts was one of them. He could make audiences double-over in laughter simply by looking confused. He was the master of any comedic genre including family sitcoms like The Andy Griffith Show, light-hearted fantasy movies like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and slapstick Westerns like The Shakiest Gun in the West, which stars Knotts as a bumbling dentist turned unsuspecting gunfighter.
Despite being a tad dated, the movie’s comedy holds up rather well, and you might also be surprised to find that it’s actually a remake of a 1948 film called The Paleface. Knott’s adaptation doesn’t exactly follow it’s predecessor beat-for-beat, but there are enough striking similarities like comic legend Bob Hope’s character who also plays an inept dentist turned cowboy. Though they are in many ways similar, each movie has its share of moments that set them apart from one another, including two fantastic performances from Don Knotts and Bob Hope.
7. The Alamo (2004)
Remember The Alamo? No, not the pivotal battle during the Texas Revolution, rather, the 1960 movie that starred John Wayne as the legendary frontiersman David “Davy” Crockett. Directed by Wayne himself (one of the few), it has a small band of soldiers stand up to a massive army in order to stop a tyrant from ruling the Republic of Texas. The Alamo, which was banned in Mexico, is an over-blown Hollywood fable, and takes huge liberties when depicting the actual historic events. Still, it’s a highly enjoyable Western that’s one hell of a fun ride, despite it’s dangerous levels of camp.
The same could not be said about its 2004 counterpart which stars Billy Bob Thorton as Davy Crockett. While Wayne’s original was fun, this remake is often criticized for being a rather drab affair. While Thorton is good as Crockett, there just wasn’t enough meat and potatoes from the remake to allow it to stand on its own as an original movie. If we’re going to remember the cinematic Alamo, we’re probably better off just remembering the 1960 John Wayne version.
6. Battle Beyond the Stars
As we’ve already seen from Outland, every other movie from the 1980s was being adapted for an outer space setting. Star Wars and Alien had blown up the box office, and every studio was eager to get their next space race motion picture out to the masses. When screenwriter John Sayles was asked by producer Roger Corman to adapt a sci-fi version of Seven Samurai, the above poster is what they came up with. Battle Beyond the Stars is the movie you would get if you took The Magnificent Seven and Star Wars, put them in a blender, and hit the purée button.
Though it’s clearly a B movie, Battle Beyond the Stars is still a fun run thanks to colorful cast of characters, and it’s tribute to its predecessors. It pays direct homage to John Struges’ Western, so much so that the movie even has actor Robert Vaughn in virtually the same role as he played in The Magnificent Seven. Of course, The Magnificent Seven itself is a remake, so Battle Beyond the Stars would technically be a remake of a remake, or perhaps a reimagining or a remake. It can get a bit confusing at times as to where exactly to place this film; just look at that poster.
5. The Outrage (1964)
Perhaps it is because they are so timeless that Hollywood had such a fascination with remaking Akira Kurosawa films. We’ve already seen a handful of the Japanese director’s works make it onto this list and, spoiler alert, you haven’t seen the last, which includes our #5 entry, The Outrage. This 1964 Western starring Paul Newman was based on the 1960 film Rashomon by Kurosawa. The original depicts the events of a heinous crime and its aftermath which is recalled from the point of view of various witnesses.
The remake is more or less the same story, which is different people revisiting the same act of violence through different interpretations. Though it will never be as influential as its predecessor, The Outrage is a solid Hollywood adaptation with some good camera work by director Martin Ritt. The performances are all solid, and the script, which was partly written by Kurosawa himself, is expertly crafted. Even though it is a reworking of a classic, Ritt’s The Outrage still stands as a very enjoyable Western.
4. True Grit (2010)
If John Wayne were to be remembered for one role in particular, he would probably be best known for his grumpy, drunken, and hard-nosed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. It was the movie that finally won the Duke a long awaited Oscar, and took popular culture by storm. Cogburn is such a recognized character, and True Grit such a notable Western, that when the Coen Brothers announced in 2010 that they would be producing a remake, audiences weren’t so inclined to say “howdy partner.”
Fortunately, viewers hadn’t need worry as the project was obviously in the right hands. The modern update of True Grit was a critical success, with many praising Jeff Bridges’ performance of Cogburn. The film even went on to be nominated for ten Academy Awards, eight more than the original!The Coens proved that their modern update really did have “grit,” and produced one of the best remakes in recent memory.
3. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
In its heyday, the Western was often times a morality tale; a winding story about a flawed hero coming to grips with the American frontier. Films like The Searchers, Rio Bravo, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are all Westerns that deal with one character’s internal and external journey across the West, but one of the most revered in 1957’s 3:10 to Yuma; a movie about a farmer who is hired to bring a notorious gang leader to justice.
Like other certain classics, 3:10 was eventually remade, but director James Mangold has enough respect and discipline to honor that original film with a faithful 2010 adaptation of his own; one that doesn’t compromise rich characterizations with cheap thrills. There are indeed spectacular shoot outs one would come to expect from the genre, but the movie is also backed up with a rich story and fantastic performances by the two leads; Russel Crow and Christian Bale. It may be a remake, but Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma is a sharp update that actually improves upon the original.
2. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Director Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars is most widely recognized for kicking off the genre known as the Spaghetti Western. The slow pacing, the off-setting dubbing, the frequent bouts of violence, jarring musical scores and vast Italian landscapes combined to give birth to an exciting new genre, not to mention it catapulted Clint Eastwood into stardom with his role of the “Man with No Name.” Although it spawned a whole subgenre of films, Fistful of Dollars didn’t really give credit where credit was due.
The truth is that Leone’s film was largely based off of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. It has the exact same plot of two feuding crime families being played against each other by an unnamed stranger, except that the former swaps out samurai swords for six-shooters. Outraged, Kurosawa and his studio eventually sued Leone and settled out of court, with the Japanese director receiving fifteen percent of the total box office receipts from the Western.
1.The Magnificent Seven (1960)
In 1960, an iconic shoot ‘em up Western was released that was equal parts thrilling, comical, and entertaining. That Western was The Magnificent Seven, and it still remains one of the most influential pictures during the golden age of Westerns. The all-star cast included frequent cowboy Yul Brenner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and the King of Cool himself, Mr. Steve McQueen, one of the biggest stars around at the time.
Though the film is widely recognized as an influential Western, it’s also known (especially if you’ve already read a good portion of this list) that it is also a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. In fact, it was actor Yul Brenner who originally approached Walter Mirisch with the idea of making a Western adaptation of the Japanese classic.
The movie was a hit among audiences, but critics on the other hand weren’t completely smitten. Although director John Sturges’ film received mixed reviews upon its release, the American director still got a rave review from the one person that mattered to him; the Seven Samurai director himself, Akira Kurosawa! After a first screening, the Japanese director was so impressed that he sent Sturges a ceremonial sword as a gift. It doesn’t get more flattering than that.