The Top 5 Rules For Movie Remakes

Published 4 years ago by , Updated June 25th, 2014 at 11:32 am,

fright night The Top 5 Rules For Movie Remakes

This article was prompted by news that Sony is looking for writers to do a new version of the campy 1985 horror flick Fright Night, an idea that readers of Screen Rant might be surprised to hear I’m not against.

For the most part, I despise Hollywood’s habit of remaking past films. Sure sometimes it works (The Departed, Ocean’s 11, The Thomas Crown Affair, Scarface), but for the vast majority it doesn’t (Planet of the Apes, The Poseiden Adventure, The Pink Panther, Point of No Return, Sabrina, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc., etc., etc.), and is just a blatant and often creatively bankrupt attempt at cashing in on the name of some past, well-known movie.

So having said that, when is it okay to remake a film? If it’s done well, I don’t have a problem with remakes of original films that meet any of the following criteria:


1. Stories in the public domain that have already had multiple movie remakes done.

Movies based on classic stories like The Three Musketeers, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. These have been remade so many times already that you can’t really logically argue against another one, and sometimes a newer version turns out to be quite good.

2. The original is terribly dated in either setting or pacing and style.

In this category you’ll find movies like Ocean’s 11 and The Thomas Crown Affair. I’ve watched both the original versions and the remakes and while I’m no fan of the seizure-inducing, quick-cut filming style used in so many movies today, the pacing in some movies from the late 60′s/early 70′s was so slow that it could put you in a coma.

3. The original is not terribly well known or beloved.

Let me start off by saying that there is a special place reserved in Hell for the person that ever gets a remake of Casablanca produced. Some movies should just be off limits. Period. Movies that are a part of the fabric of the history of cinema should just be left alone, if for no other reason than because they have withstood the test of time and are still considered excellent and extremely enjoyable today. In addition to Casablanca I would add It’s a Wonderful Life, 12 Angry Men, The Maltese Falcon (yes, I know the Humphrey Bogart version is a remake, but let’s leave it alone now, shall we?) and of course, Citizen Kane. There are many others, but you get the gist.

4. The remake does in fact bring something new while respecting the original.

Here we have movies like Cape Fear, The Magnificent Seven and The Thing. Each of these was a remake that brought something fresh to the original story, whether in concept or execution.

5. The original was basically pretty cheesy or tongue-in-check in tone and most folks wouldn’t care if it was remade.

Little Shop of Horrors and even Eight Legged Freaks as a new twist on the classic giant-ant movie Them. This is the category where I think a remake of Fright Night fits: It was pretty campy and didn’t take itself too seriously and while it was a fun movie, I don’t think it falls under “untouchable” status. In the right hands it could be quite good, but that’s certainly no guarantee.

So from now on when I rant against some remake, you’ll know that it doesn’t fall under any of the five rules listed above. icon smile The Top 5 Rules For Movie Remakes

What do you think… are there any other criteria under which it’s ok to remake a movie?

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  1. The Departed was a remake of the “Infernal Affairs” Japanese crime movie trilogy. While the Japanese original films were good, The Departed kicked some major ass! :)

    • First of all, Korean not Japanese, second of all Internal Affairs not Infernal..
      And finally, the original film is way better than The Departed.

      • If you’re going to correct someone get your facts right, It’s not Korean or Japanese but a Hong Kong movie and it is Infernal affairs not Internal Affairs

        • Nailed him!

          • Lawyered

  2. Unlike far too many people, I have actually enjoyed many of the recent remakes: War of the Worlds, Day the Earth Stood Still, Time Machine (these three I felt told the story from a new perspective, adapting them to a more modern sensibility, thus justifying them, in my eye).

    For some reason, the very thought of a remake of “Poltergeist” just curdles my blood. First off, I am completely in love with the score of that film. Now that Jerry Godsmith has passed on, I sit here in apprehension of what atrocity will be committed as a soundtrack to a remake of this film. The same goes with the rest of the film. Yes, the special effects are dated.. but they still WORK. The performances are wonderful, on all parts. The script is delicate and carefully “realistic”. And the pacing is brilliant. Is there REALLY a reason to remake this film?

    Fright Night? Why remake a film that, to be quite honest, was not that good to start with. The goofy “not-quite-a-comedy-but-not-quite-a-horror-flick” has been done to death over the past 20 years. But hey, if they can bring something worthwhile – not jsut “new” – to the idea, then go for it.

    And then there are films like “Alien” that are just… perfect. You can watch this film over and over, and discover subtleties and nuances that bring pleasure at every viewing. And the film is just perfectly ageless. It ALWAYS looks fresh, as though it had just been made. I feel this way about the first three Alien films… to me, they need no repetition, no retelling, nothing that would actually bring anything worthwhile to the screen.

    So the idea of setting “rules” for remaking films becomes so incredibly difficult. Some films must needs break those rules, like those I mentioned, in my opinion.

  3. Gotta agree, the original 12 Angry Men was a kick ass movie, littered with some of the best character actors of all time. Fonda did that flick on his own dime and I wish it was mandatory viewing for every person who has to sit on a jury of one's peers.

    • First off, I’m in total agreement that there are certain films that should not be remade.

      But after reading some examples the one film on the list that I thought could stand a remake was 12 angry men. If for the only reason that there are other twists that could be explored.

      • Just so you know, there WAS a remake of 12 Angry Men in 1997 with Jack Lemmon (#8), George C Scott (#3), James Gandolfini (#6) and Tony Danza (#7). Not too bad, you should definitely check it out.

  4. I think the work of great directors should not be redone. You know at some point somebody is going to want to do their own version of A Clockwork Orange or remake Taxi Driver. Films that have become part of the language of cinema by great directors should be left alone. I don't want to see remakes of Welles, Ford, Hawks, Kubrick, Scorcese, Coppola…etc…

    I know at some point somebody will want to remake (reboot! such a dumb term) The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, do a version of Raging Bull in color and other such stupidity…all they need to believe is it will make money.

    • Whilst Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange has much to recommend it: it’s quite a departure in tone from the book,- I’d love to see a version less… ‘campy’ I suppose…

  5. So Dawn of the Dead broke rule number 3, correct?

  6. Does anyone know if “the jacket” is a re make of an older film?

  7. Does anyone know if “the jacket” is a re make of an older film?

  8. The stars have to be bigger or more well known than the originals. Clash of Titans starred ….who again? And the dude from American Pie in Rollerball …. whats his face.

    • Harry Hamlin, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Burgess Meredith

      • I think that Brad meant ,”who…” was in the remake as noted by his reference to the Newer Rollerball movie, not the Original starring James Caan.

    • Clash of the Titans remake starred Sam Worthington from Avatar. He is a good actor.

  9. I agree with some and disagree with others…..I think it all depends. And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not a re-make of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…..it is a different adaptation of the book by Roald Dahl.

    • You are correct. In fact, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was closer to the book than 1970′s Willy Wonka but imo, Gene Wilder’s Wonka is 100 times more memorable.

  10. Im with you, yet I would love to see a re-remake of “The Thing”. The original scared the s#*t out of my dad when he was a kid, the remake scared the s@%t out of me when I was a kid and I think we are ready for a new one.John Carpender is still alive and kickn’.

    • Eric: “The Thing” from 1982 is actually a remake of the 1951 ‘The Thing From Another World”. Of course the 1982 remake is much, much better than the older version and is more faithful to the novel. The Thing (2011) is a prequel with the same name so people would go to it. That’s it; that’s all.

  11. I think You can remake a movie if you do it from a different angle. For example, The Green Hornet. While this was a movie based off a tv show, I think it worked because instead of going with the cops and robbers action theme and trying to be serious, they turned it into a comedy, without actually spoofing or defaming the original. I would personally be very interested in seeing a Pokemon movie done Gladiator style, with magical creature body parts flying left and right, as opposed to simply becoming squiggly eyed and falling over.

    • The Green Hornet was in no way a quality movie. It wasn’t funny, nor did it have any excitement. I think this movie falls into the “Cash Grab” category.

    • The Green Hornet movie also wasn’t very original in executions except to someone who hasn’t gone to a movie in quite a while.

      If I were to add another category to your list, it would be. Not remake, in which the sole point of the film seems to be to mock, or ridicule the original source material. Especially if the original source material was not a trying to be comedic or stupid. Travesties like Dragnet should have put a lot of people on the unemployment line. Wild Wild West should have added a few more.

      • Adding “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “Starsky & Hutch”, and “21Jumpstreet” to the category you just described above. “Starsky & Hutch” was a SERIOUS cop drama tv show from the 1970′s, regardless of how poorly it may or may not have “aged” since then, or how disrespectful producers (and youth) of today wish to view the original source material. Growing up during (and remembering) these tv shows, I frankly find these lame comedic and mocking “remakes” to be nothing less than insulting and offensive …..

  12. I think they should make a remake of “LOGAN’S RUN” it would fit in with the times, with over population, low resources, and global warming destroying our environment you couldn’t make a better remake than this one.

    • I guess you got your wish :)

    • It was called THE ISLAND. Best Michael Bay movie (only good one he’s ever done, actually). Unfortunately, terrible marketing ruined it for the box office.

      • The Island wasn’t even close to a remake of Logan’s Run.

        Equilibrium with Christian Bale, however, was almost page-for-page.

        If they’re going to do Logan’s Run again, it should be faithful to the book.

  13. They should remake Casablanca and do it ‘urban’. Ghetto baby!

    • You have no soul.

  14. I really don’t get why some people get so hung up about remakes.
    It’s something the theatre industry has always done. Each time a play is put on by a different company it could be called a reboot.
    The same goes for story telling in general. Before stories were written down in books they would spread through word of mouth. This left each storyteller to reboot the original source material as he saw fit.

    The source material (or classic/untouchable version)can only benefit from the increased exposure when it gets re-made. For example, I didn’t hear about Let the Right One In until the remake was announced. I then ended up seeing the original and haven’t bothered with the US version.

    I won’t even go into whether you could class a novel to screenplay as a reboot …

  15. Sadly they did do a remake of Casablanca, a sci-fi one. It was Barb Wire!

  16. I have to say I liked the Fright Night remake a lot better than the original. I watched the original right before the remake just for reference, and I’m kind of glad I did because I appreciated the references in the remake, and also the fact that they didn’t just rehash the same story but changed it just enough so that you didn’t feel like you already saw the movie and knew exactly what was going to happen.

  17. The most important rule the zeroeth rule if you will.

    If it was written a few years ago and nobody saw it to have an opinion but now it’s more relevant than ever (see what I did there).

  18. I may be wrong but wasn’t 12 Angry Men remade in the ’80′s and called The Star Chamber? I can’t find confirmation on this but I remember seeing The Star Chamber many years ago and thinking it was.

    • No, The Star Chamber was a different movie altogether.

  19. I believe that the most important thing about remakes especially when dealing with strong originals like Spiderman, you must keep what was good, wanted, and expected like the spider bite or uncle Ben’s death, then the things that can be tweeked ate in a fresh concept, the way uncle Ben dies, the location, the tone and mood of the characters, the love interest. Third you need to take some small and large risks that balance, not showing us Harry or Norman Osborn, web fluent, costume change up, changing the motives of the hero. Finally if you want to make it work you must make the movie as close to the books or comic books as possible while also leaving in a lot of independent writing and directing, taking out the cheese and corn and bringing flavor to the table.

  20. 12 Angry Men? For one thing, it’s a play, so every time a different team puts it on the stage, it’s a “remake” of sorts. Second of all, it’s kind of a bare-bones production. Not to say that the original cast and Lumet’s direction wasn’t phenomenal and iconic, but it’s the kind of story where you can change the cast and director, and put a new spin on the material without overpowering the original. Finally, they DID do a remake. Jack Lemmon was Henry Fonda, and George C. Scott was Lee J. Cobb. And it was pretty good. Not as good as the original, but still enjoyable, and different in its own way.

    That said, if they ever did a remake that significantly changed the script… that would be f***** up.

    Otherwise, I agree with your pantheon of Untouchable Classics.

  21. The new JUDGE DREDD film seems to fit this criteria.

  22. Pueden ser que validas estas reglas para un “remake”.Pero Casablanca, de Michael Curtiz y IT’s a wonderful life son unicas. Yo prefiero la version original de Little shop of horrors que a la de Moranis, y la Svengali de John Barrymore es mejor que la de Jodie Foster.

  23. Uh…Citizen Kane HAS been remade, and while Casablanca would be dated to be remade (coming out like a mix between Spring Break and the Love Boat…most likely); 12-Angry Men BEGS to be remade!

    Imagine a ‘R-rated, movie-grade version of Law and Order SVU’, with 35-minutes of the capture, followed by a hundred minutes of the trial…mostly tying up the jury deliberation of the actual facts?! 12-Angry Men could be DONE BETTER, IMO…we have more heinous crimes to use now…with a broader swath of public opinion…easy, powerful and could be done ON BUDGET!!!

  24. You smoke crack! The planet of the apes was way better this time around. The latest one was far better than all the rest combined!!! It had emotion and grit. The others were about as etertaining as an ant farm. Here is what makes a remake great, Keep all the story intack unless it just flat out blows. Don’t change the color of the actors because your afraid to offend some minority. ( Sorry people identify with branding, and yes color is branding! Ex. Samuel Jackson for Nick Fury?!! Really people??? ) Just change the parts that would most benefit from todays movies! CG effects mainly, better camera angles and abilities, better sound effects, etc… Too many times you get some high on director that thinks he can re-invent the wheel and thats what ruins these movies! Sorry but the newest planet of the apes rocked!!!

    • You have some, almost eccentrically, individual opinions there Rob.

    • Rob learn to READ. This article was written in 2007, long before Rise of TPOTA. Clearly he was writing about the Mark Wahlberg starring train-wreck that was Tim Burton’S REMAKE of The Planet of the Apes.

  25. “there is a special place reserved in Hell for the person that ever gets a remake of Casablanca produced”

    Does Barb Wire count since it’s a barely veiled and not-terribly-well-done homage?

  26. Dude, the remake “prequel” of The Thing sucked!! It didn’t have the scary feel of the original movie at all and even went against some canon facts that was in the original movie. That is adds a few things that were nice to see (like references to the original movie) really doesn’t help it. I mean it COULD have been a decent movie but it simply wasn’t… it was botched!

  27. That in no circumstances should a remake allow the ‘star’ to rewrite the script to/for his own gratification, for gods sake leave it to experienced scriptwriters to merely tweak the original to suit and where necessary give a nod to other characters of the cast. Let Steve Martin be a horrible of example of what can happen!

  28. Why in the world nobody has done a remake of the classic martial arts movie ENTER THE DRAGON I do not know? Jet Li would have been excellent as the Bruce Lee character.

  29. Pacing was not slow in the late sixties/early seventies. Attention spans have shortened thanks to MTV-style editing that has, unfortunately, become the norm.

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