When it comes to remakes, there is a common phrase that goes “the original is always better.” Sometimes that’s just not the case, especially in movies like True Grit, The Fly, and The Thing (John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of the 1951 original, that is), which all make a good case for how strong remakes can be. With a certain director, a certain cast, and a certain script, a modern retelling can sometimes do wonders for a film’s legacy.
Other times it can nearly destroy it.
Certain remakes just pale in comparison when stacked up against their original counterparts, either through a lack of vision or one that just doesn’t work. Hollywood remakes get a bad rap, but there’s a lot of evidence out there that suggests they usually just aren’t very good. One of the biggest trends right now is taking popular movies from the 1980s and repackaging them for audiences today. With future productions like Predator and the much discussed Ghostbusters reboot on the way, we can’t help but feel a little worried about how they’ll stack up against the originals.
With hopes that those movies don’t repeat past mistakes, here are The 15 Worst Remakes Of Classic 80s Movies.
15. The Karate Kid
Harald Zwart’s 2010 update of the 80s karate classic isn’t so much bad as it is tonally different from the original. Both are fish out of water stories. The original has protagonist Daniel move from his cozy life in New Jersey and finding trouble in the sun-drenched hills of Los Angeles. There, he meets Mr. Miyagi, his apartment building handyman and an expert karate master. Miyagi takes Daniel under his wing after he gets bullied and teaches him the secrets of karate so that he might stand up for himself.
In the remake, a young Jaden Smith plays Dre Parker, a kid who moves to China for his mother’s work. Feeling alienated, he is taken under the wing of Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan, who teaches the boy kung fu. Fans of the original weren’t too psyched to have the story differ so far from the original, especially considering that Smith was considerably younger than Ralph Macchio’s Daniel in the original. It is also a glaring misstep that the film is titled The Karate Kid, and Jaden Smith’s character goes through the steps of learning kung fu, not karate. Combined with a 2 hour and 20 minute runtime, and this remake is a mostly drab affair that just doesn’t capture the heart of the original.
14. Evil Dead
Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is the horror classic that kick started a franchise. No small feat when one of the most notorious scenes is a woman getting raped by a tree. The first in a series of dark comedy gore-fests that feature killing zombies is a blueprint of what was to follow. The movie is a straight up low-budget horror flick that embraced the gross out gags that popularized the genre. Bruce Campbell is the ultimate B-movie action star as lazy degenerate Ash, who unwillingly becomes mankind’s last hope. His chainsaw wielding shenanigans have such a cult following that the series made the leap over to TV with last year’s well received Ash vs. Evil Dead.
The 2013 update to Sam Raimi’s classic isn’t so much a bad movie as it doesn’t have much to do to add to the existing films. Campbell’s absence is felt, and the cast of Evil Dead is full of relatively unknown actors. The actors are okay in their parts however, and a little bit of the dead-pan comedy still creeps its way in between the scenes of over-the-top gore. It’s still a far cry away from the original however, and while we gave it relatively good marks, it isn’t a film that’s particularly memorable.
Another remake that isn’t so much a bad film as it is a forgettable one. The problem here is that the source material is so iconic, and such a huge part of pop culture, that it would be hard to show it up unless you orchestrated something truly special. Robocop 2014 is unfortunately stuck in the void of remakes that tried something different but just pale in comparison when stacked up against their predecessors.
Paul Verhoeven’s 80s shoot em’ up is a cinematic legend for being so over the top with its violence. But the gratuitousness wasn’t thrown together out of the love of gore, but used to darkly satirized greedy corporate mentality. Officer Murphy’s death scene is still one of the most brutal in any Hollywood film, but it needs to be in order to develop Verhoeven’s vision. The original is a seamless blend of action and dry comedy, a note that most have forgotten about.
This includes the 2014 remake, in which all the over the top violence and dark humor was removed in favor of a plot that modern audiences could gravitate to. Droning on for some time, and filled with good actors who are given little to do, Robocop 2014 just doesn’t crackle with life like the original. The antagonist is one-note, the action scenes (apart from that cool training sequence) are bland, and the plot, although commendable in its scope, suffers for it.
12. Clash of the Titans
With Clash of the Titans, 300, Immortals and Wrath of the Titans, the sword and sandal epics, which were popular during the golden era of Hollywood, looked like they were having a second revival in the mid-2000s. Zack Snyder’s stylized vision of 300, which blended comic book action with live drama, was a platform that had audiences clamoring to go to the theaters. Shortly after its success, the Clash of the Titans remake was released to appease the public, although audiences didn’t find that same kind of nostalgia in the drab affair.
The original Clash of the Titans is no doubt dated by today’s standards. Its stop motion effects are quite noticeable to modern audiences, and we’d be lying if we told you that the acting wasn’t a bit stilted. Still, it’s a fun ride that charms thanks to its creative production and special effects, even if they are a little bit dated.
That charm and personality is completely absent of the 2010 remake, which is as sterile as they come. Everything about this updated Clash of the Titans is painfully generic, including the effects, the drama, the story, and the production design. It’s all by-the-numbers filmmaking, which comes across as more a product of a studio machine rather than a fully realized film.
11. Red Dawn
War is a popular subject in film, but 1984’s Red Dawn gave audiences a unique perspective on the subject. The plot sees America being overrun by a large group of communist soldiers from the USSR. In a small town in the mid-West, a group of teenagers band together to fight back. Using guerrilla warfare they put a small dent in the enemies’ forces, and learn just how harsh and brutal war really is as the battles wage on.
The original Red Dawn is certainly not without its fair share of flaws. The writing is certainly weak in some spots, and there isn’t much time to get attached to the characters before the battle kicks off. Still, it was popular among the public, so much so that a remake was eventually made in 2012. While the 1984 version’s problems can be overlooked, the same cannot be said of its remake.
This generation’s Red Dawn is riddled with problems, starting with a laughably bad screenplay and ending with a robotic cast who appear to be wandering around aimlessly for the film’s entire runtime. The situations are farfetched, with the filmmakers hopefully thinking the bombastic action sequences will make the audience forget about the ear-shattering dialog. Nope. Luckily its main star Chris Hemsworth wasn’t hurt by the production, and the Thor actor will soon reunite with his trusty hammer in Marvel’s upcoming Thor: Ragnorak.
10. The Fog
The horror genre owes a debt to director John Carpenter. He practically created the slasher subgenre with Halloween, and created one of the most intense sequences of paranoia and dread in The Thing. Stacked up against classics like that, his 1980 effort The Fog unfortunately pales in comparison. An old-fashioned horror flick, The Fog is a bit predictable, but still manages to create a creepy environment just the same.
It’s a movie that you would never think would warrant a remake, but that’s just what happened in 2005. The Fog remake takes the formula of the original but is unable to do anything with it. Slapped with a PG-13 rating, it’s unable to do anything to be taken seriously, and is too illogical or inept to even make sense. The performances of the entire cast are all dreadful. No one seems to be invested in their roles here, leaving the audience to dangle about wondering who they are supposed to care about. While Carpenter’s version didn’t have a whole lot of substance, it made up for it in style. The remake unfortunately has neither.
9. Total Recall
Another Paul Verhoeven classic, the original Total Recall starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in a sci-fi shoot em’ up extravaganza. Bored with his mundane life, Arnie’s character goes to Recall, a company which will implant a fake memory, like being a secret agent, to bring some much-needed spice into your life. It all goes horribly wrong, of course, when Arnie is revealed to actually be a sleeper agent in real life, or is he? The film plays around with what’s going on inside our protagonist’s head, and these are the best parts of the movie. It constantly has the viewer questioning what is really happening, and what may be nothing more than a dream.
It’s a concept that the 2012 remake was painfully unaware of. This updated version of the sci-fi flick only has the slick action scenes with nothing to back them up with. Director Len Wisemen’s take on the material comes off as just another dull affair, creating some bland shoot-out sequences that feature infinitely forgettable characters. Surprising enough, some of the set pieces in the update are really inventive, which is a shame because they are wasted on such a tedious plot. The psychological overtones which run deep in the original are all but gone here, and the end product comes off way too serious and humorless for its own good.
8. Friday the 13th
One of the longest running franchises in the horror genre, the Friday the 13th series first kicked off in 1980 before blowing up into a collage of sequels and spinoffs. The first entry introduced audiences to Camp Crystal Lake and all of the horrific murders that happened to horny teenage camp counselors that were unlucky enough to be hired there. With the young demographic eating it up, the film spawned an endless amount of sequels, including an entry in which the main antagonist of the series, hockey-mask machete wielding Jason Voorhees, was sent into space. Needless to say, the series got pretty out there.
In 2009 it was decided that rather than continuing the saga with outlandish sequels, a remake was planned in order to bring the franchise back to its roots. Of course, these roots were far from pristine to begin with. The original had some pretty bad acting and a laughable plot, resulting in it being completely bashed by critics, but it picked up a sizable following nonetheless.
The updated Friday the 13th, however, is a mere shadow of its slasher predecessors. This remake is a complete rehash of the original which removes any sense of tension or suspense. The gore is overdone, which results in the cardinal sin of a horror movie that just isn’t scary. Everything in this rehash is notched up to 11, completely desensitizing audiences to the events on-screen, and resulting in complete failure to make the audience care about what’s happening on-screen. The original Friday the 13th is campy, but watchable thanks to its nostalgic factor. The remake is just campy.
7. The Thing
Speaking of horror films that just aren’t scary, 2011’s The Thing is another movie that misfires on almost all cylinders. We know that this is technically a prequel, but we’re considering it a remake just the same. The plot is almost beat for beat the same as the original, and if it’s a prequel, why keep the exact same title? Cashing in on the name brand will only get you so far and the team that put this together probably didn’t take that into account. This remake to John Carpenter’s fear induced masterpiece could be considered just some genetic imitation, just like the alien antagonist of the series.
Among all of its triumphs, Carpenter’s original had 2 big things going for it: the mind-blowing practical effects, and the creeping sense of paranoia. Both are noticeably missing from the 2011 version which just morphs into just another run of the mill slasher flick devoid of the body-horror gross-outs that made the original the terrifying cult classic it is today. Worse than that, the film is missing any sense of tension. With Carpenter’s original, the viewer was constantly kept on their toes because, like the characters, you didn’t know who was infected by the alien shapeshifter and who wasn’t. None of that mystery carries over into this 2011 remake, whose only shining moment is the final credits sequence, which sets up the superior original.
Musicals are always an iffy concept for audiences, often looked at as a gamble by a studio. If the music is good and the acting is top-notch, it pays off as audiences flock to the theater by strong word of mouth. If the music is thrown together and the acting is horrendous, than a studio will have a dud on their hands the likes of which has the potential to deliver a death-blow for sales. Fame 1980 is a good example of what happens when this formula works well.
Fame 2009 is a good example of what happens when it doesn’t.
Barely breaking even, the remake of Fame was received with abysmal reviews, and even worse ticket sales. Most critics accused the movie of dumbing down the plot, which sadly reflects the modernization of today’s films. Technically, 2009’s Fame isn’t the worst film ever made, and the cinematography and direction aren’t the problem. It is completely devoid of any soul or heart. The performances and production are all forgettable at the end of the day, barely exuding any of the charm present in the 1980 version. By comparison, the original was nominated for 6 Oscars, and it won 2 for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. The remake was nominated for 0.
5. Nightmare on Elm Street
Another classic franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street is director Wes Craven’s hypnotic slasher that takes place within dreams. The original 1984 horror introduced the world to Freddy Krueger, a serial killer that is somehow able to attack children where they least expect it: their dreams. Sporting a hideous stripped shirt and fedora, and armed with his razor-sharp fingertips, Freddy was a horror icon in the making. The first film proved so popular that it spawned several sequels over the years, including one where Craven returned to direct.
It also spawned a remake in 2010, which is just a boring shell of a film compared to Craven’s original vision. The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street suffers from a dizzying amount of problems, but most of the fingers should be pointed at screenwriters Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer. The two manage to erase all the fun dark humor that Freddy had in the previous entries, and instead made him a generic serial killer that blends in with all the others that plague forgettable horror films. Like Freddy’s victims, this Nightmare on Elm Street remake should only be remembered as a bad dream.
It was sure a hard knock life for this retold tale of the classic orphan, which was one of the most dismal remakes in recent memory. Almost universally appraised as a terrible production, 2014’s Annie couldn’t find a leg to stand on. Sickeningly campy performances, clumsy direction, weak story arcs and blindingly bright production designs all seem to be working in a freakish harmony to make the story of Annie impossible for a modern retelling. Producer, writer, and director Will Gluck works thrice to make the audience as dumbfounded and confused as humanly possible before hitting us in the stomachs with so much sweetened camp that it hurts.
This retelling of the plucky orphan is doomed from the very beginning of the production with a script that should have gone through drastic rewrites. The attempt to make a family drama in an increasingly social media-related world simply falls flat here. As a result, the performances clearly suffer, and suffer even more from a lack of, or misguided sense of, direction. The editing is even more jarring, with random cuts of Jamie Foxx smiling and looking off into the distance that make the audience go, “huh?” In comparison, John Huston’s Annie from 1982 isn’t much to gloat about, but it looks like a masterpiece when compared to this mess of a 2014 remake.
Armed with a script by Steven Spielberg himself, the 1982 fantasy/horror Poltergeist was a slam dunk for audiences, presenting the horrifying action through the relatable eyes of the family presented in the story. Yes there are creepy clown toys, killer tree trunks, and skeletons that rise up from the ground, but we are invested in the events because so much time has been spent fleshing out the characters in the movie. This is a note that the filmmakers of 2015’s remake should have taken into consideration.
Poltergeist 2015 takes one of the laziest and unoriginal methods of modern horror, the jump scare, and beats the audience over the head with it. The slow, eerie build up has been removed in favor of cheap shock tactics that are only thrown in to get a rise out of the viewer. Visually, the film is pleasing to look at, but from a storytelling perspective, it’s not all about the special effects.
The characters are half as interesting here as they are in the original, a true crime considering you have talent like Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt as the two leads. Good casting can’t redeem the efforts however, and for a movie that deals with the wonders of the supernatural, 2015’s Poltergeist comes off surprisingly unimaginative.
Built around the comedic chops of actor Dudley Moore, 1981’s Arthur is a comedy gem that keeps the viewer in stitches while maintaining a surprising amount of heart. Moore plays the part of Arthur, a drunken, wealthy buffoon who is forced to marry a woman he doesn’t love to retain his fortune. After he agrees, he soon meets another down to earth woman who tickles his fancy. As the sparks fly, Arthur scrambles to break up his current engagement to be with the one he truly loves. The following hour and a half runtime is one great gag after another all built on the commanding presence of Moore. Not just a straight up slapstick, the film was nominated for 4 Academy awards, including a nomination for Dudley Moore himself. It’s a far cry away from what the 2011 remake would produce.
Poor Russell Brand. While he’s an occasionally on-point standup comedian, he just can’t seem to find a Hollywood vehicle that works for him. Aside from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, Brand has been in a series of duds, which culminated with his remake of Arthur. The tonal balance of the movie can’t find a healthy even keel, switching from slapstick to romance. The original balanced the two sides as a healthy rom-com, but the remake flounders about. Worst of all, while Moore comes across charmingly likable, Brand just comes off as obnoxious in the part of Arthur. Let’s hope that his bit part in the upcoming Trolls movie has the comedian landing back on his feet.
1. Conan the Barbarian
Crude, witless and sophomoric, this remade version of Conan the Barbarian is about as sloppy and unimaginative as remakes can get. The unofficial king of directing terrible remakes, director Marcus Nispel, who also helmed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot, brings out his big guns to transform Conan the Barbarian into Conan the Boring. All of the humor or light jabs that were present in the original production had since been slain here. Nispel’s production is just another movie that forgets it’s a movie, taking itself way too seriously for the audience to take it seriously in the process.
The look of the movie is painfully artificial, with one unimaginative CGI heavy sequence after another. Even the practical duels and battles leave zero impact because the audience doesn’t care about any of the characters on-screen. Conan is about as fleshed out as the villains in his movie, who are some of the worst imaginable. Jason Mamoa, who is known for playing strong masculine characters like in Game of Thrones, is just going through motions here, enough to make you want to wish Conan would just slay all of his enemies as quick as possible, just so the credits can finally start rolling.
Ironically enough, Mamoa actually has a crippling fear of horses in real life, which caused most of his scenes with the animals to be shot with stunt doubles. Too bad all of his efforts for dealing with his fears were in vain, and Conan the Barbarian tanked both commercially and critically, making it both impossible to set up Conan the Conqueror.
Can you think of any other 80s remakes that should have never been made? Let us know in the comments!
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