There is no shortage of 1980s movies that have been remade. It has grown into a cottage industry of sorts, with examples like Footloose and Red Dawn and Fright Night immediately coming to mind. We’re pretty certain there are many more to come and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it has sort of become the ultimate sign of respect for a movie to be remade. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of The 17 1980s Movies That Deserve Remakes.
When picking these out, we focused mostly on movies that have not been remade, that have no plans to be remade, or that have had plans at one time but since fallen into development hell. We also tried to steer clear of the movies on our companion list, The Best 80s Movies Hollywood Should Not Touch. Now, let the remakes begin!
17 Urban Cowboy
Urban Cowboy is the tale of a young Southern man named Bud (John Travolta), whose ambitions do not usually advance beyond Gilley’s mechanical bull and his tumultuous love for Sissy (Debra Winger). The two rush into marriage and then find there is more to a successful relationship than saying, “I do.” Their bond quickly becomes strained under the pressures of domestic life and soon the two are looking for love in all the wrong places.
The film, directed by James Bridges from a story by Aaron Latham, is unintentionally hilarious at times, and Travolta overacts, as is his wont. But at the core of it all is a heart and a surprising authenticity that makes it watchable from beginning to end, like a beautiful train wreck. We absolutely couldn’t imagine what a modern day Urban Cowboy would look like, and that makes us want to see it all the more.
16 He Knows You’re Alone
This Armand Mastroianni film from 1980 was a pretty obvious Halloween knockoff, except instead of getting a guy in a scary mask, we get Tom Rolfing running around wide-eyed and crazy-looking for about 90 minutes. He’s a pretty effective killer, even though he doesn’t really get a chance to do much on-screen.
The movie is largely bloodless—save for the papier-mâché head in the aquarium near the end of the film— but it remains a successful example of the early 80s horror genre. It's edgy enough to shock its contemporary audiences, but still more focused on building suspense than on buckets of blood.
If brought into modern times, you would (of course) have to add a little blood and guts. Modern audiences would accept nothing less. What we would like to see from a He Knows You’re Alone sequel—and this is non-negotiable—would be bringing back Tom Hanks, this time as the obsessed detective hell-bent on catching a bride killer.
15 Time Bandits
Terry Gilliam made two of our favorite flicks from the 80s: Brazil and this “children’s movie,” featuring six pint-sized bandits and their young companion as they go on an epic time travel adventure, stealing from some of history’s most famous figures. The movie is a bit of an oddity in that it appeals to young people, but it also has some awfully dark stuff going on underneath its wicked sense of humor.
Where to begin? A boy’s parents explode before his eyes. An evil genius kills his followers for the slightest infraction. A game show allows users to decide between “Your Money or Your Life.” And Robin Hood’s “merry men” send the poor off with parting gifts of a punches to the face after each bit of wealth redistribution. Time Bandits has more than its share of “grown-up” elements, yet we can still remember watching it as kids and totally digging the message of self-reliance.
With modern effects, the new Time Bandits could be made to look more extraordinary than their little people counterparts from the 80s, although we wouldn’t mind seeing some more talented actors in those roles.
Who would have thought that a Sly Stallone action flick could be so prescient to modern times? Of all the non-Rocky movies that the mega-star did throughout the 80s, this one is probably the most well-made and acted. It’s also one of the sturdiest, in the sense that it continues to hold up after 35 years. The urban terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) makes the city his target and it’s up to a hard-as-nails cop to stop him.
Unfortunately, Nighthawks is probably more relevant today than it was at the time that it was made. With the rise of police shootings and urban terrorism, plots like those developed by Wulfgar are all-too-plausible in the 21st Century. Even scarier than that thought is the knowledge is that we no longer live in a society where we can 100 percent trust that there are Deke DeSilvas pulling the trigger when the appropriate time comes.
13 All the Marbles
All the Marbles would be a tricky film to remake faithfully, but that’s exactly what makes it worthy of such a challenge. The original film starred Peter Falk, Laurene Landon, and Vicki Frederick as an unlikely trio that rises to the top of the professional wrestling circuit. Made in a time when pro-wrestlers were still sticking to kayfabe (i.e. Pretending it was real), the matches are all treated as athletic competitions, so something would have to change there, or perhaps an alternate reality would need to be created to get the lovely California Dolls back into action where there were actual stakes involved.
If we were to do a straight remake—keeping the same characters and setup—then we’re thinking Bryan Cranston in the Falk role and a couple of lovely women—one mature and one younger—as the Dolls. Our vote would be for Connie Britton and Ariel Winter-- that way you could get a little drama out of the younger girl’s storyline. What is she going to do when her partner retires?
The WWE would be a natural for supplying the opponents the Dolls face. Heck, this thing we have described has the makings of a WWE Films joint. (Probably not a good thing.)
12 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Oh you know it’s going to happen eventually. How could a movie do as well at the box office as E.T. and never get a sequel? We’re talking about $793 million worldwide (lifetime) on a budget of just $10.5 million. That doesn’t even account for ancillary product sales (i.e. toys, video games, tapes, discs, etc.). While there has been talk of a sequel, there has also been about 34 years since the little brown alien debuted on the big screen.
Believe it or not, there is a generation of young people who have no idea this thing exists. So why not boot it up with a new director at the helm and some improved special FX? Maybe a few adorable child stars? Seriously, E.T. is a classic—no denials here—but it’s not a perfect film, and it could benefit from a little freshening up for the youth of today. No sense in us old farts keeping it to ourselves.
11 Blue Thunder
The late great Roy Scheider starred in this action-thriller from 1983 and, at the time, it seemed a little like urban science-fiction. Today, the technology is pretty old-hat—an aircraft that can be as quiet as a whisper and listen in on conversations at great distances, while even being able to see through walls? Yeah, we’re pretty sure the military has stuff like that now, and with metropolitan police forces becoming increasingly weaponized, we wouldn’t be shocked if the LAPD or some other major city’s police force didn’t have something comparable in their arsenal.
That said, you would definitely have to dream up a new piece of tech that was equally impressive to what Blue Thunder was to American audiences at the time in order to keep the audience engaged. You would also have to adopt director John Badham’s flawless storytelling structure. This is what continues to make Blue Thunder an excellent film. Much of it is police drama deriving suspense from how much it makes you care about the characters. Badham saves the primo action real estate for the final 30-or-so minutes of the movie, and it is so worth the wait once you’re finally there.
10 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy’s iconic The Destroyer came to the big screen in 1985 as Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Unfortunately it never went anywhere else after this, and that’s in spite of having Fred Ward punching and kicking out bad guys—something we’re pretty sure the real Fred Ward does on a daily basis.
Remo Williams is a “deceased” NYPD officer, who goes to work for CURE, a secret government organization, after his death is faked. As a member of CURE, his job is to fight for his country while fighting against most of its ideals as established in the U.S. Constitution. That’s right. He’s a hired assassin, and a little too good at his job.
If you were to bring Remo back for another big screen outing, then you would have to see about getting Ward involved, though at 74, it’s unlikely we’d be getting a role reprisal unless he’d taken some kind of upper level job with the agency. The Destroyer/Remo requires a younger actor for the part, so why not Tom Hardy?
9 Top Gun
The original Top Gun is a classic and, since Tom Cruise has apparently struck a deal with Xenu himself to maintain eternal youth for as long as he should live, we’re thinking Michael Bay should bring back the old couch jumper for a sequel/remake that gives Cruise a chance to fly again, while shifting the focus to some of the younger stars. For the leads, we’re aiming our Top Guns at that 22-25 range.
As far as plot goes, we’re thinking the demographics could go for a bit of tweaking. While we’re not big fans of switching genders of main characters as gimmicks, having more prominent women characters who aren’t just arm candy makes a hell of a lot more sense here. After all, we’ve had female fighter pilots since 1993, so swapping the lead character to a female, you could at least give this hypothetical “her” the Iceman role.
A new Top Gun would certainly have to address the white male-heavy terrain of the first film especially since the makeup of the military has changed so much in the last 23 years. That demo shift alone could make the film interesting enough to revisit.
No David Bowie, no sequel. However, that doesn’t take returning to the original concept for something slightly different off the table. Before Lady Gaga massacred that “tribute” to Bowie at the Grammies, we would have said, “Hey, give the part to poker face,” but with our confidence in her effectively ruined at this point, why not go with a less obvious but highly talented choice? Someone who isn’t afraid to push the androgynous boundaries?
The great thing about a more diverse Hollywood is that there are more skilled actors capable of taking on difficult parts like Jareth. Laverne Cox, Sacha Baron Cohen, Tilda Swinton, or even Rihanna would make great choices. As for the Jennifer Connelly role, a young coachable actor would suffice. After all, she has to go searching for baby brother in a world designed by the Goblin King.
Creature-wise, this one could use a mix of CGI and advanced puppetry. Would it be too much to ask for a director like Guillermo del Toro?
7 Big Trouble in Little China
Yes, we know that some of you will say we’re cheating on our own rules since Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is reportedly developing a remake of Big Trouble in Little China as a starring vehicle for himself, but have you seen that man’s output? He is “involved” in so many productions that the lack of movement on this one makes us wonder how realistic a remake really is at this point.
The original film was a wild and funny farce filled with lots of nice little oddities that could really get a boost from modern FX. As for the Kurt Russell role, we’re just fine with The Rock taking over, if he can ever get enough work cleared off to take the time necessary for doing this one justice. One great thing about putting The Rock in a BTILC remake is that he has the right tough guy look and just enough ability to poke fun at himself to make this one as much fun as the original.
6 Escape from New York
Another John Carpenter sci-fi film up for the 80s remake treatment—what’s next, They Live? While the answer to that is no, the idea is a solid one that we should perhaps consider. In the meantime, let’s talk about Snake Plissken. He may have only appeared in two feature films, but he’s one of the great characters of movie history, and he only needs to come back if you can find the right person to wear the eyepatch.
Kurt Russell has expressed some thoughts on recasting Snake in the past, settling on a single demand: that he be an American actor. Not sure how necessary that is, but out of respect for the original guy, we’ll pick from that pool. No Dwayne Johnson since he’s already (supposedly) covering for Russell in another film. So who else? While it would be a fool’s errand to take it upon himself without any screen tests or dress rehearsals, we like Matt Bomer pretty well for the part. His work in White Collar was fantastic, and he’s next going to dip his hand in the remake waters with The Magnificent Seven.
5 The Best of Times
Whenever people talk of the great Robin Williams’ performances during the funnyman’s all-too-short life, The Best of Times seldom comes up. For shame! Williams showed with this film just how funny he could be when he was playing it low-key. This guy is much drier than the human cartoon that we often saw on interviews, stage and screen.
It helps his understated performance that the concept, story, and script are all so hilariously relatable. A banker who has been disappointed with his lot in life blames his failure to catch a game-winning touchdown pass for the downward spiral. As a result of the drop, the game ended in a tie, dashing his beloved Taft High’s hopes of beating rival Bakersfield for the first time in decades. Well, it’s now 14 years later, and our hero decides that the one way to fix everything is to get both teams together to settle the score once and for all.
The film is a joy and the way that we always want to remember Williams. Replacing him and co-star Kurt Russell wouldn’t be easy, but the setup is strong enough—as is the continued love of high school football—that you could still make an entertaining remake. If nothing else, it would succeed in getting this oft-forgotten gem another look.
4 Fatal Attraction
Some themes cross generations in relevance, and when it comes to cheating spouses and the psychos who “love” them—well, that theme is timeless. The original found Michael Douglas hooking up with Glenn Close for an under-the-sheets rendezvous, only to have Close snap and start boiling bunnies by the film’s third act.
Douglas plays a New York attorney who takes advantage of his wife’s time out of town to explore a fellow colleague. That colleague, Alex, (Close) may have her career on track, but that’s about it. When the family returns home, she decides that their one-off is far from over and begins to cross a deadly line.
If Hollywood ever took another crack at this one, we would hope that they would not cast drop dead gorgeous starlets in every female role, particularly for this role of everyone’s favorite psycho-in-residence. What about Melissa McCarthy? Funny people usually like trying on dramatic roles from time to time. This one would allow her to stretch well beyond her comfort zone. If she pulled it off and played it for stark terror, it could really make the remake as effective as the original.
3 Harry and the Hendersons
A family has a literal run-in with Bigfoot and decide to take him home to heal up. While there, he becomes a part of the family. It’s still bizarre after all these years that many of us were first introduced to the craziness that is John Lithgow in this film. Grant it, he’d played crazy before this in Blow Out, but he was still essentially a harmless enough guy. He was someone you didn’t quite expect to turn up on Dexter and start killing people several years later.
Harry and the Hendersons is way funnier than it has any right to be and it gives its oversized star, Kevin Peter Hall (the Predator himself), a chance to cut the creepy stuff and start being nice for a little while. That’s not to say he’s incapable of unleashing a little havoc. He has to be a little on his guard since he’s being pursued by authorities and a whack-a-doodle hunter insistent on being the first to catch a Sasquatch.
A remake today with modern FX and perhaps Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) from Modern Family in the Lithgow role would be a $100+ million opening weekend.
2 The NeverEnding Story
The NeverEnding Story, adapted from the Michael Ende novel, made us afraid of books for a while, but in the hands of director Wolfgang Petersen, it’s a journey worth taking. Of course, the worst scene in the movie, the one that will make you cry buckets of tears is when Atreyu, leading his good buddy Artax through the Swamps of Sadness, is forced to watch his four-legged friend sink slowly to his death while he is powerless to do anything to stop it.
The scenes of Atreyu screaming for Artax not to give up are even harder to watch when you understand that there is only one outcome and that the last thing Artax sees before he goes down is the crushed and sobbing face of his best friend.
Ah, screw this movie. We don’t ever want to see it again. But if there was a remake and we did have to go see it, at least we would know when to schedule that second popcorn run.
1 Child's Play
Curse of Chucky almost made us not put this one on the list, since it was a rare good sequel in a horror franchise that ultimately missed the mark. So much of the original Child’s Play was good, up until the point that Chucky showed himself. From that point forward, it got a little too chatty and the unnerving will-it-or-won’t-it suspense factor went by the wayside. Once the doll was out of the box, there was no putting his weak sense of humor back in, nor bringing back what made him scary.
A remake could change that by hitting the reset button, revitalizing the look of the doll, and cutting way back on his lines (perhaps even killing his speech altogether and allowing expression only through the built-in voice box's recorded lines). Most people find dolls of the Chucky variety to be inherently creepy. We don’t need dialogue that screws all of that up.
And we’ve reached the end. Hopefully we haven’t desecrated too many of your favorites with the thought of a reboot. Now it’s your turn, readers. Which 1980s movies do you think deserve to be remade? Sound off in the comments section below.