There are plenty of unspoken rules for remaking a classic (or not so classic) movie, and one of them is that you need to wait an appropriate amount of time. You wouldn't expect to see a remake tomorrow of a film that came out in the '90s; the generational gap just isn't wide enough yet. Action films have a distinguishing aesthetic feel that changes with each passing decade. In ‘90s action movies, for instance, there’s a quick, punchy pace to each fight scene’s choreography that heightens suspense.
Regardless of decade, however, every action movie relies on some suspension of disbelief. There’s something about ‘90s action flicks, though, that’s inherently charming, if also abundantly silly. Whether they are genuinely good films or cheesy guilty pleasures, some movies ought to be retold for the next generation. These are 15 '90s Action Movies That Need To Be Remade.
15 Executive Decision (1996)
There are plenty of films in recent memory that have taken themselves too seriously instead of embracing a sillier, more self-aware identity, and they are criticized for it. There are, however, movies like Executive Decision that defiantly, and perhaps arrogantly, take themselves seriously, and yet remain charming. The film has a star-studded cast including the likes of Kurt Russell, Halle Berry and Steven Seagal – though the latter’s presence is certainly limited – but it hasn’t quite had the legacy of similar films from the decade.
First of all, if this film is retold for a new generation, it would be best to get rid of the film’s political dimension, which unnecessarily distracts from some of the goofy fun audiences should be enjoying. Secondly, like Con Air, the single setting of a hijacked airplane allows for naturally claustrophobic suspense that can make the viewer squirm while simultaneously being entertained. With a premise that boils down to ‘Die Hard on a plane,’ why not remake it?
14 Broken Arrow (1996)
John Woo’s first American feature, Hard Target, was an understandably difficult experience considering the culture shock he needed to adjust to. But after a three-year period of inactivity, he was back at it with Broken Arrow, a film that may not have ended former professional football player Howie Long from having an acting career, but it certainly didn't help. Thankfully, the film also features John Travolta in fine, campy form just one year before Face/Off.
Perhaps Broken Arrow wasn’t as memorable partially because Christian Slater wasn't quite Nicolas Cage-y enough, but a remake poses an interesting question. Which route should be taken: the down to earth or the ludicrous? Elements of both exist in the two leads, as Slater plays it far straighter than his counterpart. Though the original did perform well with this dichotomy, a remake would likely need a more united front, so to speak, to avoid any tonal inconsistencies.
13 Under Siege (1992)
There’s only one reason anyone watches a Steven Seagal film, and it certainly isn’t to see some Oscar-worthy acting, take pleasure in a believable plot, or sympathize with any relatable characters. No, people watch Steven Seagal movies because they want to see Seagal, a 7th Dan Black Belt in Aikido, kick some vaguely European terrorist butt. Seagal's films are the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, but a remake of Under Siege, his most critically acclaimed movie, wouldn’t have to be.
Like Captain Phillips and A Hijacking have done before, rather than be passed off as cookie cutter Hollywood villains, the hijackers in both films are humanized and made more empathetic than most. Such intent would almost be an imperative for an Under Siege remake, because with no Steven Seagal or other equivalent action hero personality righting the ship, viewers might need a reason to continue watching beyond the excessive hand-to-hand combat; it’d make for some more compelling drama, too.
12 Air Force One (1997)
How many ‘Die Hard on a plane’ scenarios could a single decade ask for? There simply can be no shortage of plane-based movies on this list - there are two more to come - because dizzying heights equal greater thrills, am I right? Anyone not familiar with Air Force One is probably at the very least familiar with Harrison Ford’s oft-quoted line, “Get off my plane!” The rest might consider it one of Harrison Ford’s best performances, and perhaps one of the best action movies of the decade.
Given the size and magnitude of the Air Force One jet, taking the claustrophobic route mentioned previously might not be the best course of action, but emphasizing its potential labyrinthine qualities just might. If the President in the remake were new to flying on Air Force One, getting around while evading crazed hijackers might prove stressful, if also entertaining for the audience who’s taking the journey with him or her.
11 Con Air (1997)
Nicolas Cage’s trademark eccentricity and ’90s action movie formula seems a perfect match, perhaps explaining his inclusion in three different films on this list – all three coming in a span of two years. His presence is one of the many reasons why Con Air is a genre favorite for some – not to mention Steve Buscemi’s comically unsettling performance as Garland Greene. Where a remake could go, however, could completely change the aesthetic approach to the material for the better.
Even in such a confined setting, Con Air’s cinematography retains the familiar dynamism so characteristic of the ‘90s. In this setting, however, one could exploit the natural tension that is created from a film limited to a single location, making the camera movements more deliberate as the narrative flow rises and falls to let a disquieting feeling grow and crescendo in heightened suspense when necessary. An increased sense of drama might make the narrative appear more grounded in reality, as well.
10 Passenger 57 (1992)
Compared to the rest of his catalogue, Wesley Snipe’s Passenger 57 isn’t all that memorable. It didn’t help that the film only grossed a little over $44 million in the decade that featured many other renegade action heroes fighting criminals in the air, either. Somehow, the film is the origin of the popular saying “Always bet on black,” and remembered for little to nothing else. The pieces are there for a compelling thriller, but there must be people capable enough to put them together.
First of all, the premise of bringing a known hostile terrorist on board a passenger flight, even with two FBI details at his side, is absolutely ludicrous. But, the beginning of Passenger 57 does present an interesting idea. The terrorist in question, Charles Rane (Bruce Payne), was caught just before having plastic surgery to alter his appearance. What if he wasn’t caught, and what if he found his way onto the plane unnoticed? Though still fantastical, it’s at least slightly more believable, and being grounded in reality is part of what filmmakers should strive for if they wish to keep a serious tone.
9 Backdraft (1991)
Admittedly, Ron Howard’s Backdraft is more of an ensemble drama than a true action film, but you can’t deny the palpable suspense and genuine thrills that make it appear so. It was one of the biggest movies of the summer in 1991, costing $75 million to produce. In spite of the handful of heavy-hitting names attached both behind and in front of the camera, it significantly underperformed, merely grossing a little over $152 million. With the right cast and crew, a remake could make a larger impact.
Perhaps this route would be a little too obvious, but one thing the remake could do is emphasize the cat and mouse pursuit of the arsonist on the loose, adding a more hectic pace to complement the process of putting out a sizable blaze. A remake would prove interesting from a special effects perspective, as well. Fire isn’t an easy thing to work with; surely one of the reasons why the film was nominated for the Visual Effects Oscar. More than anything, a remake would have to contend, and even aim to surpass the work of its predecessor, meaning little to no CGI involved, except for some touching up.
8 Darkman (1990)
Deadpool was an unexpected box office monstrosity this past February. 26 years earlier, however, Sam Raimi unleashed Darkman, his own irreverent R-rated anti-hero comedy, but with a significantly darker edge. Naturally, when you aren’t able to secure the rights to either The Shadow or Batman, you come up with your own superhero film. Raimi’s original spawned two sequels, but without Liam Neeson as the title character, and considering they were both direct-to-video, they could never live up to Raimi’s film.
For a remake, one could get away with making it a little more gleefully violent, though those intentions would have to be made clear upfront. Additionally, though the dark humor abounds in Raimi’s film, a remake could stand to be a tinge darker without completely alienating those in the audience who wouldn’t be as interested in such intentions. Simply put, Darkman is the sort of material that can flirt with such excesses without too much criticism.
7 The Last Boy Scout (1991)
The Last Boy Scout wasn’t as critically acclaimed or financially successful as those in charge would have hoped, but it should have been. Having a screenwriter/director duo like Shane Black and the late Tony Scott seems like a winner. Shane Black's dialogue just seems the perfect complement for someone like Bruce Willis, who may have suffered from the catastrophic disappointment of Hudson Hawk, but was still riding relatively high as John McClane.
With the Pete Rose gambling scandal fresh in everyone’s minds at the time, it’s easy to see where Black took some inspiration for his screenplay. The cynicism surrounding a dying landscape of professional football, with gambling at the center, perfectly matches how many today might feel about the NFL considering all of the media attention toward concussions and players involved in domestic and sexual assault. A remake exploring those topics would still be unfortunately timely.
6 Demolition Man (1993)
Demolition Man is, for many reasons, a strange movie, or at least a strange view of the future compared to other similar science fiction films. Of course, the technology is more advanced and the fashion choices are head-turners, though perhaps not for the best reasons, but the ‘chain wars’ concept is an interesting one to wrap your mind around, as is the wholly family-friendly universe where people unironically sing along to commercial jingles. On top of a premise where a renegade cop and career criminal are cryogenically frozen for rehabilitation purposes, Demolition Man is not a film to take seriously, so why not push the envelope further?
Every outlandish quality of the universe within the film suggests a sort of over the top intent that expresses self-awareness, though it clearly wasn’t the filmmakers intentions here. Much like Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s Jump Street series has skillfully poked at genre conventions, especially the buddy cop variety, a Demolition Man remake could exploit action and sci-fi movie tropes to gain some laughs.
5 The Rock (1996)
No matter how hard he tries, Michael Bay is one of Hollywood’s primary whipping boys for more discerning audiences. Only a few of his directorial features have been positively received, and one of those is The Rock. With a tag team like Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage spearheading the picture forward, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. For the most part, the film’s antagonists are decently sympathetic characters in spite of their misguided intentions. At their core, they are a disenchanted bunch that feels their government has severely betrayed them enough to cause mass extermination.
War is a harrowing journey into hellish circumstances bound to change anyone’s views of the world, especially if they’re there firsthand. In any modern take of Bay’s film, perhaps the soldiers depicted here could more reflect disillusionment with American involvement in sovereign nation-states, though it would have to be careful not to stray into any didactic, patronizing anti-war crusade. It would be nice to see a version without a cartoonish, stereotypical portrayal of any LGBTQ persons, as well.
4 Face/Off (1997)
An action movie directed by John Woo and starring the two kings of overacting, Nicolas Cage and John Travolta? Yes, and please. Such were the elements of Face/Off, and as a result, anyone in the know is treated to some explosive, over the top thrills, fantastically cheesy dialogue delivery and a bevy of priceless facial expressions destined to be someone’s desktop picture. As much as we may love Face/Off for certain qualities, it is in need of an update.
Let’s get this out of the way: face-swapping technology – that somehow switched the vocal and physical characteristics of both participants, as well – to impersonate a criminal mastermind and extract information from known associates is one of the most, if not the most preposterous premise of the ‘90s, especially considering the narrative takes place in present day. Supposing the narrative were to take place a somewhat tangible distance into the future, thereby taking the film into sci-fi territory, suspension of belief is much more possible.
3 True Lies (1994)
After collaborating twice for The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunited once more for True Lies, which is itself a loose remake of the French film La Totale!. Though Schwarzenegger provides an undeniable presence, True Lies was one of the few occasions when he wasn’t necessarily the focal point; rather, the impressive special effects were, as well as the humor. So how does one change things up for a film that is already a remake?
For a remake of True Lies, a self-reflexive route might prove interesting, as would making the protagonist a woman. Schwarzenegger was already in his late forties, likely unable to do many of the stunts he could have accomplished when he was younger, and he’s playing a character leading a double life. If those two aspects met in the middle, the protagonist could be a middle-aged woman leading a double life as a spy, with much of the writing subtly criticizing Hollywood’s known ageist tendencies.
2 Blade (1998)
Any fan of the “Blade” comic book character likely knows where I’m going with this suggestion. Marvel should absolutely be trying to revive as many of their heroes and heroines as possible – at least until genre fatigue sets in – and why shouldn’t Blade be included in that conversation? The amount of African-American superheroes is pretty small, so Blade, though already an existing film franchise, would still bring about some much needed diversity.
Now, considering Blade’s material, it’s unlikely Marvel would include it in their plans for the MCU. But, Blade would perfectly occupy the same realm that Deadpool has so successfully carved out; R-rated superhero movies. Deadpool was comparatively cheap to produce and grossed over $780 million globally during the doldrums of the theatrical year. Like Deadpool, a Blade remake could open in a similar slot, allowing Marvel to focus on their bigger summer offerings, and still have much to gain in a season desperate for a winner.
1 The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
If any writer could reasonably provide the script for a remake of his own original, Shane Black is probably one of them. Though he wrote the screenplay for Renny Harlin’s The Long Kiss Goodnight, and the film undeniably contains his own touch, he has casually disowned it, claiming that his version was mostly re-written and does not appear in the final film. If these claims are true, maybe he should be given the opportunity to express his voice – and his voice alone.
In fact, to take it a step further, Shane Black ought to direct the remake, as well. He proved himself well beyond his writing capabilities in his first directorial feature Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and this past summer’s The Nice Guys was exactly the kind of fun you’d expect him to have with a buddy cop movie. Rarely are cynical films considered fun, and his abilities would make such a remake a worthy addition to his catalogue.
What other '90s action favorites deserve remakes? Let us know in the comments below!