10 American Movies You Didn't Know Were Based Off Of Foreign Films

Remakes can be difficult in the movie business. Sometimes studios think there is an idea too good not to explore again, but audiences can get tired of seeing the same stories done over and over. But what if they are remaking a movie most of the audience has never heard of before?

Hollywood has a tendency to find those golden cinematic gems of other countries and give them an American twist. And while some of these foreign films may have made a splash in the States, there are many the average movie-goer might assume are original ideas. So give some credit to the films that did it first by looking at some of the American films you didn’t know were foreign-language remakes.

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Nathan Lane and Robin Williams in The Birdcage
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10 The Birdcage

Nathan Lane and Robin Williams in The Birdcage

The Birdcage was a 1996 star-studded comedy from Hollywood legends Mike Nichols and Elaine May. The film starred Robin Williams, Gene Hackman and Nathan Lane in a wacky caper about an openly gay couple who pretend to be straight when being introduced to their son’s conservative in-laws. The film was a box office hit and was praised for Williams and Lane’s comedic performance.

The film is a remake of an Italian comedy which is actually an adaptation of a stage play of the same name. The original 1978 film was hugely successful, becoming a cross-cultural hit in the States as well.

9 The Departed

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson in The Departed

Martin Scorsese finally won his long-deserved Oscar for Best Director for this violent gangster film. The movie follows two moles, one working for the police and one working for the mob who play a cat and mouse game, trying to expose the other. The film starred the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson and won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The movie is based on the Chinese police drama, Infernal Affairs. While it did not reach the same level of acclaim as its remake, the original was a huge success and gained fans all over the world.

8 Three Men and a Baby

Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby

Three Men and a Baby seems like the perfect 80s movie with a cast of the decade’s biggest stars and a concept that would really only work in that decade of filmmaking. The film follows the misadventures of three bachelors, played by Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson, who unexpectedly have to raise a baby together.

Directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, the film was a huge hit and spawned a sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady. The original French film, Three Men and a Cradle, only came out two years before Hollywood decided to do their version.

7 EdTV

Long before they starred in the dark and somber first season of True Detective, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson starred in this forgettable comedy. McConaughey stars as a video store clerk who is chosen for a reality TV program where cameras follow him all day long. The concept had potential but suffered from the fact that it came out shortly after the similar and superior The Truman Show.

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Edtv was in fact a remake of a French-Canadian comedy, Louis 19, King of the Airwaves. The original, while a smaller scale, had more success than the American version, becoming a modest hit in its home country.

6 True Lies

True Lies

Though not the most well-known of James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s collaborations, True Lies is nonetheless a fun, funny and thrilling action-comedy. Schwarzenegger stars as a world-class spy who hides his secret world-saving antics begin to conflict with his more mundane family life. Though overshadowed by the Terminator films to a degree, the movie was a hit with audiences and critics.

Le Totale was a French comedy that served as the basis for this film. While Cameron crank up the action and scope of the film, the story and some of its best comedic moments came from the original.

5 Delivery Man

Vince Vaughan has been hit-and-miss with his comedy movie career. While his films like Wedding Crashers and Old School are considered classics, others, like this 2013 dramedy, are utterly forgettable. Delivery Man has Vaughan playing an aimless delivery man who learns that his sperm donations over the years have resulted in over 500 children. The film has a difficult time with its shifting tone leading to an uneven and somewhat creepy final product.

The original French-Canadian film called Starbuck was a hit in Canada and generally thought of as the better film. Despite the original writer-director Ken Scott returning to helm the remake, the American remake failed to connect the same way the original did.

4 Scent Of A Woman

As acclaimed an actor as Al Pacino is, it’s strange to think that he’s only won a single Oscar in his long career. Even stranger, that win came from his rather over-the-top performance in this film. In Scent of a Woman, Pacino plays a brash and impulsive blind man who takes a younger man under his wing. The film proved a hit and, along with Pacino’s win, was nominated for several Oscars.

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The film was a remake of a 1974 Italian film of the same name. Like its eventual remake, the film was a hit in its home country and received high praise the its leading man.

3 Insomnia


Before Christopher Nolan gained the trust of fanboys everywhere with his Dark Knight trilogy, he was making far smaller films, like this 2002 thriller. Al Pacino stars in the film as a Los Angeles detective investigating a murder in a small Alaskan town. Though one of the lesser-known Nolan films, it is nonetheless a stellar thriller featuring a great performance from Pacino as well as a rare villainous turn from Robin Williams.

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The film is based on a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, starring Stellan Skarsgard in the lead role. Though Nolan’s film is certainly bleak, the original is notable for going even darker with the story.

2 Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys is one of the most insane and mind-bending time travel films you’re likely to ever see – not surprising as it comes from Terry Gilliam. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Bruce Willis stars as a prisoner sent back in time to determine what happened to end the world. The film has been praised upon its release and is still considered one of the best films of the 90s.

Though Gilliam is known for his own bizarre ideas, he did in fact get this particular one from a French short film entitled The Jetty. The sci-fi short sets up the same basic plot of Twelve Monkeys as well as provide the remake’s memorable twist ending.

1 Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot ending

Billy Wilder is considered one of the greatest screenwriters in Hollywood history. Therefore, it might surprise some that one of his best films is actually not an original work.

Some Like it Hot is a comedy that follows two struggling lounge singer who, after witnessing a mob assassination, hide out and find unexpected fame as female stage performers. Still considered one of the funniest comedies ever made, the film rightfully earned its classic status. Though based on the German film, Fanfares of Love, Wilder managed to put his own brilliant spin on the material which resulted in a film that will be remembered forever.

NEXT: 10 Bad Movies That Deserve A Remake

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