Hollywood has a somewhat annoying tendency to remake movies that were great — or massively entertaining, at least — the first time around. It’s a losing proposition. You’re never going to top brilliance. Just ask the people who remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, RoboCop, Ben-Hur, Poltergeist, Psycho, Total Recall, Annie, or Footloose, to name just a few. Every once in a while, you get one that can stand pretty close to the original (Let Me In or The Fly, for instance), but mostly you get a pale retread that lacks the same kind of entertainment value.
There’s an old theory that continually floats around among movie buffs: rather than remaking the classics, Hollywood should remake the turkeys. The idea is that this would allow for mistakes to be fixed, so that good ideas can meet their fullest potential. We agree with this idea wholeheartedly, which is why we’d like to nominate the following fifteen films to be remade. Each of these has a great concept that, done correctly this time, could lead to real success. We’ll tell you what the originals got wrong, then make some suggestions as to how a remake could rectify those issues. We think you’ll agree that there’s a way to make these movies that would be far more satisfying than what we got initially.
Here are 15 Flawed Movies That Could Be Improved By A Remake.
Transcendence stars Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, one of the world’s top researchers of artificial intelligence. His current project is working to make computers sentient. After being assassinated by an anti-tech extremist group opposed to his research, Caster’s wife (Rebecca Hall) and colleague (Paul Bettany) upload his consciousness into a computer, allowing him to (sort of) survive in a different form. His now-computerized brain begins developing new types of nanotechnology, some of which prove to have potentially terrible consequences.
There’s a solid core idea in this movie related to the ways technology advances at an almost alarming rate. It also has a message warning us that we have to work overtime to make sure these advances are used for good and not subject to abuse. But Transcendence makes a fatal mistake, which is that it never clues us in to how Will Caster feels about becoming a sentient computer. Surely such a brilliant scientific mind would have some thoughts on this groundbreaking feat. That causes the movie to feel weirdly shallow. A remake that focused on the character’s perspective — and which explored the overall themes more fully — could yield a fascinating 21st century thriller.
Barry Levinson’s comedy Toys opened in December of 1992 in a crowded marketplace that included The Bodyguard, Aladdin, Home Alone 2, and A Few Good Men. Despite A-list star Robin Williams, a respected filmmaker, dazzling visuals, and a clever premise, word of the film’s muddled execution spread quickly, leading audiences to choose those other movies instead. Williams plays a child-like toy designer who leads a revolt when the company he works for begins manufacturing violent, war-themed toys, rather than the cute and cuddly ones they’re known for.
Toys wants to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of peddling violence to children, as well as a satire of the military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, Levinson’s reach exceeds his grasp. There’s too much going on in the film, precious little of it focused, and satire never works if it isn’t focused. The overall theme is still highly relevant 25 years later — and maybe even more so now — meaning that a remake could definitely work. Imagine what an exceptionally visual storyteller like Edgar Wright would do with this material. Or super-witty screenwriters like Deadpool‘s Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The results could hit the bullseye.
13. The Crush
The 1993 thriller The Crush helped introduce the world to Alicia Silverstone. (A couple of popular Aerosmith music videos helped.) Written and directed by Alan Shapiro, the story revolves around a journalist named Nick Eliot (Cary Elwes) who attracts the notice of Darian (Silverstone), the 14-year-old daughter of the couple in whose home he’s staying. Nick rejects her sexual advances, which leads the teen girl to go off the deep end, turning into an adolescent psycho.
The Crush has a great set-up, but lousy execution. It quickly resorts to a series of absurd plot twists, including one in which Darian empties a wasps’ nest into the darkroom of a rival for Nick’s affections. Yep, this is a poor Fatal Attraction ripoff. Truthfully, there’s a really dramatic and provocative idea buried beneath the cheap schlock, one that the movie is too chicken to engage with. We’re talking about the fact that Nick’s ego is stroked by being so desired by a young girl. And, at some level, he may feel a touch of forbidden, icky attraction to her. Sure, a remake that emphasized this notion would be edgy as all get-out, but if the world can handle Nabokov’s classic novel Lolita, it can certainly handle a film that intelligently explores the same taboo.
12. Under the Rainbow
Under the Rainbow was one of the most high-profile flops of 1981. It’s the story of a U.S. Secret Service agent (played by Chevy Chase) trying to protect an Austrian duke from assassination. The mission leads him to a Hollywood movie set, where a little picture called The Wizard of Oz is being filmed. Carrie Fisher plays a studio “gopher” assigned to keep tabs on the actors portraying Munchkins. All manner of shenanigans ensue.
Too many shenanigans, actually. Under the Rainbow has more characters than it needs — including a hotel manager, a dwarf with dreams of stardom, and a Nazi agent — so the audience never really gets to know any of them very well. In trying to give all these characters their due, the film pinballs from one thing to another, leading to an unfocused plot. It doesn’t help that it can’t decide whether to be a hip, modern comedy or an old-fashioned slapstick romp. (The five credited screenwriters likely account for that.) A behind-the-scenes story related to The Wizard of Oz sounds like a lot of fun, though. We’d love to see it redone by filmmakers who can pare down the concept, focus it into something genuinely funny, and treat little people as more than comedic props.
Neill Blomkamp’s first movie, District 9, made everyone think he was a genius. His second, Elysium, took some of the luster away from his career. His third film, Chappie, made him a laughing stock. (Not entirely fair, but that’s how it went.) It’s about a robot programmed with a consciousness similar to that of humans. Two criminals hijack the bot, forcing him to help them commit crimes. The biggest problem with Chappie is that it can’t decide whether to be a gritty sci-fi/action movie or a goofball Short Circuit-like comedy. Consequently, you get intensely violent scenes bumping up against wacky moments where the robot wears gold bling and talks street.
A remake could solve the problem by picking a lane and staying in it. Either one could potentially work, honestly, as the idea of a sentient robot getting steered toward a life of crime is ripe for either drama or comedy. A great picture could be made with that premise. Any Chappie remake would also be wise to cast the roles of the criminals with professional actors, rather than with a terrible rap group like Die Antwoord, as Blomkamp did.
10. The Box
Of all the movies on this list, The Box may have the most irresistible premise, which is precisely what makes its unsatisfying nature so frustrating. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a financially-struggling couple who receive an unusual gift from a stranger: a box with a big red button on top. If they press that button, they get a million dollars, but a stranger somewhere in the world dies. The first half of the movie focuses on the moral implications of the decision they must make. It’s pretty great. The second half gets into a lot of weird nonsense about transmissions from Mars and portals to the afterlife. It’s not so great.
The Box would be such a simple movie to remake. Keep the first half and replace the second with something that actually follows through on the amazing concept. For example, what if they press the button, feel overwhelmed with guilt, and try to find out who died so they can make amends to that person’s loved ones? Or what if they don’t press it, but die because someone else does? (The ultimate irony!) There are so many compelling ways to go that don’t involve a lot of pointless mind-tripping mumbo jumbo.
9. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
In the 1970’s, Grease producer Robert Stigwood got the rights to a handful of Beatles songs. He wanted to do something with them, so he put together Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a feature film inspired by one of the group’s most popular albums. It involves the efforts of Billy Shears (played by Peter Frampton) and his bandmates (the Bee Gees) to fight Mr. Mustard, a villainous figure who has stolen all the instruments from their hometown of Heartland. Steve Martin, Aerosmith, and Alice Cooper all make cameos to help sing Beatles songs.
Neither Frampton nor the Bee Gees were actors, so the movie skipped dialogue in favor of having a character named Mr. Kite (George Burns) narrate everything. That’s disastrous from a storytelling standpoint, making the viewer feel distant from the characters because they’re totally one-dimensional. The music of the Beatles is, of course, timeless, and a movie incorporating some of their best-loved tunes holds the promise of magical entertainment. Remaking Sgt. Pepper with a great singer who can also act — think Justin Timberlake — and creating fully-developed characters would be, well, fab.
8. The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is based on a popular Nickelodeon TV series that has legions of super-devoted fans. It’s the story of Aang, a young boy with the rare power to manipulate all four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. He uses his abilities to take down the evil Prince Zuko (played by Dev Patel). The movie is infamous for being an early example of 3D conversion done poorly. People seeing it in the format complained that it was so dark, you couldn’t tell what was happening onscreen.
For a remake, the 3D would obviously either need to go or be done much more skillfully. A coherent story would be useful, too. People love this property for a reason, but Shyamalan’s script is so esoteric that anyone coming in without a PhD. in all things Last Airbender is bound to be lost. A screenplay that does a better job of establishing the characters and the world they inhabit would be a marked improvement, allowing newbies to discover what made the franchise popular. The affection for Airbender is still there. Remaking it with some semblance of quality could delight existing fans and attract new ones.
Cube is an intentionally claustrophobic sci-fi thriller about a bunch of people who are put inside a maze of rooms that contain a series of deadly traps, which they must navigate around if they want to survive. To be fair, this low-budget indie film has its fair share of supporters. There’s absolutely a sense of creativity infused within the movie. It’s also stylishly directed by Vincenzo Natali (TV’s Hannibal), who made a name for himself with this debut feature.
Why we think a remake is in order is pretty simple: for all its good qualities, Cube is hindered by generally weak performances, clunky dialogue, and an inability to convincingly answer some key questions about how/why everyone ended up inside this deadly environment. So even though the picture works overall, it doesn’t work as well as it could. Casting more accomplished actors and giving them smarter, sharper dialogue to recite seems like a prescription for helping the core concept come to its full fruition.
Surrogates is set in a futuristic society where most people no longer desire person-to-person interaction. They sit in “stim-chairs” and allow personally-designed robotic surrogates to carry on their lives for them. Bruce Willis plays an FBI agent investigating a string of murders in which people are killed after having their surrogates zapped with a weapon that overloads them. He also struggles to reconnect with his estranged wife, who refuses to interact with him in the real world anymore.
There’s a wealth of inspiration in the idea of people retreating from life and living virtually, but Surrogates doesn’t have time to deal with much of it. The film runs only eighty-eight minutes, and that includes five minutes of end credits. Clearly, a longer running time is needed to give all the ideas their due. There’s no shortage of actors who could replace Willis in the role. They could even gender-swap it and have a female lead. (Jessica Chastain would bring some wonderful intensity, for what it’s worth.) A well-cast remake that takes the time to really expand on the story’s ideas might equal the kind of smart, thoughtful sci-fi adventure we didn’t get the first time.
It was a modest hit in 1984, but not many people remember much about Teachers today. Nick Nolte plays Alex Jurel, a burned-out high school teacher who gets caught in the middle of a lawsuit claiming that the school gave a diploma to a graduate who couldn’t read or write. He also helps a bullied student (Ralph Macchio) and a girl (Laura Dern) who unintentionally gets pregnant. Through it all, Mr. Jurel realizes that teachers can and do make a difference. The film ends with him recommitting himself to the profession.
If any ’80s movie is ripe for a remake, it’s this one. There’s a dumb, mismatched subplot about an escaped mental patient (Richard Mulligan) who wanders into the school and successfully poses as a history teacher. That could easily be scrapped and no one would miss it. The story’s look at problems in the educational system, meanwhile, could be meaningfully updated, with issues of bullying and teacher fatigue examined in more modern detail. With these changes, the potential is there for a smart, probing, and provocative look at what’s happening in America’s schools.
4. In Time
In Time is infuriating in the way it squanders a great idea. In the future, people stop aging when they hit twenty-five. A digital countdown clock on their arm tells them how much time they have left to live. The only way to get more time is to buy it or steal it from someone else. Justin Timberlake plays a guy wrongly accused of murder who, together with his “hostage “Amanda Seyfried, tries to bring down a corrupt system that favors the rich over the poor. He just has to do it before his clock reaches zero, which is getting closer and closer to happening.
Stop and imagine that scenario for a minute. You know exactly how much time you have left on this Earth, and you want or need to get more. A ticking clock is continually hanging over your head, reminding you of your own pending mortality. Who wouldn’t be drawn into a story where a character faces that? Unfortunately, In Time loses the thread of its premise to a series of generic chase scenes that aren’t nearly as interesting. Drop the murder angle and simply tell a story about a financially struggling guy desperately trying to extend his life, and this is as close to a can’t-miss sci-fi drama as you’re going to get.
3. Pet Sematary
Stephen King’s Pet Sematary has one of the most truly unsettling concepts in the history of horror. It’s about a burial ground where things are resurrected after being interred. The lead character, Louis, discovers this after burying the family cat there, only to have it return in a gruesomely altered state. After his two-year-old son tragically dies, he desperately makes the grave (no pun intended) mistake of burying the boy there, too. Bad things follow.
Director Mary Lambert’s 1989 film version has a kickin’ theme song by the Ramones and not much more. While fairly faithful to the plot of King’s book, the movie’s tone is different. It panders to the horror audience, trying to emphasize cheap jolts over an eerie tone. The manner in which important details are set up is also sloppy, which detracts from the tension, but the premise remains incredibly unnerving. There’s been off-and-on talk of a remake for years. We’d love to see one that more strictly adheres to the kind of character and plot nuance that King is famous for, which would doubtlessly maximize its potential to generate chills.
2. The Forest
The Forest stars Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer as Sara Price, a young woman whose identical twin sister goes missing in a Japanese forest. She heads overseas to look for her sibling, only to be plagued by nightmarish hallucinations once she sets foot in those woods. That’s because she ignores a tour guide’s warning not to go off the beaten path. Big mistake!
There is a truly eerie setting in this movie. It takes place in the very real Aokigahara forest, which rests at the northwest base of Mt. Fuji. It’s one of the most popular places in the world to commit suicide. Estimates say that roughly a hundred people go into that forest each year intending to end their own lives. Google “Aokigahara forest” and you’ll find some chilling articles about the place, along with ominous-looking photos.
Rather than getting the most out of this setting, The Forest relies on worn-out jump scares and paranormal cliches. A remake that made better, more honest use of the location’s disturbing truths would undoubtedly scare the living daylights out of audiences.
1. The Island
The Island has everything: two big stars (Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson), a director who knows how to shoot an over-the-top action scene (Michael Bay), cool special effects, and an enticingly high-concept plot. A group of people live in an underground containment facility. Periodically, one lucky person is chosen by lottery to go live on an island paradise instead. McGregor’s character figures out that it’s all a big sham, and that “going to the island” really means having your organs harvested for sick wealthy people.
The first half of The Island is pretty terrific, as McGregor investigates his suspicions that more is going on than meets the eye. The plot has a sense of mystery that sucks you in. The second half is where things get dodgy, as he and Johansson escape the facility and go on the run. From that point on, the engrossing sci-fi elements get dropped in favor of non-stop action mayhem. Surely, there’s some filmmaker out there who could craft a more natural, fitting direction for the story to go. With the right payoff to the setup, a new version of The Island might just become a modern sci-fi classic.
What do you think of our suggestions here? What other flawed movies would you like to see remade and cured of their ailments? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
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