Just spouting the word “remake” is enough to send movie fans into a frenzy. About half of the hardcore cinemnafiles out there will completely lament the idea of the remake, claiming that Hollywood isn’t original anymore and that their childhood favorites should remain untouchable. Others will be quick to point out that some of the greatest movies ever made were re-imaginings of older movies and that this is hardly a new concept. Either way, remakes are a hot-button issue in film circles.
You can name-drop just about any major film series and there’s sure to be a remake of it. Even properties that you wouldn’t have though would get reboots in a million years like Baywatch, CHiPs, or 21 Jump Street have or are being reimagined for the twenty-first century.
We here at Screen Rant most certainly aren’t “anti-reboot.” In fact, there have been some decent-to-great ones in the last decade! Of course, there are the others… reboots so terrible that we remember them solely for just how godawful they were. But then there are those that we don’t remember; reboots that are not necessarily bad, but just so “eh” that we move on and forget that they even existed. Prepare to be reminded of mediocrity! Here are 15 Classic Movies You Forgot Were Remade.
The crass yet charming 1981 comedy Arthur follows a charismatic drunken billionaire as he falls in love with a lower-class woman and must choose between his social status and his heart’s desire. It has gone down as the beloved Brit Dudley Moore’s most iconic role and one of the best comedy films of the ‘80s. Part of what made this movie work so well was the way Moore embodied the titular character; Arthur acted the way he did because he truly didn’t understand how to be a “regular” person. He seemed genuine, even if he had a horrible way of showing it.
None of that nuance showed up in the 2011 remake. Perhaps it is because the larger-than-life personality of Russell Brand is so well-know, but this version of Arthur felt like the actor was simply playing a less crass version of himself. Likewise, the inclusion of Bitterman as somewhat of a sidekick and the more zany antics of the character himself left audiences feeling like this was a completely different film. Critics were not very kind to the remake, either— it currently sits at 26% on Rotten Tomatoes whereas the original still stands at a firm 90%. This one came and went almost as quickly as Brand’s leading man career.
Based upon the Stephen King novel of the same name, the original Carrie is a horror classic about the dangers of bullying and religious fundamentalism. For those who are unfamiliar with the film, it starred Sissy Spacek as Carrie, a teenage girl who lives with her Puritan mother and is teased mercilessly at school (by John Travolta no less). She slowly discovers that she has telepathic powers, and uses them to commit atrocities when she is eventually pushed over the edge at the film’s climax. Carrie perfectly captured that grindhouse feel of the 1970s brand of horror while also switching up the genre by having the audience root for the murderer herself.
In 2013 director Kimberly Pierce attempted to bring the thriller to the 21st century. This remake included the star power of rising starlet Chloe Grace Mortez and Julianne Moore as Carrie and her mother, respectively. The movie wasn’t terrible by any means. It had just about the exact same story beats as the original, but updated things where they needed to be updated. The actors all put in good performances, but something about the film just didn’t gel.
Even the marketing felt lackluster; it all seemed to assume that you’d only be interested in the remake if you had seen the original. This must not have been the case, as the 2013 Carrie flopped and was swept into the growing pile of lackluster horror remakes.
13 Assault on Precinct 13
You would think by now Hollywood would've realized they shouldn’t remake anything by John Carpenter. Halloween, The Thing, The Fog… all have been remade, and they all sucked. Yet, someone got the bright idea in their head to remake the cult classic Assault on Precinct 13, a story about a cop and a convicted murder who defend their precinct against a violent street gang. This movie had everything you’d expect from a cult ‘70s movie. It starred a bunch of no-name actors, it flopped massively when it was released in theaters, and it had just the perfect balance of cheese and gritty action.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, however, that the remake took all of these elements and completely scrapped them. Now the heroes were played by Ethan Hawke and Lawrence Fishburne, with Jon Leguizamo and Ja Rule making appearances. The remake also completely turned the premise on its head; instead of a group of violent gang members acting as the antagonists, it had the villains be a group of corrupt police officers (one of whom was the former partner of the main character). It honestly wasn’t a bad movie, just an extremely forgettable one. Assault on Precinct 13 only made about $5 million in its initial theatrical run, but it never quite received the cult status that made the original so endearing.
12 House on Haunted Hill
Starring the master of horror Vincent Price himself, 1959's House on Haunted Hill is a film that anyone who is interested in classic horror needs to watch at least once. Sure, it was a bit corny (even for the '50s) and the special effects are laughable today, but nobody can deny that it was one of Vincent Price's most memorable roles.
The film follows eccentric billionaire Frederick Loren as he invites a group of people to stay the entire night in a haunted house he has rented. Whoever lasts the longest will receive $10,000. Of course, the house turns out to be as haunted as can be; ghosts, murderers, and skeletons with disembodied voices terrorize the inhabitants all throughout the night. With the perfect blend of creepy and camp, it quickly became a Halloween staple for moviegoers around the world.
Naturally, this meant that a remake was imminent. In 1999 the company that gave us such great wonderful cinema as House of Wax and 13 Ghosts remade House on Haunted Hill. Instead of creepy atmospheres and an intricate plot, the remake went straight for the jugular with over-the-top gore and crazy amounts of shock horror. The film was a moderate success, opening at #1 when it made its debut and making decent money, but then it kind of just... disappeared. There was a direct to DVD sequel released in 2007 but other than that, nothing. Today, people will bring up the Vincent Price version without giving the '99 version a second thought.
11 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
One year after its novel predecessor debuted, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was adapted into the hit 1956 Sci-Fi flick we all know and love. Like most great science fiction, it delivered some interesting social commentary disguised as something much less subtle; humans in the film are being replaced by "pods," or complete replicas that are completely devoid of emotions. Invasion of the Body Snatchers offered a unique take on the genre by mixing in elements of the popular Film Noir trend of the '50s into an alien invasion film. It was so influential that even people who have never actually watched the movie will recognize its name.
Due to its popularity in the circle of cinefiles, there have been multiple remakes of this one over the years. The first came in 1978, starring Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy. The next came in 1993 with Forest Whitaker. The focus of this entry, however, is on the 2007 remake featuring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. It's not surprising that people don't remember this one, as it tried to be a very different movie; the invasion is treated as a virus instead of some sort of cloning process, the characters are completely different, and there is an entire subplot that wasn't even mentioned in the original film. Even the name of the movie, titled The Invasion, made it seem as though it was a separate beast.
10 The Day the Earth Stood Still
Outside of maybe Metropolis, the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still is probably the crown jewel of black and white sci-fi. Its message about humanity and our violent ways is still as relevant today as it was back then. The film featured lots of subtle callbacks to the Resurrection story of the Bible and multiple digs at the MPAA. The Library of Congress felt that The Day the Earth Stood Still was such an important piece of history that it was placed into the National Film Registry in the '90s. So why in Klaatu's name did they decide to remake the film as a Keanu Reeves blockbuster?
Instead of a message about the violence of humanity, the Klaatu in the 2008 remake arrived to warn us about global warming. Okay, that seems to be a pretty noble cause. Wait, what? In this version he's trying to decide whether or not he should eradicate the human race? Yikes.
The '51 interpretation of Klaatu was so poignant because he was a peaceful being. The only hint of malice he had was in the warning he gave at the film's end, where he says that Earth will be destroyed if they extend their destructive ways to other planets. It's more of a "we come in peace, please leave us alone" type of message than a "stop or I'll kill you" one, like we got in the remake! Needless to say, the 2008 version bombed. Big time.
9 Total Recall
What if we were to tell you that a movie starring Collin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, and Bill Nighy would flop spectacularly? Well, when it is based on the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall, it's not a huge stretch. The film, about a construction worker in the future whose memories of his secret past are suddenly reactivated, was pure '90s action cheese. And it was brilliant! The movie was filled with over the top effects, action set pieces, and (of course) Schwarzenegger one-liners. Even with all its cheesiness, Total Recall still had a fairly intricate plot that kept you guessing until the end.
The 2012 remake tried its best to update the plot of the movie, filling in details that didn't make sense while also taking the story in completely different directions than the original. To be honest, it was a decent movie. The actors turned in solid performances and the action was just as good as the original (if not better). However, critics lamented the movie for being too dull and "gritty"; they missed the way the old film didn't take itself too seriously and wasn't afraid to have a little fun. Audiences apparently agreed, because Total Recall was both a critical and box office failure.
8 Red Dawn
Was this really five years ago? Although it was released in the same year as our last entry, the remake of Red Dawn feels like it never happened at all. Now that you mention it, we do remember seeing ads for that movie where Thor and Peeta take on North Koreans in small-town America. We just skipped over it. Especially since it was such a sharp turn from the original film; the '80s version of Red Dawn saw itself as a serious war film. Yes, it had some ridiculous parts, but it was never a happy-go-lucky, clean action film.
That's exactly what the 2012 remake felt like. You could have literally named it anything else and it still would have worked. In fact, it probably would have been better to not have to live up to the Patrick Swayze classic of the same name. Then there was the obvious "let's leave it open for a sequel!" ending that so many action movies take these days; the original had a touching send-off to its deceased characters whilst laying out a concrete ending to the story. In the 2012 version it's implied that the occupation continues and the characters are going to keep fighting (and you'll have to wait four years and pay another $12 to see it!).
7 The Wolfman
Through the Universal Monster Cinematic Universe (the UMCU?), the character of the Wolfman may eventually see another reboot in the pipeline. He started off in the appropriately titled 1941 flick The Wolfman (played by great Lon Chaney, Jr.) before going on to be featured in several sequels and crossovers. You see, back then, cinematic universes were pretty common; it wouldn't be unheard of for the Mummy to make an appearance in an episode of The Three Stooges or for Frankenstein to be featured in an Abbot and Costello film. But we digress; the Wolfman was a major staple of the Universal horror classics that kickstarted the entire film genre.
Before there was talk about a new connected universe, Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnson got to take a crack at a remake of the beloved film. Everything looked to be in place: Lead actor Benicio del Toro was a diehard fan of the original movie and begged the director to remain faithful to the character's original design. It had a star-studded supporting cast with Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, and Sir Anthony Hopkins making up the ensemble. Yet, it flopped hard. In fact, it is considered by many to be one of the most expensive box office flops to ever be made. Even worse is the fact that not even that horrible factoid helped it stick into the minds of moviegoers. 2010's The Wolfman was a failure on multiple levels.
6 Every single '70s and '80s Slasher Flick
As much as we'd love to do every single film listed here as its own entry, there would be no room for anything else! Let's face it, horror movies are always going to be the most remade genre in the industry. They're generally cheaper to make, they don't usually have much of a plot (at least, the bad ones), and there will always be an audience for them. That said, slasher films tend to get remade more often than any other sub-genre of horror, but very rarely does a remake come along that actually surpasses the original.
Hell, it's gotten so bad that 2011's Scream 4 focused its (highly meta) plot on how horror remakes suck. And boy, were they right. Do you remember 2010's Nightmare on Elm Street remake? How about 2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre? No? 2009's Friday the 13th? The Black Christmas remake? My Bloody Valentine 3D? Prom Night?
Any of these ring a bell? Probably not, because they all took their original concepts and turned them into exploitation gore-fests with little style or substance. Even the ones that are remembered, like Rob Zombie's Halloween or the remake of The Hills Have Eyes are only slightly above average. Maybe the second or third reboot's the charm for this genre...
5 Planet of the Apes
No, we are not talking about the incredible 2011 reboot (the newest sequel of which we are eagerly awaiting). We're talking about Tim Burton's 2001 "not remake" of the original sci-fi classic. There's not much to say about the legendary Charlton Heston film; it took a crazy idea and turned it into one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. On top of this, it was one of the first films of the modern era to spawn multiple sequels, comic books, cartoons, and merchandise. In short, Planet of the Apes was one of the world's first film franchises. The final entry in the original series came out in 1973, and the series lay dormant for almost thirty years.
We're not gonna lie, the Tim Burton film had some incredible costume design; we'll still stand by the statement that the apes in this movie look better than the CGI ones in the current films. But then there's everything else. Mark Wahlberg? Really? You couldn't have found a better leading man? Don't even get us started on the film's plot, which involves all of the apes being descended from Wahlberg's pet chimp after it crash-lands on a distant planet. And the ending.
Somehow, this movie still ended up being a commercial success. However, the critical and financial success of rebooted series has (thankfully) overshadowed any memory of this first pass at a remake.
4 The Alamo
This is honestly the first one on our list that just about nobody has even heard of. The Alamo (released in 1960) was a retelling of the biggest event in Texas history starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark, and Laurence Harvey as its three main players. Nominated for multiple academy awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, this was one of those rare occasions that a genre film rose above the ranks to become something more.
It's understandable that a remake of The Alamo would eventually come along; anything seems to be fair game in this day and age. But why does nobody remember this one? It had Billy Bob Thorton as Davey Crockett, Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston, and Patrick Wilson as William Travis with Ron Howard's name attached as producer. Santa Anna, the villain of the original movie, was given a more significant and nuanced role. This should have at least been on some people's radar! Alas, the remake of The Alamo was a Texas-sized bomb that, ironically, nobody seems to remember.
3 The Manchurian Candidate
What can be said about the original The Manchurian Candidate that hasn't already been said? It was a legendary piece of cinema history that was so poignant that it was preserved by the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. The film perfectly captured the paranoia of the Red Scare at a time when Cold War tensions were at their highest (it released the same year as the Cuban Missile Crisis). It also showed off the acting chops of Frank Sinatra and a post-Psycho Janet Leigh. It's a national classic that is usually put up there as one of those movies that should never be touched by the grubby hands of Hollywood.
Yet, we got the 2004 Denzel Washington-led remake. This version just felt... off. The original worked so well because it embodied the climate of Cold War America. This remake took place in modern day and swapped out the Communist villains for some weird "New World Order" ones. It also was released in a time when America was still reeling from the attacks of 9/11, when patriotism was at an extreme high; movies that diss the Government don't generally do to well during these time periods. Like most of the other entries on this list, the remake wasn't horrible-- it just seemed to have bitten off more than it could chew at the time.
2 Night of the Living Dead
Remember at the start of this list when we said that all of the entries weren't necessarily bad movies? Well, this one definitely is. Night of the Living Dead was the film that basically invented the modern-day zombie movie. The slow-walking, brainless, moaning undead creatures that crave human flesh would not exist without the masterpiece the George Romero put forward in 1968. Due to an unfortunate copyright error by the film's distributor, Night of the Living Dead entered the public domain; the story, characters, and imagery were available for anyone to use for any reason whatsoever. Despite this, no big studio had the guts to release a big budget remake of the game-changing film.
That is, until 1990, when Columbia Pictures released a remake penned by Romero himself and directed by new director Tom Savini. You might think that a remake written by the same guy who wrote the original would have been great. But alas, Night of the Living Dead was... pretty bad. For starters, it took away the gut-punch of an ending that made the '68 version so memorable, replacing it with a semi-happy ending where Barbara survives the night. It also lacked a lot of the shock value of its predecessor and appeared to be overly gory to compensate. Luckily, very few outside of horror film circles know of the existence of this piece of work.
There is little to no debate that Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece is one of the most best films ever made. Say what you will about some of the effects or issues with its exposition, but Psycho was a revolutionary movie when it came out in 1960. It had a twist that nobody saw coming, it pushed the envelope for what could be shown on screen, it was creepy as hell, there are literally books that could be written about all of its symbolism, and it gave us Anthony Perkins' incredibly haunting performance as Norman Bates. So why, exactly, did they feel the need to remake it?
We can forgive Bates Motel, as that has never pretended to be the Hitchcock film. Plus it's, you know, actually good. What we absolutely cannot forgive is the 1998 remake with Vince freaking Vaughn. For some reason, this remake is almost shot for shot the same movie as the original. However, it ruins everything that made the original so great by making the violence and graphic content more explicit and interweaving bizarre dream sequences into the murder scenes. Oh and don't even get us started on the peep hole scene. It's supposed to be disturbing and make your skin crawl, but the director of the remake decided that it would be better to have Norman Bates pleasure himself, complete with sound effects. This remake deserves to be forgotten. We're done here.
Did you remember any of these remakes? Did we leave off anything important? Of course, if we did you probably wouldn't remember because, you know...Sound off in the comments to let us know!