Remaking classic movies is a risky business. While there are obvious benefits to revisiting an old story – a proven box office track record and pre-existing fanbase – there’s no guarantee of success. Indeed, filmmakers aiming must strike a tricky balance, as they try to find a fresh new spin on the source material, without deviating too much from what made it so popular in the first place.
To be fair, sometimes Hollywood does get it right. In these instances, the resulting film is paradoxically familiar yet fresh, managing to explore the characters and themes in a way that complements – and occasionally even eclipses – the original. But more often than not, your average remake winds up being a disaster, with efforts like this year’s live-action retooling of Ghost in the Shell leaving viewers wondering whether those involved had even seen the original!
As such, it’s typically considered good news when a studio announces that it’s scrapping its latest attempt to remake an iconic movie or series – although there are at least a few exceptions.
With this in mind, here are 9 Canceled Remakes That Would’ve Been Terrible (And 6 That Would’ve Been Amazing).
It seems almost churlish to criticize attempts to protract the Neverending Story franchise – after all, it's kind of in the name! Nonetheless, the original 1984 adaptation of Michael Ende’s children’s story about a shy bookworm drawn into a fantasy world is already so magical, it’s hard to imagine anyone improving on it.
True, advances in visual effects technology would undoubtedly allow for a more impressive and believable rendition of the creatures and environments of Fantasia. It’s also fair to say that the original novel was more sophisticated than what ended up on screen, and a remake could benefit from exploring this complexity.
In the end, it seems best for those involved with the planned reboot to simply leave well enough alone. With the rights to the franchise currently locked in a legal quagmire, it appears as though they will be forced to, regardless.
1968 psychedelic sci-fi romp Barbarella remains a cult classic predominantly thanks to its distinctive visuals, memorable soundtrack, and… well, not much else really! Despite boasting Jane Fonda in the lead role, the film’s ostensibly pro-feminist leanings are in reality pretty weak, and for a comic book adaptation, the plot is disappointingly thin and sluggishly paced.
On the plus side, that makes the property ripe for a reimagining, and who better to tackle it than Robert Rodriguez? After all, the director could easily handle Barbarella’s vibrant aesthetic, and coupled with his knack for crafting propulsive narratives starring empowered female leads, it seemed like a perfect fit.
Unfortunately, the movie – which was to star Rodriguez’s regular collaborator, Rose McGowan – went off the rails after Universal baulked at its $80 million price tag. A subsequent TV show attempt by Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn also failed.
The Buffy The Vampire SlayerTV series represents one of the rare examples of a remake that far outstripped its predecessor in terms of both critical and popular acclaim. Brought to the small screen by franchise creator Joss Whedon after the character’s big screen debut was grossly mishandled by director Fran Rubel Kuzui, the show ran for seven seasons and developed a devoted fanbase.
Fans were horrified when the news broke that a new movie was in the works – one which would ignore the high school vampire hunter’s previous adventure. Worse still, not only was Whedon not involved with the production, but Rubel Kuzui was back on board.
Fortunately, script problems have kept the Buffy remake at bay for now – and fans (as well as the original cast) have been vocal about it being staked once and for all.
Now, we all know that the big screen remake of Stephen King’s seminal horror novel It did happen. Although Andy Muschietti’s film was both a critical and commercial hit, a big part of us would love to have seen Cary Fukanaga’s aborted take on material.
In the interest of full disclosure, it’s worth noting that at least some of Fukanaga’s contribution to It’s script survived – enough that he’s credited as one of the screenwriters. You could argue that his version of the film wouldn’t have ended up all that different from what made it into theatres, but no two directors would ever bring the same script to life in the same way.
It feels like Fukanaga’s more nuanced, lingering take on the genre – showcased so brilliantly in True Detective – could have yielded superior results to the jump scares that dominated Muschietti’s approach.
Don’t get us wrong: nothing about the Stargate reboot sounded bad, per se. On the contrary, with director Roland Emmerich set to return and talks of revitalizing the series with an epic trilogy of films, it was all shaping up in exciting fashion. That is, until you discover why it never happened: studio interference.
See, the first Stargate was that rare beast – a relatively big budget sci-fi affair that wasn’t backed financially by a major studio. This meant that the filmmakers were granted an incredible degree of creative latitude that would otherwise be unthinkable for a film of that scale.
This was not the case for the remake, which apparently suffered from too much outside input and began to dilute Emmerich’s vision for the trilogy. With this in mind, it’s probably for the best that “Stargate 2.0” never made it to cinemas!
Something casual movie fans might not be aware of is that 007 franchise reboot Casino Royale is technically a remake – provided you count the “unofficial” 1967 spoof starring David Niven as James Bond.
While Martin Campbell did a cracking job with his official, Daniel Craig-starring version of Bond’s debut mission, another director previously proposed a radically different approach to adapting Ian Fleming’s novel – none other than Quentin Tarantino!
In keeping with his idiosyncratic filmmaking sensibilities, Tarantino’s Casino Royale would have been nothing if not interesting. Among the more tantalizing details he’s shared in interviews are that he would have filmed the movie in black & white, and set the events during the 1960s!
It’s hard not to think this would have been an absolute blast, though not exactly the franchise tentpole film that Eon Productions were looking for.
Highlander is famous for the tagline “There can be only one!” – but nobody at Summit Films seems familiar with it, considering its attempts to remake this 1986 action-fantasy favorite.
That said, the film – which tells the story of immortal warrior Connor MacLeod, destined to confront those like him – was itself only the first of several increasingly disappointing follow-ups, so a reboot isn’t entirely unwarranted.
Let’s just hope that when Highlander does make its way back into cinemas, it’s somewhat more enticing than what Juan Carlos Fresnadillo had planned back in 2012. The director behind 28 Weeks Later made some questionable decisions while spearheading the production, most notably casting Ryan Reynolds as MacLeod and Vinnie Jones as baddie the Kurgan!. Perhaps the tagline should be changed to “There should be only one!”
Logan’s Run occupies a special place in the hearts of older fans of sci-fi cinema, thanks to its thrilling chase sequences and intriguing premise of a supposedly utopian society where people are killed once they reach 30. A deceptively layered film, it covers a broad range of themes, such as hedonism, race, and our youth-fixated culture – all of which are as relevant today as they were back in 1976.
That’s no doubt why Bryan Singer was keen to helm a remake of Logan’s Run, which would have hewed more closely to the plot of the original novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Given Singer’s experience with mixing blockbuster action sequences and weighty subject matter, he seemed a logical fit for the material. However, the project never materialized, and in the wake of the troubling assault allegations made against the director, it’s likely it never will, either.
Of all the non-documentary films featuring The Beatles, Yellow Submarine is far and away the most well-regarded by fans and critics alike. A delightfully surreal animated outing that appeals to children and adults alike, the movie still holds up reasonably well today, despite – or maybe even because of – its charmingly low-tech production values.
It’s therefore a bit baffling why anyone would want to remake Yellow Submarine, especially the way that director Bob Zemeckis had planned. Obsessed with motion capture technology at the time, Zemeckis was set to recreate the cartoon using the same unsettling, “Uncanny Valley”-style CGI that marred The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol.
Luckily, after the last of these underperformed at the box office, Disney pulled the plug on this reboot, and Zemeckis eventually abandoned the project, acknowledging it was likely doomed to failure.
Henry Koster’s 1950 film adaptation of Mary Chase’s play Harvey is rightly considered a classic – a light yet disarmingly deep meditation on mental illness and human nature. Starring Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd – a man whose best friend is an invisible, giant bunny rabbit – the movie garnered significant critical recognition, including a Best Supporting Actress win for Josephine Hull as Dowd’s long-suffering sister, Veta.
Ordinarily, we wouldn’t really approve of redoing a flick that got everything so right already, but then few of these remakes have Steven Spielberg calling the shots!
The legendary director joined the project in 2009, with both Tom Hanks and Robert Downey Jr. contenders to portray Dowd. Sadly, Sir Steve left the production later that same year, following creative disagreements with co-financiers 20th Century Fox.
If there’s a textbook definition of “guilty pleasure” movies, surely it must be 1989 action flick Roadhouse. Featuring Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliott as a pair of butt-kicking bouncers, the film is a gleefully low-brow cocktail of violence and general '80s-excess – a “so bad, it’s good” effort that is very much a product of its time.
Even so, a remake was announced in 2015, to be written and directed by Nick Cassavetes, with UFC martial artist Ronda Rousey set to play the gender-swapped lead role. Although it would have been fun to see Rousey put a female spin on things, revisiting a film like Roadhouse seems like a dubious decision. Perhaps that's why the plans for the remake were quietly dropped in 2016.
Romancing the Stone is a solid example of the action-romantic comedy hybrid – a breezy outing that capitalizes on the chemistry between lead actors Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. While the sequel, Jewel of the Nile, didn’t quite replicate the successful formula of the 1984 original, there are still plenty of cinema buffs who hold the franchise in high regard.
Which might explain why, after plans for another sequel fell through, 20th Century Fox weren’t quite ready to give up on the series and commenced work on a remake. Admittedly, not much about the proposed revamp has been made public, but we do know that Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl were the frontrunners to replace Douglas and Turner – which isn’t exactly a step up!
As with Barbarella, when the production started to languish, the powers that be ultimately decided to repackage the property as a still-to-materialize TV series.
Average moviegoers can be forgiven for not having heard of 1955 classic The Dam Busters, which recounts the gripping true story of an RAF Squadron charged with destroying Nazi dams in WWII. But two names they might recognize are film industry heavyweights Peter Jackson and Stephen Fry – both of whom have been attached to this unrealized remake for over a decade.
Despite repeated delays preventing the cameras from rolling – Jackson had his hands full overseeing The Hobbit trilogy – the director seems optimistic that the film (scripted by Fry) will eventually start shooting. Jackson is a noted aviation enthusiast known for turning his passion projects into a reality, so we’re not giving up hope that The Dam Busters will one day make it onto the big screen!
Akira – director Katsuhiro Otomo’s big screen adaptation of his own acclaimed manga series – is widely regarded as one of the greatest animated films ever. The tale of a biker gang roaming the streets of post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo was instrumental in popularizing anime amongst Western audiences.
Thanks to this legacy, Warner Bros. has been trying to get a live-action retelling of Akira off the ground since 2002. A revolving door of directors have been attached to the project since then, and none of their plans sounded promising.
Yes, clumsy attempts to Westernize the plot and setting, not to mention controversies surrounding whitewashed casting, have caused the Akira remake to stall repeatedly. Regardless, Warner Bros. is showing no signs of pumping the brakes on this one – in a rare bit of positive press, Thor: Ragnarok’s Taiki Waititi is the latest candidate put forward to take the helm – so it may yet happen!
Most canceled remakes never make it out of pre-production – which means we’re really only judging them based on what might have been. Not so the planned Revenge of the Nerds reboot, which actually filmed for two weeks before being canned.
It seems that recreating the magic of the original raunchy teen comedy proved too great a task for director Kyle Newman and his cast – which included The O.C.’s Adam Brody – as 20th Century Fox halted production after viewing the early footage.
Apparently, studio bigwig Peter Rice became convinced he had a turkey on his hands after sitting through a dailies screening session, and unofficially put the project on permanent hold. You know a remake is bad when even the studio thinks it’s too awful to release!
Did we miss any other canceled remakes that would have been terrible? Let us know in the comments!