As AMBI Pictures announces its plans to remake Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece Memento, Screen Rant is taking a look at some of the other unnecessary remakes in movie history. Occasionally (and more often than we’d like), movie studios pour their efforts into rehashing old ideas, in the hopes of finding some new, undiscovered ground.
Understandably, it seems like a good idea. Remakes are good business! However, for some reason studios consistently insist on producing remakes that are totally unnecessary - and nowhere near as good as the originals. As an insightful critic once said – “Anyone can trace a Picasso.”
Sometimes, a movie is best left alone. Here is Screen Rant’s list of the 15 Worst Remakes That Should Never Have Happened.
15 Arthur (2011)
The original Arthur stars cinema legends Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli; Moore as a rich, drunken playboy who insists on enjoying life without any ulterior motive and Minelli, the woman with whom he falls in love. Arthur is then forced to marry someone else by his family in order to expand their connections, and hilarity – yet more than a little warmth - ensues. It’s ultimately a delightful and funny film, with moments to warm your heart, and it’s fondly remembered by many.
However, its 2011 remake, starring Russell Brand in the titular role, whilst not unbearable, felt pointless. Shudderingly predictable, with rushed direction and a predominantly unfunny script, the new Arthur fails to meet the expectations of its predecessor. Brand’s Arthur is more of an unlikeable drunk than a charming one, and lacks the charm of Moore’s portrayal. Greta Gerwig, while a talented actress, is given practically nothing to work with in terms of script. When it comes to comparing it to the original, there’s no contest.
14 Fame (2009)
In 2009, the classic musical Fame was unfortunately subjected to the remake treatment. In 1980, the themes of sexuality, depression and abortion were brought to the screen as Fame explored the lives of youngsters living in New York City and vying for places in the New York High School of Performing Arts. On top of the heavy and important struggles that saw Fame nominated for an Oscar for best writing, the kids also experienced the regular adolescent pressures of heartbreak and homework – making it a movie that appealed to the emotions of teenagers and the nostalgia of adults.
Written straight for the big screen, it features an electrifying soundtrack that was later adapted for the Broadway stage. But, alas, the 2009 remake neither echoed nor embellished upon the original. Poor scripting leads what could be a decent performance from the cast to fall flat, and the plot feels forced. In an attempt to stir the same gritty-yet-inspiring affect as the original, the remake simply uses fancy filming techniques to mask what is ultimately a mediocre rehash.
13 Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)
Remade in 2015, Far From the Madding Crowd is the second movie adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel. Originally written in 1874, the book was somewhat of a masterpiece, and was excellently portrayed in the 1967 adaptation, starring Julie Christie as the beautiful and self-made, but ultimately manipulative, Bathsheba Everdene. With a lustrous script that stays faithful to the book’s soap opera-like plot, the movie allows you to feel comfortable in what is a somewhat convoluted story.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the latest adaptation. Whilst Carey Mulligan’s Everdene is flawless, the remake fails to encapsulate the same fluidity of the original. It’s not without its merits – it is beautifully shot, for example – but it failed to make an impact on audiences and silently faded into the background.
12 Godzilla (1998)
The original Godzilla (or Gojira in Japan) has amassed a reputation as a cornerstone of the monster horror genre. The post-nuclear war parable was a one-of-a-kind depiction of the survival instincts of humans. As one of the original monster movies, its themes may be considered old hat to a modern audience – yet in 1956, it was a visceral and majestic experience that disturbed the 1950’s public and evoked their imaginations.
The merits of a remake in English are easy to spot in the modern age – though its necessity is debatable. Whilst it experienced a media cavalcade and an enormous budget, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla failed to impress. It was a step forward in the early days of special effects, but that is not nearly enough to save the poorly acted and awkwardly written clumsiness of what could have been a decent film. Thankfully, Gareth Edwards' 2014 release managed to pull off what the 1998 remake, sadly, could not.
11 Halloween (2007)
John Carpenter’s skill for horror is epitomised in the 1978 film Halloween – the movie that brought us the infamous Michael Myers, and remains a landmark in the modern slasher genre. It’s not overkill to call Halloween a classic – it deserves accolades for its tense, moving and subdued horror. It resonates with a luxurious ease in to the suspension of the viewers’ disbelief, with its believable yet mind-boggling antagonist and its Hitchcock-like avoidance of blood and gore.
So it was quite easy to see what was coming when renowned blood-and-guts expert Rob Zombie took a swing at it. It is debatable what would have been a worse call – another tiresome installment in the never-ending franchise, or a rehash of a modern classic. We ended up getting the latter, with a crude attempt at artiness and a script that is at times laughable. With the same violence and bloodshed that he portrays in his unique directing style, Zombie proceeds to mangle the corpse of the original Halloween with a startling disregard for its dignity. In a surprising nose dive, considering the genius of Zombie’s other productions, this particular remake gets branded with the big red rubber “pointless” stamp.
10 House of Wax (2005)
While the original House of Wax was perhaps not considered to be the same level of classic as many of the movies in this list, the remake was so inherently brainless and shameful that it just had to be included. The original was a masterful example of the creepy playfulness of 1950s horror. Starring horror veteran Vincent Price as the compelling and manipulative owner of the waxwork museum, it is gloriously campy and macabre.
However, the 2005 remake was quite plainly a messy attempt to convert the story to a teen slasher, which garbles the plot and attempts to make up for it in gore and special effects. There is one upside, though: you get to see Paris Hilton brutally murdered when her head is impaled on a steel rod. Score!
9 House on Haunted Hill (1999)
“It's a pity you didn't know when you started your game of murder that I was playing, too."
Another vintage '50s horror with Vincent Price got a makeover in 1999, with a very similar take to House of Wax – an attempt to modernize a movie which got its charm from its subtle nuances. The 1959 classic is a creaky-but-campy masterpiece, with several genuine scares and a meticulous plot that twists from spooks to premeditated murder. However, the remake deforms this elegant sequence into a less subtle splash of overtly edited CGI ghouls and gore galore.
In an all too well known move, remake director William Malone substitutes suspense and story with computer-generated filler scenes, which don’t have a patch on the original. Not to mention the blatant change of what was a great ending – ignoring subtle red herrings and rendering characters pointless.
8 Planet of the Apes (2001)
Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 movie, based on Pierre Boyle’s novel, has been heralded as genius both at the time of release and in the years since. Astronaut George Taylor, played by the irreplaceable Charlton Heston, crash lands on a remote planet ruled by apes who hold court over grunting, primitive humans.
As a re-watch, or as a first timer, the original is still massively gripping and entertaining – even for modern moviegoers. Yet, sadly, Tim Burton disagreed. He felt it necessary to remake the classic back in 2001. In a similar move to Rob Zombie with Halloween, Burton made a stumble in what was, at the time, a perfect track record. Whilst the likes of Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas are works of art, it seems Burton couldn’t bring that to the table in this lacklustre remake.
Mark Wahlberg is generally a decent actor, but he’s no Charlton Heston – and he couldn’t carry the weight of such an important role. Not to mention the lack of the iconic and pivotal final scene, which was cut entirely from the remake and replaced with a twist that was much less shocking.
7 Poltergeist (2015)
Another horror classic joins the list, with Tobe Hooper and Stephen Spielberg’s phenomenal Poltergeist. Whilst the 1982 original was one of the earliest films to incorporate special effects, it knows when enough is enough and doesn’t saturate the film with it. It keeps its genuineness and humanity, using enough restraint to keep the scares subtle and sudden. The final big reveal comes as a shock after being lulled into a false sense of security, and it keeps fans watching after over 30 years since its release.
It was probably this faith and fandom that encouraged Gil Kenan to take another crack at it in 2015. Keeping Spielberg on for round two, the remake of Poltergeist aims low and delivers, using nothing but cheap jumps to showcase the lack of imagination involved. A conspicuously unworthy remake, this disaster was neither wanted nor needed, and has already disappeared only a few months after its release.
6 Psycho (1998)
The general idea behind remakes is to improve upon, illuminate or pay homage to the original. Gus Van Sant, apparently, was not aware of this when he remade not only one of the most game-changing horrors in cinema history, but the first slasher film ever made. It doesn’t seem hyperbolic to hail Hitchcock as a genius; his horror classic can cut to the nerve of any viewer, whilst still careening the curves of an intricate plot.
In one of the worst casting choices of decade, Vince Vaughn carries none of the terse neuroses of Anthony Perkins’ original Norman Bates. Yet he is but a drop in a sea of wasted efforts in what is essentially a shot-for-shot remake, bringing nothing new but removing any charm and intrigue displayed in the original.
When will studios learn that remaking Hitchcock is futile?
5 The Invasion (2007)
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a low-budget B-Movie style sci-fi horror that used subtlety and excellent writing to scare audiences back in 1956. The 1978 big-budget remake was surprisingly as good – if not better – than the original, bringing a chilling sense of paranoia and an unbeatable tension. It gave remakes a good name. Yet for some reason, one decent remake of the movie wasn’t enough for the world – and two more went in to production.
The 1996 remake, Body Snatchers, was at least palatable. But when, in 2007, Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman starred in a third remake of the classic, the quality reached a whole new low. Nothing more than a carbon copy of modern zombie movies, it takes what was a revolutionary idea and jams it into a Hollywood formula. What remains is a well-grounded, but ultimately heartless and pointless waste of 99 minutes.
4 The Karate Kid (2010)
Harold Zwart’s 2010 remake of The Karate Kid wasn’t totally unbearable, it has to be said, but it was totally unnecessary. The 1984 original was a revelation, encapsulating audiences of its generation and generations to come – as well as becoming one of the most quotable movies of the 1980s (alongside Back to the Future and Ghostbusters).
Jaden Smith just isn’t Ralph Macchio, and whilst the latest iteration might have been fun for younger modern viewers, the original The Karate Kid was far too inspiring and fun to challenge. The remake may have been decent, but it was also pointless, and should never have happened.
3 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Inspired by the story of real-life serial killer and psychopath Ed Gein, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre tells the story of five teenagers who stay in an old family home en route to visit their grandfather’s grave. Once they arrive, they’re plunged into a nightmare scenario of terror and brutal murder in one of the most effective slasher horrors of the generation. The original, released in 1974, had a gritty, grungy aesthetic and of course the horrifying villain, known to Halloween costume fans the world over, Leatherface. It was a triumph and one of the best films of the period – and is still watchable today, which begs the question, why did Marcus Nispel feel the need to desecrate it?
In an all too familiar attempt at horror, the rookie error of mistaking gore for genuine thrill is plastered across the lazy, overacted 2003 remake. And the less said about the travesty that was Texas Chainsaw 3D, the better.
2 The Time Machine (2002)
With enormous cult followings, many of the movies in this list are hailed as classics, and The Time Machine is no exception. Adored by Sci-Fi fans, George Pal’s 1960 adventure sees Rod Taylor as the protagonist, H. George Wells (named for the author of the original novel), who invents a time machine and uses it to travel to the year 802,701, where life is very different to what he left behind. With special effects that were well ahead of its time, the elaborate movie is colorful and entertaining.
In 2002, DreamWorks churned out a joyless, big-budget remake. With a huge amount going into the production and special effects, they appear to have forgotten to include likeable characters, relatability, intrigue, excitement and a fathomable plot-line. With such enormous potential, the remake suffers from poor directing and plot holes, and crumbles in the hands of Simon Wells and Gore Verbinski.
1 Annie (2014)
The 1982 screen adaptation of Broadway Musical, Annie, was generally hailed as a great family romp. The story of the orphan girl adopted by millionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks has become recognizable in households worldwide, with a soundtrack that is as infectious as it is irritating. The original movie featured an adorable red-headed orphan with her beloved dog, appealing directly to children who imagined being given everything their hearts desired, whilst including a comedic nod to parents in the form of Miss Hannigan. Expertly portrayed by Carol Burnett, Miss Hannigan is easily the best part of the original. Even Disney’s 1999 TV-Movie adaptation with Kathy Bates and Victor Garber was a reasonable family movie for a Sunday afternoon, thanks to her inclusion.
However, when Annie was re-imagined for a third time in 2014, eyebrows began to rise. What was once a decent musical turned into a mess of auto-tuned nonsense, changing the story so that it portrayed Annie as a girl from the Bronx, who is ultimately adopted by Jamie Foxx’s corporate CEO and political candidate. This appears to be a vague attempt to modernize the story for current viewers, but the result is clunky at best.
Did we forget anything? Are there any other terrible remakes that deserve a spot on this list?