In honor of Evil Dead‘s release this weekend, I’ve been wanting to put together a little segment on noteworthy remakes over the past thirty years or so. I’ll be starting off with this post on my ten favorite remakes, followed by my top ten least favorite remakes. Finally, I’ll wrap it all up with a featurette on 10 upcoming remakes along with my excitement/dread levels for each.
Before I begin though, I’d like to note that I am simply judging these films based on their overall quality, not based off of a comparison with the original film. I am also only considering films which I have seen, even though there are a few clear choices that will be left out as a result. Let’s start with a few great films that didn’t quite make the list.
True Grit (2010)
Evil Dead (2013)
The Karate Kid (2010)
Fright Night (2011)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
David Fincher’s remake of what is now arguably one of the most well-known foreign films of the millennium perhaps isn’t the most original of remakes, but the fact that it managed live up to nearly all of its hype is nothing short of a triumph. Staying incredibly true to the original film’s tone, style and story, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earned Rooney Mara a well-deserved Oscar nomination which has since catapulted the young actress’ career onto an appropriately higher level. I’d also like to mention that Stellan Skarsgård’s role as Martin Vanger remains my favorite of his career.
I’ve been fairly uneducated in the Western Genre so far, so perhaps my youth is to blame for this statement but this movie remains my favorite film from the Wild Wild West I have seen so far (True Grit is a close second). Sure, the lack of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne would usually disqualify the film from earning most people’s vote for that title, but I stand by it. Featuring solid performances from Christian Bale and Russel Crowe, the movie’s ability to maintain a level of action-oriented excitement without losing focus on the strength of its characters did a great deal to prove that the genre is far from dead.
While major audiences didn’t take to it like some of the other films on this list, Let Me In‘s subtle take on its horror aspect set it aside as one of the most uniquely terrifying films I’ve seen in years. I absolutely loved the story of young love at its core, it makes the slow build-up to the grand finale all the more effective in terms of how invested the audience is in the characters. In our Twilight-tainted age, it’s nice to have a reminder that the vampire genre still has something to offer the world so long as it’s placed in capable hands
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the hugest fan of the original 1933 King Kong. That isn’t to say that I don’t value it’s contribution to film making or it’s rightful place as an endearing classic, only that if I were to be asked which version of the movie I wanted to watch I would answer chose Peter Jackson’s mega-budget remake every time. Even if you ignore the star-studded cast and all of the beautiful special effects $250 million can buy, the film is just a blast. It was the added level of emotion Andy Serkis brought to Kong, though, that really solidifies this film’s place on the list.
Normally, the idea of remaking a Michael Caine movie without the presence of Caine himself would be considered a bad idea (i.e. Get Carter, Alfie). This movie is the one exception. Between a great cast, some impressive stunt work and a sense of fun that never lets up, The Italian Job now stands as one of the most entertaining heist films of all time. I place it a bit higher up on my list than most because, having seen it at such a young age originally, this was the first experience I had ever had with Edward Norton, Charlize Theron or Mark Wahlberg. I’m also a closet Robot Chicken fan, so it doesn’t hurt that Seth Green gets to share some of the spotlight.
Having just seen this for the first time last month, I can honestly say that for all the love I bear Gregory Peck there is no man who makes more of an impact on the quality of a remake than the director. In the case of Cape Fear, that director is none other than the great Martin Scorsese, and as a result it should be no surprise that the film is easily one of my favorite remakes of all time. The movie’s pace is perhaps a little slow for the first half, but once things start to build towards the finale you feel like you’re heading down a river, faster and faster, slowly realizing that there’s an enormous waterfall up ahead. Add on one of the most imposing performances of Robert DeNiro’s career and you end up with a modern classic of the thriller genre.
This is, without a doubt, my favorite comedy of the 1990’s. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you give it a try next time you’re in the mood for a laugh or two (hundred). As Liar Liar is to Jim Carrey, The Birdcage is to Robin Williams. Whatever crap the man has put out in recent years, it’s films like this that remind us exactly why people still love the man. While the premise itself is hilarious, it’s the people here that really make the movie great. Aside from Williams, we also have Nathan Lane as Williams’ partner (a flamboyant, overly dramatic cabaret dancer) and Gene Hackman as the impending father-in-law of Williams’ son, a moralistic right-wing politician. If this set up doesn’t get you to watch the damn movie, you may be in need of a funny bone transplant.
When it comes to Sc-Fi Horror, there are two films that set the bar for excellence; Alien and The Thing. In his remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter that there are very few who can even hold a candle to his mastery of terror. While many might consider Halloween the high point of the director’s horror career, I personally think that the level of suspense and claustrophobic paranoia offered he creates from this shape-shifting evil from another world cements The Thing as his crowning achievement. It’s also worth mentioning that Kurt Russell’s role as R. J. MacReady stands alongside Ripley, John McClane, Sarah Conner and Rambo as one of the biggest Badasses of all time. Now let’s all say a silent prayer that Hollywood never tries to desecrate its legacy again.
It’s always tough to judge remakes of foreign films against remakes of domestic films, but when you combine Scorsese at the top of his game with one of the best ensemble casts in recent history there’s no way you’re getting anything but an epic win. The fact that this ended up being the one that finally got Scorsese the Oscar might be a little disappointing to some, but I am not one of those people. The Departed uses every A-lister in its cast to the greatest possible effect, producing some of the finest performances of Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio’s respective careers. The sheer brutality of the film and the fact that Scorsese makes us very aware of the characters’ moralities make the film nothing short of a magnetic crime drama that many rightfully consider to be our generation’s Goodfellas.
I was torn between this and previous entry for the top spot, but I’m going with Ocean’s Eleven on account of sheer entertainment. Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the 1960 rat-pack heist flick cemented him as one of the masters of modern ensemble film-making. The pace is fast, the writing is sharp and the characters interactions offer cheeky fun in high doses. There are just too many great people here to note individually, but in the end it really comes down to George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s unassailable charisma. The sequels might not have upheld the film’s standard of greatness, but none of that does anything to change the film’s position among the greatest heist/crime films of all time.
Now I’d like to hear what you think. Are there any significant films I left out? Are there any films I list here that you aren’t too fond of? I’d love to hear your input.
Stay tuned for my next list of the worst remakes of all time, along with some of the most exciting and/or dreadful remakes that are currently on the horizon.