Filmmaking is an arduous process, one that involves a considerable amount of creativity and hardwork in the right proportions. Lack of either one of them produces a disappointing end product. Films like ‘2001 : A Space Odyssey’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Evil Dead II’ and ‘Eraserhead’ are some movies that have produced astonishing results with their unparalleled vision and inventive work. Whether it’s the themes they tackle or their storytelling prowess or the groundbreaking camerawork or even their iconic leads, everything about these movies started small revolutions in the industry.
Remakes. It’s a common misconception that remakes are a shortcut to success. They are seen as a birth-child of constrained creativity and the will to not make an extra effort at creating something unique. It’s a tricky business, since sticking to the source material can be too derivative and making a lot of changes could result in a disaster. To make a good remake, the primary aim has to be to understand the themes and the motives of the original, a fixed foundation that can be hoisted by additional input from the creators, something that lends originality to the movie. Nobody wants to watch the same movie twice, and since most of the originals are classics, you wouldn’t pay to watch your favorite film being replicated on screen unless it goes out of its way to add something of importance to the original. Keeping the above factors in mind, here is the list of top movie remakes ever made. You can stream some of these best movie remakes on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
1. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter! Genius. Enigmatic. Genre Auteur. Revolutionist. And yes, he loved killing playboys! With movies like ‘The Thing’, ‘Halloween’, ‘They Live’, ‘Escape From New York’ under his belt, he can rightfully be called the god of cult classics. But his work was exemplary and transformative, which is visible in The Thing, a remake of ‘The Thing From Another World’ (1951). The Thing is a technical masterpiece, its jawdropping special practical effects by Winston and Bottin (‘RoboCop’ and ‘Jurassic Park’), an iconic and unusual score from Ennio Morricone, remarkable use of lens flare and unparalleled sound design technology cement its place as one of the most important films in the sci-fi/thriller genre.
I’ve never considered Carpenter’s work as something primarily intended to scare audiences. He plays with the audiences’ hearts, building suspense and cleverly dropping bombs to rattle them, something typical to atmospheric horror films. His third collaboration with Kurt Russell also proved fruitful, with Russell delivering a brilliant performance during the climax, packed with some kickass one liners that have elevated its cult status. The deserted setting and the ending give it a sense of nihilism, which engraves a sense of grim despair, which in its own right is pretty horrific. And if someone asks you not to watch it, always remember to quote Russell – “Yeah! F*ck you too!”One of the best movie remakes of all time.
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2. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)
Donald Sutherland’s contorted face is one of the most striking images ever put on screen. It lingers beneath your skin no matter how hard you try to forget it. ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is a remake of the 1956 flick of the same name. With a classic cast consisting of Donald Sutherland, the late Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum; appointment of Ben Burtt who designed the sound effects for ‘Star Wars’ and highly improvised special effects by Russel Healey (‘Thief’), this movie packs a bigger punch compared to its predecessor, and is considered to be on the greatest horror films of all time.
It did benefit from the success of the 1956 version, but capitalized on its own strengths to create a name for itself and was a total game-changer in the remake business. There were some tweaks in the plot, with the remake revolving around a health inspector and his colleague discovering a discreet alien invasion in San Francisco. The same pod-concept is borrowed from the original with humans being turned into clones devoid of human emotions. The use of a city setting works well due to hysteria being associative with large masses, and a sense of lurking terror is ever-present throughout the movie, differentiating it from horror films dependent on cheap thrills.
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3. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Not the woeful 2016 remake. That wasn’t just a bad remake, but a bad movie in particular. No. This is the 1960 version with a cast that is as magnificent as it is menacing. Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, two legendary counterculture heroes; Yul Brynner, one of the most enigmatic foreign actors ever and James Coburn, are some of the stars present in this classic Western. It is a remake of ‘Seven Samurai’ by Akira Kurosawa, which is considered to be the greatest film by many. Seven Samurai was the first movie that came up with the idea of teaming up a group of warriors or heroes to fight the evil forces, the seven ronin fighting bandits in its case. Iconic collaborations like ‘The Magnificent Seven’ or ‘The Dirty Dozen’ or ‘The Justice League’, they are but remnants of its legacy.
‘The Magnificient Seven’ is structured from a similar plot, with 7 gunslingers hired by a village to protect them from bandits. Though it doesn’t come close to the original’s greatness mainly due to the Western genre, which suffers from the archetypal plot devices and lack of tempo, it still set the tone for many more Westerns in the future. The score by Elmer Bernstein is considered the greatest by many, after Morricone’s theme from ‘The Good,The Bad and The Ugly’. Though Seven Samurai laid the foundation for action heroes, it was this movie which gave them a widespread appeal.
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4. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Clooney. Pitt. Damon. Roberts. Bernie Mac. What could go wrong? Everything. Steven Soderbergh comes up with this remake of the 1960 heist movie of the same name. With a humongous task on his hands : co-ordinating A grade actors of such notable caliber, the extravagant Vegas setting, presenting a recycled script and maintaining a steady pace throughout the course of the movie; Soderbergh executes this perfectly with a glitzy flair he is now widely acknowledged for.
Soderbergh was at his peak during this time having directed ‘Erin Brokovich’, ‘Traffic’, ‘Oceans’s Eleven’ and ‘Solaris’ (a remake of Tarkovsky’s 1972 film of the same name) within a span of 2 years, with all of them being critical successes and astonishingly comprising of altogether different central themes showcasing his versatility. But ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ stands out because it totally re-shaped the way heist movies were shot mainly because of its use of visual storytelling, fluctuating score that perfectly capture the mood of the scenes, top notch editing and brilliant choreography. The use of mixing up long takes with quick ones or being noir at the core with smooth 1940-ish dialogues, makes for a really exciting watch compared to the inferior original.
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5. Scarface (1983)
Brian De Palma. One of the most prominent figures of The New Hollywood Wave along with the likes of Coppola, Scorsese and Allen. Perhaps, both Palma’s and Al Pacino’s most iconic movie, it’s a remake of the historic 1932 gangster film of the same name, starring the great Paul Muni. Replicating the momentous original was a herculean task, but Palma did full justice to it. By making optimum use of Al Pacino’s Latin roots, he created a character whose ferociousness still echoes 30 years after the movie’s release.
‘Scarface’ doesn’t stay very loyal to the original, and revolves around the life of a Cuban immigrant who arrives in the 80s Miami, exponentially rises to become the undisputed kingpin and suffers from the consequences of his amassed unwarranted power. The rightful use of the then present day scenario is highly impactful and creates a ingraining reflection of the mob life. What makes it truly special is it’s subject matter. Like most crime films, it’s not interested in the what the main character is on outside but it brings out the man he is on the inside, making it one of the greatest character studies of all time. At times you sympathize for the mobster, who knocks down people like domino or recklessly blows up his own stash. This is only possible due to Al Pacino’s tormented but breathtaking performance, where he truly transforms into Tony Montana, who was a massive cultural influence for anything gangster related. It’s Palma’s genius though, blending dull and quiet surroundings with an unstable and eccentric Montana, giving the character all the attention it needs.
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6. True Grit (2010)
The Coen Brothers’ first Western, ‘True Grit’ is a great addition to the dying genre in the 21st century. A reminder that ‘No Country For Old Men’ is not a Western, despite its Southern setting. A remake of the 1969 classic of the same name starring the The Duke aka John Wayne, the Coen Brothers’ version is completely loyal to the source material, the novel True Grit by Charles Portis. This is probably the first time they’ve made a genre specific movie, a birth of an anomaly from their highly inventive minds.
True Grit is based on the story of a young girl Mattie Ross, the protagonist and narrator of the story in a stunning performance from Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen), who embarks on a journey to exact vengeance for her father’s death and employs a Deputy U.S Marshall Rooster Cogburn to help her kill the man responsible. Steinfeld is supported by some brilliant performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin.
Coming to Bridges, the portrayal of Cogburn has been a debatable issue with many critics regarding his version to be superior. Bridges, in all honesty, is better as the ageing homeless ragged Marshall, unlike Wayne who brings his usual weathered charm or to put it, brings himself on screen instead of Cogburn. Bridges is the closest you can get to portraying a brash alcoholic lawman of the West who has no regard for rules, and gives one of the most chiseled performances in a Western this century. With some clever dialogues, courtesy of the novel and beautifully enacted exchanges, this movie rises as a very odd Coen movie, but directed with the utmost precision. Not to forget the cinematography from Roger Deakins, who encapsulates the jarring situations in the equally hostile Texas landscape perfectly.
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7. Let Me In (2010)
Matt Reeves, known for ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘Dawn of the Planet of Apes’, directed this remake of the 2008 Swedish film ‘Let The Right One In’. It’s a romantic horror , which is very loyal to the original and unfairly accused of being too derivative. About a 12-year-old boy, who befriends a female vampire child, Let Me In is a beautiful movie dealing with the horrific life of a vampire, intensified by its sublime utilization of a kid to play the blood thirsty monsters. Stephen King wrote “Let Me In is a genre-busting triumph. Not just a horror film, but the best American horror film in the last 20 years.” and was rightfully the best reviewed horror flick from 2010.
A brilliant revival of the vampire sub genre, which was catastrophically hurt after the naïvety of the abysmal ‘Twilight’ series, it focuses on how their lives get restricted to only one thing : craving for blood. It’s impressive use of blending coming-of-age themes such as adolescence with horror is very clever, since it’s occurrence is quite a massive change for many children. Greg Fraser (‘Zero Dark Thirty’) captures the icy darkness with his cinematography, almost making it a third character. The performances from Smit-McPhee and Moretz, are the cornerstone of the movie, and are surprisingly good, bearing in mind the fact that they were 13 year olds during filming. Reeves’ remake may not be superior but it is equally good in its own right.
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8. Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)
Werner Herzog is the most celebrated German figure in filmmaking, at present. Truffaut said called Herzog “the most important film director alive”. Such is his style, even his failures leave the critics in awe and always add a certain value to the art. ‘Nosferatu’ is considered one of the greatest silent horror films of all time. Made in 1922 by F.W.Murnau, a pioneer of the German Expressionist Era and driven by a portentously magnificent performance by Max Schreck, which to date is the biggest inspiration for the vampire sub genre.
What happened when Herzog decided to remake Nosferatu? One of greatest remakes of all time. Period. With ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’, Herzog gave an arthouse twist to the classic tale of solitudinous horror. Herzog not only abides by the original’s plot but gives a deeper meaning to it and the existence of Nosferatu (The word Nosferatu was used instead of ‘vampire’ in the original because of copyright issues). His movie is a sight to behold with its beautiful composition of shadows giving darkness an inexplicable charm, its striking color palette effective at signifying the aura around the great Orlok and its perfect pacing giving the audiences time to absorb its quality. You are in Herzog’s realm and you cannot help but be poisoned by its beauty!
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9. Dredd (2012)
Last year the world went haywire regarding Deadpool’s R rated status and it went on to be one of 2016’s best earners. It was praised for its slick and bloody action scenes, filthy humor and a career revitalizing performance from Ryan Renolds. But amidst all the madness surrounding it, people seemed to have forgotten about the best R rated comic book adaptation from this decade. ‘Dredd’.
Directed by Pete Travis, it’s based on the character of Judge Dredd, a merciless law enforcer assigned the task of eradicating crime in the dystopian post-apocalyptic city of Mega-City One. Karl Urban in a rare leading role, does full justice to the character in comparison to a very mediocre performance from Sylvester Stallone in the critically panned original, ‘Judge Dredd’ (1995). Lena Headey brilliantly flashes her villainous flair as Ma-ma, a repulsive charm she is now well-known for.
Dredd hold backs nothing. It relishes its splattered guts, human bonfires, barrage of futuristic bullets and high collateral damage. It’s a perfect example of how the Punishers films should been made, by balancing action and movie cliches with minimal character development that is preferred from this genre and the alignment of order of events, Dredd has a fresh intensity to it. It demands its limited audiences to take it seriously, and spares the cheesy dialogues for the mainstream superhero movies. Dredd is a severely overlooked movie with a broad appeal but narrow range of acceptance.
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10. Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
Frank Oz, known for ‘Death at a Funeral’, directed this musical horror-comedy, a film adaptation of the Broadway play of the same name, which was based on the 1960 B-grade farcical horror flick by Roger Corman titled ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ with Jack Nicholson in his earliest roles. Corman’s original is known for being surprisingly made in the span of two days, and has hence due to many reasons gained a cult following.
The story revolves around an oaf working in a florist shop who grows a vicious blood-hungry plant, who becomes popular because of it but later loses control of the ever-growing ever-hungry monster. It’s a brilliant comedy and most of its comical scenes aren’t forced but natural, owing to the well written play. The musical element like the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ is a difficult thing to add keeping the audiences in mind, but is executed perfectly under Oz’s vision. The addition of Bill Murray, James Belushi and John Candy and Steve Martin’s casting as an sadist, really brings a dark humorous dimension to the movie. It’s use of ignorant fickle minded people to play the satire card works well and it makes the right decision to restrict itself from turning into the usual satire filled with heavy implications. However its Audrey, the man-eater that steals the show masterfully handled by Lyle Conway and intelligently used as a character with its hip numbers and witty dialogues, and enhanced by the minimal use of special effects. Though perceived to be campy now, due to contrasting audiences, its nothing short of a cult classic!
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