This weekend, three ’80s remakes will hit theatres: “RoboCop,” “Endless Love,” and Kevin Hart’s “About Last Night.”
While only one of those films has decent reviews (“About Last Night”), there are plenty of remakes that improve upon the original.
We’ve weeded through a bunch of remakes to find the best.
The movies on this list were selected according to audience and critical reception via Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic (where available) along with awards won.
“The Maltese Falcon” (1941)
John Huston’s adaptation of the best seller starring Humphrey Bogart as private detective Sam Spade has been called one of the American Film Institute’s best films and has been nominated for three Oscars.
Even Roger Ebert called it one of the best movies ever made.
The film was so successful, Warner Bros. originally wanted Huston to work on a sequel in ’42. That project was shelved since he and the actors went to work on other projects.
“The 10 Commandments” (1956)
More than 30 years after making the silent film, Cecil B. DeMille returned to direct the ’56 classic. The movie won one Oscar for visual effects and airs every year around Easter on television.
“The 10 Commandments” is among the highest-grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation.
Chances are you’re unfamiliar with ’50s movie “Zero Hour!” But if it didn’t exist, there probably never would have been an “Aeroplane!” Leslie Nielsen’s parody classic borrows heavily from the original.
“The Thing” (1982)
“The Thing is one of [Carpenter’s] greatest moments, creating a terrifying atmosphere of claustrophobia, suspense and paranoia. And Kurt Russell is as good as he’s ever been, wearing one of the best beards in movie history.”
“The Thing is a peerless masterpiece of relentless suspense, retina-wrecking visual excess and outright, nihilistic terror. … Back in 1997 Carpenter told Empire that ‘You’ll never, ever, see anything like The Thing again.’ Like MacReady and Childs we’re still waiting. We might be for a long time yet.”
“Little Shop of Horrors” (1986)
Sure, the original may have had Jack Nicholson in it, but that was in a small, small role. While the critical reception for the original may edge out the remake, Frank Oz’s rendition of the musical based off the original film with Steve Martin and James Belushi helped make it a cult classic.
“WHO could have imagined that ”Little Shop of Horrors,” the 1960 comic horror film shot by Roger Corman in two days’ time, would continue to grow bigger, mightier and more formidable, much like the man-eating plant that is its unsung star? … Mr. Martin’s solo number has been hilariously staged, as he combines Elvis Presley posturing with a wonderfully wicked delivery of phrases like ”root canal.” Seldom has one single film sequence, in which Mr. Martin gleefully terrifies his patients and brandishes the most ghastly array of instruments, done as much to set back the integrity of an entire profession.”
“Fatal Attraction” (1987)
Technically, we’re still going to count this one since it’s probably not well-known that this was an adaptation of a TV movie.
Fun fact: “Diversion” writer and director James Dearden actually wrote the screenplay for the Hollywood film adaptation. The movie went on to become the highest-grossing film of the year worldwide and received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director.
“True Lies” (1994)
We’ll admit, we’ve never seen the French film from Claude Zidi; however, you can’t beat a James Cameron film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger secretly working as a government agent while his wife (Jamie Curtis) believes he’s a computer salesman.
The film received an Oscar nod for Best Visual Effects. At the time, the film was one of the most expensive ever made (an estimated $115 million)
“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)
Remake of: “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960)
The Rat Pack may have starred in the original, but it was George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, who made robbing a Las Vegas casino look awesome while also infuriating Andy Garcia.
Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers:
“What is Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh doing remaking a 1960 Rat Pack flick best remembered for Frank Sinatra’s orange sweaters and Dean Martin being Dino? Answer: having a ball … Forget Oscar, Ocean’s Eleven is the coolest damned thing around.”
“The Departed” (2006)
Another phenomenal casting list comprised of Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, and Alec Baldwin about an undercover cop (DiCaprio) trying to discover a mole (Damon) in the Massachusetts State Police force.
The film won four Oscars including Best Picture of the Year and Best Director.
Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, highlighting the positives of both films, while not discrediting either.
“The story is inspired by “Infernal Affairs” (2002) by Alan Mak and Andrew Lau, the most successful Hong Kong film of recent years. Indeed, having just re-read my 2004 review of that film, I find I could change the names, cut and paste it, and be discussing this film. But that would only involve the surface, the plot and a few philosophical quasi-profundities. What makes this a Scorsese film, and not merely a retread, is the director’s use of actors, locations and energy, and its buried theme.”
“True Grit” (2010)
Though John Wayne made the original film a classic and earned an Oscar for his performance, the update from the Coen brothers starring Jeff Bridges as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn along with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin was celebrated by critics and moviegoers not only for sticking closer to the source material, but also all of the actors’ performances.
However, despite 10 Oscar nominations — including Best Picture, Director, and Actor — it won none.
The Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy:
“This ‘True Grit’ makes the original almost unwatchable except as a curio … In the new version, Portis’ novel is returned to its proper locale: the post-Civil War frontier where the James brothers raised such a nasty ruckus.”
“In the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit,” Jeff Bridges is not playing the John Wayne role. He’s playing the Jeff Bridges role — or, more properly, the role created in the enduring novel by Charles Portis, much of whose original dialogue can be heard in this film. Bridges doesn’t have the archetypal stature of the Duke. Few ever have. But he has here, I believe, an equal screen presence. We always knew we were looking at John Wayne in the original “True Grit” (1969). When we see Rooster Cogburn in this version, we’re not thinking about Jeff Bridges. … Bridges’ interpretation is no doubt closer to the reality of a lawman in those years of the West.”
*Denotes critical reviews for the remake and original, respectively when applicable.
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