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Film

10 movie remakes that are better than the originals

Remakes are a touchy subject. Many filmmakers that attempt to remake classic movies fail miserably, tarnishing the original source material -leaving audiences wondering why a remake was needed in the first place.

A major example of an incredibly bad remake is Gus Van Sant’s take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, a project which copied the 1960 horror classic shot for shot. Sadly, the film did not retain any of the magic that made the original so chilling and memorable. Instead, the movie won the ‘Worst Remake’ and ‘Worst Director’ accolades at the Golden Raspberry Awards.

The horror genre has featured countless remakes, from Halloween to Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Fog – name a horror classic and there’ll be a poorer imitation of it out there. However, there are a few exceptions that suggest that remakes aren’t always a bad thing, often providing audiences with a more refined or modernised version of the film that can greater aid the story that is being told.

From period dramas to westerns to horror – check out the top ten best remakes that are better than the original below…

10 movie remakes that are better than the originals:

10. Little Women (George Cukor, 1933; Gillian Armstrong, 1994)

The well-loved classic Little Women, written by Louisa May Alcott, has defined both the childhoods and adulthoods of millions of women worldwide. The tale of the March sisters, each distinctive enough for readers to pick a favourite to identify with, has been adapted numerous times, beginning in 1912 with a stage version. However, it wasn’t until 1917 that the first film adaptation was made – a now lost silent version. A few more silent pictures were made based on Little Women, but the first ‘talkie’ version came in 1933 starring Katherine Hepburn, which was a huge success at the time.

Further adaptations came throughout the decades, including the 1949 version starring Elizabeth Taylor as Amy March, and most recently the 2019 feature directed by Greta Gerwig, starring Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. However, the best adaptation is arguably the 1994 version directed by Gillian Armstrong. Featuring Winona Ryder, Christian Bale, and a young Kirsten Dunst, the ’90s version captures the cosy, warm feeling of the book better than any of the adaptations. Ryder makes a fantastic Jo, and Bale an excellent Laurie – this version encapsulates the book’s essence with near-perfectness.

9. Pride and Prejudice (Robert Z. Leonard, 1940; Joe Wright, 2005)

Jane Austen’s beloved 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice has been adapted numerous times in the form of plays, musicals, television series, and films. The story follows Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters, who must find a suitable man to marry to help support her family after the death of their father. Today, most people are aware of the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Matthew Macfayden as Mr. Darcy. Directed by Joe Wright, the film has a lush score that compliments the gorgeous cinematography of grand houses and breath-taking countryside.

Thus, the 1940s version, starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier pales in comparison. Although the film was well-received, even winning an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, it is much less faithful to the original novel. Instead of being set in the 1810s, this version takes place in the 1830s – a decision made by the production company so that costumes could be more flamboyant. Leonard’s version was also affected by the Hays Code, which meant that many scenes had to be altered to become less controversial. In the end, Wright’s stunning adaptation triumphs over the limited 1940s version.

8. Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922); Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1979)

Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s famous gothic horror novel Dracula, F.W. Murnau’s silent film Nosferatu is a landmark of German Expressionist cinema. The film tells the tale of Count Orlok, a vampire who becomes obsessed with his estate agent’s wife. Unlike the novel, the film sets the events in Germany and changes the names of the characters to avoid copyright infringement (Dracula is changed to Orlok). This early cinematic depiction of Dracula is important for its influence on the horror genre, especially popularising the vampire genre.

Despite the masterfully eerie and chilling performances of the 1922 film, Werner Herzog’s version, released over 50 years later, amplifies the atmosphere of the original to even greater heights. Count Dracula, played by Klaus Kinski, and Isabelle Adjani as Lucy are terrific, and visually the film is even more stunning than its predecessor. Kinski plays Dracula terrifyingly well, honing in on the loneliness at the core of his character.

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegal, 1956; Philip Kaufman, 1978)

Released in 1956 during the height of the Cold War, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers has widely been read as an allegory for the fear of McCarthyism and communism that was terrifying American society. The film, based on a Jack Finney novel released two years prior called The Body Snatchers, depicts an extraterrestrial invasion whereby the aliens take over their victims’ bodies, with Kevin McCarthy playing the heroic everyman who attempts to save everyone from the invasion. However, a remake directed just over twenty years later by Philip Kaufman proved to be a stronger version of the tale.

Although the film received a fair amount of negative press, it was also praised highly by publications such as The New Yorker. In fact, critics claimed that Invasion of the Body Snatchers “validates the entire concept of remakes. This new version of Don Siegel’s 1956 cult classic not only matches the original in horrific tone and effect but exceeds it in both conception and execution.” The much more pessimistic ending of the ’70s version gives the film much more of an edge over its predecessor.

6. True Grit (Henry Hathaway, 1969; Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010)

Although the John Wayne classic Western is loved by many, there is also much to be valued about its remake by the Coen Brothers. Both films follow a 14-year-old girl named Mattie who hires a rather entertaining lawman, Cogburn, to seek vengeance on the man who killed her father. The 1969 version won Wayne his first and only Oscar, however, the Coen brothers’ version pulls its focus closer to the character of Mattie, played by a young Hailee Steinfeld in her first feature film.

By doing so, the 2010 adaptation is a lot more faithful to the original source material – Charles Portis’ novel of the same name. The Coen brothers picture is much more violent and dark, making for a slightly more compelling watch than Hathaway’s version – although the original still holds up as a great classic Western in which Wayne gives a stellar performance. Yet again, the directing duo demonstrate their natural ability for making westerns, as seen in Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men, adding their classic comic touch to the story.

5. The Thing from Another World (Christian Nyby, 1951); The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

Based on a 1938 novella called Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr., both The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982) follow a group of Antarctic researchers who become trapped with monsters that are able to shapeshift and imitate living beings. Although the ’50s version became the highest-grossing science-fiction film of the year, it lacks the incredible atmosphere of paranoia that Carpenter’s remake possesses.

Upon the release of the remake, which starred Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, and Keith David, many critics labelled it as terrible and even “the most-hated film of all time.” However, its critical and commercial failure may be down to the fact that there were multiple science-fiction films released around the same time such as E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, which was in stark contrast to The Thing, which was much more pessimistic. Furthermore, the repulsive special effects were off-putting for a lot of audiences – however, it is these effects that make the film so brilliant, and it is now consisted a cult classic, influencing legions of horror movies since.

4. Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997; 2007)

Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke is known for his equally disturbing and provocative productions, from The Piano Teacher to Cache to The Seventh Continent. However, one of his most popular films Funny Games, released in 1997, attracted much wider recognition, perhaps due to its home invasion storyline which famously populates the horror/thriller genre. Funny Games stands out amongst other home invasion films because of the sheer cruelty and relentless behaviour that comes from such witty and entertaining characters.

Yet in 2007, Haneke decided to remake the film, shot-for-shot, only this time in English rather than Austrian. Starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as the unsuspecting couple, and Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet as the intruders, Haneke manages to fix any minor flaws from the original. Regularly breaking the fourth wall – a satirical commentary on violence in the media – Pitt and Corbet play their parts incredibly well in a rare instance of an American remake being just as good – if not better – than the original.

3. Scarface (Howard Hawks, 1932; Brian De Palma, 1983)

Based loosely on the novel of the same name written by Armitage Trail, the gangster tale Scarface, inspired by the notorious Al Capone, was most famously adapted in 1983 by Brian De Palma. Starring Al Pacino as drug-lord Tony Montana, the film chronicles his rise and fall, and despite an initially negative reception, the film is now widely loved by critics and audiences alike, with such lines as “Say hello to my little friend!” spouted by those who may not have even seen the film.

The 1932 version was filmed in the Pre-Code era of Hollywood, where filmmakers often experimented with controversial topics and depicted nudity and violence. However, the introduction of the Hays Code meant that Hollywood had to crack down and heavily censor films, leading Scarface to be described as “one of the most highly censored films in Hollywood history.” Many violent scenes were deleted, and additional ones that condemned the criminals were directed by Richard Rossen and served as an alternative ending. It’s safe to say that the De Palma version, which revels in triumphant displays of excess, murder, and corruption is a much stronger version of the tale of gangster Tony.

2. The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958; David Cronenberg, 1986)

David Cronenberg’s The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who begins to turn into a human-fly hybrid after a failed experiment, is one of the most well-loved horror films of the 1980s. However, the Kafkaesque story is based on the 1957 short story of the same name written by George Langelaan, which was adapted for the screen a year later by Kurt Neumann.

The ’50s adaptation was a commercial success, grossing over $3 million domestically, making it one of Fox Studios’ most successful films of the year. However, the release of Cronenberg’s version almost 30 years later was a much bigger success, grossing over $40 million domestically. The graphic nature of the film and its use of body horror, paired with an astounding performance by Goldblum makes the remake miles better than its source material.

1. Dune (David Lynch, 1984; Denis Villeneuve, 2021)

After the success of Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Twin Peaks, cinema’s greatest surrealist David Lynch was offered the chance to direct an adaptation of the epic sci-fi novel Dune, originally written in 1965 by Frank Herbert. However, after many artistic compromises, including Lynch being unable to have the final cut, the director was unhappy with the finished result. The film was a commercial and critical failure, with most Lynch fans still hailing it as his worst film. Dune is a complete mess, both stylistically and structurally, with the dense material of the novel poorly translated and condensed onto the screen.

Yet Denis Villeneuve, director of successes such as Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, and Prisoners tried his hand at adapting the hefty novel in 2021, to much acclaim. His adaptation, starring Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac received six Academy Awards and grossed over $400 million worldwide. A searing and triumphant score by Hans Zimmer accompanies breathtaking cinematography and performances, making it doubtlessly better than Lynch’s attempt.