We all like to point our fingers at how Hollywood has lost its originality, that there are no more stories to tell, that everything is recycled. Truthfully though, the movie remake is nothing new. In 1940, His Girl Friday was a remake of a 1931 picture. In 1959, Some Like it Hot was a remake of a 1941 picture. Not to mention how many great films are based on classic literature. In other words, it’s not so much that Hollywood has run out of new stories to tell, but rather, it opens up its market on its ability to retell. And why not? As author of Film Remakes Constatine Verevis has noted, remakes are essentially pre-sold tickets. After all, despite our complaints, many of us flock to the box office to see these movies. So what is it that makes the remake such a touchy subject and one of today’s hottest topics of debate?
Clearly, there is a widespread tendency to judge a remake only by how well it upholds the details of its predecessor, and this may well be what causes us to accuse the new films of being too lazy, too repetitive, or in many cases too different. For a more positive movie experience, author Thomas Leitch argues that remakes should be, to some extent, evaluated as separate entities. The bottom line is, whatever we say, most of us end up going to see them anyways. It may be curiosity that drives us to the cinema but in the end, some do manage to pull through and surprise us. Here are 10 movie remakes that need to be applauded.
10. Vanilla Sky (2001) Opening at over $25 million
A remake of a 1997 Spanish film, Open your Eyes, this film undoubtedly stood a better chance of success by targeting a new audience. Starring Tom Cruise alongside Spanish beauty, Penelope Cruz (who starred in the original as well) only made it easier to get the money rolling in. The film is beautiful, captivating, and – well, confusing – but in a good way. It gets extra points for making us think about life and what all the little details in it mean to us. This one holds an IMDB rating of 6.9.
9. True Grit (2010) Opening at $25.6 million
A remake of a 1969 film by the same title, this Coen brothers western proved John Wayne might not have been a necessary ingredient after all. The film received universal critical acclaim, and Roger Ebert praised its craftsmanship, as well as its ability to remain simple, giving it a 4.5 star rating. Actor, Jeff Bridges was also nominated for an Oscar for a role that had already been praised with an Oscar for the original production. True Grit obtained an IMDB rating of an impressive 7.7.
8. The Departed (2006) Opening at over $26 million
A remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film, this fast paced violent action flick seems to have been made for Martin Scorsese before he ever got his hands on it. Needless to say, the power team, Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese, do not disappoint here. Great music, great thrills, and the Great Jack Nicholson to boot – this one left no chance at failure. IMDB gives the great remake an 8.5.
7. Hairspray (2007) Opening at over $27 million
Based on a 1988 comedy of the same title, and a world renown musical, director Adam Shankman had quite the task ahead of him when he tackled this one. But he did it, and he did it well. It is almost difficult to come across some negative feedback. The film boasts having the widest release of any modern musical and set an opening weekend record for the genre. It’s incredibly talented cast may also have something to do with it. This one rates on IMDB at 6.9.
6. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) Opening at $38 million
A remake of the 1960 classic of the same title, this one had the public from the moment it released the cast list. George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts – the list seems never-ending and we were all anxious to see them join forces. The film did not disappoint. It’s funny, it’s engaging, and above all, it’s a lot of fun to kick back with on any night of the week. IMDB rates this one at 7.8.
5. The Grudge (2004) Opening at $39.1 million
A remake of a 1998 Japanese film Ju-On, this film was almost guaranteed positive reception because of its direct relationship to the original. Takashi Shimizu directed both films making him one of the rare filmmakers who is brave enough to take on a project twice. Notably, Alfred Hitchcock did this with his 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much. In 1956, Hitchcock revisited the same story from a new angle. Shimizu’s films did so well that both went on to spawn sequels. This one gets an almost impressive 5.8 on IMDB.
4. Casino Royale (2006) Opening at over $40 million
Bond. James Bond. These movies just don’t ever seem to get stale. In fact, this particular film rebooted the series, graciously opening the door to Daniel Craig who did wonders for the character, returning him to the roots of the original novel. The film was a critical and box office success. IMDB gives a high rating to this one at 8.
3. King Kong (2005) Opening at $50.1 million
The remake of the 1933 film, Peter Jackson’s King Kong took home more than cash, it won three Academy Awards, all of which privilege its outstanding cinematography to some degree. With a running time of over three hours, it’s surprisingly entertaining. Although he toyed heavily with the idea of a 3D version of this one, it’s a good thing Jackson did not follow through. It just would not feel as authentic and would not be the same. Its IMDB rating is 7.3.
2. The Great Gatsby (2013) Opening at $50.1
Tampering with a beloved book is always dangerous territory, especially when the fans already love a film adaptation as well. But once again DiCaprio shines, so all seems to be forgiven. A visual triumph, the film exhibits the same majestic style as Baz Luhmann’s astonished audiences in Moulin Rouge. The film dazzles alright, but it has been accused of not being able to match the heart of the source work. IMDB gives this one a 7.4.
1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) Opening at over $56 million
A remake of a long-loved child’s tale, this Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration had all the ingredients for sweet, sweet success. Holding worldwide audiences, the film eventually brought in a box office total of nearly $475 million. Teenage girls flocked to Depp, and parents introduced a new generation to a delicious tale. Nothing could hold this one back. Burton and Depp had previously worked together on Nightmare Before Christmas which continues to be one of the most praised films of its time (in fact I bet you all have something with Jack Skellington’s face on it). The two continue to maintain a professional and personal relationship. They are an unstoppable pair. They’ll keep working, and we’ll keep paying. IMDB rates this one at 6.8.