Hollywood seems to have a great interest in remaking films. Remakes of movies are hitting theatres all the time. In the next year, remakes of the musical Annie, the classic monster movie Godzilla and the superhero franchise Fantastic Four will be coming to theatres.
Actor Steve Martin said of remakes, “Movies always are open to being remade because times change so much, and the tempo of movies changes.”
While it may seem like there’s an influx of remakes in recent years, this isn’t a new trend at all. In fact, American filmmakers have been remaking movies since the start of the industry–even when there were only silent films and “talkies” were a thing of the future. They not only remake other American movies, but look to foreign films for inspiration as well. Some of these American remakes of foreign films are well known. Most of us know that The Ring and The Grudge, two very popular horror movies, were remade from Japanese films.
But what about other countries? You may not know this but there are many American remakes of classic French films. As much as we can complain about the lack of creativity in choosing to do a remake rather than going for an original idea, English-speaking audiences may have never got the chance to experience these stories if they hadn’t been remade.
Today, we’re talking about 7 of the most successful American movies that were remade from French films. You may find some of these surprising.
7. The Mirror Has Two Faces – Grossed $73 Million Worldwide
The Mirror Has Two Faces is like a grown-up, adult version of the ugly duckling story. In the 1996 movie, Barbara Streisand (who also produced and directed the movie), can’t seem to find love–until she meets Jeff Bridges, who only wants to marry her for companionship. Unsatisfied with a lack of romantic love, Barbara’s character goes for a makeover to win him over in the bedroom. While the movie wasn’t super successful at the box office–and some people had a problem with Barbara’s acting skills in the film–it was a success for one very important reason: Lauren Bacall. Her role as the main character’s mother earned her four awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. This movie is actually a remake of the 1958 French drama, Le Miroir a deux faces, directed by André Cayatte.
6. Unfaithful – $119 Million Worldwide
Unfaithful is a 2002 dramatic thriller starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. As you might suspect from the title, it’s about a woman who cheats on her husband with a younger man ( Olivier Martinez). The movie is full of erotic sex scenes between Diane Lane’s character and the man she cheats on her husband with. True to the thriller genre, the adultery doesn’t sit well with any of the characters and things get gritty really quickly. Though the film grossed $119 million worldwide, most of that success was foreign. Perhaps that’s because of how successful the original French film was. It all started with the 1968 movie La Femme infidèle, translated in English as “The Unfaithful Wife,” directed by Claude Chabrol.
5. Nine Months – Grossed $138.5 Million Worldwide
If you put Hugh Grant in your movie, there’s a good chance it will do well at the box office. At the very least, he’ll draw in those out there who find his British wiles unbelievably charming. Fans also seemed to like the premise of a lady’s man finally settling down after getting surprised by the fact that his ballet-dancing girlfriend is pregnant. That may be why Nine Months did so well in sales. While this 1995 American romantic comedy earned $138.5 million worldwide, it didn’t find nearly as much success when it came to critical reviews. This one is a remake of the 1993 French film Neuf mois directed by Patrick Braoudé.
4. Three Men and a Baby – Grossed $168 Million Domestically
A big hit in the late 1980s, Three Men and a Baby won the hearts of American audiences. Fans loved the idea of Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg becoming a trio of reluctant fathers. Watching them fumble with diapers and baby food provided quite a bit of comic relief. Because of the popularity of the film, it earned $168 million domestically. The film was such a success that it even spawned a sequel: Three Men and a Little Lady. Still, some of this remake’s success needs to be attributed to the original 1985 French film, Trois hommes et un couffin, translated in English as “Three Men and a Cradle.” The French original was also a huge success. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and earned an academy award from the National Academy of Cinema.
3. The Birdcage – Grossed $185 Million Worldwide
When you hear the plot of the movie The Birdcage, you might think it was made recently rather than the mid-’90s. In it, an adult son brings his fiance and her conservative family to meet his parents. But, his family life was a bit different than most because he grew up with two gay fathers. The 1996 movie features fantastic performances by the actors who played his gay dads: Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. The interesting subject matter and balanced blend of drama and comedy made this movie a success. It was number one in the box office for three weeks after its release in theaters and it earned $185 million worldwide. Still, the idea wasn’t an original one. It was actually a remake of the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles. The original was nominated for three Academy Awards and even had a big following in the United States, becoming a favorite among those who love foreign films.
2. The Tourist – Grossed $278 Million Worldwide
The Tourist had a few things going for it when it was released in 2010. First, it featured both a romance and thriller plot line–a combination you don’t see all the time. Plus, it had a beautiful cast. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie headlined this film about a woman trying to escape those who pursue her, all while involving the unwitting man she picks up on a train. While this was an American movie, it wasn’t very popular in the United States. Critics and audiences alike found the movie too slow. Still, it had a very successful box office, earning $278 million worldwide. Most of those earnings came from the foreign box office, which is interesting since The Tourist is a remake of the 2005 French thriller Anthony Zimmer. The original was well-loved by French critics and movie-goers alike.
1. True Lies – Grossed $378 Million Worldwide
True Lies, the 1994 American movie, had it all. There was intense action thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger and his amazing stunts (remember the fight in the men’s room?), and some great comedic scenes thanks to the ever-funny Tom Arnold. We also got to see Jamie Lee Curtis perform a sexy striptease. While this movie was a success, earning $378 million worldwide and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis’ role, few people realize that this winner is a remake. It’s a based on the French film La Totale!, which came out just a few years before in 1991 and was directed by Claude Zidi. While it was good enough to warrant making an American version of the film, it didn’t earn the same critical acclaim or awards that True Lies received.