American movie studios just love to remake old movies. It’s been happening since the start of film itself. A movie idea becomes popular with fans and the studio execs say, “Hey, they liked that. We should do it again.”
While some film buffs complain every time a new remake is released, there’s some hard truth here: many Americans would have never experienced the story if it hadn’t been remade. In this case, we’re talking about foreign-language movies remade by American movie studios. The script is translated to English and tweaked to fit the American culture. The original actors are replacing with English-speaking counterparts–and suddenly American audiences are clamoring to see these films.
In 2014, a big-budget remake will be coming out in America, and its based on Japanese movies. Godzilla comes out mid-May and is directed by Gareth Edwards. To celebrate this release, we’re talking about successful American remakes of Japanese films today. These movies brought Japanese stories to English-speaking audiences–and they did very well at the box office. You may be surprised to find that they span a wide range of genres–from Westerns to romantic dance flicks and everywhere in between.
7. The Magnificent Seven (1960) – $55.5 Million Domestically
When you ask someone to name a classic Western movie, they’ll probably mention The Magnificent Seven. It’s been a favorite of Western-lovers ever since its release in 1960. In it, a Mexican village is being terrorized by a bandit. The leader of the village decides to assemble a team of seven American gunmen to help protect the village from the threat. The Magnificent Seven stars Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner, to name a few. Although this cowboy movie seems so authentically American, it’s actually based off of the Japanese movie Seven Samurai, released in 1954. The original has a similar premise but features samurai rather than cowboy-style gunmen. The Magnificent Seven was popular enough with fans to spawn several sequels in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1960, it earned $7.2 million in domestic box office and rental sales. In 2014 numbers, based on inflation, that’s just about $55.5 million.
6. A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – $107.5 Million Domestically
A Fistful of Dollars isn’t the first American Western movie to be remade from a Japanese Samurai movie. The Magnificent Seven (1960) did it, too, although this one was a lot more successful in terms of sales. In A Fistful of Dollars, a wandering cowboy, played by Clint Eastwood, happens upon a town ruled by two warring families. It’s based on Japan’s Yojimbo (1961) about a solitary samurai that takes on a town of criminals. I’m sure you can see the similarities in the two films despite the different settings. At the time, it was a big success at the box office earning $14.5 million domestically. Taking inflation into consideration, that’s like earning $107.5 million in 2014. Over the years, it has bee released on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray to great success.
5. Eight Below (2006) – $120.5 Million Worldwide
Eight Below is one of the more surprising remakes on this list–not only because it’s an unlikely American remake of a Japanese movie, but because it actually did a lot better at the box office than people would expect. Eight Below is based on the 1983 Japanese movie Antarctica. In the American version, a guide–played by the late Paul Walker–is working at a base in Antarctica when he needs to leave quickly because of an oncoming snow storm. Unfortunately, the storm gets worse and he needs to leave his sled dogs behind. Much of the movie is spent with the sled dogs as they fight for survival. Although the movie seemed to go largely unnoticed, it garnered positive reviews from critics and $120.5 million worldwide at the box office. It also earned a 2007 ASPCA Film and Television Music Award.
4. Shall We Dance? (2004) – $170.1 Million Worldwide
Though most people think of horror movies or anime when they think of Japan, other genres are popular there as well. This time, an American movie studio remade a romantic dance movie called Shall We Dance? Richard Gere plays an average married man just getting through life when he sees a beautiful woman in the window of a dance studio and can’t help but sign up for dance lessons. His dance partner in the film? Jennifer Lopez. The original Japanese version of the same name came out in 1996 and won a whopping 14 awards at the Japanese Academy Awards. While the American version didn’t win any awards, it did much better at the box office than its Japanese counterpart, earning $170.1 million worldwide.
3. The Grudge (2004) – $187.2 Million Worldwide
The Grudge was the pinnacle of horror in 2004. In it, Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s character is living in Japan and gets stuck with a very scary ghost when she helps an old woman in her home. Unlike some American remakes of foreign films, The Grudge is still set and filmed in its home country of Japan. In fact, it’s even directed by Takashi Shimizu–the same man who directed the original Japanese version called Ju-on: The Grudge (2003). In addition to using the same director and setting, the English-language version also uses the same actors as the ghosts for both movies. The Grudge was a big success in North America, earning $39.1 million in its opening weekend. In ended up earning $187.2 million worldwide and was nominated for many awards. The creepy soundtrack even won a 2005 Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Score.
2. The Ring (2002) – $249.3 Million Worldwide
The Ring has a lot of stylistic similarities to another horror movie on this list: The Grudge. They both came out around the same time, both feature a super creepy ghost with long black hair and both did very well at the box office. Still, The Ring, based on the Japanese film Ringu (1998), beat out The Grudge at the box office by over $60 million worldwide. Perhaps it earned more based on the premise of someone watching a creepy VHS tape that claims you’ll die in 7 days. Either way, The Ring pulled in $249.3 million at the worldwide box office. It’s also won a handful of awards, including the 2003 People’s Choice Award for Best Horror Movie and a 2003 MTV Movie Award for Best Villain.
1. Godzilla (1998) – $379 Million Worldwide
Although there’s a new Godzilla movie coming out this spring, it definitely isn’t the first and it probably won’t be the last. Godzilla is an American remake of the 1954 Japanese monster movie Gojira. In the 1998 version of the movie, France decides to test some atomic bombs in the South Pacific. Unfortunately, all that radiation affects a nest of nearby lizards and one grows super gigantic. Where does it want to spend its time wreaking havoc? New York City. It stars Matthew Broderick as the plucky scientist trying to figure it all out. Although the reviews weren’t very good, Godzilla was still a big hit at the box office. It earned $55.7 million during its opening weekend and $379 million worldwide overall.