Remakes and reboots are a true double-edged sword. One the one hand, you have instant name recognition and thus fans are intrigued. You can put a good spin on it, update it for modern audiences and, in a few rare cases, make it even better and well regarded. That includes reboots as we’ve seen great success with James Bond, Batman and Planet of the Apes among the properties that have had wonderful new starts for success.
However, the number of failures outweigh the successes. For too long, Hollywood has missed what makes a movie (or, occasionally TV show) work in the first place and make as many mistakes as possible trying to give it a new spin. Bad direction or writing, a poor star, they have their effects but there’s also grand interference and just totally ignoring what made the original work. There have been slews of examples in movies and television but the worst of the worst is notable for just how far they can miss the attempt to bring a classic to new life. Here are 15 of the worst remakes and reboots from both movies and television and why sometimes, it’s best to leave the original alone.
15. The Amazing Spider-Man
It’s true that Spider-Man 3 was recognized as a horrible effort so an attempt to kick things back up made some sense. However, a total reboot just five years later threw many and it didn’t help that the final effort attempted a Dark Knight motif, which doesn’t fit Spider-Man at all. Andrew Garfield was good in the lead but still came off too mopey for Peter Parker and Emma Stone seemed an odd choice for Gwen Stacey. The plotline of the Lizard didn’t connect as well and neither did the talk of a grand conspiracy involving Peter’s parents. The movie did do well enough for a sequel which was even worse with the attempts to shove in Electro, the Green Goblin, Shailene Woodley doing several scenes as Mary Jane Watson only to have her part completely cut out of the movie and a desperate attempt to set up a massive number of spin-offs…which have all been cancelled with Marvel Studios getting the character back for the MCU. Thus, these films stand as a total waste of those involved, trying to make Spider-Man too much like Batman and what happens when you try to create an entire cinematic universe before you can even get the first part of it right.
14. Around the World in 80 Days
Jules Verne’s classic adventure has seen adaptations from a Pierce Brosnan mini-series to the star-studded 1956 Best Picture Oscar winner. The 2004 adaptation is the classic case of keeping the title and bare bones plot and tossing everything else. The issue was that this was never meant to focus on adventurer Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) but rather his servant Passepartout, played by martial arts star Jackie Chan. Thus, much of the movie involves Chan’s mix of action and comedy which turned this into a bizarre shaping of elements, including a few wild cameos (Arnold Schwarzenegger as a prince). The attempt to turn this into a family-friendly film just added to the problems of the story, the distraction of Chan’s character and a waste of fun appearances (such as Kathy Bates as Queen Victoria) to end up a massive box office flop and proof of what happens when you stray far too much from the original material.
13. Clash of the Titans
The original 1981 film is well-liked for its campy aspects and the terrific stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen. Sadly, the 2010 remake flushed that all down the toilet for wild CGI and a too-serious tone that just made it laughable. Ignoring most of the story of the original, Sam Worthington didn’t work as hero Perseus and segments meant to be great (such as the battle with Medusa) were marred because of the push for poor-looking effects. Liam Neeson and Ralph Finnes just looked bored in their roles as gods and the sudden attempt to turn it into a 3-D format only served to make the film look even worse. It managed enough money to make an (even worse) sequel but only serves as a reminder of how far much more fun the original was.
12. Oz the Great and Powerful
Described as a “spiritual prequel,” this 2013 movie is still buzzed about getting a sequel to build on the classic stories, thanks to a monster box office take. However, most would prefer this to stand far on its own as basically spitting on the magic of the stories. The miscasting was all over the place: James Franco as the supposedly smarmy Wizard but not that likeable; Michelle Williams too young-looking for Glinda; Rachel Weisz wasted as one conniving queen while Mila Kunis was awful as the Wicked Witch. The fact this is a movie Johnny Depp passed on should say volumes as the CGI was far too distracting and the storyline weak. While a success at the box office, the tales of Oz don’t lend themselves as well to a modern-day Hollywood blockbuster and a key reason this film lacks true magic.
11. The Ladykillers
No one is perfect, not even the Coen Brothers. On paper, Ladykillers was right up their alley, the 1955 British film a classic black comedy about a gang of thieves whose attempts to use a house for a robbery are undone by the overbearing landlady. But the Coens’ effort was marred from the start by Tom Hanks woefully miscast as the leader of the bunch. With a bad beard and one of the most horrible Southern accents ever put on film, Hanks was far too over the top for what was meant to be a satire and turned it into bad comedy. The attempts at darkness just turned slapstick and below the efforts of the brothers as their usually good writing delivered a very lazy script. A poor box office take sealed its fate and while they would bounce back with No Country For Old Men, this shows how even masters of their craft can’t mean a great remake.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The issue with any attempts to remake or reboot this classic franchise is that so much of the success rested on Robert Englund’s fantastic performance as Freddy Kruger. Good as he is, Jackie Earle Haley was never going to top that and came off a pale imitation. It didn’t help that the movie ignored the terrific psychological thrills of the original in favor of “slasher scares” and Wes Craven was publically upset about not being contacted to take part in the project. While some were kind, most believed this was a series far better off on its own without the attempt to magic it up with CGI. The movie was a box office hit but most true fans of the original find it a poor attempt to “update” a movie that remains so terrifying today and most hold the original in far higher regard.
9. Planet of the Apes
The recent revival of the Apes franchise has been quite remarkable, more so given how most thought it was dead and buried after Tim Burton’s 2001 flop. It had so much promise with Burton’s quirky style and the idea of Charlton Heston as an ape was a priceless cameo. But it just failed to connect, Mark Wahlberg not the good actor he would become and thus lost, the various actors like Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter buried under the makeup and Estella Warren just eye candy as a human slave. Of course, what everyone remembers is the ending, which comes out of nowhere, makes zero sense and just highlights what a missed opportunity this was. It took a decade for the franchise to get back on track with a real reboot and proves how a big-name director can often hurt, more than help, a remake.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
From the moment it was announced Michael Bay was going to produce a revival of the classic ‘90’s mega-franchise, there were worries, if not outright panic, among its fans. It got worse with reports of an early script that had the Turtles as aliens. While that was changed, the final result still didn’t go over well. The all-CGI for the Turtles looked horrible (not to mention how making them giants robbed a great “little guy against odds” bit that made the series work) and the juvenile jokes didn’t help. Megan Fox looked great but her “acting” made April a loss of a character and the baffling plotline involving the Shredder and the insane direction (that appeared to have no understanding how to straighten out a camera) just led to something painful to watch. It actually has a sequel coming which is remarkable given how it played far more as a parody of the TMNT franchise than the real thing and not many that eager for more.
Yes, it was just a few years ago that Hollywood executives were convinced Russell Brand was going to be the next comedy mega-star. True, he was good in supporting roles but not as well in a major leading one as proven by this remake of the 1981 hit. Dudley Moore had a nice charm to win you over to the role of a drunk millionaire but Brand was just too in your face with the “humor” and acting the jerk to be as winning and thus the entire film was thrown off. Even the presence of Helen Mirren as his protector and Jennifer Garner as his lover couldn’t spark things as the film was ripped by critics as an ugly mess that totally missed why the first was so appealing. A box office disappointment, it only served to hurt Brand’s standing in Hollywood rather than helping and why Moore was one of a kind.
6. Terminator Genisys
This was meant to get the Terminator franchise back on track and while it did well at the box office, most see it as a truly epic disaster. Having Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the iconic role seemed promising but Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke were very pale shadows of Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton. Of course, they key problem was the story, a completely baffling mix of time travel paradoxes, attempts to link to the original film while also undoing it, the CGI way over the top and just a mash of dramatic beats that failed to connect. That’s not to mention that the one truly great twist of the film (John Connor being a Terminator himself) was given away in the trailers. The movie may have been successful overseas but most fans have trashed it as a complete mess that just tarnishes, not honors, the film series and how trying to put modern effects in a classic story just leads to trouble.
5. The Women
The 1939 movie based on the stage play was acclaimed for being groundbreaking in focusing on a look at a batch of women friends as they try to help one of their group out when she realizes her husband is cheating on her. It was basically the Sex and the City of its time only much smarter. One would think writer/director Diane English would be great for the 2008 remake to bring the story to modern times. It had a good cast of Annette Benning, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith and Meg Ryan and kept the fun touch of absolutely no male stars. Sadly, the final results were a mess, Roger Ebert one of the few who liked it and more simply for giving so many female actresses a push rather than the film itself. Most said English just couldn’t make a 1930’s story work for a modern audience, the clash of cultures coming off horrible, the actresses just not clicking well as an ensemble and the movie was a massive flop. A shame a strong female cast could get such a raw deal.
4. The Wicker Man
How do you turn a remake of a classic thriller into a joke? Cast Nicolas Cage. The 1973 original was a fantastic horror experience that amped up the tension before its brutally dark ending. The 2006 version played like a horrible parody with Cage turning in a ludicrous performance (yes even by his standards) as a cop tracking a missing girl on a small island run by a cult of women and what happens next has to be seen to be believed. From yelling to shoot-outs to punching a woman out while dressed in a bear costume to the now infamous “Not the bees!” moment, Cage gives a performance that makes Al Pacino at his worst look like the model of quiet subtlety. To top it all off, it has a dedication to rocker Johnny Ramone who had nothing to do with the film. A massive bomb, it’s become oddly popular in the “so bad you have to see it” way and how Cage just makes it amazing in so many ways.
One of the greatest cases ever of what happens when over-hyping backfires. Following the success of Independence Day, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich planned a remake of the iconic Japanese monster and promised a fantastic spectacle. For months on end, ads touted its presence (“his foot is as big as this bus”) and the tag line “Size does matter.” It was expected to be the biggest hit of 1998…and then it opened. The reviews were mixed with most thinking the human actors (Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno among them) lost amid a story that went too far for comedy and failed to provide the thrills promised. The big issue was Godzilla himself as it became obvious the refusal to not show him in trailers was less impact and more how bad it looked, a Jurassic Park knock-off that had none of the power or appeal of the original version. The movie was a success but not the huge hit expected and while the 2014 version had flaws, it’s still seen as much better than this. Indeed, the later Japanese films openly mocked this as “not the real Godzilla,” a feeling many fans more than back up.
2. Fantastic Four
There’s an entire book to be written on how Fox’ attempt this year to reboot the comic book property failed on every level. Josh Trank seemed a poor choice due to his lack of experience and the fact that if any property should not have a “grounded and realistic” approach, it’s the FF. By now, the stories are legendary of the studio interference, the constant rewrites and reshoots (you can clearly tell where Kate Mara is wearing a hideous wig) and thus easy to see them as trashing Trank’s work. At the same time, Trank told his actors not to read the comics as he didn’t want them influenced by the source material and was okay with things like Doctor Doom turned into a goofy scientist type. That’s not to mention still the problems with pacing, storyline, Michael B. Jordan’s casting more of a distraction than a help and all culminating in a disaster horrible beyond fans’ expectations. It’s no wonder there’s a push for Disney/Marvel to buy back the rights and give the FF their due as this is already ranking high among the worst comic book movies of all time thanks to how the war of director and studio ruined a bid for a new era.
The point of a remake is to try and give a movie a new spin, take it in a new direction and a new eye. Which is why Gus Van Sant’s 1998 movie has to top this list. Trying to remake Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film, considered one of the greatest thriller masterpieces of all time, was foolish enough. The movie was much a product of its time with the shocking shower scene and killing off Janet Leigh only half an hour in. To try and recreate that feeling seemed a poor move. But the truly baffling touch was that Van Sant decided this would be a shot-for-shot remake, using the exact same angles and lighting Hitchcock had. Why anyone would choose such an idiotic direction, let alone someone as talented as Van Sant, is beyond belief and it pretty much doomed the project.
Of course, it already had problems. Lovely as Anne Heche is, she lacked the quality (and star power) that made Leigh’s death in the original such a big deal. Also, Vince Vaughn was miscast as Norman Bates, his attempts as menace coming off more laughable and threw everything off. The movie was savaged by critics who saw utterly no point in this attempt and while Van Sant has defended it, it still comes off as one of the weakest attempts at a major remake ever.