Today we’re going to talk about movie remakes and some amazing references they make to the original films. We felt it was necessary to do this because so many people are unable to see these references through all the tears they’ve been crying about how Hollywood likes to remake films. People of the world: we have an announcement. We hate to be the ones to tell you this, but Hollywood has always remade films, just like authors have always remade texts. Most everything that you believe to be original out there is just a cleverly masked reworking of some other text. This is the way it is, and it’s the way it always has been. In 1711, when Alexander Pope wrote An Essay on Criticism, he noted that both the imitation of art and imitation of nature are unavoidable. Speaking about Virgil’s attempt to write something as monumental as Homer but different, Pope wrote, “But when t’ examine ev’ry part he came, Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.”
Now that we’ve discussed the elephant in the room, we can look at remakes as a standard in the industry. One of the best parts about watching a remake is catching all the connections to the original, the bold and the subtle. The bold are connections for everyone. Die-hard fans of the original films might even overlook these because they’re so familiar. The subtle references are the ones that they’re seeking and finding them is like finding a treasure. Well, the references on this list are the remake treasures, and we’ve tracked them down so you don’t have to. These references are the remake’s way of saying, “thank you.” Here they are: 16 references to the originals you never caught in movie remakes.
16. King Kong – Rick Baker Cameo
Rick Baker was the prosthetics artist for the 1976 King Kong, but he was also the man inside the beast’s costume. When Peter Jackson and his team remade King Kong in 2005, they asked Baker if he would make a cameo. He agreed and Jackson had him play the pilot who shot down King Kong. This is kind of a double-edged reference as it points to the 1933 version of the film as well. In that version, Merian C. Cooper, the director, played the part of the pilot responsible for gunning down the giant ape. Jackson having Baker take that part is his way of putting the man in an esteemed position, if only for the crew and fans who recognized the honor. Baker is one of the true living legends in the art of monster makeup and prosthetics, so this was a nice touch to have him involved in remaking a film that he helped make into one of the most recognizable in the industry.
15. Dawn of the Dead – Gaylen Ross Clothing Store
In the 1978 film, Dawn of the Dead, actress Gaylen Ross played the lead female role, a character named Fran. With only a few film credits to her name, Ross is not the most recognizable in the industry, but fans of the zombie classic know her well. In 2004, when Dawn of the Dead was remade, Gaylen Ross made an appearance, but not as an actress. It was the name Gaylen Ross that was used. The director, Zack Snyder, changed one of the store names in the mall, a clothing store, to Gaylen Ross. While there were many differences between the original film and the Snyder remake, the name Gaylen Ross was a neat constant between the two zombie flicks.
14. Godzilla – Scarred Godzilla
There are a few cool references to the original Godzilla (1954) in the 2014 remake, but none beat the scars on Godzilla. If you look closely at the new Godzilla, you’ll notice that he bears a great many keloid scars, potentially pointing to some big battles or radiation poisoning of some sort. In actuality, this is a nod to the original Godzilla who bore many similar marks, signifying the scars worn by survivors of the atomic bombs in World War II. We also want to mention a couple of other references that are seen in a classroom of Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in the remake. The class is discussing moths and there is a model visible that resembles the Mothra (1961). In the same classroom, there is a red pteranodon that looks a lot like Rodan (1956) as well as a dinosaur skeleton that hints at Godzilla. Sure, they aren’t references to the original film, per se, but they allude to the kaiju film genre.
13. Fright Night – Chris Sarandon Cameo
In the original Fright Night movie, Chris Sarandon plays the part of Jerry Dandridge, the vampire who moves in next door to our protagonist. In the 2011 remake, Colin Farrell plays the part of Dandridge, but Chris Sarandon makes a brief appearance. He plays a random guy who rear ends Colin Farrell and company in his car. This leads to a great scene in which the new Jerry Dandridge (Farrell) bites the old Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). We don’t learn Sarandon’s character’s name in this film until the credits. Turns out he was named Jay Dee, Jay for Jerry and Dee for Dandridge.
12. Clash of the Titans – Bubo the Owl
The original Clash of the Titans is about as cheesy as a film can get, but it’s a magical piece of art. The remake, though it missed the mark as a film, had a pretty funny throwback included for fans of the original. While Perseus (Sam Worthington) and company are in an armory, Perseus digs through a chest and pulls out a metal owl. Fans of the 1981 film will instantly recognize this as a replica of Bubo the Owl. Bubo was Perseus’ trusty companion in the original and was just about the greatest thing ever invented, a crude robotic owl that jerked around in the most hilarious way. Though Bubo only got a few seconds on film in the remake, it was just enough to show fans that the filmmakers hadn’t totally lost sight of the original, even if it was making fun of it at the same time.
11. Halloween – Laurie Strode’s House
There’s been some tough love between Rob Zombie, the man who made the Halloween remakes, and John Carpenter, the man who made the original, but make no mistake, Zombie considers Carpenter a living legend and made an honest attempt at a faithful reimagining of the Halloween films. The best homage in the remakes is in the location of filming. Zombie filmed most of his versions in the exact same place that Carpenter did, South Pasadena, California. In the scene that shows Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) sitting in a classroom and sees Michael Myers out the window, check out the house behind him. That is the same house that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) lived in the original 1978 film.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street – Familiar Jersey
When Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) is sucked into his bed and killed by Freddy Krueger in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, he is wearing a football jersey/bellytop. The jersey is number 10 and a young J. Depp looks fly as hell in it. When the film was remade in 2010, Kris, Freddy’s first victim is killed wearing a football jersey with the same number 10. There’s also a small little reference not long before that scene where Kris falls asleep in school. Right before she nods off, the teacher says, “turn your pages to 84,” clearly pointing to the year that A Nightmare on Elm Street was made, 1984.
9. War of the Worlds – The Van Burens
In the 1953 version of War of the Worlds, Ann Robinson was one of the stars, playing Sylvia Van Buren. When it came time to remake the film in 2005, Steven Spielberg had Robinson come back on board and cameo as the grandmother. Spielberg wasn’t done paying his respects to the actress and the character there. In one scene, after the aliens had already begun their attack, Tom Cruise is running through the streets as he tends to do in film. Seriously, that little guy is always running full speed. Well, keep your eyes peeled when this happens because one of the street signs that Cruise passes is named Van Buren street after Robinson’s classic character.
8. The Karate Kid – Crane vs. Cobra
In the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan are walking through a temple, making their way toward the dragon well as part of Jaden’s training. Along the way, the kid stops and watches a woman snake charming while she is standing on a ledge, balancing on one leg. You’ll notice this style of Kung Fu as Crane Style because of how the users balance, like a crane. This is the same technique that Daniel (Ralph Macchio) uses in the original film when he balances on that post and, in the end, when he protects his injured leg. Add in the Cobra being controlled and you have a subtle reference to the original, the crane (Daniel) defeating the cobra (Johnny and the Cobra Kai dojo).
7. The Crazies – A Crazy Cameo
In the 2010 remake of George A. Romero‘s 1973 film, The Crazies, there’s an amazing and creepy scene that has an older lady/crazy riding a bicycle through the abandoned downtown streets. It seems like it’s just meant to be an eerie scene, but Romero super fans might have recognized it as something much more. The actress riding the bike is Lynn Lowry, the same Lowry who played teenager Kathy Fulton, one of the stars of the original film. It’s probably impossible for the average fan to recognize her, but 37 years later, Lowry returned to the film that gave her a start in the industry.
6. RoboCop – Murphy’s Arm
In the original 1987 film, when RoboCop is first brought online, there’s a conversation between the scientists and Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) about how they were “able to save the left arm.” Morton is angered by this because he wants “full body prosthesis,” so he orders them to “lose the arm.” In the 2014 film remake, this is alluded to by having RoboCop completely robotic except for one human hand. Even though it’s the right hand, it’s a great little reference to what seemed like a throwaway line back in 1987.
5. Cape Fear – All-Star Cameos
The original 1962 Cape Fear featured a star-studded cast and is an amazing film, but, ever since the 1991 remake was made, the original has taken a backseat. Many don’t even know it exists. Today, the version with Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte and Juliette Lewis is thought of as the only Cape Fear. Well, it isn’t and there is a slew of cameos in the remake to remind you that it’s indebted to the film that came before it. In the remake, Max Cady’s (De Niro) lawyer is played by Gregory Peck (left), the actor who played Sam Bowden in the original. Lieutenant Elgart is played by Robert Mitchum, the man who played Max Cady in the original, and the judge is played by Martin Balsam, who also starred in the original film as Mark Dutton.
4. Total Recall – Two Weeks
Perhaps the most famous scene in the original Total Recall film features a portly woman being asked about her stay on Mars and how long she’s in town/planet. She responds, “two weeks.” Good. However, when asked if she’s brought any fruits or vegetables, she responds, “two weeks.” Not good. This is when we learn that the woman is really Quaid (Arnold) wearing a costume, one that has malfunctioned and is starting to break down in the most incredibly dramatic way. In the remake, a similar scene starts up. A woman who looks exactly like Quaid’s 1990 costume walks into the shot and the camera focuses on her. She’s asked how long she’ll be on Mars and she responds, “two weeks.” We expect the worst but nothing happens. She’s only a red herring. The man behind her is the real Quaid, but this time he’s got a holographic costume. Technology has advanced. Still, it’s a great throwback for fans.
3. Evil Dead – Skull Necklace
Since remakes are reviled by critics the way they are, it’s rare to find one that is generally received positively. The 2013 remake of Evil Dead is one of those rare titles. While the majority of critics certainly weren’t blown away, there was a lot to like about the film. The film also had a number of references to the original Sam Raimi film that even the most casual of fan could pick up, but there was one moment in particular, the skull necklace, that made the diehard group giddy. In both Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, Ash reaches for a necklace with a magnifying glass on it and we see that the necklace has taken the shape of a skull. It’s silly, but it’s incredible and we love it. In the remake, we see that very same skull, shaped a little rougher, making it more believable but every bit as awesome.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Brother’s Knife
If you think back to the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Sally’s (Marilyn Burns) brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), is always playing with a knife. At one point, Franklin gives the knife to Sally and she keeps it. If you hadn’t seen the movie a bunch of times, you might not even remember this scene. Still, in the 2003 remake, this small scene is referenced. In the film, the new protagonist, Erin (Jessica Biel), has a knife. When she’s asked about where it came from, she responds, “I got it from my brother.” You see? They’re aware of us people. Our work has paid off. We don’t need to feel sad that we’ve wasted our formative years watching movies.
1. Ghostbusters – A Harold Ramis Bust
Yeah, there are women in it. We’ll happily ignore all the bellyaching from both sides of the Ghostbusters argument and get to the best reference to the original in the remade films. Mixed in amongst all the yelling back and forth, many wondered if the original cast would make an appearance in the new film and most of them did. Admittedly, we were saddened that Rick Moranis didn’t come out of hiding to make an appearance. We were also saddened that Harold Ramis (Egon) couldn’t make an appearance because he passed away in 2014, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved. In a scene early on, we see in one of the hallways in Columbia University, a gold bust of Ramis or Egon, a nice acknowledgement of the man who co-wrote both Ghostbusters films.