10 Movies You Never Knew Were Remakes

The 2010s are shaping up to be the decade of remakes and reboots. There’s Ghostbusters, Oldboy, Annie, Godzilla, Total Recall, The Karate Kid, Red Dawn, Footloose, Carrie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, RoboCop, Poltergeist, and so many others. So many, in fact, that some have complained that Hollywood has run out of ideas, since all the studios seem to produce now are remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels. And not all of the original films warrant remakes. Take Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break (1991), starring Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze, which has been remade with a cast of few recognizable names.

Whatever happened to originality? Where have all the auteurs gone?

Not all remakes are bad, however. In fact, some of the best movies in recent memory have been based on other films. You might even be surprised to learn that some of your favorite films are not wholly original.

Here’s the list of 10 films you never knew were remakes.

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11 Scarface (1983)

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When you think of Scarface, chances are you think of Al Pacino’s iconic performance as Tony Montana, the gun-toting, drug-dealing Cuban refugee turned drug lord who utters the famous phrase, “Say hello to my little friend.” But did you know that Brian DePalma’s 1983 film is actually based on a 1932 film of the same name, produced by Howard Hughes and starring Paul Muni as Tony Camonte?

In typical modern Hollywood fashion, it was reported in 2011 that yet another version of Scarface would be made, this time under the helm of David Ayer, who directed End of Watch and Fury.

10 Cape Fear (1991)

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Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear, about a psychotic rapist who torments a former public defender and his family, is a remake of a 1962 film directed by J. Lee Thompson. Scorsese’s version is decidedly darker than the original, thanks in large part to Robert De Niro’s turn as the villain, a muscular and tatted-up former convict by the name of Max Cady (you’ll never look at DeNiro the same way after seeing this film). In the original version, famous actor Robert Mitchum plays the part of Max Cady, and he torments Gregory Peck (played by Nick Nolte in the remake). What makes the 1991 film a successful remake is that Scorsese makes the film his own, so much so that you forget that there even was an original Cape Fear.

9 Down to Earth (2001)

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Here’s something you may not have known. Down to Earth, starring Chris Rock as a comedian who is killed and comes back in the body of an old and wealthy white man, was written with the help of comedian Louis C.K. Something else that you may not have known about the film is that it was based on another film, Heaven Can Wait, directed by and starring Warren Beatty, which itself was based on an earlier film called Here Comes Mr. Jordan. And all three of the movies were based at least in part on the Harry Segall play Heaven Can Wait.

To be fair, Down to Earth constitutes less of a remake and more of a rehashing of an idea, since it differs from the source material in several regards, mainly through the fact that in the original play the protagonist is a boxer.

8 True Grit (2010)

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Jeff Bridges had big shoes to fill in the role of Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers’ remake of Henry Hathaway’s 1969 adaptation of the Charles Portis novel True Grit. In the original film, John Wayne plays the part of the heroic, yet alcoholic, lawman, a role that earned him an Academy Award for best actor (Bridges was nominated for an Oscar).

This is one of those rare instances where the remake might actually be better than the original. Despite not winning anything at the Academy Awards, the Coen brothers’ film received ten nominations, whereas the original received only two.

7 You’ve Got Mail (1998)

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Written and directed by Nora Ephron, You’ve Got Mail, a romantic comedy about business rivals/romantic interests, played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, is only one of the many adaptations of a 1937 play entitled Parfumerie. The first adaption came in 1940 with The Shop Around the Corner, followed soon after in 1949 by In the Good Old Summertime, which starred Judy Garland.

Ephron’s version is a modern take on the play, with email in place of letters.

6 The Departed (2006)

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Okay, so maybe you already knew those last two were remakes, especially since they share the same names with their predecessors. But did you know that another of Martin Scorsese’s films, The Departed (2006), which won a slew of awards in 2006, including best motion picture at the Academy Awards, is a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film named Infernal Affairs? Directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, Infernal Affairs is widely considered one of the best films to come out of Hong Kong, and it is the highest rated film from Hong Kong on IMDB.

5 Insomnia (2002)

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Unless you’re a major film buff or you happen to be Norwegian (not that the two are necessarily mutually exclusive), chances are you didn’t know that Christopher Nolan’s 2002 film Insomnia, which stars Al Pacino and the late great Robin Williams, is a remake of a Norwegian film by the same name. Nolan brought the cold dreariness of Norway to Alaska and made one of the best neo-noir thrillers since, well, the previous Insomnia.

It’s hard to say which version is better, as Nolan managed to pull off the difficult feat of remaking an already great film without sacrificing any of the original’s greatness.

4 The Next Three Days (2010)

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Paul Haggis barely waited for the film to cool down on Fred Cavayé’s Pour elle (Anything for Her) before remaking it into The Next Three Days. Starring Russell Crowe as a husband determined to get his wife (Elizabeth Banks) out of prison, Three Next Days did not perform quite as well with critics as the original film did, leaving some to believe that certain films simply shouldn’t be remade unless they add something new to the story. This is the case with many remakes. Why fix something if it isn’t broken?

3 Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)

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Although the original 1977 version starred big name actors like Jane Fonda and George Segal, most people tend to forget that the 2005 film Fun with Dick and Jane, which stars Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni, is in fact a remake. Even though it didn’t do very well with critics, it still managed to bring in over $200 million at the box office, proving that old ideas can still be profitable.

Fun with Dick and Jane, which tells the story of the financial struggles of a once upper-middle-class couple, was remade in the early twenty-first century because it’s themes were more relatable than ever.

2 Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

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In an episode of Community, pop-culture genius Abed Nadir struggles with the question of whether or not Nicolas Cage is a good actor (it’s a question that is likely to go unanswered until the end of time). What is clear, however, is that Gone in 60 Seconds, which stars Cage, Angelina Jolie, and Robert Duvall as car thieves, is a bad film, with a 24% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

One thing you may not have known about the film, especially if you were born well after the 1970s, is that the film is actually a remake of a 1974 film by the same name. Directed by H.B. Halicki, produced by H.B. Halicki, written by H.B. Halicki, and starring H.B. Halicki (he even did his own stunts; who is this guy?), the original film was a box office smash, bringing in $40 million on a meager $150,000 budget.


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