Contrary to popular belief, remakes are nothing new in Hollywood. They’re actually older than Hollywood. Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, the first film screened for a paying audience all the way back in 1895, is a remake of a version screened privately 9 months earlier. Personally, remakes don’t bother me much. Take the upcoming remake of Clash of the Titans for example. The original film had a nifty concept, but it was executed horribly. So why not redo that solid concept? Nothing wrong with that. And if filmmakers want to take on the crushing expectations of remaking a classic, well more power to them. It’s not like the remake will magically erase the original film.
So let’s celebrate remakes.
But first, what’s a remake? Surprisingly, it’s a rather subjective definition. Sometimes, a story such as Pride and Prejudice has been filmed multiple times before. Yet, is the 2005 version a remake of the 2003 movie, or the 1995 mini-series, or the 1980 mini-series, or the 1940 film? Maybe. Maybe not. To me, it’s a re-adaptation of the novel rather than a remake of the cinematic incarnation. Same idea goes for Peter Jackson’s and Ralph Bakshi’s takes on The Lord of the Rings. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean a film can’t be a remake if it’s based off a book. If pop-culture holds the film in higher regard than the original printed story, then you can probably call the newer version a remake (filming a new A Clockwork Orange today would fall into this category). The line is blurry. And it gets even fuzzier when you add pseudo-remakes to the equation. Yes, Star Wars was heavily influenced by The Hidden Fortress and Avatar has much in common with Dances with Wolves. But neither are true remakes.
So if you’re wondering how I picked my 10 favorite remakes, that’s the lens I viewed this list through. Well, mostly. As for the films below and on the next couple of pages, don’t concentrate too much on the ranking. It’s fluid to the point of almost being arbitrary. All the films listed are great motion pictures regardless of whether they’re remakes (and several are actually better than their source, although that didn’t really play into how I chose them).
As you browse my ten selections below, the “Buy This Item Now” links will take you to Amazon.com and offer not only the film being discussed, but also its earlier incarnation where available. Have at it and enjoy and get ready to continue the discussion in the comments as I am sure plenty of you will disagree with some of my choices, but just remember these are my choices and we can always agree to disagree… I hope.
True Lies (1994)
Not everyone knows True Lies is a remake of the French La totale! (1991). But then again, I’ve never met anyone who has seen La totale!. While many considerTrue Lies the most light-weight entry on James Cameron’s post Piranha 2 filmography, it’s still one of the best balls-out action films ever crafted.
The Departed (2006)
I don’t understood the hyperbole thrown at Infernal Affairs (2002). It’s a briskly paced crime film with an interesting plot, but it superficially explores its themes and characters at best. However, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed spends more time delving into the complexities of its characters, amps up the bloodbath ending, and essentially improves on Infernal Affairs on all fronts.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Oh how we love to slag Hollywood these days for remaking films before the prints of the originals have even dried. But again, this is really nothing new. John Huston’s brilliant and extraordinarily influential cinematic retelling of Dashielle Hammett’s novel, “The Maltese Falcon,” came out within a decade of a 1931 version of the same name and a looser 1936 adaptation, Satan Met a Lady. Admittedly Huston’s Maltese Falcon falls into the remake versus re-adaptation scenario I outlined earlier, but most film historians consider it a remake. Who am I to argue?