While there’s rarely anything terribly wrong with a classic film, if they are remade a few years or decades into the future it’s not uncommon for the remake to be even better. This can be due to an improvement in movie technology, the original director having more experience, or because a new director already has something to base their work on. Although it’s clearly not always the case, there are several film remakes that stand out as being better than the originals. Read on to see what they are and if you even knew they were remakes!
The Man Who Knew Too Much – 1956
Although it’s rare for directors to remake their own work, that’s exactly what Alfred Hitchcock did for The Man Who Knew Too Much. With his original film being released in 1934, 20 years of experience in the film industry resulted in his remake in 1956 being much more fleshed out than his 1934 attempt.
The 1956 remake starred Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, and although many aspects of the film were changed, the initial premise remained the same.
The Last Of The Mohicans – 1992
Director Michael Mann’s 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans is more of an adaptation of George B. Seitz’s 1936 film than James Fenimore’s novel, on which the story is based. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis in an epic historical drama set in 1757 during the French and Indian War.
The film was released in the U.S. on September 25, 1992, and received positive reviews. It won the Academy Award for Best Sound, the only Oscar ever won for a film directed by Michael Mann. Roger Ebert described The Last of the Mohicans as “quite an improvement on Cooper’s all but unreadable book, and a worthy successor to the Randolph Scott version.”
The Birdcage – 1996
Mike Nichols’ The Birdcage is a remake of Édouard Molinaro’s 1978 film La Cage aux Folles, which tells the story of a conservative couple meeting their daughter’s boyfriend’s gay parents. Nichols’ version features Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest, and Gene Hackman. It’s considered to be a modern-day classic.
The film grossed $18 million in its opening weekend, making it the top of the box office, where it remained for the next three weeks. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation praised The Birdcage for “going beyond the stereotypes to see the characters’ depth and humanity. The film celebrates differences and points out the outrageousness of hiding those differences.”
Unfaithful – 2002
A remake of Claude Chabrol’s 1969 La Femme Infidèle (The Unfaithful Wife), director Adrian Lyne reimagined the film with his 2002 version, Unfaithful. This project was right up Lyne’s avenue as well, as he had made similar films such as Indecent Proposal and Fatal Attraction, and he executed it splendidly.
The movie stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane as a seemingly in-love couple whose relationship begins to crumble after the wife begins an affair. What made the remake different from the original version is that the film focuses more on the emotions of the wife and how she deals with infidelity.
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers – 1978
Initially directed by Don Siegel in 1956, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is largely considered by audiences and critics to be no more than a B-movie. However, when the second version was released in 1978, it became a worldwide phenomenon and has been credited as one of the greatest remakes and one of the best science-fiction remakes of all time.
The cast featured big-name actors such as Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Brooke Adams, and added several new film elements that weren’t present in the original.
The Crazies – 2010
Not everyone was sold when it was announced that Overture Films would be remaking George Romero’s 1973 zombie flick The Crazies, but their worries were put at ease upon the film’s release. The film follows the events in a small town that’s invaded by the government after a military biological weapon is unleashed in the area.
The remake was directed by Breck Eisner and grossed $55 million on a $20 million budget. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film was described as “tense, nicely shot, and uncommonly intelligent.” The Crazies is also commended for being more fleshed out than the original.
Pete’s Dragon – 2016
Telling the story of a boy and his relationship with a dragon, Pete’s Dragon is a live-action Disney film created by indie writer and director David Lowry. The original film was released in 1977 by Disney as well and was half-animated and half-live action musical.
The updated version of the film went all-in with the CGI work, transforming the dragon from a fun and bubbly character to a more serious one. The new version also had a more in-depth plot, drawing from films such as E.T.
Man On Fire – 2004
The original 1987 film version of Man on Fire was based on A.J. Quinnell’s novel and has been regarded as being rather unnoteworthy. However, this all changed when writer Brian Helgeland, who is known for films like L.A. Confidential and Mystic River, took control.
The remake was also directed by Tony Scott, giving a whole new style and look to the now-acclaimed film. The movie stars Denzel Washington as an alcoholic marine who takes the job of serving as a bodyguard for a little girl who is eventfully abducted in Mexico City.
Insomnia – 2002
Director Erik Skjoldbjærg’s original Insomnia (1997) tells the story of a detective who kills his partner while in a town where the sun never sets. Christopher Nolan then put his own take on the film which Americanizes the plotline. In his version, two men from the Los Angeles Police Department are sent to Nightmute, Alaska, where they experience immense guilt and endless daylight.
The film stars Al Pacino and Robin Williams as the two mentally unstable detectives, with Taste of Cinema praising Nolan for “[Capturing] the excitement of the original while still setting it apart as a notable film itself.”
Chicago – 2002
First released as a 1927 silent film version of roughly the same events, Rob Marshall’s 2002 Chicago went on to become the first musical to win Best Picture since Oliver! in 1968. The plot is based on real-life events of Beulah Annan, who was suspected of fatally shooting her lover.
Marshall’s version is considered one of the best musicals ever made, with notable performances from Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, and more.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey – 1993
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey features talking dogs and a cat that are trying to find their way home, with critters that are voiced by Michael J. Fox, Don Ameche, and Sally Field. The film stole the hearts of young millennials back in 1993, and unbeknown to most, it’s actually a remake of the 1963 movie The Incredible Journey, which is based on Sheila Burnford’s novel of the same name.
Although The Incredible Journey did well, Disney’s remake is regarded for its chemistry between the animals, their ability to talk, and a deeper connection with the humans in the story.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula – 1992
Although there have been countless renditions of the bloodsucking character Dracula over the years, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula stands out. This is because it made Dracula seem more human and was stylistically much different than most other versions of the vampire.
Bela Lugosi famously first brought the character to life in the 1931 film Dracula. However, it’s hard to top Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula, as well as Coppola’s set design, costumes, and deeper dive into the history of the character.
The Fly – 1986
One of David Cronenberg’s greatest skills as a director is taking old horror films and revamping them to create something better but still true to the original film. That’s exactly the case with the film The Fly, which was first released in 1958.
What makes Cronenberg’s newer version notable is its impressive use of special effects that allow Jeff Goldblum to transform before the audience’s eyes. However, the film kept the underlying message about truth and the dangers of jealousy from the original.
Scarface – 1983
One of the most well-known movies of all time, surprisingly few people know that Scarface is actually a remake of a 1932 film of the same name. However, the original had a lot of violent content cut due to Hollywood’s Hays Code. The film was based on Al Capone and received a lot of flak for its violence.
Brian De Palma’s 1983 version changed the setting and the main character, establishing the film as one of Al Pacino’s most memorable roles. The latest version also had issues with the rating board, initially receiving an X-rating for its graphic violence.
The Thing – 1982
The Thing is a remake by John Carpenter of the film The Thing From Another World, which during the 1950s, was considered to be quite impressive.
John Carpenter’s version follows a group of researchers in Antarctica who are terrorized by an extraterrestrial lifeform that takes on the host’s image but this film takes the concept to a whole new level. At first, The Thing was met with negative reviews but has gone on to become one of the most hailed science-fiction films of all time.
An Affair To Remember – 1957
In 1939, director Leo McCarey made the film Love Affair, about two engaged artists who fall in love while on an ocean liner. However, a major issue with the movie was that the characters weren’t engaged with each other.
In 1957, McCarey released a new and improved version of the story that starred Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, which made the film a lot more appealing to audiences. Today, the remake is considered to be one of the most romantic films ever released.
A Star Is Born – 1954
First released in 1937, A Star is Born has been remade a whopping four times, almost once every generation since the first version. However, George Cukor’s version starring Judy Garland is still considered by many to be the best rendition of the film.
It was nominated for six Oscars that year. Garland’s loss to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl is considered one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history. Although the ensuing female actors did well in their own right, many people consider Garland’s performance to be unmatched.
The Maltese Falcon – 1941
Interestingly, the original 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon couldn’t be re-released by Warner Bros. The film was an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s story and follows a skilled detective named Sam Spade. The movie was made just before the Hayes Code, which disrupted Hollywood’s ability to show more questionable content.
When the studio could no longer re-release it because it didn’t pass the censors, a new comedic version of the film was made in 1941, which proved to be more successful. This version starred Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor.
The Scent Of A Woman – 1992
Profumo Di Donna is a 1974 Italian film directed by Dino Risi. It earned several major Italian awards and was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.
Nevertheless, a remake was made in 1992 called Scent of a Woman, directed by Martin Brest. More well-known than the original, it featured Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, and the upcoming talent of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Pacino won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the film received nominations for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.
True Lies – 1994
1994’s True Lies has been described as the reversal of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, with the protagonist being a popular individual who is trying his best to fly under the radar.
True Lies is a remake of Claude Zidi’s La Totale, and although the French may disagree, many consider James Cameron’s version to be the better film of the two. One reason more people prefer True Lies is due to of the casting and performances of Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.