The Ghostbusters remake is almost here and while this modern reboot has caused quite the online stir, it’s only the latest in a very, very long line of film remakes. And while the term remake can cause worldwide groans and visions of poorly done cash grab films that pale in comparison to their original versions, there are, in fact, many great film remakes.
The following 15 remakes are the best of the best, sometimes equally and even surpassing their original in terms of quality. From revisits that look to update the ideas touched upon in the first film to remakes that spin the story in a wildly different direction, the best film remakes have true vision and something to actually say, not just a recognizable name to play off of in order to turn a profit.
Have your own favorite movie remakes? Say yours in the comments below!
15. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
A remake of 1963’s The Incredible Journey, which was itself based on a novel, Homeward Bound sees a trio of pets on an adventure as they search for their family due to a series of misunderstandings. Is Homeward Bound one of the great family movies? Not exactly. But it has its charms and most certainly knows how to tug on the heartstrings when needed. This is a childhood favorite for anyone who grew up in the ‘90s and appeals most of all to pet lovers.
Better Than the Original? Definitely, for all intents and purpose, Homeward Bound has replaced The Incredible Journey as de facto favorite in the tiny genre of kid-friendly live action animal movies.
14. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Remaking director George Romero’s ‘70s horror film about a group of people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse in a mall, Zack Snyder’s remake chose to up the thrills, scares, and gore, even if it lost some of the social commentary. But through the introduction of the modern fast zombie and a strong cast, Dawn of the Dead (2004) works as one of the better modern zombie films and features a boatload of scares to keep genre fans satisfied. It’s most likely Snyder’s strongest movie, even though it is his first.
Better Than the Original? No, Romero’s original had a lot more to say about then-modern culture and was far more instrumental in the formation of the zombie subgenre. But Snyder’s film is smart enough to do its own thing with the general premise, which helps avoid comparisons.
13. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Remaking the 1957 film of the same name, James Mangold’s Western tells the story of impoverished rancher Dan Evans, who must escort notorious criminal Ben Wade with a group of men to the train which will take him to prison. Thanks to the lead performances of Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, 3:10 to Yuma stands as one of the strongest modern Westerns, even if it can’t quite match up to the classic era of the genre or revisionist films like Unforgiven.
Better Than the Original? Yes, the new version of 3:10 has more on its mind than the standard original, which is a solid western in the classic sense but is not actually a classic on its own.
12. The Mummy (1999)
Did the 1932 The Mummy really need tone remade as a late ’90s CGI action fest? No, not really. But the results were the type of fun that summer action cinema should strive for in general. It’s a film that no one was asking for and it’s not top tier action, but it’s horror and fantasy elements give it a lot of charm and charisma in he long run.
Better Than the Original? Maybe. The charm of the Boris Karloff original is something that can’t be replicated, but the original Mummy is lesser Universal Horror. Sommers’s remake is still a blast in a campy, Indiana Jones-replica way.
11. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Telling the same story as Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, except swapping feudal Japan for the wild west, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven tracks seven men who decide to defend an impoverished town from a terrorizing band of raiders. Bolstered by the star power of actors like Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, and Charles Bronson, The Magnificent Seven is a classic Hollywood western that doesn’t quite have enough of a unique voice and clearly pales in comparison to the original. Nevertheless, it’s a great story. Great enough to birth multiple sequels, TV shows, and its own remake this year.
Better Than the Original? Not by a longshot. Not that The Magnificent Seven is a bad film, but its standard western tropes can’t hold a candle to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which is a perennial candidate for the greatest film ever made.
10. You’ve Got Mail
Tom Hanks is often equated to Jimmy Stewart in his relatable, charming, everyman demeanor, so it makes sense that a remake of Stewart’s 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner should star Hanks. Pairing him with costar Meg Ryan for the third time helps solidify the chemistry needed for this romantic comedy about a small bookstore owner and the owner of a massive bookstore chain who are rivals in real life, but unknowing friends through anonymous online communication. The result is a funny, romantic, and engaging mixture that follows the general storyline that defines most romantic comedies, yet still works time after time.
Better Than the Original? It all depends on what decade you prefer for romantic comedies, so it’s a toss-up.
9. True Grit (2010)
Choosing to remake the 1969 John Wayne-starring classic seemed like an odd choice for The Coen Brothers, but the writing-directing duo have proved that they can tackle just about any genre. Retelling nearly the exact same story told by the original (with both based on the 1968 Charles Portis novel), The Coens take the story of a young girl who hires drunk yet effective lawman Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges here, Wayne in the original) to track down the man who killed her father. The Coens add more darkness and pathos while maintaining a dark sense of humor, which helps separate it from the original, along with a few tweaks to the story’s finale.
Better Than the Original? It’s certainly more artistically and thematically resonant than the John Wayne original. That said, the two can stand side by side as great western movies thanks to both of their fantastic lead performances and the strength of the shared storyline.
8. A Fistful of Dollars
As director Sergio Leone’s first Western, A Fistful of Dollars is historically vital as the first film in The Dollars Trilogy and one of the movies to spark the subgenre of Spaghetti Western. Remaking Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (without permission), A Fistful of Dollars sees The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) enter a Wild West town where two warring gangs fight for control, with innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Just like the wandering samurai in the feudal Japan original, the protagonist decides to pit them against one another in order to wipe them both out and make some money in the process. Leone and Eastwood would go on to make better films, but their Kurosawa remake has a boatload of style and wit.
Better Than the Original? Another Western Kurosawa remake that can’t top the original, but A Fistful of Dollars benefits from the one-two punch of Leone’s magnificent direction and Eastwood stardom, which at least helps to live up to the original’s Kurosawa-Mifune combo.
7. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Dashiell Hammett’s pulp noir The Maltese Falcon was originally printed in 1929 and was already adapted for film twice (as The Maltese Falcon in 1931 and Satan Met a Lady in 1936) before John Huston’s 1941 film noir debuted. Clearly, there was something special about Hammett’s story and something the other two films could not quite capture. But when Huston remade the story with a up-and-coming Humphrey Bogart in the lead as Sam Spade, they made something truly special. Today, The Maltese Falcon stands as the first major film noir and is a touchstone film that has influenced countless movies that followed.
Better Than the Original? Definitely. In fact, if you weren’t familiar with the fact before, you might be surprised that The Maltese Falcon is a remake at all. The previous two efforts don’t require revisiting.
6. Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot is a remake? Yep, Wilder adapted it from the 1935 French comedy Fanfare of Love. This classic screwball comedy is loved for its transgressive nature and star-powered laughs. With Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis as two musicians who dress in drag to escape the mafia and Marilyn Monroe as the woman of their dreams, Some Like It Hot still feels fresh and fun.
Better Than the Original? Some Like It Hot is a staple of Hollywood screwball comedy with some wicked commentary on gender and sexual politics. Fanfare of Love is a footnote in the history of this film’s creation. So, yes, it’s better.
5. Casino Royale
When Eon Productions decided to restart James Bond after the disastrous Die Another Day, they went back to the very beginning. Until this Daniel Craig-starting picture revitalized Bond for the modern era, the very first Bond novel by Ian Fleming had only been done as a eye roll-inducing spoof. Director Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale gave Bond a humanity, grit, and quality that his films had been missing for a long time.
Better Than the Original? How could it not be? Not only is Campbell’s Casino Royale one of, and most likely the, best James Bond films, the ’67 original is a dismal goof of a movie.
4. The Fly (1986)
Springboarding from the 1958 original and the short story on which it was based, David Cronenberg’s The Fly follows scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and his girlfriend Veronica (Geena Davis), who must deal with Seth’s metamorphosis follow a DNA splicing involving a fly. With Cronenberg’s signature body horror themes and jaw dropping effects, The Fly takes a vivid premise and makes something haunting and raw from it that goes beyond the macabre and becomes something emotionally resonant.
Better Than the Original? Most definitely. Taking the general ideas of the intriguing original and injecting them with horrific, moving, and resonating ideas on death and love, Cronenberg’s The Fly is one of the seminal body horror films and a must-watch for any horror fan.
3. Heat (1995)
You may not realize it, but the Al Pacino/Robert De Niro-starring crime drama Heat is actually a remake of Michael Mann’s 1989 TV movie L.A. Takedown, which was originally a pilot for a TV series and is based on a real life criminal. So all to say, don’t worry about the original. With Pacino and De Niro playing an obsessed detective and a lonesome bank robber who engage in a cat and mouse chase through Los Angeles, Heat features amazing performances, sweat-inducing shootouts, beautiful cinematography, and fantastic writing.
Better Than the Original? The original is a made for TV movie. The remake is one of the best crime films ever made. It’s really no comparison, but the process of Mann adapting his original story for a far better version is fascinating.
2. The Departed
Retelling the 2002 Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs¸Martin Scorsese’s The Departed follows a similar storyline of a Boston cop planted as a mole within the Irish Mob and a member of the Irish Mob planted as a mole in the police. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, The Departed won Scorsese his first Academy Awards for both Best Picture and Best Director. The twists, turns, and patented Scorsese style make The Departed into a great crime thriller.
Better Than the Original? Infernal Affairs was a massive hit with both critics and audiences alike, eventually resulting in both the remake and two sequels of its own, so it’s tough to say that Scorsese’s version is better, but The Departed is one of the director’s best. Take that as you will.
1. The Thing (1982)
When John Carpenter remade the 1952 sci-go horror The Thing from Another World and the original novella Who Goes There?, Carpenter created a claustrophobic and terrifying piece of horror that has only grown in esteem since its original disappointing release. With Kurt Russell in the lead, this story of a group of Antarctic researchers infiltrated by a shape-changing and all-consuming alien is much more than a simple horror flick. This isn’t just the best film remake, it’s one of the best horror movies ever made and one that transcends the genre.
Better Than the Original? Without a doubt. By taking a forgettable if charming ‘50s sci-fi horror movie and turning it into a paranoid, prescient, stunning piece of cinema, Carpenter made something mind blowing that still resonates more than 30 years later.
Honorable Mentions: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, True Lies, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ocean’s Eleven, King Kong, 12 Monkeys, Insomnia, Scarface