Top 10 Best Changes in Movie Remakes
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher
The best changes in movie remakes prove that sometimes you can outdo the original. For this list, we're looking at changes made in movie remakes that actually improved on the original. Our countdown includes “The Ring,” “King Kong,” “Scarface,” and more!
Talk about a good decision! Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best Changes in Movie Remakes
For this list, we’re looking at changes made in movie remakes that actually improved on the original.
#10: Making It Fun
“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)
The original “Ocean’s 11” was less concerned with making an engaging heist film and really just an excuse to get the Rat Pack on screen together in Las Vegas; something that’s reflected in the mixed reviews from critics. So, when Steven Soderbergh decided to remake the film, he infused it with enough of his trademark style to make people forget about the original. 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven” has become the blueprint for the modern caper flick. Essentially, assemble a slew of A-list stars, have them crack wise in between planning sessions, and give them a glamourous setting to do it in. Soderbergh’s version spawned two sequels and a spin-off, validating his decision to update the original film for modern audiences.
#9: Better Visuals / Cinematography
“The Ring” (2002)
You may be surprised to learn that Gore Verbinski’s 2002 horror flick “The Ring” is actually a remake of a Japanese film from 1998. The original, simply titled “Ring”, was based on a book and despite a miniscule budget of $1.2 million was a commercial and critical success in Japan. However, it suffers from a distinct lack of visual style due to its small budget. Thankfully, the remake received a budget of $48 million. Add to that Verbinski’s skills behind the camera, honed over many years of shooting films and music videos for the likes of NOFX and Bad Religion. The dynamic cinematography and visuals help make the world of “The Ring” more realist and by extension, more terrifying!
#8: Lavish Production
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)
To call “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” a remake is really an understatement. The character has appeared on film dozens of times since the 20s, with actors like Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee bringing the character to life over the years. “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” differed from these other portrayals in a number of ways, with the most obvious being the over-the-top production and performances. The sets were big, brash and beautiful, and the actors weren’t afraid to give in to the more dramatic sides of their characters. In the end, it makes for one of the most visceral versions of the character ever seen on the silver screen.
#7: Kong & Anne’s Relationship
“King Kong” (2005)
Peter Jackson’s directorial follow-up to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was “King Kong” – the kind of film that needs no introduction. The film was a critical and commercial success, with many praising the graphics and the performance of Andy Serkis. However, one thing that truly made the film stand out in comparison to its predecessors was the thoughtful and delicate portrayal of Kong’s relationship with Anne. 2005’s “King Kong” established a strong emotional connection between the two characters that the other films failed to realize. The big budget epic needed something to ground it in reality and that’s precisely what this movie romance did.
#6: Increasing the Violence
Even hardcore movie buffs are often surprised to learn that Brian De Palma’s 1983 film about a Cuban refugee who becomes a successful drug kingpin is a remake. The original was set in Chicago and featured an Al Capone stand-in played by Paul Muni. It was released in 1932 and was quick to draw the ire of censors for what they perceived as the glorification of violence. Imagine what they’d think of the remake! De Palma’s “Scarface” took the brutality and violence to a new level, contrasting it beautifully with the colour and vibrancy of 1980s Miami. It remains one of the decade’s most influential films and has left its mark on everything from TV shows and comic books to video games and rap music.
#5: Sam Burying Evidence
“Cape Fear” (1991)
In 1991’s “Cape Fear” remake, convicted rapist Max Cady tracks down his former lawyer, Sam Bowden, who he blames for his imprisonment. It turns out that Bowden buried evidence that could have potentially reduced or overturned the charges against Cady. This act enhances the motivations of both characters and creates enough drama to carry the film from start to finish. However, this crucial plot point was not in the original “Cape Fear” from 1962. In that version, the reason Cady hates Bowden is because the latter stopped Cady from sexually assaulting a woman and then testified against him. Director Martin Scorsese’s decision to change Cady’s reason for hating Bowden creates a more complex villain, while showing that Bowden is a flawed protagonist.
#4: Changing the Look of the Fly
“The Fly” (1986)
While we hate to diss a film based solely on the fact that it came out during a time when gore was frowned upon, there’s simply no denying that David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of “The Fly” is the better film. One of the main reasons for this is the decision to ditch the campy, B-movie horror of the original, in favor of something truly terrifying. Jeff Goldblum’s slow and gruesome transformation from man to insect is hard to watch, even today. Both films culminate with the protagonist screaming “Help me” to no avail, but only Cronenberg’s version leaves you feeling nauseous.
#3: Changing the Creature
“The Thing” (1982)
Similar to our previous entry, 1952’s “The Thing from Another World” is a victim of the style of movies that were being made during that period in film history. The villain simply isn’t frightening to modern audiences and the drama is never intense enough to warrant a gasp, let alone a shriek of terror. In contrast, John Carpenter’s remake from the early 80s plays up the “unseen monster” trope to maximum effect. Much like the men of Outpost #31, the audience has no idea who to trust, for anyone can be a vessel for a terrifying alien lifeform in Carpenter’s world. “The Thing” remains one of the scariest films of all time, thanks in part to this brilliant change.
#2: The Darker, Grittier Look
There are dozens of action flicks from the 80s and 90s that don’t hold up today; and rebooting them with a little extra grit is currently all the rage. “Judge Dredd” got the modern treatment in 2012, with Karl Urban replacing Sylvester Stallone under the mask. While the original has its moments, it quickly delves into a cheese fest thanks to the melodramatic performances of Stallone and co-star Armand Assante. The remake decided to ditch the goofiness of the original in favour of something a little, uh… cooler. The film is dripping in style and plays host to a handful of solid characters played by actors who actually manage to talk the premise seriously. It’s dark, gritty and oh so violent…what’s not to like?
Before we unveil our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
Increasing the Drama
“Casino Royale” (2006)
Adding an A-List Director & Stars
“The Departed” (2006)
Giving It Style
“A Fistful of Dollars” (1967)
Rooney Mara's Portrayal of Lisbeth Salander
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011)
Making Frank Slade More Romantic
“Scent of a Woman” (1992)
#1: Making It More Faithful to the Novel
“True Grit” (2010)
The original “True Grit”, which was based on a 1968 novel of the same name, starred John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. The film was well received by critics, with Wayne winning the Oscar for Best Actor. However, despite being released just one year after the book, it strayed considerably from the source material. When Joel and Ethan Coen decided to remake the film in 2010, they took a more faithful approach to Charles Portis’ novel. Some of the things they kept that the original ditched included Mattie narrating the film, Mattie losing her arm, and La Boeuf surviving. The changes don’t necessarily mean that one film is better than the other, but they definitely enhance the overall narrative.