Although original films are often praised for their originality and creativity, remakes can be equally as admired, if not more, if they are done well. Rather than simply sharing the same story again, an effective remake must adapt to its time period and try to improve key elements essential to the story.
When done properly, as shown in the films below, the remake can seem to make audiences forget the original ever existed, overshadowing it through superior storytelling.
Martin Scorsese’s only Oscar award for Best Director came from “The Departed,” which is argued to be a remake of “Infernal Affairs,” a film from Hong Kong released in 2002. With only a few viewers knowing of the existence of the foreign film, it is evident Scorsese’s adaptation has overshadowed the original movie.
Released four years later, “The Departed” is a prime example of a movie so beloved that it somewhat wipes away the original work from which it stems. With its catchy soundtrack, stellar cast and performances and Scorsese’s evident artistry as a director, “The Departed” is one of the most famous remakes of all time.
The 1983 hit “Scarface” is another beloved film with a relatively unknown remake status. Famous for its amazing performances and the quotable, “Say hello to my little friend,” line, “Scarface” is often considered one of the best gangster movies of all times.
While the 1932 original was the precursor to Brian De Palma’s most famous film, it was the remake’s instant pop culture status that has made it as memorable as it has been for decades. The ‘80s film was so successful that a remake of the remake might be expected in the nearby future.
Talks of a new “Scarface” have been circling now for years. Nonetheless, an upcoming potential remake has audiences waiting to see if it can live up to the 1983 version and if it will be the first of the three films to have a more diverse and inclusive cast.
With a star-studded cast featuring the iconic “Rat Pack,” Scarface is an iconic movie that is hard to top. Yet “Ocean’s Eleven,” with a similarly celebrity-starring cast, featuring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, to name a few, has managed to become one of the most famous remakes of all time.
An adaptation of the heist movie “Ocean’s 11” released in 1960, the newer film somehow captured the coolness of the original all while elevating it through a better screenplay, awesome performances and captivating cinematography.
Perhaps less star-studded but similarly using a higher budget to its advantage is the 1986 remake of “The Fly,” originally released in 1958. While the 1958 version shocked audiences with its “body-horror,” the 1986 version elevated the gory depictions.
However, David Cronenberg’s 1986 version is not only applauded for its graphic nature, but also for the emotional complexity the director incorporated in his remake. The remake chooses to delve deep into the protagonist’s psyche as he undergoes the many changes that ultimately lead to his demise.
This portrayal also mirrored living with a terminal illness for many viewers, especially as the movie was released in the midst of the AIDS crisis in the United States. Evidently, Cronenberg went above and beyond in contextualizing his remake to connect with audiences most effectively, all while shocking them with gruesome visuals and uncomfortable scenes.
Sometimes films do not need an extravagant budget to be successful, but rather a new approach to impact viewers, as was the case with John Carpenter’s 1982 film, “The Thing.” A master of the horror genre, Carpenter is more than comfortable with making viewers uneasy with his films.
This is most evident with “The Thing,” as the film deviates from the trope of an “evil-looking” villain by giving the antagonist the ability to shapeshift. By giving the foreign creature the ability to transform itself into anything from the team’s pet to even a member of the team, there is a constant sense of paranoia and suspense for viewers.
While a scary monster can earn a fright or two, there is something about uncertainty and believing that anyone could be the enemy that elevated the 1951 “The Thing from Another World” to a cult classic.
Evidently, while there are many remakes, there are only a few that manage to break out from the mold set by the original film and become pop culture staples. While some films use their ample budget to create a more realistic or eye-grabbing depiction, others choose to better reach out to audiences emotionally or adapt to their new time period.
Regardless of their approach, however, remakes will continue being a staple of films for years to come.