Movie remakes have a terrible reputation and are often seen as cash grabs, capitalizing on nostalgia that doesn’t require much creativity to bring to the screen. There are exceptions to that rule, like John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly, which reinvented the films they were remaking.
There’s a reason remakes have the reputation they have, so we look at ten remakes that shouldn’t exist.
1. Lion King (2019)
The live-action Disney remake films are generally called out by many as entirely unnecessary, but one of them sticks out as the most unnecessary and the worst: The Lion King (2019). The remake isn’t even live-action because all animal characters and locations are CGI-created. However, it still strips the gloriously colorful joy from the story that the 1994 2D-animated original offered.
2. Martyrs (2015)
Like the current trend of live-action Disney remakes, there’s been a significant trend since the 2000s of English language remakes of successful foreign horror films. Sometimes, as with 2002’s The Ring, those remakes are arguably better than the original, but overwhelmingly, they’re unnecessary and dilute the power of the original.
That’s certainly the case with 2015’s Martyrs. The remake not only dials down the extreme violence that made the 2008 French film a classic of disturbing cinema, but it also trades in the most exciting themes of that film (non-religious martyrdom) for a more apparent religious setting and then even fails to explore that concept well.
3. Psycho (1998)
The shot-for-shot remake is more common than we might expect, but one of the first widely seen examples is the 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho. It was seen as an experiment when director Gus Van Sant spoke about recreating the original film, but it doesn’t capture the same magic as the original.
4. Cabin Fever (2016)
Made just fourteen years after the 2002 original, the Cabin Fever remake isn’t precisely a shot-for-shot remake, but it uses the same script as the original film. It’s another remake that shows filmmaking is so much more than the story, as the original’s sense of personality (courtesy of writer/director Eli Roth) is lacking from the remake.
5. Red Dawn (2012)
It’s a bold choice to remake a Cold War era classic in the 2010s when movies are marketed to Chinese audiences just as much as Americans, but that’s what Red Dawn (2012) attempted to do anyway. Unfortunately, the remake doesn’t live up to the action intensity of the original film, and the story, about a North Korean invasion of America, feels more jingoistic than anything else.
6. Robocop (2014)
Paul Verhoeven’s original Robocop is one of the greatest movies ever made about the relationship between police and capital. The remake is a serviceable action movie with overwrought drama. It’s not an awful movie, but there’s no reason for it to exist. Its attempts at satire are weak compared to the biting satire of the original, and the themes of cyborg identity are explored much better by original science-fiction stories.
7. Total Recall (2012)
Another remake of a Paul Verhoeven film, 2012’s Total Recall, is perhaps the most agreed upon unnecessary remake in the discussion. The movie waters down the violence of the original and makes the ridiculous story more serious, thereby losing the sense of silliness and fun that were central to the original.
8. Ben Hur (2016)
The 2016 remake of Ben Hur isn’t the first remake of the film, but it’s the first unnecessary remake. The first movie adaptation of the novel by Lew Wallace was made in 1925, but the 1959 remake starring Charlton Heston delivered awe-inspiring set pieces and is the version most people remember. The 2016 version attempts to live up to the greatness of the 1959 version but offers shoddy CGI images in place of the real stunts and crowds of the original.
9. Point Break (2015)
Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break combines heist film cat and mouse dynamics with extreme sports adrenaline to deliver an action movie classic. The 2015 remake attempts to do the same, but the updated story isn’t as compelling as the original.
Some of the stunt work in the remake is great, but those sequences can’t save the movie from feeling unnecessary.
10. Oldboy (2013)
Oldboy (2013) is another instance of a foreign film being remade in English. But this time, a beloved, talented, and idiosyncratic director took the reins. One would hope that someone like Spike Lee could make a remake worth seeing, but instead, Lee delivered not just an unnecessary remake but one of the worst films of his career.
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