Movie remakes are a dime a dozen these days. Every so often a compelling, original story sneaks through the cracks, but for the most part, it seems that Hollywood has gotten a bit lazy and prefers to remake old classics over and over again. Why think up a new storyline when you can just recycle something that you know worked once before?
The problem, though, is that making a successful movie is a bit like making a magic potion. It takes the perfect balance of several different components — along with a fair bit of luck — for it to come out just right. Of course you need a solid story, a well-written script, a competent director, and producers who know when to step in and when to let go of creative control. A good budget is important, but not always essential. A perfect storm of talented actors and good chemistry is vital. Plus you need to factor in the climate of the times: Is the audience ready for this movie? Is this film building on films that came before it?
When a movie is released and is well-received by the public and critics alike, it can feel like a miracle to the production team. But thinking that you can just take that same concept and redo it with flashy new stars and a boatload of money does not mean that you will recreate a masterpiece. In most cases, you will end up with a flop that looked like it was trying too hard.
While some of the films below have some redeeming qualities, they are not sufficient to keep them off the list of the Worst Movie Remakes of All Time. See if you agree!
10. Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994)
Ok, Richard Attenborough definitely holds his own as Santa Claus, and Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott are convincing. But the 1994 version of this film lacks a certain innocent sweetness that was present in the original. That moment when Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle sings with the little Dutch orphan girl practically makes the whole film.
9. Ghostbusters (1984, 2016)
In a vacuum, the remake of Ghostbusters isn’t half bad. The problem is that the original is so iconic, and still so fresh on everyone’s mind, that the remake didn’t have a standing chance. You can’t take a movie that people still watch and love and hope that they’ll embrace a newer, shiny version.
8. King Kong (1933, 2005)
The whole reason the original King Kong was such a hit was because the audience had never seen anything like it before. Despite the fact that the “special effects” are nowhere near what we have today, it is important to understand where movie making was at the time to appreciate how groundbreaking it was. Consequently, throwing a gillion dollars at the same story and hoping for a megahit was a bit naive.
7. Flatliners (1990, 2017)
The original Flatliners had a gritty, moody feel to it that is completely lost in the Hollywood-ized version from this year. The chemistry between Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and the rest of the cast can’t be reproduced, no matter how many pretty people you cram onto the screen. And there was something dark and foreboding about the original movie that the remake lacks. The antiseptic quality of the Ellen Page version makes it feel like nothing more than a run-of-the-mill horror movie. It lacks the depth of the original.
6. Point Break (1991, 2015)
Point Break, in and of itself, is actually a terrible movie. (One of the character’s names is Johnny Utah, for crying out loud.) But it works. And the reason it works is because of the performances of Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, and Lori Petty. No one can say, “You’re cold because all of the blood is running out of your body, Roach. You’re gonna be dead soon. I hope it was worth it” with such a flat delivery quite like Keanu and still get away with it. The remake was pretty pointless without the original cast.
5. Rear Window (1954, Disturbia, 2007)
Technically, Disturbia isn’t considered a remake of the Hitchcock classic, Rear Window. But as The Guardian points out, “One movie stars Shia LaBeouf as a compulsive voyeur, confined to his home, who becomes convinced that his neighbour is a killer. The other stars James Stewart as a compulsive voyeur, confined to his home, who becomes convinced that his neighbour is a killer.” Similar to other films on this list, Disturbia is not terrible. But if you’re going to make a movie that even resembles a Hitchcock flick, it sure as heck better improve on the original. This did not. And Shia LaBeouf is no Jimmy Stewart.
4. Planet of the Apes (1968, 2001)
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Planet of the Apes? Charlton Heston’s line, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” perhaps. Not only is the Mark Wahlberg remake missing this, obviously, but it also changed the story just enough to make it completely full of holes. There’s nothing I hate more than a plot that ultimately makes no sense whatsoever.
3. The Karate Kid (1984, 2010)
Part of the charm of the first Karate Kid was that Ralph Macchio was such an unlikely hero. He was kind of goofy and weak-looking throughout. You took his side because you could see a bit of yourself, or your corny best friend, in him and you loved him for it. Jaden Smith, on the other hand, seems to have that badass potential from the start. It is impossible to unknow the fact that his father is an action hero while you watch the 2010 version.
2. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2005)
Gene Wilder is mysterious in a lovable, fun way as Wonka in the original. You see the boy who never wants to grow up through his performance. In the 2005 remake, Johnny Depp just does his weird Johnny Depp thing and unfortunately turns Wonka into a totally creepy weirdo. If I were one of the parents of those kids, we would not be going on a tour of that chocolate factory.
1. Arthur (1981, 2011)
Russell Brand. Dudley Moore. The fact that the producers even thought that Brand could pull this off and not completely make a mess of this movie is beyond comprehension. He’s not funny, and he is clearly playing at the character, rather than attempting to be the character. No one could have improved on Moore’s endearing performance — especially not Brand.