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Home / Features / 25 best movie remakes ever – and where to watch them

25 best movie remakes ever – and where to watch them

Films so good they made ‘em twice

Best movie remakes ever: A Star Is Born (2018)

Pulling off a successful movie remake? It’s not easy. Your favourite streaming service is littered with examples of films where the makers tried to capture lightning in a bottle for a second (or third!) time and failed miserably. But sometimes… sometimes things fall into place and the remake offers something fresh or harder hitting than the original.

There’s also a huge difference between tales of folklore that can be retold a thousand times and the reworking of a truly cinematic property. So we’ve shunned stories of legend (Robin Hood), Shakespeare adaptations (Romeo + Juliet) and screenplays based on novels (True Grit) to come up with these: the 25 best movie remakes ever.

In no particular order, let’s get reimagining…

A Star Is Born (2018)

If the idea of watching a musical immediately fills your mind with images of singing anthropomorphic felines, twee flying nannies or dancing crockery, A Star Is Born will come as a breath of fresh air. Gritty, grounded and with a cast populated entirely by believable human beings, it stars Lady Gaga as a wannabe pop star and Bradley Cooper (who also directs) as the famous rock star who stumbles upon her, realises her talent and gives her the spotlight.

What sounds like a simple rags-to-riches story is actually a tremendously affecting tale of dreams, demons, drama and damaged people. Oh, and the songs aren’t bad either.

It’s also one of the most remade films of all time, with the previous versions having been released in 1937, 1954 and 1973.

Rent A Star Is Born on Prime Video

Rent A Star Is Born on Apple TV

Evil Dead (2013)

Essentially already remade once by original writer-director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead 2 is at heart a higher-budget re-tread of his ultra-indie debut), this slick reimagining from Fede Alvarez is an entirely different beast – albeit one born from the same DNA and a similar setup: a group of young people decamp to a remote forest cabin and unwittingly awaken something ancient, angry and deadly. Cue demonic possession, gallons of gore and a life-and-death battle against evil itself. Lovely stuff.

Watch Evil Dead on Netflix

Watch Evil Dead on Shudder (Prime Video channel)

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Sergio Leone’s first instalment of what would become the Dollars trilogy (followed by For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) was based on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, itself heavily influenced by John Ford’s iconic westerns. Although the translation of the Japanese “yojimbo” is “bodyguard”, we can assure you than neither Kurosawa’s samurai classic nor A Fistful of Dollars has any connection to the 1992 Houston-Costner smush-fest.

It’s a typically stylish spaghetti western and, in Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name, features one of the coolest leading men of all time.

Rent A Fistful of Dollars on Prime Video

Rent A Fistful of Dollars on Apple TV

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Al Pacino put in an Oscar-winning performance as retired army ranger Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade. Slade is a blind, short-tempered alcoholic who reckons he can sniff out a bit of totty with his nose. It had all been done before – but with far less panache – in a 1974 Italian movie called Profumo di Donna. No prizes for guessing what that translates into.

Watch Scent of a Woman on Prime Video

The Thing (1982)

The more prosaically-titled The Thing From Another World formed the blueprint for John Carpenter’s far better-known 1982 sci-fi thriller The Thing, in which a malevolent (or is it just trying to survive?) alien lifeform inhabits scientists at an Antarctic research station. It’s incredibly tense cat-and-mouse stuff as Kurt Russell and co try to work out who’s been taken over and who remains human amidst the icy conditions.

A far less successful prequel, confusingly also named The Thing, followed in 2011. Yes, technically speaking they’re both loosely based on the novella Who Goes There? – but Carpenter’s film is pretty emphatically a remake of the earlier movie rather than a straight adaptation. And it’s arguably the best movie remake of all time!

Watch The Thing on All4

Rent The Thing on Prime Video

Rent The Thing on Apple TV

12 Monkeys (1995)

Best movie remakes ever: 12 Monkeys (1995)

Terry Gilliam took La Jetée, a 1962 French short, added a US$30m budget, installed Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt in the lead roles. The result was 12 Monkeys, a feature-length – and excellent – post-apocalyptic thriller about time travel and infectious diseases. Sadly, Gilliam neglected to add any actual monkeys.

Watch 12 Monkeys on BBC iPlayer

Funny Games (2007)

Best movie remakes ever: Funny Games (2007)

Tim Roth and Naomi Watts find their lakeside getaway ruined by sadistic psychopaths in Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot remake of his own 1997 Austrian movie – also called Funny Games. Disturbing and provocative, this probably isn’t a remake to watch on the flight out to your summer holidays. Nor is the equally disquieting original, for that matter.

Rent Funny Games on Prime Video

Rent Funny Games on Apple TV

13 Assassins (2010)

Remember that time you and your mate took on 10 miscreants in the street? You were probably channelling Takashi Miike’s samurai assassins. We’re talking about the type of fighter who only stops the ass-kicking to pull a sword out of his forearm. Before getting down to more killing.

Not only is this excellent 2010 remake based on the 1963 Japanese film of the same name, there’s also tons of borrowing from The Seven Samurai (and its iconic western reimagining, The Maginificent Seven). After a slow start, this movie’s fight sequences will have you grinning in awe.

Watch 13 Assassins on ITVX

Rent 13 Assassins on Prime Video

Rent 13 Assassins on Apple TV

Scarface (1983)

Best movie remakes ever: Scarface (1983)

Al Pacino’s portrayal of Tony Montana’s bloody rise from Cuban refugee to cocaine king of Miami – and his subsequent fall from power – has cemented itself in cinematic history.

Based on a 1932 flick of the same name (which itself was loosely based on real-life Italian-American gangster Al Capone), Brian de Palma’s cult version of Scarface has it all: guns, girls, gangsters, and of course, plenty of gak. That’s not talcum powder Tony’s selling, kids.

Watch Scarface on Netflix

Rent Scarface on Prime Video

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

This western to revive westerns has everything: gun-slinging, morals and a charismatic bad guy in the form of Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). There’s wonderfully tense scenes as a band of everyday ranchers led by Christian Bale trek to the town of Contention to wait for the train that’s going to transport the shackled Wade to prison – all while waiting for Wade’s gang of cutthroats to show up and spring him loose.

It’ll keep you on edge in the same way the 1957 original does – even if you never can quite decide who to root for.

Rent 3:10 to Yuma on Prime Video

Rent 3:10 to Yuma on Apple TV

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

When it comes to truly scary sci-fi, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is right up there, thanks to a load of San Franciscans who suddenly don’t seem quite themselves anymore. Kaufman adds special effects to the 1956 classic, as well as taking the time to expand on the themes of the politically-inclined original. Don’t forget: they get you when you sleep.

Rent Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Prime Video

Rent Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Apple TV

Solaris (2002)

Best movie remakes ever: Solaris (2002)

With George Clooney in the lead role and Steven Soderbergh in the director’s chair, this has got Hollywood written all over it, but Solaris is more challenging than you might first think.

It’s the sedate story of a therapist who travels to a space station to treat the astronauts on board. They’ve been seeing apparitions, emanating from the Solaris energy source; soon he begins to get visits from his dead wife. Andrei Tartovsky’s Russian 1972 original is even more sparse and spare; Soderbergh moves things along at a pace you’ll probably be more comfortable with.

Rent Solaris on Prime Video

Rent Solaris on Apple TV

The Fly (1986)

The 1958 version of The Fly was a decent enough film – but it wasn’t until David Cronenberg unleashed the special effects of the 1980s on it that this story truly came alive.

Desperate to make a breakthrough with a potentially world-changing invention, a reclusive scientist (Jeff Goldblum in a career-making role) performs a bodged experiment. What follows is a gruesome transformation that cemented Cronenberg’s reputation for disturbing body horror.

Watch The Fly on Disney+

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Based on the ground-breaking Japanese film Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven tuned Kurosawa’s masterpiece for a western (in both senses) audience, mainly by being in colour with an English language soundtrack. Oh, and at two hours, this remake was almost half the length. Throw in a mighty ensemble cast including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson and you’ve got yourself a gunslinging gem that’s almost as well-regarded as the original.

Fun fact: there’s also a 2016 remake of this remake, starring Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt. But it’s not a patch on this version.

Rent The Magnificent Seven on Apple TV

True Lies (1994)

Best movie remakes of all time: True Lies (1994)

Based on 1991 French flick La Totale! (which didn’t feature Arnie, nor even French-speaking Jean-Claude Van Damme), James Cameron’s silly but spectacular spy thriller – in which Schwartzenegger plays an elite secret agent posing as a mild-mannered desk jockey – gives the original a blockbuster overhaul. If you like your action movies big, brash and ballsy, True Lies deserves a spot on your watchlist.

Watch True Lies on Disney+

Cape Fear (1991)

When Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro collaborate, good things happen. So in 1991 when they decided to remake the 1960s thriller Cape Fear, the world rejoiced. Sort of. This psychologically chilling tale of a vicious and vengeance ex-con (De Niro) who leaves prison to stalk the family of his defence lawyer (Nick Nolte) might not be quite the sort of thing to rejoice.

It’s not all doom and gloom here, though. Ever the movie fan, Scorcese brought back Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, the stars of the original film, for some enjoyable cameos.

Rent Cape Fear on Prime Video

Rent Cape Fear on Apple TV

The Departed (2006)

Martin Scorsese’s (yes, him again) stylish crime drama condenses cult Hong Kong crime trilogy Infernal Affairs down to a single film, relocating the action to Boston. Matt Damon and Leonardo Dicaprio play rival moles working, one working within the police force and one within a criminal gang, in an exploration of loyalty, betrayal and identity.

Scorsese’s remake, which won him his first Best Director Oscar, loses some of the labyrinthine plotting (and melodrama) of the original films but gains a truly hatable villain in the form of Jack Nicholson’s sleazy gangster Frank Costello, loosely based on real life mobster James “Whitey” Bulger.

Watch The Departed on All4

Rent The Departed on Prime Video

Rent The Departed on Apple TV

Heat (1995)

A rare instance of a director remaking his own film, Heat is a reworking on Michael Mann’s 1989 TV movie LA Takedown, adding subplots, twists… and the small matters of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the main roles. Pacino plays a flamboyant, driven Los Angeles detective; De Niro is the taciturn but equally driven master thief he’s chasing.

Compare the two heist movies side by side, particularly the infamous diner confrontation, and some scenes are shot using almost the same script. Would Heat have been as stylish and slick without the dress rehearsal that was LA Takedown? It’s hard to say, but it’s certainly one of the iconic thrillers of the 1990s, and perhaps the finest heist film ever made.

Watch Heat on Netflix

Watch Heat on Now Cinema

Watch Heat on Disney+

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Best movie remakes ever: Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

Technically speaking, both Nosferatu films are adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula – but (bear with us, please) Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu The Vampyre is explicitly a remake of the earlier German film, with Klaus Kinski’s Dracula clearly based on the bald, feral Count Orlok from the 1922 film. Unsurprisingly given its director and star, this movie has a rather serious, bleak tone – a contrast to the camp vamps seen in the likes of Dracula AD 1972 and Blacula.

Watch Nosferatu the Vampyre on BFI Player

Watch Nosferatu the Vampyre on BFI Player (Prime Video channel)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

As many said in the wake of Gus van Sant’s disastrous shot-for-shot Psycho remake, only Alfred Hitchcock gets to remake Alfred Hitchcock films.

In this case, he wasn’t happy with his 1934 original, considering it to be merely the work of a “talented amateur”. The remake differs substantially from the original, with only the basic plot details – a vacationing family is warned of an impending assassination attempt – remaining constant. Hitchcock explicitly told his screenwriter not to watch the original film or read its script, making this a remake in the truest sense of the word.

Watch The Man Who Knew Too Much on Now Cinema

Rent The Man Who Knew Too Much on Prime Video

Let Me In (2010)

Best film remakes ever: Let Me In (2010)

Many feared that a Hollywood version of Let The Right One In would ruin the fragility of the Swedish romance/horror hybrid, which depicts the innocent friendship between an outcast boy and a vampiric girl.

However, Let Me In, made only three years after the original, was less of a reimagining and, apart from a change of location, character names and language, stuck rigidly to Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish version. Some fans were disappointed with the similarites, but we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

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Rent Let Me In on Apple TV

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake took George Romero’s hugely influential zombie film and dialled it up to 11. Its zombies were faster, its scenes were gorier and its action far more frenetic. While it ramped up the suspense and gunplay, it lacked the blackly comic, satirical tone of Romero’s original; in fact, it shared very little with its source aside from the fact it’s set in a shopping mall in the early days of the undead outbreak.

Fortunately for discerning ghoul-likers, a film named Shaun of the Dead was released just two weeks later, offering zombie fans a helping of brains to go with Dawn‘s brawn.

Rent Dawn of the Dead on Apple TV

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

The 1960 original was basically an excuse for Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr to hang out in Vegas looking cool. Steven Soderbergh’s remake matched the level of suave by assembling the similarly starry likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon. But while the interest surrounding the original began and ended with its cast, the reworking offered a twist-heavy casino heist plotline that entertained far more than the Swinging Sixties version – and spawned a raft of decent sequels too.

Rent Ocean’s Eleven on Prime Video

The Birdcage (1996)

Based on 1978’s La Cage aux Folles, The Birdcage sees Robin Williams embrace his feminine side as the owner of a Miami drag club whose son is poised to marry the daughter of an old-fashioned senator (played by a perfectly cast Gene Hackman). A cavalcade of cover-up hijinks ensue as the visiting future in-laws are treated to a bumbling charade of over-the-top straightness from Williams and his partner (Nathan Lane).

Watch The Birdcage on Prime Video

Insomnia (2002)

Christopher Nolan orchestrates as Al Pacino and Robin Williams star in this chilly remake of a 1997 Norwegian thriller. An LAPD detective (Pacino) sent to solve a murder case in Alaska battles against a never-setting sun and a chronic inability to sleep. Mind you, killintw, cover-ups and internal investigations would have us struggling for a decent night’s kip too. While Insomnia isn’t regarded as one of Nolan’s best movies, it’s still a twisting, turning thriller with a great cast.

Watch Insomnia on Freevee

Watch Insomnia on ITVX

Profile image of Stephen Graves Stephen Graves Online Deputy Editor


Film buff, gadget geek and winner of Stuff's coveted "Most likely to be Barry Norman's lovechild," award, Stephen divides his affections equally between iOS and Android.

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