Best: The Fly (1986)
Jeff Goldblum has a terrible bit of luck as the titular anti-hero scientist, whose experimentation with hybridisation goes horrifically awry when his DNA gets fused with that of, yes, a fly. The worst bit comes when he loses a particularly important appendage. Men everywhere cross their legs. Forever. Youch.
Originally set out as a project for Tim Burton, The Fly eventually landed with David Cronenberg instead – and what fortune that it did, the body horror guru plumbing devastating depths with his own ooky spin on Frankenstein’s monster.
Worst: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
Platinum Dunes follow up their re-hacks of Friday The 13th and The Texas Chain Saw massacre with this slick-looking resurrection of Freddie Krueger. Going for the ‘more must be better’ angle, it wades into murky territory that even Wes Craven’s ‘80s original dared not go (read: kiddie fiddling) but suffers from a horrendously funereal tone.
Rooney Mara makes for a fair Final Girl (which gives us hope for her other remake, upcoming The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ), though wisecracks and nod-winks are in such short supply here that you begin to crave Robert Englund’s Krueger – yes, even the campy sequel Krueger. And that’s saying something.
Best: Heat (1995)
Now this is how remakes should be done. Michael Mann. Al Pacino. Robert De Niro. What are they giving a filmic facelift? Some made for-TV-movie from 1989 called L.A. Takedown . Taking that as a basic framework, Mann imbued his movie with real-life stories he’d heard from cop friends, and delivered a breakneck thriller.
This is more than just an action movie, though, Mann ensuring that his characters are human to the core and lavished with as much attention as the equally-lavish visuals. Serious contender for best cop drama ever.
Worst: Swept Away (2002)
Madge and ex-hubbie Guy Ritchie break the cardinal rule of filmmaking – never work with your spouse. For every Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, there is a Ben Affleck and JLo. The curse is upheld in this rehash of Lina Wertmuller’s 1974 film.
The original’s no fresh daisy either, but Madonna’s attempts to flesh out a lead role are embarrassing, while Bruce Greenwood scratches about for something to react to. We’d rather watch Castaway – at least the ball has a personality.
Best: Evil Dead II (1987)
Ash returns for another round with the undead in this quasi-remake that sort of fuses a follow-up story with a rehash of the original flick – except way cooler. Take, for example, Bruce Campbell with his iconic chainsaw arm.
Movie legend has it that director Sam Raimi couldn’t get the rights to the first Evil Dead in order to have a recap at the beginning of his sequel, so he re-staged those events as part of the plot of Evil Dead II. Then drags things off into all manner of hellish corners. All together now: groovy.
Worst: Psycho (1998)
The phrase ‘shot-for-shot’ was forever singed (painfully) into the collective movie-watching conscience with Gus Van Sant’s misguided attempt at colourising Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful suspense classic.
Casting looky-like actors and recreating basically every Hitchcock shot in blazing Technicolor, Van Sant rapes our horror upbringings in just 105 short minutes. The psycho here ain’t Norman Bates, that’s for sure.
Best: Three Men And A Baby (1987)
Oh, fellas, what dolts you are! Playing up the cliché that men can fix anything but a full diaper, bachelors Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg discover a baby on their doorstep that they have to look after. Their party lifestyle soon goes up in a puff of talcum powder - though, naturally, they discover that pulling women in Central Park is much easier with an adorable bairn strapped to your chest.
Yes, this remake of 1985 French film Trois hommes et un couffin is all sorts of sexist and daft, but the impossibly charming lead threesome pull the hijinks off with a nod and a wink. They made a sequel, Three Men And A Little Lady in 1990, while a third flick, tentatively titled Three Men And A Bride is reportedly in the works .
Worst: Dinner For Schmucks (2010)
A rare misfire for Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, usually dependable funnymen who are lumbered with a soggy script as they attempt to remake French farce Le Dîner de cons . Anchorman and The 40-Year-old Virgin are but washed-out memories here, as Rudd’s exec takes Carell’s mouse-lover to an important dinner party for eccentric weirdos.
Mouse contraptions aside, Dinner For Schmucks lives up to its dumb title.
Best: The Blob (1988)
As far removed from the jelly mould ‘50s original as it’s possible to get, Chuck Russell’s oozy remake revels in Thing -like grotesque imagery.
Frank Darabont penned this one, and it’s not hard to pick out his fingerprints - the director who would later go on to direct creature feature The Mist cheeses it up shamelessly with spins on horror tropes and keeps the terror ticking along at a rollicking pace. Just ignore the dodgy ‘80s hairdos.
Worst: Get Carter (2000)
Another classic gets butchered, as Sly Stallone mumbles and bumbles his way through a stylish but hollow update of Michael Caine’s iconic Brit-flick.
New Zealand actor-turned-director Stephen T. Kay has honourable enough intentions, attempting to blend characterisation with the action pow-wow, but in the end he underserves both. Stallone wants to capture the same charisma as Caine but fails miserably, and the dangling loose ends are proof enough that this wasn’t as thought through as it, uh, thinks it is.
Best: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Zombies… running! They all said he shouldn’t do it, but first-time director Zack Snyder did it anyway, updating George A. Romero’s beloved undead skincrawler for the Noughties with Olympic sprinting flesh-munchers who inject an adrenaline junkie thrill into a solid zombie revision.
Sarah Polley plays Ana, a nurse who finds herself trapped in a mall with strangers as an army of very hungry dead people attempt to break in. Snyder carries out the chaos with some precision pacing and snappy visuals, while those fleet-footed nasties are just as terrifying as Romero’s pasty-faced over-eaters. Interestingly, the word "zombie" is never uttered during the film’s entire running time…
Worst: Clash Of The Titans (2010)
Topping so many ‘worst’ lists already this year, Titans should be a shoe-in at the next Golden Raspberry Awards. Crap 3D, dodgy CGI, lacklustre acting...
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also one of the worst remakes, eschewing the hammy charm of the 1981 original for loud, emotion-free caterwauling and lame villains that illicit more giggles than screams. At least Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson seem to be having fun camping it up as gods. They’re the only ones, though.
Best: Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Alright, not technically a remake as much as a fresh adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' debauchery-stuffed novel, but still just one of many such adaps. As tight-bound as any of the numerous corsets on display, Stephen Frears’ version is a luxurious, opulent affair, as Glenn Close and John Malkovich exchange barbs between the fan-flicking.
Of course, Cruel Intentions did it just as wella decade later, swapping tiaras for teen tantrums and pushing the high life sexcapades to the limit…
Worst: Planet Of The Apes (2001)
Mark Wahlberg attempts to be Charlton Heston, while Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth and Paul Giamatti all have fun monkeying around in prosthetics. It’s not a patch on the 1968 original, despite some impressive set design, climaxing with a daft twist that can’t hope to match the genius of Heston’s Statue of Liberty nightmare.
Burton called it a “reimagination”, hoping to fend off remake phobes, but he was kidding no-one. Taking the premise of the ’68 classic, the Weird One pounded it into the ground with plotting that as equally dull as watching an orang-utan pick its nose. And almots as funny.
Best: Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gilliam’s gritty, no-nonsense sci-flick takes its inspiration from French romantic short The Pier (1962), which itself follows post-World War III humans who attempt to invent time travel in order to go back in time for food supplies.
In Gilliam’s version, Bruce Willis is a convict sent back through time from a future that is crippled by disease. His mission? Fight out what went wrong. Annoyingly, he’s banged up in a mental asylum when he gets there… Willis knocks his performance out of the park, while the multiple plot twists corkscrew in genius ways. And no, there aren’t any actual monkeys involved.
Worst: Halloween (2007)
Rob Zombie makes Halloween his own by removing any trace of subtlety or true menace from this ‘killer comes home’ tale, and replacing them with bloody, foul-mouthed malice. The first hour or so is all new material, filling in Michael Myers' backstory and giving him a reason for being so messed up – namely he comes from a white trash family. (Brings a new meaning to ‘hack psychology’.)
Most of the damage comes courtesy of the characters, with Loomis now a greasy fame-seeker, while Laurie Strode and her friends are about as sympathetic as an eye doctor with needles for fingers. As subtle as a fist in the face.
Best: The Departed (2006)
The Academy finally awarded Martin Scorsese a best director trophy for this crime epic in 2007. And though some might argue it’s not the film he should have gotten the award for ( Raging Bull , anyone?), there’s no denying The Departed retains its own sucker punch power.
Jack Nicholson throws his weight around as crime boss and all-round meanie Frank Costello, while the dual paths of Leo DiCaprio’s undercover cop Billy and Matt Damon’s undercover cop mobman Colin reap all kinds of white-knuckle rewards. Not least the bloodbath ending. Oh, and it’s a remake of the equally-brilliant Internal Affairs.
Worst: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005)
Another Burton misfire. Even if it’s another fresh take on a familiar book rather than straight up remake, this new Willy Wonka film can’t hope to reach the freaky heights of Gene Wilder’s 1971 version.
Not helping matters is a rare duff turn from Johnny Depp, who is adamant that he didn’t use Michael Jackson as a basis for his Wonka, but there’s no denying there are creepy similarities between the two softly-spoken oddjobs. Wrong, just wrong.
Best: The Thing (1982)
Gooey, pioneering alien flick courtesy of scaremonger John Carpenter, who here updates the faded but still frankly cool-as-ice The Thing From Another World (1951).
Like all the best alien flicks, The Thing capitalises on paranoia – milking the isolated, ice-encrusted South Pole setting for every drop of tension. Meanwhile, Rob Bottin’s goresome prosthetic creatures still look fantastic today. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s ‘don’t call it a remake’ prequel, due in 2011, has a lot to live up to.
Worst: The Wicker Man (2006)
“Not the bees! Not the beeees!” Nicolas Cage teams up with director Neil LaBute for a universally panned re-do of the 1973 classic chiller. Unintentionally hilarious and about as scary as a kitten tea party, it’s perhaps telling that LaBute moved into the comedy arena with Death At A Funeral this year – he’s clearly more cut out for eliciting laughs than shivers.
Not that he’s the only one to be held accountable, Cage again acting mostly with his wig in one of his worst performances to date. This is the same guy who just blew us away with Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant ?
Best: Let Me In (2010)
Why mess with a modern classic? Far from messing with it, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves instead crafts a sensitive companion piece to original Swedish vamp flick Let The Right One In that is as far from a money-grabbing cash-in as it’s possible to get.
Sensitive and elegant, with Let Me In he draws haunting performances from young leads Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee as a vampire and her new friend, and sets a new standard for fang flicks here on in. Stellar stuff.
Worst: The Stepford Wives (2004)
Camp thrills overtake the icy, knowing satire of the original Stepford Wives, as director Frank Oz either completely misunderstands the 1975 version, or decides to completely pillage it for an imprudent and ridiculously over-stylised send-up.
Considering its cast list includes the likes of Glenn Close, Christopher Walken and Nicole Kidman, all awards magnets in their own right, it’s worrying just how wrong their remake went. Lesson of the day? Choose your remakes carefully.
Best: The Magnificent Seven (1960)
A remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Seven Samurai , John Sturges’ film transports the general plot from Japan to a Mexican village that is being raided by a group of bandits. Refusing to take the attacks lying down, the village recruits local gunslingers for protection.
Containing some of the best gun fights ever seen in a Western, Seven is remarkable thanks to its sweeping setting, epic moral tussles, and career-defining performances from Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach and Charles Bronson.
Worst: The Invasion (2007)
Behind the scenes struggles resulted in a messy, well, mess with this modernisation of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers .
Scripted by first-time writer David Kajganich (he’s barely worked since) but re-written post-shooting by the brothers Wachowski, The Invasion was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, with reshoots by an uncredited James McTeigue. It’s a rambling, directionless waste of disc space.
Best: Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
Originally a 1960s comedy directed by Roger Corman, then adapted for the stage as a musical, Frank Oz’s masterful musical comedy fuses both former incarnations into a hilarious and affectionate funnybone tickler. He even retained musical star Ellen Greene for the role of Audrey.
What most will remember the film for, though, is the technical wizardry (the animatronic gadgetry used for Audrey II is never-better, particularly in musical lip-syncing scenes), and Steve Martin’s hilarious turn as a malicious dentist.
Worst: The Pink Panther (2006)
Steve Martin makes a decent go at returning bumbling Inspector Clouseau to our screens, but sadly the material lets him down. A running gag about his daft-sounding French accent can’t last the 90 minute running time, while Kevin Kline flounders about in the background.
Watch the animated opening credits, then shove on the old cartoon series instead.
Best: Scarface (1983)
Yup, Brian De Palma’s bloody crime saga is indeed a remake, taking its cue from Howard Hawks’ 1932 film based on the life of Al Capone. Though long and attention-testing (it easily pushes the three hour mark), De Palma’s film features a steely turn from Al Pacino as the Cuban gangster whose crime career flourishes then spectacularly fails.
Best, of course, is that unforgettable line “Say hello to my leeeedle friend”, repeated to such an extent throughout pop culturedom that many won’t even know its origins anymore...
Worst: The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)
We’re not in 1951 anymore. Which means Keanu Reeves is doing his best expressionless stare as Klaatu, an alien who arrives on our modest little globe to tell us that we need to change our ways, or a giant robotic terminator – towering monstrosity Gort – is going to exterminate the lot of us.
Reeves is fine, all emotion-free and blank of face, but the script flaps about straining for modern day context while aiming for an gut-pummel finale that never comes. The bangs are there, but sadly the brains aren’t.
Best: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Alfred Hitchcock was always a bar-setter, and here he throws mud in the face of his detractors with a remake of his own film, the same-titled 1934 mystery thriller. With the aid of James Stewart and Doris Day, he manages to better his original go at the tale, stating himself that he viewed the ’34 version as the work of a talented amateur.
Following a family’s discovery of an assassination plot, the film was entered in the Cannes Film Festival, while its iconic song ‘What Will Be Will Be’, as crooned by Day, earned an Academy Award for best song.
Worst: Prom Night (2008)
The PG-13 horror invasion continues with this tepid turkey, a remake of the cult ‘80s classic that starred scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen. Far from even attempting a proper narrative, Prom Night dreams up one ridiculous scenario after another before squashing them together with little rhyme or reason.
Criminally devoid of blood (all the victims are butchered at knife-point, but not a single drop of the red stuff appears on screen), this is anaemic horror by numbers for slasher newbies.