The 35 greatest movie remakes (that are better than the original)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

It's a popular belief that most cinematic remakes pale in comparison to the original. But is that always the case? Sometimes, and more often than you think, the remake actually ends up better than the original.

The history of cinematic remakes starts around the beginning of cinema itself; maybe it's proof that maybe filmmakers have always been starved of ideas. In 1896, legendary French director Georges Méliès directed the 67-second long film Playing Cards, a movie that "remade" a similar film titled The Messers from Louis Lumière. Both movies have the same "plot" of men sitting around tables playing cards.

With more than a century's worth of movies, there are absolutely stories that heavily benefitted from a second chance. Here are 35 movie remakes that are actually better than the original.

35. Suspiria (2018)


(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Absolutely no disrespect to Dario Argento, whose 1977 original Suspiria is still the epitome of giallo horror. (The score, by Goblin, is still evocative after all these years.) But Luca Guadagnino's 2018 remake, which stars Dakota Johnson in the lead role and features Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz, and more in supporting parts, is unrivaled in its disturbing magnificence. A remarkable expansion over the original with Guadagnino's grandiose touches, the 2018 Suspiria is the rare horror remake not just done right, but done well.

34. Little Women (2019)

Little Women

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Louisa May Alcott's 1868 novel has been adapted countless times into all kinds of mediums: TV, musicals, radio, even other novels that humorously add werewolves and vampires to the story. For most audiences however, the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder, and Greta Gerwig's Oscar-nominated 2019 adaptation, are the main two giants (of Little Women - ha, get it?). Both versions have their fans. But Gerwig's star-studded 2019 production - starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, and Meryl Streep - earns its reputation, being a faithful yet lively rendition of a now very familiar story.

33. It (2017)


(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

In 1990, Stephen King's It became an Emmy-nominated horror miniseries on ABC; Tim Curry played the part of Pennywise the Clown, whose face memorably graced the cover of the movie's striking VHS packaging. In September 2017, Andy Muschietti helmed a far more fleshed-out remake befitting the cinematic universe era. Bill Skarsgård dons the makeup of Pennywise, giving a possessed performance that makes him a truly formidable nemesis for traumatized preteens. While both versions owe a tremendous debt to King, Muschietti's lavish late summer tentpole is an effective portrait of adolescent fears. Just don't bother with the sequel.

32. The Parent Trap (1998)

The Parent Trap

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

It was a movie so good that many admit to believing Lindsay Lohan was twin sisters. In 1998, Nancy Meyers made her directing debut with an updated version of the 1961 original (both produced and released by Disney), both sourcing from the 1949 German novel Lisa and Lottie. In addition to Lohan shouldering the movie's burdens (seriously, try playing your own twin, with a British accent!), the movie also starred Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix, and Lisa Ann Walter, all of whom bring colorful energy to the movie's laid back atmosphere. The '61 original is cute, but the '98 version feels like home. 

31. Fatal Attraction (1987)

Fatal Attraction

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

It may surprise many to learn that Fatal Attraction, a late 1980s classic that kicked off the erotic thriller boom in Hollywood, is actually a remake. In a nutshell: Screenwriter James Dearden first wrote the story and turned it into his 1980 short film Diversion, which aired on British TV. Years later, the concept was retooled into Fatal Attraction, a bigger-budget production made for theaters with director Adrian Lyne. Today Fatal Attraction is rightfully considered a modern classic, emblematic of a time when mainstream movies weren't afraid to get dirty. But its origins as a remake proves that some stories just need a second chance, and on a bigger screen.

30. Some Like It Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot

(Image credit: MGM)

Remakes aren't a 21st century invention. Even in the 1950s, Hollywood filmmakers were taking inspiration from foreign cinema and making classics in their own right. In 1959, Billy Wilder crafted his now timeless and celebrated comedy Some Like It Hot, in which Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon co-star with bombshell Marilyn Monroe in a story about musicians who disguise themselves as women and join a traveling troupe to escape the mafia. The movie's origins lie in the 1935 French film Fanfare of Love, with Betty Stockfeld as the Monroe analogue. Some Like It Hot is considered one of the greatest movies of all time with preservation in the National Film Registry, but that it's a remake of a different movie simply means nobody's perfect.

29. The Producers (2005)

The Producers

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The 2005 remake of The Producers, directed by Susan Stroman and adapting Mel Brooks' classic 1967 comedy turned Broadway musical, was not well received by critics upon release. But neither was Brooks' movie, which has gone on to achieve cult classic status. Since its 2005 release, Stroman's version - in which Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprise their stage production roles -  has slowly gained similar retrospective praise, being an elegantly designed satire of the Broadway industry and politically correct sensitivities. There's irony found in its story, which tells of scheming producers who try to make a flop only to wind up with a hit. Both times The Producers have become movies, they were not immediate hits. It's only the gift of time and hindsight that The Producers find true springtime. 

28. The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

The Manchurian Candidate

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The 1959 Richard Condon novel The Manchurian Candidate became a film in 1962, a John Frankenheimer production revered for its encapsulation of Cold War-era anxieties. In 2004, the movie was remade for the modern War on Terror. Under the taut direction of Jonathan Demme, Denzel Washington leads as a Gulf War veteran who witnesses the rise to power of one of his own unit members, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), who is groomed by his ambitious senator mother (Meryl Streep) into a candidate for Vice President. The '62 film is a towering one, but the '04 movie is equally if not more formidable with its harnessing of post-9/11 paranoia.

27. Vanilla Sky (2001)

Vanilla Sky

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

One of Cameron Crowe's most mystifying films, Vanilla Sky, is a remake of Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 thriller Open Your Eyes. Tom Cruise leads as a playboy magazine publisher in New York City who begins to question his reality after a car accident leaves him severely disfigured. Penélope Cruz stars in both versions, playing the same role of a woman the main protagonist becomes smitten and hopes to find happiness. Though Vanilla Sky polarized critics in 2001, it has since become a cult movie remembered for its emotional story and ambiguous ending.

26. The Ten Commandments (1956)

The Ten Commandments

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Prolific American director Cecil B. DeMille returned to the religious well at least twice throughout his career. In 1923, he helmed the silent film epic The Ten Commandments, which at the time was one of the most sophisticated film productions in history. A little over 30 years later, DeMille pushed the technical envelope even further with a second movie entitled The Ten Commandments, itself loosely remaking and elaborating on his previous film's prologue. The '56 classic functions as a biopic of Moses (Charlton Heston) and his tumultuous relationship with his adoptive brother, Egyptian pharaoh Ramses (Yul Brynner) as Moses leads his fellow enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt. Still one of the most successful movies of all time, The Ten Commandments set a new standard for Hollywood filmmaking, and absolutely eclipses DeMille's own previous effort.

25. Scarface (1983)


(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Brian De Palma's 20th century American classic famously stars Al Pacino as a Cuban refugee who rises to power in the Miami underworld. A similar story was told in the 1932 film version Scarface, with Miami and Cubanos swapped for an ambitious Italian immigrant (played by Paul Muni) who navigates 1920s Chicago. Both films source from Armitage Trail's 1930 novel; while the '32 film version hews closer to the book, De Palma's version has played an incredible influence in modern popular culture. Some of its most vocal fans are often hip-hop artists, who fetishize Scarface's rags-to-riches success in the face of dangerous adversity.

24. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Stieg Larsson's posthumously released Millennium novel series, which centers around a computer hacker with photographic memory who teams up with a magazine journalist, inspired serious interest among Hollywood studios to be the next red-hot film IP. An American film version of the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Crag), was helmed by David Fincher and released in 2011. Thing is, it came two years after a separate series was produced in Sweden, with all three books adapted to the screen with Noomi Rapace in the lead role. While Sweden enjoys a complete cinematic trilogy, you simply can't compete with Fincher's singular craftsmanship in conjunction with powerhouse leads like Craig and Mara and a killer score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

23. His Girl Friday (1940)

His Girl Friday

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

The influential screwball comedy, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, is in fact a remake of a different 1931 film titled The Front Page. (Both are adaptations of the play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.) But His Girl Friday is a giant, arguably the prototypical American comedy that gave rise to the term "Girl Friday" to mean a devoted and trusted (and usually female) assistant. In 1974, a more faithful remake of The Front Page came from filmmaking legend Billy Wilder, with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the lead roles. Despite its star power, it still couldn't hold a candle to Hawks' immortal version.

22. You've Got Mail (1998)

You've Got Mail

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Taking inspiration from a 1937 Hungarian play and the 1940 classic The Shop Around the Corner, Nora Ephron oversaw a lovely turn-of-the-century update that is the 1998 rom-com You've Got Mail. Firmly set in its contemporary setting - at the height of the dot-com bubble, and the nascent rise of bookstore giants like Barnes & Noble - Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan play rivals in the publishing world who, unbeknownst to them, are actually smitten with each other via anonymous emails on AOL. As bright as a summer walk in the park and cozy as a knit blanket in winter, You've Got Mail has it all. Even with its dated technology, it feels far more timeless than its predecessor.

21. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

The Man Who Knew Too Much

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

If you want to get technical, The Man Who Knew Too Much from 1956 is not really a remake. Both the 1934 original and the more popular '56 version were directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Though they bear the same title and a similar story - a traveling couple on vacation get involved in an international conspiracy after their children are kidnapped - they each differ in plot, characters, and overall execution. For most people, the '56 version is superior to the original, with more star power and a more experienced Hitchcock applying refined craft behind the camera. If you were to ask Hitchcock himself, which French filmmaker François Truffaut did for his 1966 book, Hitchcock quipped: "Let's say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second made by a professional."

20. True Lies (1994)

True Lies

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

One of the most beloved Hollywood hits of the 1990s is, in fact, a remake of a French movie. La Totale!, released in 1991, tells of a family man who works as a secret agent and uses his professional skills to track his family - a decision that leads to unexpected consequences. A few short years later in 1994, James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger teamed up for True Lies, an exciting but upbeat remake that reframes the family man (Schwarzenegger) as a U.S. government agent who struggles in his work/life balance. At the time one of the most expensive Hollywood movies ever made, True Lies is now remembered as one of the finest films of its era, and especially in Schwarzenegger's career.

19. Dredd (2012)


(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Maybe bad memories of the Sylvester Stallone dud from 1995 kept audiences from flocking to see Dredd in 2012, the second film version of the British comic book strip. While Dredd bombed at the box office, those who saw it swore, and still swear, that it's a great movie. They're correct. Dredd is a hard-hitting midnight sci-fi movie about a principled law enforcer in a dystopian future, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) who takes in a rookie partner (Olivia Thirlby) only for them both end up locked inside a towering apartment complex ruled by a crime lord (Lena Headey). Grimy and gritty and sometimes gorgeous, Dredd outguns the original in every way.

18. The Blob (1988)

The Blob

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

It's admittedly hard not to laugh at a premise like The Blob. It's pink alien gelatin that slowly devours an entire small town. Like, how hard is it to run away from? But while the original 1958 movie with Steve McQueen is goofy in all its B-movie glory, the 1988 remake from director Chuck Russell and starring Kevin Dillon is comparatively more insightful and striking. Featuring all the touches of its halcyon '80s era and prescient allusions to government conspiracy theories, The Blob '88 is far more than its flabby, shapeless appearances let on.

17. The Longest Yard (2005)

The Longest Yard

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

To be clear, the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard isn't exactly better than the 1974 original with Burt Reynolds. It's just that both scratch very different itches depending on one's mood. While the '74 original is a rough, tough movie with flashes of darkness, the '05 remake is a non-stop knee-slapper thanks to hilarious performances by Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Nelly, William Fichtner, and a locker room of ex-pro wrestlers like Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and even The Great Khali. While it's hard to shoulder tackle the original deal, the '05 remake is lewd and crude with tons of attitude.

16. Hairspray (2007)


(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It feels like sacrilege to call a sanitized, bigger-budget remake of a John Waters movie "better" than the original. But whether you boogie down with the '07 Hairspray from director Adam Shankman or not, there's no denying that it was and is still one of the most successful musical films of its time. Both films throw it back to early '60s Baltimore, following a full-bodied teenager who aspires to be a dancer on a popular TV show; upon doing so, she takes on contemporary racial discrimination. The '07 version is an adaptation of the Broadway musical version of Waters' movie, which opened in 2002 and won the Tony for Best Musical in 2003. 

15. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

3:10 to Yuma

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

A few years after helming the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, director James Mangold stuck around the aesthetics of cowboys and tough guys for his remake of the 1957 classic Western 3:10 to Yuma. An improvement over the original in every way, Mangold's movie carries the director's assured and handsome direction, along with sterling performances from Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, with Bale taking on the dangerous job of escorting an outlaw (Crowe) to justice. 10 years later, Mangold revisited a different version of the same story, one that uses Hugh Jackman's popular X-Men character Wolverine in the R-rated Western-inspired epic Logan.

14. Man on Fire (2004)

Man on Fire

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

You just can't beat a collaboration like Tony Scott and Denzel Washington. Based on the 1980 novel by A.J. Quinnell, Man on Fire was first a different movie from 1987 with Scott Glenn in the lead role. Tony Scott had hoped to direct the film that first time, but with only one movie under his belt at the time - 1983's The Hunger - he was deemed too inexperienced to take on the job. After years passed and the opportunity to adapt the book again came his way, Scott seized the chance and delivered a bonafide action classic of the new millennium. Sometimes, patience really is a virtue. 

13. The Fly (1986)

The Fly

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The original 1958 version of The Fly is a strange and grotesque movie, especially for its time. But what the story really needed was David Cronenberg. In 1986, the iconoclast horror filmmaker renowned for his fetish for body horror made his mainstream, big budget debut with The Fly, a remake of the '58 film. With Jeff Goldblum in the lead role, The Fly tells of a scientist who slowly turns into a half man, half fly creature. That's a premise just begging for Cronenberg, and indeed Cronenberg's movie is the only version worth watching.

12. The Jungle Book (2016)

The Jungle Book

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Jon Favreau's 2016 remake of The Jungle Book was not the first time that Disney commissioned a remake of its own animated classic. In 1994, Jason Scott Lee starred alongside Cary Elwes, Lena Headey (pre-Game of Thrones), Sam Neill, and John Cleese in a different live-action adaptation of the original Rudyard Kipling book, directed by Stephen Sommers. But in 2016, amid Disney's renewed obsession to remake everything in its portfolio, it again remade The Jungle Book. To the surprise of everyone, Favreau's vision is breathtaking and haunting with hypnotic high-fidelity VFX. Not all of Disney's modern remakes are worth the time it takes for you to boot them up on Disney+, but The Jungle Book is a mighty rare - and bare - necessity. 

11. A Star Is Born (2018)

A Star Is Born

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It seems like every generation gets their version of A Star Is Born. But in hindsight, it feels like it was all leading up to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's Oscars-sweeping 2018 hit, and the third remake of the original 1937 drama. As both director, co-writer, and star of the film, Bradley Cooper injects verve into his production, opposite a mighty Lady Gaga; the two play musicians who fall in love and catapult each other into the spotlight, only to come undone by personal demons. With a totally original soundtrack anchored by the unflappable "Shallow," A Star Is Born proves that not all remakes are doomed to dim against the originals.

10. Ben-Hur (1959)


(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Driven by Paramount's success with The Ten Commandments, rival studio MGM moved forward with a new adaptation of Ben-Hur, some 25 years after the release of the original 1925 silent film version. (Even back then, studios were keen to rely on pretty much whatever worked before.) With the hiring of Charlton Heston to play the title role of Judah Ben-Hur, MGM strove to siphon some of The Ten Commandments' unstoppable power, surrounding Heston with even more elaborate sets. The movie's standout chariot race scene, which cost the studio millions in 1959 currency, has become the stuff of cinema legend in its own right. 

9. Scent of a Woman (1992)

Scent of a Woman

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Can Hollywood smell box office success? Perhaps only a few did in 1992, when Martin Brest helmed a remake of the 1974 Italian drama Profumo di donna, itself based on a story by Giovanni Arpino. Both the Italian and American versions tell of a retired military veteran who enlists the help of a younger man to assist him. The American version pairs Al Pacino with Chris O'Donnell, and it's heartwarming and heart-wrenching in its tale of two men on completely opposite paths in life learning to better understand themselves. The movie was nominated for many Oscars, with Pacino actually winning Best Actor at the 65th Academy Awards.

8. The Departed (2006)

The Departed

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Before Martin Scorsese released The Departed, there was Infernal Affairs. Co-directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, the 2002 action thriller from Hong Kong tells of an undercover police officer who infiltrates a Triad gang, while a different officer operates as a spy for the Triad. Infernal Affairs launched a critically acclaimed trilogy, but Scorsese kept his muscular 2006 epic The Departed as just one movie. While all versions of the story are top-notch quality from top-notch directors, The Departed is a true American classic eclipsed only by other movies made by Scorsese. 

7. True Grit (2010)

True Grit

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Leave it to the Coen Brothers to outdo a John Wayne classic. In 2010, the auteur filmmakers released their neo-Western giant True Grit, the second-ever remake of Charles Portis' novel. Jeff Bridges plays a boozy lawman hired by a teenage farm girl (Hailee Steinfeld) to go after the outlaw who killed her daddy. Joining them is a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon), who is on the hunt for the same man. True Grit is a splendid picture with all the trademarks of the Coens who add some healthy "grit" into their craftsmanship, making it a far more worthy movie than the equally influential '69 original. The Coens' version didn't take home any of the Oscars it was nominated for, but it means something that it made it to the dance at all.

6. Dune (2021) and Dune: Part Two (2024)


(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

David Lynch's Dune, an adaptation of Frank Herbert's seminal sci-fi novel, is something of an ambitious misfire. It has vision, it's just not all put together in the way it maybe should be. Enter: Denis Villeneuve's Dune duology, which amplifies Herbert's political science fiction saga into a sand-blasted military thriller about the dangers of messianic revolutions. An all-star cast, led by Timothee Chalamet, brings to life Herbert's story with maximum impact. Villeneuve, too, further flexes his might as a modern auteur who captures the awe of Arrakis with stately direction.

5. The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

In the aftermath of the Dark Universe's collapse, the Universal Monsters found themselves under the care of various filmmakers once again. Leigh Whannell, whose 2018 sci-fi horror Upgrade became a cult favorite, took control of the 2020 version of The Invisible Man, which brings a modern, #MeToo-era spin over the 1933 original. Whannell's film explores timely feminist themes in its story about a woman (Elisabeth Moss) who struggles to escape the reach of her abusive, affluent tech CEO partner (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), whom she believes is stalking her in a cutting-edge invisibility suit. The Invisible Man is the rare remake that successfully reboots from the ground up, delivering something so unexpected you almost don't see it coming.

4. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Whenever someone bemoans the sorry state of Hollywood and its insistence on remakes, remind them that some of the greatest movies ever made were adaptations and remakes. Case in point: The ultimate fantasy adventure, The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland and directed by Victor Fleming, is in fact the second adaptation of L. Frank Baum's story. It was preceded by a silent film version in 1925, which dramatically altered the story and bears little resemblance to The Wizard of Oz that audiences are familiar with. Being a silent movie too, it cannot have a showstopper like "Over the Rainbow."

3. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Ocean's Eleven

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Eclipsing the Rat Pack is perhaps the greatest Hollywood heist of the century. Over 40 years after the original Ocean's Eleven, which starred the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and more, Steven Soderbergh teamed up with A-listers George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts for a vibrant remake set in contemporary Las Vegas. Like any tightly bolted plan to rob casino magnates blind, Soderberg's version of Ocean's Eleven is clever and charismatic, an escapist gem full of characters we wish to emulate (minus the risk of jail time). The original Rat Pack movie might have class, but the 2001 version has style for days.

2. The Thing (1982)

The Thing

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

A defining piece of 1980s horror and one of the best movies ever directed by John Carpenter, The Thing traces its origins back to the 1938 novella by John W. Campbell Jr. and the significantly less inspiring 1951 movie The Thing from Another World. Carpenter's version brings the movie from snowy Alaska to ice-capped Antarctica, with a research facility torn apart by a shapeshifting alien parasite. A true milestone for horror filmmaking, Carpenter's movie overcame middling reviews and a frosty box office to wind up a seminal American classic that's influenced countless other artists everywhere.

1. Heat (1995)


(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

It all comes down to the diner scene. Michael Mann's expansive Los Angeles crime epic Heat actually began life from Mann who first developed it as the TV pilot-turned-TV film L.A. Takedown. After L.A. Takedown failed to make significant noise, Mann retooled the script and turned it into Heat, which has become a modern classic in its star-studded showdown between Al Pacino (as a stressed-out LAPD detective) and Robert De Niro (as an unsentimental career criminal). Yes, L.A. Takedown has a similar scene between the same characters, but it absolutely pales in comparison to the electricity that Pacino and De Niro are able to generate.

Eric Francisco

Eric Francisco is a freelance entertainment journalist and graduate of Rutgers University. If a movie or TV show has superheroes, spaceships, kung fu, or John Cena, he's your guy to make sense of it. A former senior writer at Inverse, his byline has also appeared at Vulture, The Daily Beast, Observer, and The Mary Sue. You can find him screaming at Devils hockey games or dodging enemy fire in Call of Duty: Warzone.