We’ve covered the best remakes, now it’s time to look at the worst. Will Ghostbusters end up being a late edition to this list? We’ll find out soon but until then, let’s offer up some evidence that it’s not always a good idea to redo a film. Again, these are the remakes that stick out the strongest for me, either personally or due to the enormously negative response they received from the masses.
The Vanishing (1993)
Director George Sluizer’s 1988 original is a chilling crime thriller with one of the most unnerving climaxes in all of film history. So what happens when he gets the chance to do an American remake? The finale is changed into an atypical, happy Hollywood ending. It’s a shame since the remake has a solid cast and isn’t poorly made, but the cheery ending undercuts the grim tone of the story. I do recommend seeing both versions though because it’s a good lesson in how certain elements of a film need to be preserved when doing a remake.
You knew this had to be on here. I’ll defend the 2014 version until I’m blue in the face, but Roland Emmerich’s moronic blockbuster is a disaster in almost every way. None of the characters are likable, the action scenes are the bad kind of cheesy, and the movie’s climax devolves into a shoddy ripoff of Jurassic Park. Even Toho, the Japanese studio that gave birth to Godzilla, disowned this version and even ridiculed it in Godzilla: Final Wars. A shrill, ugly remake that doesn’t deserve its namesake.
I put this entry on the list because Gus van Sant’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular film is legendary for being reviled. I get it. Doing a shot-for-shot remake seems like a pointless exercise, especially when you cast Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. He’s genuinely terrible in the film. But, I included Ti West’s commentary on the film because I agree with his assessment. This was something of an art project for van Sant, and I think the point is that it’s not supposed to work. Doesn’t mean it makes Psycho (1998) enjoyable to watch, but it’s a great touchstone for why certain remakes fail.
The Haunting (1999)
Robert Wise’s 1963 adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is a masterclass in terror and subtlety. So naturally, the remake enlists the director of Speed and Twister to do away with any attempt at nuance. Jan de Bont’s The Haunting is a horror movie that lacks any horror, and it’s made even worse by the uniformly bad casting. When you have actors like Liam Neeson and Lili Taylor whiffing it, it makes co-stars Owen Wilson and Catherine Zeta-Jones look even worse by comparison. Only good for some unintentional comedy.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Tim Burton managed to take the fairly straightforward story of the 1968 classic and twist it into a convoluted mess. It’s a real bummer since the makeup design by Rick Baker is absolutely stellar, as well as the costume and art design of the film. But man, the acting in this is unbearable. Marky Mark is woefully wooden whereas Tim Roth is over-acting his heart out. There’s some good to be found in the film — Paul Giamatti is the clear standout — but a dilapidated plot and a famously stupid ending sink this one.
One of James Caan’s most notable roles was in the 1975 original about a deadly future sport and the corporate interests that control it. Full of smart social commentary and satire, Rollerball would see those elements stripped away for a glossy, hollow remake from the director of Die Hard. Headlined by Chris Klein — a candidate for the best worst performance of all time in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li — this empty and brazenly stupid film was quickly forgotten and rightfully so. Dumb but never in an enjoyable way.
The Longest Yard (2005)
Burt Reynolds anchored the surprisingly moving drama that was the 1974 original, but it was the comedy that most audiences remembered from that film. Well, leave it to Adam Sandler to extrapolate upon that and take it to preposterous degrees. The 2005 remake is a blunt and lowbrow endeavor that seemed destined for the bargain bin. Not even giving Burt Reynolds a prominent role could salvage this mishandled project. Utterly disposable and only exists to turn people on to the far superior original.
The Omen (2006)
This remake of the monumental 1976 horror film seemed to exist for the sole purpose of capitalizing on a release date. Unleashed on June 6, 2006 (6/6/06), The Omen is a boilerplate retread of the classier first film. There’s little to no invention when it comes to the plot beats or characters, and the entire effect of the film is foiled thanks to the casting of Damien. In the original, Damien was a cherubic and unassuming little child, making his identity as the son of Satan all the more impacting. The remake decided to cast the creepiest kid ever born and that sucks any tension out of the proceedings.
The Pink Panther (2006)
Goofball humor is tough to pull off. Peter Sellers was one of the masters of the artform, and his defining role as Inspector Clouseau is a testament to the man’s talent. Unfortunately, the 2006 remake took another comedic genius, Steve Martin, and threw him into a cavalcade of lame slapstick gags. The remake lacks any of the charms of Sellers’ character, and its pratfall nature is utilized in far more groan-inducing ways. Uninspired as it was, this was actually a huge hit and spawned an even more odious sequel.
I’m a fan of Rob Zombie‘s music and films, but even I had to balk at his decision to remake John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece. Though his grimy aesthetic and trashy sensibilities weren’t the greatest things about the 2007 version, it’s his decision to make the last third of the movie a sped-up version of the original that’s the most damning. At least his bad take on the film was his own; the backend of the movie is far too similar to Carpenter’s and feels like a completely different film that what you’ve been watching. The sequel was also bad but at least it was Zombie’s unhinged and unapologetic take on the franchise.
The Stepfather (2009)
As you can see, the horror genre is particularly susceptible to shoddy remakes. Though it’s more of a deep cut than some of the other entries on this list, The Stepfather is equally as poor as any other high-profile remake. The original 1987 film was a breakout for lead actor Terry O’Quinn (Lost) who brought dark humor and actual menace to the role. Dylan Walsh doesn’t have half the charisma of Quinn, and the remake loses a lot of the twisted sensibilities of the original. It’s a by-the-numbers affair that can’t even surpass the trashy sequel to the original.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
This is a big one. I was genuinely excited about this thanks to the casting of Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Preacher) as Freddy Krueger. Too bad the movie is a repetitive chore that can’t find its own voice. Direct sequences from Wes Craven’s 1984 classic are lifted verbatim, and the supporting cast is numbingly bland to the point of seeming catatonic. Not even Haley can salvage this one as his performance lacks any of the devilish appeal that Robert Englund brought to the role. It’s also somewhat repulsive just to look at, going way overboard with its grimy aesthetic and shadowy locales. This one actually had potential but it was dead on arrival.
The Thing (2011)
The only story to appear on both the best and worst remakes list! I debated whether or not to include this since it is actually a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name, but the similarities are too many to ignore. Not only does it take the title of the original, but it also copies a number of the same sequences and pretty much the entire structure of Carpenter’s classic. The most insulting aspect of this version is the gaudy CGI creatures that were slapped together in favor of actual practical effects. Seeing as how Carpenter’s The Thing is a milestone in creature effects, this attitude feels incredibly disingenuous.
Total Recall (2012)
A remake that is so mundane it’s already been forgotten a scant four years later. Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 gonzo action film was a delicious chunk of cheese. Director Len Wiseman’s (Underworld) version is as tasty as a brick of styrofoam. The future landscape and tone are punishingly banal and the actors don’t fare much better. Colin Farrell is exceedingly dull in a role that Arnold Schwarzenegger made immensely enjoyable. The pacing is glacial and the action is shockingly rote for such a picture. A plodding thud of a remake that makes the original look even better.
The last film on the list is also the most recent, proving that Hollywood still hasn’t figured out the secrets to making good retellings. The few changes Poltergeist makes to the 1982 original are baffling and obnoxious, especially when it comes to the exorcist character. Instead of an elderly woman, the exorcist is a smarmy reality TV host played by Jared Harris. Thre’s some visual flair to be had but the plotting and pacing are almost beat-for-beat the same as the original. Remakes need to forge their own identity and Poltergeist barely even attempts such a feat.
There you have it! The best and worst remakes of all time. Disagree with me? Have an entry you think I missed? Shoot me a tweet, tag @getfandom, and I’ll be happy to converse with you!