Why ‘E.T.’ and Other ’80s Classics Need Remakes Right Now

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies
Movies

Sometimes classic films shouldn’t be tinkered with. Some of the most loved films from the 1980s are adored precisely because of nostalgia. They evoke the era, and remind a generation of their childhoods. But others are ripe for remake treatment. Not always because they were rubbish first time around – far from it in many cases – but because there is enough there to develop and make different enough to bring to today’s audiences in a new form. They’re films that have more than simply the magic that made them popular in the first place. They have a quality that would allow a remake to stand apart from its forerunner, while leaving the original unsullied. Here are seven titles that would make awesome movies if remade today.

‘E.T.’

E.T. has bags of retro appeal. And it’s a heartbreaking/warming tale whether you watched it in 1982 when it first came out or yesterday. But special effects have come on leaps and bounds since Spielberg was plying his craft in the early 1980s. And the absent-father formula has been oft copied and is something that could also benefit from an overhaul – rendering it a very different movie and therefore one worth making. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see an updated, and more realistic, version of Elliot’s extraterrestrial friend?

‘The Lost Boys’

Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys may have been popular, but it wasn’t actually that good. The best thing about it was the performances from Coreys Haim and Feldman, and Barnard Hughes as Grandpa. All three were pretty hilarious.

Its downfall was that it tried so hard to be cool, with a cast of teen pin-ups, including Jason Patric and Kiefer Sutherland. But they were all just a little bit cringey. That “Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots, how do they taste?” scene where Jason Patric’s Michael is at one moment eating rice and the next tucking into juicy little wrigglers was never really scary or tense – more just… funny. For the wrong reasons. It never really got the scary bit right, and that was tragic. That isn’t to say it wasn’t roundly loved. It was – partly for its kitsch appeal and also its ability to tap into the zeitgeist.

A remake could inject some real threat and horror for modern audiences – without losing the comedic and eccentric characters, mind. The result would be a more relevant film for today about a teen vampire colony living among us, and preying on us. Steering clear of Twilight territory, of course.

‘The Neverending Story’

A better children’s fantasy film than Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which is its natural bedfellow but seems to have endured more steadfastly than its forebear – possibly due to David Bowie’s presence – The Neverending Story needs to be brought to the attention of new audiences. Based on the immensely successful 1979 novel by German author Michael Ende, the Wolfgang Petersen-directed Neverending Story is fondly remembered but could certainly be reimagined through today’s lens. In the process, injecting new life into this beautifully crafted, enchanting story. The world desperately needs a new version of Atreyu, never mind Falkor, the Luck Dragon.

‘Short Circuit’

As 1980s as this film feels, and as integral as it is to the period, there are things about it that could be refreshed to make it a cracker for today’s audiences. We’re still as obsessed with robots and everything AI as ever, but the emphasis these days is more frequently on androids gone bad. Think Westworld, Ex Machina and Humans. In Short Circuit, the robot, a military prototype struck by lightning triggering sentience, is sweet and friendly, and at risk from the authorities who want to reclaim their ‘property’. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a few more nice robots on screen? Reimagine Johnny 5 – but keep him funny and adorable – do away with Fisher Stevens’ inappropriate character, and Short Circuit would be a winner remade today.

‘Highlander’

There were sequels. There were TV series’. But nobody has ever remade the 1986 original. And they should. Russell Mulcahy’s seminal fantasy flick about Immortals living among us, who live by the adage “There can be only one”, would make a gripping reboot.

Although there’s much to be admired about Christopher Lambert in the very quotable original, an actor like former Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, or even Karen Gillan, would make very compelling alternatives. And both are genuine Scots, incidentally, unlike Frenchman Lambert, whose wayward Scottish accent was even mocked within the original film. Sean Connery’s Scottish-accented Egyptian Immortal, meanwhile, would find a great replacement in Oscar Isaac.

‘Howard the Duck’

Based on the Marvel comic book character, Howard the Duck was a live-action film executive produced by none other than George Lucas. On release, it was a resounding failure. Today, it has a cult following. The film includes a bizarre bed scene between Howard — a duck-shaped alien from the planet Duckworld — and his human companion played by Lea Thompson. It’s perhaps the best example as to why audiences at the time hated it and select contemporary audiences embrace it. With Howard popping up briefly on a couple of occasions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in recent years, is it time for Marvel to commit to remaking the 1986 version? In today’s climate, one populated by superhero movies, Howard the Duck would stand a far better chance of success.

‘They Live’

John Carpenter’s They Live looks incredibly dated. The high camp is one of its joys, but there’s a chilling tale in there that could make an impact packaged up in a modern remake. Its themes – control, authoritarianism and capitalism — are still pertinent today. In the hands of a credible science fiction director such as Denis Villeneuve, this tale of aliens controlling the human race while plundering the Earth’s resources could be a startling contemporary satire instead of a camp cult classic that has lost its power. Keep the memorable iconography, though, naturally.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.
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