Six Great Remakes Worth Watching
With the remake of “The Beguiled” hitting theaters, the CineNation writers picked some of their favorite remakes they think you should see.
This past Friday, Sofia Coppola’s new film The Beguiled started its limited release in the United States. The film has been getting a lot of buzz since it was shown in competition at Cannes Film Festival this past May. At the festival, Coppola became the second female director to take the Best Director prize at the festival.
The film is based off the book A Painted Devil, but the film is actually a remake of the 1971 film of the same name, starring Clint Eastwood. Since there is so much buzz around the release of this remake, we at CineNation thought it was a perfect time to talk about some of our favorite remakes. Read on to find out what remakes our CineNation contributors love.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is one of those weird movies that I love every time I watch it, but I never remember much about it if I haven’t watched it in several years. (The best alien invasion movie is of course Signs, but that’s neither here nor there.) While Spielberg hasn’t done anything truly fantastic in recent years, War of the Worlds came out when he was actually churning out entertaining movies like Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can. Coincidence that two of them star Tom Cruise? I think not!
But anyways, War of the Worlds is a remake of the classic 1953 version, which itself was based off the original H.G. Wells novel of the same name. There was also the infamous radio broadcast version which starred Orson Welles that reportedly caused mass panic for the way it depicted the story as a real life event. But for its time, the original movie was groundbreaking and even won an Oscar for best special effects. While the original hasn’t aged particularly well, the Spielberg version will always be something of a timeless classic.
Almost every set piece in Spielberg’s version is truly stunning. Whether it’s when the asphalt street heaves up and down before the first tripod emerges, or when they’re playing hide and seek from a tentacled machine in the basement of a lone survivor’s house, each scene is intense and almost perfect in its execution. But the crux of the story is about a father trying to reconnect with his children while doing anything he can to keep them safe. All these elements together form a terrific alien invasion disaster flick that we unfortunately haven’t seen the likes of since.
True Lies (1994)
My all-time favorite remake is already being talked about by another writer, so I decided that I should talk about something else (my true favorite is at the bottom of this list). I thought about picking some classic films that are also great remakes like The Maltese Falcon or even The Departed. I even thought about talking about the cult-favorite musical film, Little Shop of Horrors, that was based off of one of Roger Corman’s B-movies. But, I decided to talk about a film that I will watch no matter what day it is.
True Lies is one of the few films from James Cameron’s filmography that people do not talk about a lot. If the film doesn’t deal with aliens, time-traveling androids, or big boats, then it isn’t brought up when talking about Cameron’s best films. But True Lies is easily one of the best action comedies of all-time. It is full of great action set pieces and memorable performances. The film was originally loosely based on a now semi-obscure French film La Totale! that was released in 1991. It is easy to say that True Lies has surpassed the legacy of the original, because not many people realize the film is actually a remake.
The big difference between the two films is that True Lies amped up the action and the heart. Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a great performance as Harry Tasker, a family man who lives a double life as a spy. Schwarzenegger’s legacy has dwindled down a little over the past decade or so due to the lack of big film roles and his political career, but when watching something like True Lies, you remember just how great he was as a Hollywood action star. People also forget how great he is at comedy. Schwarzenegger is an underrated comedy actor, and he is able to shine when he is put up against other talented comedic actors like Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Arnold (yes, I called Tom Arnold talented). The film also sports one of Bill Paxton’s best performances of all time as the sleazy car salesman who tries to have an affair with Schwarzenegger’s wife, Helen (played by Curtis). In the end, the film is about a married couple that are going through a rut, and it takes a possible terrorist attack to bring back the excitement in their life. So, if you are wanting a great action comedy with heart, then True Lies is for you.
The House on Haunted Hill (1999)
By Alex Bauer
Talking about remakes encompasses a lot of films. Many were silent features or forgotten films of the early days of cinema: Scarface, The Last of the Mohicans, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 3:10 to Yuma.
For me, remakes and horror go hand in hand. Re-imagining a horror story for a modern audience can be quite successful. Perhaps my favorite remake of all time — certainly the one I enjoy revisiting the most — is 1999’s House on Haunted Hill. The film is a remake of a 1959 film of the same name, starring Vincent Price. Most notably, the 1959 version gives us the skeleton pushing a woman into acid scene — ICONIC.
The 1999 version is even better. For one, it’s far more scarier. Centered around a millionaire’s idea for a game: who can stay at the haunted house over night? The cast of characters is entertaining, including Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, Ali Larter and Jeffrey Combs. The ghosts are the most horrific version of the afterlife I have ever seen on film. Their walk and brutal vengeance is everything and more needed for a successful horror movie. It is usually the first horror I recommend when somebody asks for a horror title that “actually is scary”. I’m not kidding when I say it’s nightmare inducing.
I also enjoy it because of the era the film takes place. A part of me loves the nostalgia for the late 1990s and early 2000s. What other era would give us this badass musical cue!? The 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill is easily a huge improvement and one of the best remakes around.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
By Sean Randall
It’s thoroughly possible that some of the best remakes in American cinema are the ones where the original films did not make much of a lasting impression or impact. I’ve talked on this a little bit in the past. 1959’s 11 Academy Award-winning Ben-Hur was a remake of a remake. The 2016 version partly failed because, well, the 1959 version is beyond iconic. But the 1907 and 1929 versions? Not so memorable.
So maybe it’s not actually that surprising that the 1993 film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is itself a remake, specifically of the 1963 film The Incredible Journey. For those unaware, the films are based on the novel The Incredible Journey and focus on the harrowing journey of two dogs and a cat as they trek across many, many miles of treacherous wilderness to become reunited with their humans. The films are both Disney productions, and the 1963 version was not quite the success they hoped. While receiving some acclaim, the film felt disjointed, with the human parts of the story interrupting the more interesting and picturesque nature sequences. So when Disney tackled it again 30 years later, they made some changes. The most obvious change was giving the animals voices, and that simple, seemingly small chance (Ha!) taken with the formula made all the difference.
Now, call me an overly sentimental pet lover and a ridiculously dedicated Disney fan if you want, but Homeward Bound is a stroke of family-friendly film genius. Using the incredibly emotive and talented voices of Michael J. Fox and Academy Award-winner Sally Field, as well as the wizened and wise voice of Academy Award-winner Don Ameche, for the American Bulldog (Chance), Himalayan cat (Sassy), and Golden Retriever (Shadow), the film made well over twice what its 1963 counterpart did, even accounting for massive inflation. It crafted an emotional journey for both the animals and the humans, allowing audiences to connect on multiple levels. And if you try to tell me that even as an adult you don’t get incredibly anxious and upset at this sequence, I don’t know why you’re lying to me/how you were born heartless. It’s a kid’s movie that works for every audience, as the best of that genre should, and improves on the original in every way, as a good remake should.
Funny Games (2007)
By 2007, Michael Haneke felt that Funny Games was more up-to-date than it had been in 1997, and set out to take his postmodern home-intruder meta-vision to the United States. Shot-for-shot, save for some tricky exteriors, the aim became to reach the wide-audience Haneke always intended for Funny Games’ message, that is, that Hollywood’s sense of excitement is formulaic, a violent ouroboros, and hysterical.
The cast is an art-house smirk, Naomi Watts and Michael Pitt having earned their arthouse denim-jacket-patches in Mulholland Dr. and The Dreamers, respectively, and Tim Roth who helmed the 90’s Tarantino 5–0-heist drama that exemplifies the sort of cinema Haneke is in conversation with, once the grin drops. Funny Games (US) is less interested with chastising than it is with marking your reaction to its inverted home-invasion tropes. The two white-elite, golf enthusiast sociopaths terrorizing our protagonists hardly wants to be a bother. They’re polite, and offer the audience the chance to join in on a bet. Either way the family loses. But maybe tonight, you’ll get what you wanted out of your Netflix browsing. And the film is funny! It’s a morbid, cackling, kinda funny. The sort that you let out after nearly losing grip on life, in cathartic loss of control.
As the violence escalates, the formula allows Haneke to play tonal hopscotch, his patient camera at a stand still, the genre’s typical jump-scare rhythm layered into jump-glares, dialogue breaking the fourth wall when the eyelines aren’t, entering the audience’s reality at will. As if movies could affect the audience. After the mother asks why they (the boys, this film, or perhaps, the audience that funded it) won’t just kill them, the reply from beyond the curtain: ‘Don’t forget the importance of entertainment!’ If you’ve movie-hopped around a Cinemark you’ve bopped between the ImagineWorks films while listening to the wailing howls of some caricature terrorist, bursts of gunfire competing for decibel-dominance. Funny Games has done that, too, while scheming… What to do about all our time?
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
No matter what remake you’re discussing, you’re almost always going to find someone who prefers the original. But in the case of Ocean’s Eleven, you’d have to find the biggest Rat Pack superfan in the world to defend that film to Soderbergh’s 2001 remake. Like any Rat Pack film, the original Ocean’s Eleven is fun to watch simply because you know the cast had a good time making it together. Past that point, its flaws greatly outweigh any other positive aspects.
For one thing, save for Frank Sinatra, the Rat Pack weren’t especially great actors. They were just a group of guys with great chemistry. Soderbergh wass able to assemble a group of his own with great chemistry who also happened to be some of the best actors of the time (Clooney, Pitt), some of the best actors from previous years (Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner) and some incredible up-and-coming talent near the start of their rise (Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck).
One of the biggest disappointments of the original film is, despite a fun premise, the movie itself is no fun at all. Despite all the glitz and glamor of Vegas in its “Golden Age,” the film is shot very straightforward, making Sin City look pretty dull. And don’t even get me started on the depressing ending…ok, fine, I’ll go there. *Spoiler Alert* When an older team member dies during the heist, Danny’s group stashes the cash in his coffin to smuggle it out of Vegas. They then attend his funeral, expecting to grab the money after, to find that his wife wants him cremated. They all sit depressed as they watch all their money burn with their friend.
Sounds like a hoot, right? Soderbergh had the vision to take the entertaining premise of that Rat Pack film and add the rest of the fun to it. A great script lets every talented member of the cast trade quick quips, Soderbergh’s stylish camera work reignited Vegas’ popularity long before The Hangover came along, and this iconic “Clair de Lune” scene at the Belagio fountains is endlessly more entertaining than seeing all the hard-earned cash go up in literal smoke.
Plus, the remake is worth the price of admission alone just to watch Brad Pitt master the art of eating on screen.