Remakes are a tough task to pull off when you have people like me crushing every remake that hits theaters. As much as I do believe certain films are sacred and should be preserved in their natural form, there are a select group of remakes that actually improve on the original work. In my research (which consists of watching a bunch of movies), I realized that horror films are the easiest to improve with modern visual effects and the story groundwork in place. Comedies, not so much. Just like in ‘The 4: Best Movie Sequels‘, laughs seem to be the hardest element to duplicate in remakes. What I was looking for in this list was American films remade on American screens. Foreign films, plays, musicals and TV series don’t count. The new Star Trek franchise is technically a sequel so it’s disqualified and Rise of the Apes and Batman Begins are their own films just like Man of Steel. Everybody understands the rules? Good. Let’s get to the list.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Congratulations to the first film to make it on multiple ‘The 4’ lists. Dawn of the Dead made an appearance on ‘The 4: Underrated Movies‘ and I always said if I did best remakes this would make the list. Dawn of the Dead is also one of the few remakes that improves on the original with its heart stopping action and suspense. I always found the original Dawn of the Dead to be a snoozer. The remake is anything but boring. Dawn of the Dead hits the ground running and does not let up with the outbreak opening sequence set to Johnny Cash. Dawn of the Dead also uses the fast-moving zombie instead of the staggering zombies of Romero. Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead focused more on what people do in their spare time during the apocalypse rather than the zombie killing, including a great scene with the group of survivors having dinner. Plus the Dawn of the Dead remake answers the pregnant zombie question as well.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
As much as I enjoyed Pierce Brosnan as James Bond after the Timothy Dalton debacle, his best role ever was that of billionaire/playboy/thief Thomas Crown in The Thomas Crown Affair. Now I know old Hollywood holds Steve McQueen in high regard, but the truth is Pierce Brosnan was better in the remake of the 1968 film starring McQueen. Pierce Brosnan looks more the billionaire type and is the coolest guy on celluloid in The Thomas Crown Affair as he dodges investigators played by Denis Leary and Rene Russo. The bank robbery from the original The Thomas Crown Affair is turned into an art heist to make the billionaire less of sociopath and more of a thrill junkie looking for a new hobby. Fans of the remake have been yearning for a sequel that seems to be stuck in production purgatory for years. Hopefully a mysterious financier like Mr. Crown can find a way to get The Thomas Crown Affair sequel off the ground.
Cape Fear (1991)
I know what many of you are thinking. Cape Fear was a remake? The original Cape Fear from 1962 starred Gregory Peck and is pretty much the same story as Martin Scorsese’s remake. A convicted rapist (Robert De Niro) hunts down his former lawyer (Nick Nolte) to make his life absolutely miserable. Robert De Niro gives one of his best performances as the deranged Max Cady who wants to make the former Counselors’ family live in fear for their lives. I loved that Scorsese stepped out of the world of the criminal underworld to give us a suspenseful thriller with a realistic monster at its center. Cape Fear is one of the few remakes that sticks closely to the original, yet still keeps the audience guessing on the direction of the film.
The Thing (1982)
If there is a #1 on this list, John Carpenter’s The Thing is it. Originally considered a critical & box office disappointment, The Thing is now considered one of the smartest Sci-Fi films of our time. An American scientific research team stationed in Antarctica comes into contact with an alien life form. The life form is parasitic in nature ingesting and assimilating the looks and mannerisms of its victims. Most cinema patrons were used to a humanoid alien life form like in the original 1951 film The Thing from Another World. Instead we get an organism full of tentacles, sharp teeth and the ability to manipulate the people surrounding it. The Thing may have been ridiculed by its own director back in the day, but today The Thing is revered by movie nerds like me for its forward thinking concerning extraterrestrial life.