Second Time's the Charm: 15 of Hollywood's Most Notable Remakes
6:20 PM PDT 8/17/2012 by THR Staff
While many remakes pale in comparison to the original, several filmmakers have risen to the occasion of improving on a classic (or, in some cases, a not-so-great first try). Whitney Houston's "Sparkle" is the latest in a line of reboots to have critics buzzing. From "True Grit" to "Ocean's 11," THR looks back at Hollywood's most memorable remakes and reboots.
James Mangold's 2007 remake of its 1957 predecessor, based on the short story by Elmore Leonard, was critically acclaimed, with Academy Award-winning stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale earning a nomination for best cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The film scored an 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is actually a drop from the original's 95 percent rating. It is worth noting, however, that the 2007 film was reviewed 192 times, while the 1957 film has only 22 registered reviews.
Airplane! was a send-up of 1957's disaster movie Zero Hour! -- both centered on a former fighter pilot forced to land a commercial aircraft after the crew gets food poisoning -- and even featured some of the same dialogue. However, the original has an audience score of just 45 percent on RottenTomatoes.com, while the beloved 1980 spoof stands at 85 percent. Among critics, Airplane! has a whopping 98 percent positive rating (data isn't available for Zero Hour!); it also was nominated for best motion picture, musical or comedy, at the 1981 Golden Globes and won a WGA Award for best adapted comedy.
Christopher Nolan took the keys to Wayne Manor after 1997’s disastrous Batman & Robin nearly destroyed it. And though Tim Burton’s original Batman was well-received, the Christian Bale-starring reboot is largely considered superior. It launched a trilogy that would gross billions and propel Heath Ledger to a posthumous Oscar win. Batman Begins has been credited with introducing a more realistic take to genre films and has been cited as an influence by the filmmakers behind other successful reboots, including Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 2009’s Star Trek.
Ben-Hur has been done several times over (first with a 15 minute long silent film in 1907), but the story perhaps hit its stride with the 1959 American epic, helmed by William Wyler. The Charleton Heston-starrer nabbed an astonishing 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. (That record has only been tied by Titanic in 1997 and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2003.) The film was well received by critics, earning an 89 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Dawn of the Dead
It’s controversial to rate Zombie pioneer George A. Romero’s 1978 classic below the 2004 remake. But Zack Snyder’s feature debut captures the zombie apocalypse on a grander scale with its frighteningly fast undead and larger cast.
The 2003 remake, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, has an 88 percent "certified fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 71 percent for the 1971 original, starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. Curtis received rave reviews -- and a Golden Globe nomination -- for her role as a mother who wakes up one day to discover that she and her teendaughter have swapped bodies, with some critics calling it the best performance of her career. Meanwhile, Harris' and Foster's performances also were recognized by the Globes.
After helming the made-for-TV movie L.A. Takedown, director Michael Mann finally succeeded in crafting a true crime epic with Heat. The two works share many story similarities, but the scope and star power his big screen budget afforded catapulted Heat to a high place in the canon of great heist movies. The Al Pacino/Robert De Niro film holds an 86 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and inspired aspects of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
The Italian Job
With an all-star cast including Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton and Donald Sutherland, director F. Gary Gray categorized his 2003 caper as an "homage" to the 1969 British predecessor. The original Michael Caine starrer remains popular in the UK, having earned generally positive reviews (better than the remake, in fact), and was even referenced during the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. Whether the remake was better than the original remains a matter of personal preference for the viewer, but the U.S. version performed well for Paramount, becoming the highest-grossing film for the studio in 2003.
Both featured A-list ensemble casts and revolved around the executive of a major heist of multiple Las Vegas casinos. But only the 2001 remake -- whose cast included George Clooney and Brad Pitt -- can boast an 82 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (it also was named one of the National Board of Review's top 10 movies of 2001). The Rat Pack-starring 1960 original has only a 46 percent approval rating on the TomatoMeter.
The Parent Trap
This one is actually a toss-up. Lindsay Lohan was praised for her performance in the 1998 remake as twins -- one British, one American -- who never knew the other existed until they both attend the same summer camp. But the 1961 original, starring Hayley Mills, also is beloved by audiences and critics, slightly edging out the remake on Rotten Tomatoes (88 vs. 85 percent) and earning Golden Globe noms for best comedy and best actress for Mills.
Some Like it Hot
Marilyn Monroe's 1959 update of Some Like it Hot was a critical hit, scoring 98 percent among all critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Based on the 1951 German film Fanfaren der Liebe, Billy Wilder's remake also starred Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as desperate musicians in drag -- earning Lemmon an Academy Award nomination for best actor and Wilder an Academy nom for best director. In 1989, the film was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry and has been heralded as one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Whitney Houston's longtime passion project became a reality in 2012, but sadly, the legendary singer wouldn't live to see the premiere. Also starring American Idol alum Jordin Sparks in the title role, the Salim Akil-directed musical drama received lukewarm reviews from critics -- a drastic improvement over the scathing critiques of its 1976 predecessor. According to THR's review of the film, "screenwriter Mara Brock Akil has not only brought the action forward by 10 years but made well-judged decisions about how to revise and moderately enrich the main characters, most of whom bear the same names as before."
Hong Kong’s Infernal Affairs is a brilliant film in its own right, but the film that would win Martin Scorsese his first Best Picture Oscar takes the original’s twists and turns to greater heights. Clocking in at nearly an hour longer than Infernal Affairs, The Departed’s protagonists are more completely rendered. Their perils are more tangible and their defeats more wrenching. Plus, Jack Nicholson’s turn as an increasingly paranoid Frank Costello can’t be beat.
The Preacher's Wife
In 1996, director Penny Marshall offered an update to the 1947 film The Bishop's Wife with The Preacher's Wife, starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington. Both films were recieved to mixed reviews, but the latter cemented Houston's status as a superstar of the screen -- as well as the stage.
How does one improve upon a John Wayne classic? The task is not an enviable one, but the Coen brothers rose to the challenge with an updated Western starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, though it ultimately went home empty-handed. The film received 96 percent favorable reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, while the 1969 adaptation -- based on Charles Portis' 1968 novel -- received 89 percent. It is worth noting that Wayne earned a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for the role at the time. (Jeff Bridges was bested by Colin Firth at the 2011 ceremony, and the film was beat out by his The King's Speech for best picture.)