5 Phenomenal Movie Remakes Which are Better Than the Original

PHENOM 5

It goes without saying that movie remakes are currently all the rage in Hollywood. We’ve gotten many over the last few years and a lot more are slated for the near future. It’s something I generally push back on but there are several instances where remaking an older movie wasn’t a bad thing. Today’s Phenomenal 5 takes a look at remakes that are actually better than the film they are based on. I tried to stick with movies remade from fairly well known originals. So nothing too obscure. As always I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no denying that these five movie remakes are nothing short of phenomenal.

#5 – “A Star is Born” (2018)

STARBORN

Here’s a case of a remake that’s actually better than not one, not two, but three movies that came before it. “A Star is Born” tells a story that people over the years have proven to be drawn to. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga form the core of this musical/romantic drama about one music star on the rise, another whose star is fading, and the tumultuous romance they share. It’s a movie full of great performances and even better songs.

#4 – “Cape Fear” (1991)

CAPE

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have had several high-profile collaborations. One that many forget about is their remake of 1962’s “Cape Fear”. De Niro takes the role of Max Cady, memorably played in the original by Robert Mitchum. It features a great supporting cast and Scorsese’s signature cinematic craftsmanship. It’s a tense and gritty thriller and a surprising step up from its well-made inspiration.

#3 – “3:10 to Yuma” (2007)

MCDTHTE EC032

I’ve always liked 1957’s “3:10 to Yuma”, but I truly love James Mangold’s 2007 remake. The action, the tension, the stunning cinematography all helps make this a great film. But ultimately it’s the fantastic chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe that stands out the most. Their performances drive the movie and add a layer of humanity to the already intriguing story.

#2 – “True Grit” (2010)

GRIT

To be honest I’m not what you would call the biggest fan of John Wayne westerns. But I’m a huge fan of the Coen brothers and their stylish 2010 remake of Wayne’s “True Grit” highlights why I believe they are among the greatest filmmakers working today. Their version is filled with Coen brothers signatures: a knack for great dialogue and the use of language, unique and intriguing characters, and their special brand of humor. It’s better than the original in every way.

#1 – “The Thing” (1982)

THING

First off, I’m a big fan of Howard Hawks’ 1951 science-fiction classic “The Thing from Another World”. But for my money it pales in comparison to John Carpenter’s savagely good 1982 remake simply titled “The Thing”. Carpenter (a huge fan of the Hawks film) took the tension and suspense from the original movie and updated it in a variety of ways. It was first met with harsh reactions from critics, but over time it has received a much-deserved critical reassessment. Now far more people appreciate this sci-fi/horror gem and the great genre filmmaking it represents.

And there you have my list. I know there are several I missed and that’s where you come in. Let me know what I got right and what I got wrong in the comments section below. I would love to hear the movies that you would include.

60 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movie Remakes Which are Better Than the Original

  1. A star is born hah! Nowhere near as good as the Judy Garland version and that was the 1st of too many remakes, we all know the bloody story by now 🙄. Mitchum wins hands down in Cape Fear. I’ll give you 3-10 to Yuma as I can’t stand Glenn Ford. Haven’t seen the new True Grit so no comment. The Thing definitely better with Kurt Russel.
    I do not like re-makes on the whole – it’s lazy and mostly unnecessary.
    I’ve seen what the latest re-makes are going to be and it’s pretty dire. Splash FFS that didn’t need a to be a movie the first time round, and gender swapping the fishperson isn’t helping it. Scarface!! Sacrilege to even think it. All though there’s more awfulness than I’ve mentioned, I’ll leave you with the thought they are remaking Flash Gordon – that’s about as low as it gets I think…. Some originality wouldn’t go amiss! Rant over 🤣🤣

    • I’m just not high on Garland’s “Star”. To be honest none of them stuck with me before Cooper’s. To be honest, I’m not as high on it as many seem to be, but I do see it as a nice step up. I really like Mitchum’s performance but I do lean towards De Niro there. You really do need to see the Coen’s “True Grit”. It’s a fantastic movie.

      You are so right about the latest remakes. They are just grasping for ideas instead of coming out with original work. Splash and Scarface??? Give me a break.

  2. Not with you on Cape Fear at all. Among other things, De Niro is good in this not but he’s no Mitchum. I love Seven Samurai but The Magnificent Seven was so cool and part of pop culture. I haven’t seen the original The Fly but i don’t see how it could beat the 1986 version.

    • I love Mitchum but De Niro’s Cady creeped me out more. Not a knock on Mitch but that impression has always stuck with me. “The Fly” was so close to being on this list. Both are really good movies. I actually do still like Seven Samurai better than Magnificent Seven. But Mag7 is soooo good.

  3. Good list and I agree with all except True Grit . Although I rally liked it , John Wayne has been and always will be for me Rooster Cogburn. I have a substantive collection of Wayne western movies in my collection and although one could say they are not “woke” for this generation, I love them . Plus his performance in True Grit was stellar . There are very few true movie stars left today , actors who so dominate and carry a movie with their presence like Wayne .I think Tom Cruise is one but there are very few that have that presence .
    The Thing with Russell is one of the best horror/sci-fi movies of all time . Carpenter did such a great job with atmosphere and created a sinister mood . Absolutely fantastic movie . I own the original as well , and its good for its time but Carpenter took it to a whole new level .
    Never been big on Cape Fear . De Niro is hit and miss with me and in my minds eye , saw him acting too much . 3:10 from Yuma is better thanks to Bale and Crowe. Didn’t really like A Star is Born in and of its previous versions . Just wasn’t my cup of tea but the newest was watchable at least and had good performances .
    Really enjoy these list you do.Truly appreciate the work and thoughtfulness you put into your site . Thanks from a fellow movie buff.

    • Thanks and I always appreciate your thoughts. I’m not sure what it is about John Wayne. I really love some of his Westerns (Rio Bravo, Red River, Stagecoach), but for some reason he has never been a favorite of mine. But he was absolutely a true movie star!

      I agree De Niro is hit-or-miss (mostly ‘miss’ in the current stage of his career). I also agree that he goes pretty big with that performance. But that’s part of what I like about it. It’s crazy but also a bit unnerving.

  4. I can agree with much of this but there are exceptions. The True Grit remake is short of the original in a couple ways. First, I think the Wayne performance works in part because of his historical context . Bridges is terrific but Wayne felt definitive. With respect to Dakin Matthews, his Colonel Stonehill does not have the humor nor the flummoxed indignation of Strother Martin.

    • For me the True Grit remake works extremely well mainly because it moves along the slyly off-beat Coen brothers wavelength. It subtly feels like a different movie and even the characters feel slightly (yet intentionally) different in their own ways. It’s a wacky concoction but one I happen to really, really like.

  5. Mostly wrong on all of these. The first Cape Fear was better. Mitchum is a very menacing mean tough guy, but within the range of people you could meet, you can see him as an actual person. De Niro, the De Niro character that is, was just a psycho, way over the top, just a movie character to me who is unlikely to exist in real life.

    I like both Things, but I thought the grotesque special effects overpower the rest of the movie in the remake, less would have been more in this instance. I think there is an even newer Thing out there with what’s her name in the lead. Haven’t seen that one.

    • I love Mitchum in the original but also love De Niro in the remake for entirely different reasons. Scorsese gives a different take on Cady which I liked. It fit the movie which was indeed meant to be a little more over-the-top. But comparing the movies as wholes, I think I prefer the remake by a hair.

  6. PS. If you don’t like John Wayne (kind of blasphemous, but ok), watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence if you haven’s seen it yet. I think that is his best or among his best performances. He and Stewart both too old for their roles, but both were great, I have no problem getting past that little detail. He did do a number of clinker westerns, but the ones he did with Hawks and Ford are (almost) all good.

    • I’ve seen it and I like it. It just happens to fall into that group of ‘like-don’t-love’ Wayne Westerns. I much prefer Rio Bravo, Red River, and a couple others. Si it isn’t that I dislike him. I’m just not a huge fan.

  7. Huh, my first reply vanished (before my PS). I’ll try again. Mostly I disagree. I thought Mitchum much better than De Niro. Mitchum seemed like a real human, a physically big, imposing, menacing, mean bully type guy, but someone who you could imagine existing in the real world. The De Niro character was just a psycho, seemed far more of a screen writer’s creation than a possibly real human. Just so far removed from the normal world I didn’t accept him at all.

    I like both Things, but prefer the first a little bit. Very snappy dialog. I thought the gruesome special effects in the remake kind of overpowered the rest of the movie, less would have been more in this case. And I think they did an even newer remake with that actress gal who I can’t recall the name of.

    • Your first reply popped up. Not sure what caused the delay. Oh, and I have seen that newer version of The Thing and had fun with it. If I remember right wasn’t it a prequel? It had Mary Elizabeth Winstead and (I think) Joel Edgerton.

  8. An interesting list, Keith. I do enjoy Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear, and both De Niro’s and Juliette Lewis’s performances are top-notch, but I’m not sure I’d say it’s as strong as the original (though it did inspire my favorite Simpsons gag).

    I do prefer the Coens’ interpretation of True Grit over the Wayne picture, and appreciate Carpenter’s version of The Thing, although I haven’t seen Hawks’ film.

    My favorite would be Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (even better than Douglas Sirk’s masterful All That Heaven Allows). Ozu’s remake of his own Floating Weeds is also incredibly poignant. David Cronenberg’s Fly is hypnotizing, and almost certainly the best of his work.

    Although I wouldn’t say Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, Philip Kaufman’s Bodysnatchers, or Leone’s Fistful of Dollars are as strong as Murnau’s, Don Siegel’s, or Kurosawa’s originals, they are still phenomenal pictures.

    While it remains a very controversial picture overall, I think Haneke’s shot-for-shot remake of Funny Games is superior to the original. It’s not quite as good as the above mentioned films nor is amongst Haneke’s best work, but the American setting does bring greater urgency and meaning to the movie.

    This post does have me thinking about spiritual remakes, that is movies that borrow the essence of an earlier film rather than taking its plot. You cannot look at a Fassbinder film without being reminded of Sirk, or a Paul Schrader film without thinking of Robert Bresson.

    • Interesting you mentioned “Funny Games”. It will be appearing in an upcoming (and much different) Phenomenal 5 post. Me, I actually prefer the 1997 Austrian film. I think it’s tremendous (and massively unsettling). That being said, Haneke’s remake is pretty amazing.

  9. Chris Nolan’s, Insomnia would be on my list! I think I would have to have Oceans 11 in there too as the remake had a lot of flare!

  10. The second Ocean’s Eleven is way way better than the original, good call. The original, which I watched once years ago, is more or less a nothing as a heist picture. I would put Heaven Can Wait in here as better than the original – Here Comes Mr. Jordan.

  11. I like the choices (though I haven’t seen either Cape Fear). Some other remakes I think are better than the original:

    Scarface
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    Hairspray
    The Departed
    Heat (it’s a remake of Michael Mann’s own TV movie L.A. Takedown)

    • Love the mention of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. I thought about “The Departed” but I don’t know. I really love “Infernal Affairs”.

  12. OK, I can’t say anything about A Star is Born since I haven’t seen any of the four versions so far though I have the original pre-written for a review whenever I have the time and energy. On Cape Fear… I might have to agree with you on that though I think Scorsese deserves extra points for putting some of the original actors from the original film in cameo roles. I’m still unsure which version of 3:10 to Yuma is better but they do make a great double-feature while I’ve only seen the remake of True Grit but not the original as it’s actually one of the last movies my dad saw when he was in the hospital following his surgery.

    I keep forgetting that The Thing is a remake as I need to see what Howard Hawks did. Speaking of Howard Hawks, can we add Brian de Palma’s version of Scarface to the list? I love what Hawks did but I just feel like de Palma’s version is so much better in its operatic decadence.

    • It seems most people still lean towards the original Cape Fear which I can definitely appreciate. I’m a big fan of it too. I just like the crazier edge to Scorsese’s take on it.

      • Indeed. Plus seeing Gregory Peck as de Niro’s attorney and Robert Mitchum as the good guy is an inspired choice for the film. Hell, if I was with de Niro’s character in that film watching Problem Child, I’d laugh my ass off too. That film was hilarious. Can’t believe it got a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. North was much worse.

  13. I loved that The Thing original vs remake moment in Stranger Things 3 🙂 I havent seen originals of these so I cant really comment properly but I am willing to bet the new A Star is Born is really the best one yet

    • I do like the newest Star is Born best. Some will disagree with that especially when compared to Judy Garland’s 1954 film. It’s a fun discussion.

  14. Great list!

    I would only add The Fly by Cronenberg (and possibly take out A Star Is Born?) which I discovered not too long ago to be a remake!

    I wrote a review of your number 1 on my blog, if you want to pass by! :–)

    • Oh nice! I need to check out your review. And it’s so great seeing people mentioning The Fly. I really wrestled with leaving it off. Such a great remake.

      • I think it’s an awesome movie and would tell everyone to watch it. Especially anyone that is a horror fanatic like I am.

        It was released in 1986 and sci-fi movies were kind of taking a dive in popularity. Hooper just released Lifeforce (Space Vampires) in 85 and that was a bomb. But I think Invaders From Mars is a fun movie with a great cast. It even has the great James Karen (Return of The Living Dead).

  15. There are way too many remakes these days. Most are unnecessary, but quite a few are genuinely great. Dawn of the Dead, Maniac, Dredd, to name a few. The Thing’s high up on my list! 🙂

  16. For me:
    The Jungle Book (2016)
    On the Beach (2000)
    The Lion King (1994)
    The Parent Trap (1998)
    Flicka (2006)
    I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.

  17. I’m with you on all of these except the first one, mainly cos I thought it was average, but then again I’m sure it beats the ones that preceded it, I haven’t seen them.

    Interesting post. I think the best example is True Grit. It’s like the brothers learned from their mistakes after that dud remake of The Ladykillers. The original is such a riot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s