10 Most Underrated Remakes of Classic Movies, Ranked

Movies


Remakes often feel unnecessary, especially when directors attempt to redo a film that was already successful in the first place. What’s the point of remaking classics like Ben-Hur, Ghostbusters, or Point Break? Was there ever the potential for a new version to live up to what came before?


Remakes and reboots often feel pointless, but occasionally a new perspective can change up a story that has already been told. There are even some classic films that have been improved upon thanks to a clever remake. Here are ten of the most underrated remakes of cinematic classics, ranked.


‘The Magnificent Seven’ (2017)

Original Release: 1960

Image via Sony Pictures

It seemed somewhat odd for a new version of The Magnificent Seven to be released considering that the original film from 1960 is itself a remake; the classic western drew inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s action epic Seven Samurai, but changed the setting to the American Wild West.

While Antoine Fuqua’s 2017 remake retains the western setting of the 1960 film, he populates the cast with an even stronger set of performers, including Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, and Chris Pratt. Fuqua’s version was keen to analyze the social and political forces at play during this era in American history.

‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (2004)

Original Release: 1962

Meryl Streep as Ellie Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate
Image Via Paramount Pictures

Many remakes are able to succeed by improving and updating the themes of the films that they are based on, and this movie does just that. The original version of The Manchurian Candidate is set within the Cold War, and examines the relationship between the United States and its communist rivals.

However, Jonathan Demme chose to take his 2004 remake in a different direction by analyzing the effects of the Iraq War and the corruption within the United States Senate. Meryl Streep in particular is great in a rare villainous performance as the corrupt politician Eleanor Shaw.

‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ (2009)

Original Release: 1974

Denzel Washington in The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
Image via Sony Pictures

Tony Scott’s refreshing update to the classic crime thriller The Taking of Pelham 123 may not change much of the original story, but it certainly makes up for it thanks to the dynamic performances at its center.

John Travolta gives a wild, anarchic performance as the enigmatic hijacker known as “Mr. Blue,” who takes the citizens of a packed New York City Subway car hostage. Mr. Blue negotiates the tense situation with the subway dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), who attempts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

‘Psycho’ (1998)

Original Release: 1960

Vince Vaughn in Psycho
Image via Paramount Pictures

Gus Van Sant’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho may seem counterintuitive; instead of adding additional story elements, Van Sant chooses to remake the original film in what’s almost a shot-for-shot recreation. While this may initially have seemed like an act of creative bankruptcy, it showed that Van Sant was interested in exploring why Hitchcock’s film had been so successful in the first place.

What would Psycho look like if it was in color, and featured more graphic violence and sexual content? Van Sant’s Psycho is an interesting thought experiment that also makes for a fairly entertaining film.

‘The Italian Job’ (2003)

Original Release: 1969

Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Jason Statham in 'The Italian Job'
Image via Paramount Pictures

2003’s The Italian Job just goes to show that Fuqua is pretty great at remaking established classics. While the original 1969 version of The Italian Job starring Michael Caine emphasized story over substance, Fuqua added more depth to the characters with his 2003 reimagining.

The interpersonal relationships between the film’s heroes (including Mark Wahlberg, Jason Statham, Seth Green, and Charlize Theron) made for a much more emotionally compelling version of a story that had been seen before. Edward Norton gives a terrifying performance as a malevolent villain that draws these characters together.

‘King Kong’ (1976)

Original Release: 1933

Jessica Lange and Kong meet face-to-face in 1976's 'King Kong'
Image via Paramount Pictures

There are countless films within the King Kong franchise, and it may be hard to differentiate them. However, 1976’s King Kong took the story of the original 1933 classic and added more depth to the human characters that are whisked away to Skull Island.

The film follows the paleontologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) and the shipwrecked woman Dwan (Jessica Lange) as they venture to the mysterious island and discover the dangerous creature. The practical effects used to bring Kong to life are more compelling than the computer generated imagery in the 2005 remake.

‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’ (1979)

Original Release: 1922

Renfield (played by Roland Topor) clutching the cloak of Nosferatu (played by Klaus Kinski) in Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Image via 20th Century Fox

Nosferatu the Vampyre may be the best Dracula adaptation ever, which is certainly saying something considering that the first Nosferatu film was released in 1922! While some Dracula films played upon the character’s more eccentric qualities, Werner Herzog’s 1979 version took Dracula completely seriously. Klaus Kinski couldn’t have been more terrifying in the role of the enigmatic bloodsucker.

Nosferatu the Vampyre created an atmospheric sense of dread due to the bleak visuals. Among the most terrifying moments is a sequence where Nosferatu uses his powers to invade the dreams of the film’s heroes.

‘Solaris’ (2002)

Original Release: 1972

solaris george clooney image
Image via 20th Century Fox

It was very ambitious for Steven Soderbergh to attempt a remake of Solaris, as the original science fiction film has a nearly unparalleled legacy. While the original film was nearly three hours long, Soderbergh’s 2002 remake was relatively short (under two hours) and focused on its emotional approach to the material.

The film follows the astronaut Dr. Kris Kelvin (George Clooney), who experiences haunting visions of a mysterious woman (Natasha McElhone) during an outer space adventure. It’s a relatively muted performance from Clooney, who drops his typical charisma in order to play a more grounded character.

‘Suspiria’ (2018)

Original Release: 1977

Dakota Johnson in Suspiria
Image via Amazon Studios

Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of Suspiria is another horror reimagining that changes the tone and approach of the original source material altogether. Dario Argentos 1977 classic was under two hours long, and featured bold, striking visuals. Comparatively, Guadagnino chose to extend the story into a three-hour epic and dull down the visuals to a perpetual aura of grayness.

Guadagnino’s film improved upon the original due to the focus on the body horror of ballet. Dakota Johnson gives a career-best performance as Susy Bannion, a ballerina that discovers that witchcraft is at play at a prestigious dance academy.

‘Breathless’ (1983)

Original Release: 1983

Breathless 1983
Orion Pictures

Breathless is a remake of one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most influential films within the French New Wave era. Godard helped to initiate a new subgenre in which characters’ conversations and misadventures were more important than any larger story. Jim McBride’s 1983 remake takes a similar approach, but swaps the French setting of the original for modern Los Angeles.

It’s fascinating to see the “French New Wave” style within an American context. Richard Gere is absolutely unhinged with his wild performance as the small-time hustler Jesse, who gets in over his head when criminals start looking his way.

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