Can remakes be better than the original?

Inspired this thread

King Kong (2005) trailer news

There was some discussion about the need to remake the classic movie King Kong. I was reminded of a class discussion in intro to theater, where the Prof made the claim that a remake is never as good as the original, and my bulls**t meter started airhorning in my ear, and I laughed at the Prof. He called me on it and I vehemently disagreed with his statement. He asked me to name one remake better than the original, and stuck on the spot I couldn’t think of one.

In hind sight, I still disagree with the prof. With better technology, better understanding of the craft, better budgets, better actors, if you can come up with a good script, and a director with vision, theres no reason why remakes wouln’t regularly be better than the original.

And now I have two examples one film, one song.

The Thing

Me and Bobby McGee

Any other examples, thoughts?


Battlestar Galactica.

The Maltese Falcon (the famous Humphrey Bogart movie wasn’t the original, if I remember correctly).

IMHO, the newer Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan was better than the original one with Steve McQueen. I have seen both, and I thought that the newer version was a catchier film, with better plot & acting.

I realize people will probably disagree with me, but there it is. :wink:

I recently read an article somewhere about movie remakes…I’ll try to track it down.

Well, we have two.
Maybe. The first Thing had a cold war period feel to it. The second had Kurt Russell and great special effects. :slight_smile:

Also, the new Ocean’s 11 is far superior to the original, and I say that as a fan of the Rat Pack.

His Girl Friday was light-years beyond any of the thousands of versions of The Front Page that came before. Also any of the thousands of versions that came after.


Ocean’s Eleven and The Thing are both great examples.

Lessee - personally, I prefer The Magnificent Seven to the Seven Samurai, but that’s just me…

compare the original ‘The Longest Yard’ to … no, not the Adam Sandler film, but ‘Mean Machine’, the British remake.

There are several different versions of ‘A Star Is Born’, but I’ve only seen one of them, so I can’t comment…

Ah! The Mark of Zorro. The 1920 Silent with Doug Fairbanks is good - but the 1940 talkie with Tyrone Power is better.

You do. It was the third version, in fact. I recently watched the Ricardo Cortez version, now called* Dangerous Female*. It’s a good movie, well worth watching as a curiosity, but nothing compared to the Bogart version.

Love Affair (1939) and An Affair to Remember (1957) both have their adherents. There are even a few people that prefer the Annette Benning/Warren Beatty 1994 version although I can’t imagine why, other than Katherine Hepburn’s cameo.

You can remake a movie that wasn’t particularly good. The earlier Maltese Falcons are an example – entertaining and forgettable (Warren Williams performance as Sam Spade is just plain weird). Then Huston comes along, sticks closely to the book, and makes a good film.

However, the better the film, the less likely a remake succeeds (artistically, I mean – you can make big bux these days with crappy remakes). You’re going up against too much, with too big a chance for failure. Peter Jackson does have a better than usual chance of making King Kong succeed, but I suspect it will be more spectacular than the original, but not better (for one thing, you can’t get the same attitudes that made the original work).

The 1939 Wizard of Oz was not the first one filmed, yet I reckon most folks would consider it superior to the versions that came before (according to IMDB, there were two silent movies, called “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, released before the 1939 version).

I suspect that no one would put the 1910, 1921, or 1925 versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ as superior to the 1939 version.

Plus, the obvious example is not from movies but from theatre: how many versions of HAMLET have there been? Are we to say they are all inferior to the earliest versions, because we don’t have boys playing the female roles? Because we use scenery? And, are we to say that Shakespeare’s version is inferior to the earlier version? Pfui.

How about songs? I’ll put Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” ahead of most versions that came before.

*The Thing * has already been mentioned. Carpenter’s remake does a far better job of developing an atmosphere of dark paranoia, and the vastly superior special effects don’t hurt either. It sticks closer to the original story, too.

The remake of *Little Shop of Horrors * is definitely much better than the original.

Hitchcock remade The Man Who Knew Too Much, and I much prefer the remake. The original is good, but I thought the direction on the remake was a lot more polished.

The '51 version has the Cold War threat going for it. There is no need to develop dark paranoia, it’s already there. Watch the skies!

I agree about the special effects. “You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding.” :slight_smile:

All I remember about the story Who Goes There is that the alien had some kind of flying device the humans later back engineered.

I’ll also agree on The Thing, but it’s not even really a remake – the original lifted bits of the original Campbell story, but turned it into a wholly different film. The Carpenter film was pretty faithful to the story, except that the story effectively ended when they killed off the last Thing (the Wilford Brimley one in this), and they get the flying machine as a bonus. The film didn’t really need a dark and ambiguous ending.
Agree also on The Maltese Falcon.
a lot of films were better in their later incarnations than in the Silent versions:
**Moby Dick

Dr. Jeckyll and Mister Hyde

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


The Ten Commandments

The Wizard of Oz** (already mentioned)
The 1976 remake of King Kong was a joke that didn’t understand the original at all, and had much crappier special effects than it should have for so late a date. I’ll give Peter Jackson a chance, as he seems to know what he’s doing (and still better effects are now available).

A few more suggestions:

The Fly
Cape Fear

Haven’t seen Scarface, and I’ll give you The Fly… but Cape Fear? Nu-unh. :wink:

An IMDB search says that there were at least 22 versions made of The Three Musketeers before Richard Lester made the best one in 1973.

Not even the Sideshow Bob version? :slight_smile: