Is a good remake possible?

When I was mooching around the stands at Empire Big Screen a few weeks ago, I watched the trailer for the remake of Footloose.  I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I know the original is cheesy and a bit rubbish but that doesn’t stop me loving it and I don’t want to see it destroyed.  This new version seems to be a mixture of scenes and dialogue lifted straight from the original with some updated sequences to please the MTV generation.  With this, and news of a Dirty Dancing remake playing on my mind I started to wonder if there was such a thing as a good remake.

I stood in front of my DVD collection and had a look at the few remakes I own.  I also gently stroked films like Trading Places as if trying to reassure them that they would never face the indignity.  Turns out that I don’t have very many remakes, preferring to stick with originals, but I do have a couple I will admit to liking a lot.  Here are some good (and bad) remakes:

High Society

I’m not sure if this is technically a remake or better categorised as a musical adaptation.  The smart, sophisticated comedy The Philadelphia Story is set to music with a cast just as fantastic as the original.  Full of pure joy this is one version that I actually prefer to the original.



Like High Society it’s hard to know if this is a remake or a musical retelling of the story.  I love this version of John Waters’ kitsch classic – it’s so full of humour and fun that it’s impossible not to think this is a great new version of the original.


The Italian Job

This isn’t so much a copy-cat feature as simply a film with the same name as an earlier film.  There’s only the very vaguest relationship between the original British classic and its American counterpart – lovable crooks in Minis attempt a robbery in Italy and I quite like this movie.  I still look out for news of the rumoured sequel The Brazilian Job but alas that doesn’t seem to be happening.


101 Dalmatians

This live action version of Disney’s classic animation isn’t a brilliant film but it’s saved from being entirely bad by the wonderful performance of Glenn Close as Cruella DeVille.


Cape Fear

The original Cape Fear was a tense, nightmarish psychological thriller but the update loses much of its menace by being a bog-standard revenge thriller. It’s not a bad film, it”s just a bit pointless.



Planet Of The Apes

I’ve not seen the original (although I do have it and intend to soon), but I have seen the Tim Burton rehash and absolutely hated it.  If the source material is as great as I’m always told that it is then this surely must be a prime example of a very, very bad remake.  After all, it is  a very, very bad film.



This is possibly one of the most horrible new versions of a great film ever maid.  Gus van Sant decided to remake Hitchcock’s classic with Vince Vaughn playing Norman Bates.  It was virtually a shot-by-shot recreation of the original and proved that being a great director is about more than simply following a set of instructions.



I know there’s hundreds more remakes and I haven’t even touched on the subject of Hollywood mangling great foreign language films, but I think I’ve probably answered my own question.  Yes, there can be good, even great, remakes – they just don’t come along that often.  It seems to help if there’s an attempt at making a distinction between the original and the new version.  The big question now is – why remake old films?  Why not come up with some new and exciting ideas?

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  1. Like you said, it doesn’t come along often but yes it is entirely possible. I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one good example.

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