Remakes. They’re hardly the most beloved of things, and the vast majority of the time – as we explored here – they’re just there for risk aversion. But sometimes, a film comes around that has a great idea at the heart of it, but the movie itself doesn’t fully make good on it. If you’re going to remake anything, then surely those are the best candidates?
Here are 24 films – some of which we really like – that may benefit from another telling…
1. Betrayed (1988)
A prime example of how a great premise and acting can be ruined by a poor script (by Joe Eszterhas), Betrayedis the kind of movie that deserves a remake. In this thriller, Debra Winger’s FBI agent infiltrates a white supremacist enclave and finds herself questioning her motives when she is taken in by the charismatic leader of the group (Tom Berenger) and his family.
Sensitively directed by Costa-Gavras (Z), Winger and the viewer are slowly drawn into the paranoid belief system of Berenger’s group, with a focus on exploring the member’s motives and philosophies. Costa-Gavras humanises these men and their families, which makes their actions all the more deplorable.
However, Eszterhas ruins this early promise with a series of increasingly contrived and hackneyed third act twists which turn a mature, disturbing drama into a moronic erotic thriller. With the rise of the sovereign citizen and white supremacist movements in the wake of the great recession, Betrayed’s subject has never been more prescient.
2. Prime Cut (1972)
One of Lee Marvin’s lesser known vehicles, Prime Cut is the story of a veteran mob enforcer who is sent out to Kansas to deal with an unscrupulous subordinate who has established his own empire and cut ties with his old bosses back in Chicago. Featuring great performances from Marvin, Gene Hackman and Sissy Spacek, Prime Cutis riddled with great moments and an extremely suspenseful mid-film set piece in which Marvin and Spacek are chased by a combine harvester.
3. The Gauntlet (1977)
Memorable for its climax, in which an army of cops open fire on an armored bus, The Gauntlet is a simple chase story let down by a fundamental casting flaw. Clint Eastwood plays an over-the-hill, alcoholic cop, Ben Shockley, who is given one last chance to get himself out of the gutter — escort a hooker who has turned state’s witness from Las Vegas to Phoenix. One problem: the people who she will be testifying against include Eastwood’s colleagues on the force.
The story is fine, Eastwood gets a chance to play against type as eternal fuck-up Shockley, but that’s where things start to go downhill. This kind of simple action story requires really good performances to get over the predictable love story, and that’s the main problem with The Gauntlet: Eastwood’s offscreen other half Sondra Locke plays the witness and her performance is extremely grating. There is no spark to her character, nothing that makes her believable as a potential love interest for Shockley. With new leads with strong chemistry, The Gauntlet could be great.
4. The Matt Helm series
One wonders what author Donald Hamilton thought of the film series featuring Dean Martin as his character Matt Helm. While Hamilton’s version of Helm is a detached professional killer and the books are gritty thrillers notable for their realism and darkness, the four films featuring Martin are lightweight spoofs of the James Bond formula and bear little resemblance to the source material. Spielberg has the rights so this might happen eventually.
There are two possible directions for this: a straight adaptation of the books, which could make Matt Helm a credible successor to Jason Bourne, or a remake of the Dean Martin series, with the emphasis on parodying current trends in the spy genre — what we have not seen is a parody of the post-Bourne spy flick, and Matt Helm could be the perfect vehicle for skewering the shaky-cam aesthetic and ‘realism’ which have become so overused in modern action films.
5. The Running Man
Some might consider this a controversial choice, but the book is so different from the film it deserves another go. The original film is a camp classic, but it is inarguably lesser Schwarzenegger compared with his other dystopian epic Total Recall. What sets the novel apart from the film, and similar films like Battle Royaleand The Hunger Games, is that there is no game zone — the world is the playing field, and anyone can participate in hunting down the running man.
A more faithful adaptation would therefore be able to differentiate itself from its predecessor and the films which have followed it. The one thing that might hold back a straight adaptation is that the ending involves Ben Richards, our beleaguered hero, going insane and flying a 747 into the TV network’s HQ.
6. I Come In Peace (1990)
This is one of the best movies Dolph Lundgren ever made. A strange buddy comedy featuring an alien drug dealer as the villain, this is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. The original is a nice little number featuring Dolph Lundgren as a cop and a pre-Dream On Brian Benben as a by-the-book FBI agent.
While entertaining, it feels like a lesser version of The Hidden, with a little bit of The Terminator thrown in. Fairly by-the-numbers, the bizarre premise deserves another look with a bigger budget. Get a director and writer with a more imaginative spin on the buddy-cop dynamic (or just chuck it out), and this could be a genre classic in the vein of The Hidden (1987).
7. The Prowler
A World War II veteran goes psycho and to town on a group of high school graduates. With its creepy, gothic look and cracking opening ’40s flashback, The Prowler starts strong but then descends into a typical slasher. It’s livened up by some exceptionally brutal makeup effects by Tom Savini, but the by-the-numbers plotting and cardboard characters bog it down. For a former soldier, the Prowler’s armory is incredibly unimaginative, limited to a knife and a pitchfork.
In the hands of a filmmaker with a talent for atmosphere and messed-up set pieces, a remake of The Prowler could be great. Add some interesting characters, a plot with a few twists and you could have the makings of something special: Ten Little Indians with more blood and grue.
8. Last Action Hero
The stories of the production of this flop are legendary. While the movie is considerably better than its reputation, a remake could be a good idea. The basic premise is intriguing, and with the rise of comic book movies, a retooling of the premise could make for a great flick. Think about all the complaints people make about comic book movies: Multi-part stories with no endings, characters who do not die, actors being re-cast due to contract negotiations, or that annoying new trend of retconning certain movies out of series continuity — a smart, funny skewering of contemporary conventions and cliches of action cinema could be just what the genre needs.
9. The Island (2005)
Taking a look at the teaser trailer for The Island, you’d think the movie it was advertising had the makings of something good. A talented cast, an interesting concept, and what looked like a satirical subtext about the superficiality of contemporary popular culture. All that and flying motorbikes? Cool. The movie is nowhere near as good as the trailer makes out, but that’s what you get with Michael Bay.
The idea of clones figuring out what they are, and what they are meant for is interesting (and has been done well in the recent Never Let Me Go), but there’s something about The Island that feels so close to being great. There are hints in the movie: The disturbing scene where Michael Clarke Duncan wakes up on the operating table and tries to escape, or the sequences where the childlike clones confront one of their donors. Scenes like these are peppered throughout the movie, and feel like first drafts for a more adult, and disturbing film.
A darker take which actually explored the central concept, without the Bay-hem, would be interesting to see.
Technically, Donald E. Westlake’s series about a career criminal has already been served by several screen adaptations, most famously John Boorman’s Point Blankand its remake Payback with Mel Gibson. Most recently, Jason Statham played the character in the less-than-stellar Parkera couple years back. However, aside from the Stath’s turn, all of the previous films based on the Parker novels have had to do so without the title character.
One of the stipulations of the adaptations was that Westlake would only permit the filmmakers to use the character’s name if they intended to make a series of pictures. This is why Point Blank’s protagonist is named Walker and Payback’s is named Porter. The Stath’s version was intended as a series, hence he is the first actor to actually get to play Parker.
While his first stab was not good, it was not the Stath’s fault. He was the best part of the movie — which is why he deserves another go as Parker. Adapt another one of the books, make it good and drop the Stath in the middle. It could be great.
11. The Karnstein trilogy
Immortalised by the late, great Ingrid Pitt in Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers, Carmilla Karnstein is the last member of the great studio’s rogue’s gallery. With Hammer brought back from the dead, it seems timely to take another look at the story of Carmilla and her various suitors/victims.
It helps that the source material is not particularly strong. All the films have their good points, but they are also somewhat dated, especially in their portrayals of sexuality. While it has the makings of a solid romp, with bloody stakes and heaving bosoms, it would be interesting to see someone take a more nuanced approach to the material. Vampires have been done to death, and so a new take might have more impact.
Troy could have been great. The resulting movie is entertaining and has some amazing fights, but it lacks a real sense of dramatic focus. The screenplay vacillates between empathising with the Greeks (mostly bad, except for Brad Pitt’s Achilles) and the Trojans (mostly good, except for Orlando Bloom’s Paris, who is just stupid). With too many characters, the movie loses itself in a quagmire of conflicting impulses.
A more interesting take would have been to simply focus on the strongest part of the film, which was Eric Bana’s Hector, a noble warrior who just wants to protect his people. The problem with Brad Pitt’s Achilles goes beyond the accent — it’s that his motivation (to gain eternal fame) is uninteresting and self-serving. it’s hard to be invested in someone who is only interested in glory, especially when it is juxtaposed against Hector, who just wants to protect those he loves.
A remake focusing on the supposed villains’ perspective, without the equal emphasis on the Greeks, would have made for a more interesting and involving story. You could cast it exactly the same way (a lot of ridiculously good-looking people) and still have amazing swordplay (the Hector vs Achilles sequence is up there with the best), only with something the original failed to consistently achieve: emotional investment in the story and its characters.
We have the rest of these on page two…please forgive us.
13. Wild Wild West
I don’t really have much to say much about this one. It could not get worse. Take out the mechanical spider, the race and cripple jokes, make a plot that makes sense, and interesting characters. And just to be sure, take out a restraining order on Jon Peters, the uber-producer responsible for this bull.
14. Cat People
‘Boo, it’s been done!’ I hear you say. Yes, it’s been done before in the 1942 classic, but the Paul Schrader version, while no masterpiece, has so many interesting ideas that another take might result in a better film. The biggest problem may have been Schrader as director. Known for his more realistic and emotionally distant work, his approach clashes with the melodrama of the story so that it just comes off as silly.
Tying the supernatural to a young woman discovering her sexuality is still interesting (and has been done since e.g. In The Company Of Wolves), but there’s something about the mythology of this movie, and the New Orleans setting that feels like untapped potential. In the hands of someone like Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In) or Jonathan Glazer (Under The Skin), a new take on Cat People could be very, very interesting.
Originally, this was supposed to be called Tonight He Comes, have an R rating and be directed by Michael Mann. Ah well. This really is a movie of two halves — the first half is the story of the rehabilitation of a fallen superhero, and the second half is… something I’m still trying to get a handle on.
More of a tease of an interesting concept than a fully-realised movie, Hancock could have been great — a mature, reflective character study on the loneliness of great power. With added Justin Bateman. Instead it was a shallow, limp-wristed love story with wasted Eddie Marsan.
16. I Am Legend
There have been three different takes on Richard Matheson’s sci-fi horror classic, and all have their merits. However, none have come close to capturing the essence of the novel. Especially the true meaning of the title. I won’t spoil it, but Matheson’s last twist is so perfectly executed that it deserves to be adapted properly.
17. The Star Chamber
Tired of seeing criminals get away on legal technicalities, a group of esteemed judges take the judicial process into their own hands — by sentencing them to death. This is another one of those underrated gems which promises far more than it is able to deliver. A cracking premise (think Magnum Force with more gavels), a great cast and a third act that completely destroys that promise. With such potentially dynamite material, and in an era of increasing police militarisation, this story feels creepily prescient.
Nighthawks is a cat-and-mouse thriller in which cops played by Rocky Balboa and Lando Calrissian face off against an international terrorist played by Roy Batty in the city that never sleeps. Featuring good performances from Stallone and, especially, Rutger Hauer, Nighthawks was Stallone’s first attempt at an action role.
Supposedly ghost-directed by Sylvester Stallone, with a protracted, troubled shoot, and then cut to ribbons before release, Nighthawks is an underrated Stallone flick that could have been a real contender alongside Rocky, First Blood, and Over The Top (whoops, I meant Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!). A remake with Stallone replacing Nigel Davenport as a veteran terrorism expert would be great.
19. The Siege
In a more serious vein than Nighthawks, The Siege is another movie about terrorism in New York City. The film is fine, but suffered from incredibly poor timing. In the present, and post-War on Terror, its focus on how a major terrorist act leads to an over-militarised response is worthy of another take.
While Hollywood is only now getting around to movies about America’s recent overseas adventures, a remake of The Siege could be a daring, and significant way to comment on the way things like the Patriot Act and mass surveillance have eaten away at the freedoms they supposedly designed to defend. Probably too hot a topic to handle, but it is a subject that deserves some kind of airing in mass media.
20. My Wife Is A Gangster
This was a popular success in South Korea and led to two sequels. However, it is not particularly funny and does not use its premise to go in any particularly interesting directions. The Weinsteins gained the remake rights a decade ago, and this could actually do well with a remake that takes advantage of the premise to develop a gender-bending black comedy in the vein of Married To The Mob.
The TV show has been cancelled, the last movie was iffy — but John Constantine deserves another resurrection. Give it to Ben Wheatley — with the speed he is able to make movies, and the quality and variety of the work he produces (not to mention the low budgets), he could probably pump out three Constantine pictures over a weekend for the price of a packet of crisps. The Kill List proved he could do screwed up, scary shit, and Sightseers proved he could make you laugh at screwed-up, scary shit.
22. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
A satirical takedown on the commercialization of Halloween? With robots? Awesome!
The movie has its good points, and a cult following (including this writer), but it is past time that we all took a deep breath and admitted that Halloween III: Season Of The Witch is not a great movie. The concept is great, the villain is great and even that annoying jingle is great — but the movie is not great. But that’s why another take could be a good idea. If you took those three key ingredients and then threw everything else away (Stonehenge, the time zone gaffes) you would have a great movie that does need the Halloween moniker to stand on its own legs.
23. I Saw What You Did
This is one of those great high concepts that doesn’t quite come off — a pair of teenagers make a prank call to a man who has just murdered his wife. Hijinks ensue in this amiable William Castle potboiler. A few years ago, screenwriter Tod Farmer had written a new, more unique take on the premise which sounds so cool it’s a pity it never took off: In Farmer’s version, the two teenagers wind up calling a professional assassin modelled after Max von Sydow’s professional killer from Three Days Of The Condor. Hopefully, someone gets around to green lighting Farmer’s version soon.
24. The Getaway
Like I Am Legend, this another case where a novel has been repeatedly adapted without a major component of the story’s ending. Both movie versions feature a pair of married bank robbers who attempt to retire to Mexico with one last haul. All the while, they have to contend with former allies and fellow ne’er-do-wells, until they manage to finally get across the border with the loot. The end. Our anti-heroes get away, having tied up all the loose ends of their old lives.
It is at this point that the novel takes a dark turn, as the robbers-in-love wind up in the nightmarish city of El Rey, populated exclusively by criminals. This place, outside the rule of law, relies exclusively on cash to keep the good times running — which means it is not long before its residents will have to go back to their old professions if they want to continue to live the high life.
Too surreal and depressing to make it into either version, El Rey would be referenced in another movie about criminals on the run: Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn. While it might be too much of a shift in tone to merit inclusion in a remake of The Getaway, a film focusing on El Rey could be great — a blend of David Lynch and Sergio Leone. And since this is Den of Geek, put the Stath in it to make sure it makes money.