The movie remake is a concept nearly as old as the film industry itself. It occurs when a production company needs an easy cash grab. They dig up an old IP with a notable fanbase, throw in some household-name actors, and regurgitate a version of the original. Remakes are rarely made with the same care and creativity as the first film, making a good one hard to come by. However, they are not impossible to craft. A noteworthy remake is a tricky balance between respecting the initial story and having something new to say. To honor these rare occurrences, I’ve compiled a list of the best remakes from recent years.
True Grit (2010)
True Grit was released in 1969, starring John Wayne and Glen Campbell. It was a cult classic and considered the best of the genre. The 2010 remake starred a fresh cast and a snappier story, with many iconic moments. The film was Hailee Steinfeld’s breakout role. She plays Mattie Ross, a young girl trying to track down her father’s murderer. Mattie hires eccentric drunk Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to aid her in this endeavor. Not only did it become an instant western classic when the genre was considered dead, but it was an awards juggernaut, winning 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.
The Invisible Man (2020)
The original Invisible Man was released in 1933, following Dr. Jack Griffin as he stumbles on the gift of invisibility. The gift slowly becomes a curse as it causes him to descend into insanity. The remake made some bold changes, shifting the story’s protagonist and adding interesting commentary on domestic violence, trauma, and bigger scares. The story follows Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) escaping from her abusive, upper-class boyfriend. Just when she believes she is free of his grasp, she becomes haunted by an invisible figure.
A Star is Born (2018)
A Star is Born is a film heavily associated with the term “remake” because the storyline has been remade four times in total. It’s become a Hollywood tradition every few decades to cast a big actor and a famous singer to pump out another version of this classic story. The plot of each film is about an up-and-coming performer who sparks a romance with a rugged celebrity and, as a result, is skyrocketed into fame. This most recent film knocked it out of the park, starring pop icon Lady Gaga and Academy Award favorite Bradley Cooper. The story follows undiscovered singer-songwriter Ally and her run-in with ramshackle country singer Jackson Maine. Smitten at first sight, Jackson makes it his mission to skyrocket her career.
The film stars Paul Atreides, the son of a Duke, who must defend his family’s honor once their people begin ruling a new planet and a rival species attacks. The original Dune was released in 1984 and was poorly received by critics and audiences. Its slow pace and bland characters meant two things for a remake: there was a low bar to beat but the possibility of making the same mistakes as the first. Thankfully, the 2021 film replaced the original story’s slow pace with rising tension, and the bland characters now had depth with rich backstories. The film’s world-building captivated viewers and left them begging for more.
Little Women (2019)
The 19th-century novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a female coming-of-age story. The story follows Jo March and her three sisters as they enter the world, each facing different life situations that force them to make tough choices. It has been adapted many times for film, TV, and the stage. So, the issue with this most recent adaptation became how to make it worthy of yet another remake. Writer and director Greta Gerwig tackled this problem marvelously, reformatting the order of the story to enhance emotional beats. Gerwig also incorporated commentary on the restrictions of female authors in the 1800s, providing an explanation for why Alcott made certain character decisions.
Remakes have the reputation of being cheap mockeries of their predecessors, and while this may be true for the majority, some still shine brighter than even their original counterparts. All good remakes are faithful to the story but find unique ways to enhance it, showing the audience something they haven’t seen before. Let me know what you think of my list and if there are any films you’d add!