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Top 10 Best Remakes

By Beth Accomando

Hollywood loves a remake. In theory it's less of a gamble – if a film was successful before, then it should be again. That's why studios look to popular films to remake when it would actually make more sense to redo a film that originally failed. That way you could improve on it. Sometimes Hollywood's approach works. Akira Kurosawa's films have inspired some of the most successful Hollywood remakes. But more often the remake pales in comparison to the original. Here's a list of the best remakes – ones that may not improve on the originals but which stand on their own as good films.

1. 'The Magnificent Seven' (1960)

The Magnificent Seven
© 20th Century Fox
Akira Kurosawa deserves recognition of some kind for inspiring some of the best remakes in film history. In this case his classic samurai epic Seven Samurai provided the inspiration for the American Western The Magnificent Seven. This is the way to do a remake: take the foundation of one film but completely transplant it to another time and place. Yul Brynner's gun for hire, dressed in black, became so iconic that it was the basis for the cowboy robot in the sci-fi film Westworld. Also of note, Elmer Bernstein's theme for The Magnificent Seven was used in commercials for Marlboro cigarettes.
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2. 'The Fly' (1986)

The Fly
© 20th Century Fox
David Cronenberg's remake of the '50s sci-fi classic makes effective use of state of the art technology to deliver some memorable creature effects and gore. But what really makes the film stand out is the care Cronenberg takes in creating strong characters and a powerful and unexpected love story. Cronenberg would go on reinvent his film onstage as an opera in 2008.
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3. 'Casino Royale' (2006)

Casino Royale
© Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Based on Ian Fleming's 007 novel, the first Casino Royale decided to take a comic approach to the espionage genre. So it was refreshing to see the novel finally brought to the screen with grit and a tough edge. This film rebooted the Bond franchise and returned it to a harder edge more in line with Fleming's books.

4. 'The Thing' (1982)

The Thing
© Universal Studios Home Video
Here's another film inspired by a '50s sci-fi classic. Once again the key to the film's success is that it makes clever use of effects not available in the '50s and it re-imagines the original to a significant degree. Director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell (collaborating for the second of three times) excel in creating an intense remake.
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5. 'Star Wars' (1977)

Star Wars
© 20th Century Fox
Some may not consider this a remake but George Lucas acknowledges a deep debt to Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress as a source of inspiration for his space saga. The characters of R2D2 and C3P0 are derived from the characters of the two ne'er do well farmers, while Toshiro Mifune's samurai was broken into two characters, Obi Wan and Han Solo. You could say Lucas pays homage to Kurosawa in the first conference room scene on the Death Star when an Imperial Officer says, "the Rebel's hidden fort..." and then is cut off before he can complete the word 'fortress' as Vadar 'strangles' him in a display of the Force.
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6. 'A Fistful of Dollars' (1964)

A Fistful of Dollars
© 20th Century Fox
A Kurosawa film is also the basis for Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars. The original film was Yojimbo the Bodyguard, which starred Toshiro Mifune as a crafty ronin. In Leone's film the rogue samurai becomes a hired gun played by Clint Eastwood. Kurosawa, however, sued the filmmakers for breach of copyright, and ended up with 15% of the film's worldwide gross. Kurosawa's film was also remade as Last Man Standing and Sukiyaki Western Django.
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7. 'Man Who Knew Too Much' (1956)

Man Who Knew Too Much
© Universal Studios Home Video
Not many directors get to or want to remake their own films but Alfred Hitchcock filmed the story of The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1934 and then again in 1956. Both films involve an American couple abroad that gets a clue about an imminent assassination. In the first film, Leslie Banks and Edna Best played the couple; in the remake it was James Stewart and Doris Day. The first film did boast Peter Lorre's first English language film and he made a delectable Hitchcock villain, the second made the song Que Sera, Sera memorable.
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8. 'Scarface' (1983)

Scarface
© Universal Studios Home Video
Brian DePalma swapped booze for cocaine and an Italian immigrant for a Cuban one when he updated Howard Hawks' gangster tale Scarface. Al Pacino goes way over the top as Tony Montana, and DePalma, working from Oliver Stone's script, encourages him every step of the way.
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9. 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
© 20th Century Fox
The 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers has spawned three remakes, the best of which is this 1978 version by Philip Kaufman. Kevin McCarthy, the star of the original film, has a clever cameo that reprises his role from the first film in the opening of the remake.
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10. 'King Kong' (2005)

King Kong
© Universal Studios Home Video
King Kong has also inspired multiple remakes – an atrocious one in 1976 and this loving tribute by Peter Jackson. Nothing can top the original Kong but Jackson had the right attitude and through state of the art technology he gave Kong great expressiveness. Jackson also owns a number of props from the original King Kong.


Honorable Mentions: Hairspray, Cape Fear, Little Shop of Horrors

Clever Revisionist Remakes of Literary Classics: 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew), Clueless (Emma), Roxanne (Cyrano)

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