Everything old is new again. And that's not a particularly good thing. Sure, there are many times where Hollywood looks at its back catalogue, pulls out an old title, dusts it off and turns it into something presentable. But more times than not, they should have just left well enough alone.
The upcoming remake of the beloved zen-surfer FBI actioner Point Break is the most recent example. To help ease the pain, we're looking back at ten other times where a new movie did nothing but tarnish the memory of the original. And believe us when we say it was difficult to limit this to only ten.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
This debacle from the era of big, international epics proves that dunderheaded remakes is hardly a modern invention. The 1930s classic with dashing Clark Gable rebelling against odious Charles Laughton was reimagined for Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard. The result was a bloated boondoggle where Brando, testing the waters of his peak ego years, ran into trouble with original director Carol Reed when he demanded to personally oversee the performance of his future ex-wife Tarita Teriipaia. (Eventually Lewis Milestone was brought on to shoot the picture.) A third attempt at this historical tale penned by Robert Bolt in 1984 was far more successful. It starred Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins and then-unknown actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson.
Born Yesterday (1993)
As we said up top, not all remakes are bad. But if you are going to try one, especially one that is known for being an essential acting vehicle, you should tread carefully. Melanie Griffith took a big swing-and-a-miss when she tried to step in Judy Holliday's shoes for a new version of the 1950 classic Born Yesterday, which won Holliday a well-deserved Oscar. If this wasn't chancy enough, Griffith played opposite her real-life husband, Don Johnson, when the pair were very hot in the tabloids. It became more about seeing them together than making a great screwball comedy.
City of Angels (1998)
The Nicolas Cage-Meg Ryan romance fantasy? That wasn't THAT bad! No, on its own, I guess not, but when you step back and realize it was an American regurgitation of Wim Wenders' gorgeous 1987 film Wings of Desire, one of the most achingly beautiful movies ever made, that's when it becomes a problem. Wenders' remarkable tale of angels who walk among us (including Peter Falk, who confesses his past to us while shooting a Columbo movie!) is a mix of black and white and color set among the divided city of Cold War Berlin. City of Angels trades all this texture in for a sappy supernatural love story.
The Haunting (1999)
You could do a whole list just of bad horror remakes, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of them draw from source material that isn't all that hot to begin with. Not the case here, with this 1999 embarrassment from director Jan De Bont. Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson star in this misstep that ignores everything eerie about the original British haunted house classic from 1963. Gone is the use of elegant sound design and unnerving tension, and in its place come wretched computer generated effects and cheesy jokes. There's nothing more terrifying than being forced to watch great films from the past get destroyed.
Guess Who (2005)
Stanley Kramer's 1967 movie Guess Who's Coming To Dinner is, to be totally fair, best described as an important film rather than a great film. Starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton, this rather stagey essay on interracial marriage can get a little soap box-y. Still, it was a product of its era, and made a bold statement. In 2005 somebody decided to flip-the-script with Bernie Mac as the “old fashioned” father, and Ashton Kutcher and Zoe Saldana as the kids in love. All the political weight was shoved aside in service of lazy jokes. It was still something of a financial success, but a decade later it's hardly remembered other than a weird footnote to the original.
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
Elaine May's brilliant comedy from 1972 stars Charles Grodin, Cybil Shepherd and her own daughter, Jeannie Berlin, in a love triangle that satirized the disastrous blowback from the 60s free-love impulses. It's a hilarious exercise in risky performances and awkward comedy, and it was a complete disaster when Ben Stiller and the Farrelly Brothers tried to remake it in 2007. All the anguish of the misguided, unhappy newlyweds from the original is replaced with dumb, mean-spirited shock comedy and silly coincidences, totally losing the smarts of Neil Simon's original script.
The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)
If only a superior life form would descend to planet Earth and stop us from ruining classic films. The 1951 Day The Earth Stood Still remains a sci fi masterpiece — a perfect encapsulation of Cold War fears mixed with sleek, timeless production design. The 2008 version stars Keanu Reeves running amok among garbage computer generated effects and a muddled plot. (John Cleese shows up as a wacky mathematician.) The legendary robot Gort is barely in the second version, and its message of peace is convoluted amid endless, exhausting action set pieces. When you google The Day The Earth Stood Still this junk comes up first, and that is an intergalactic crime.
Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
Good luck finding a better, gritty crime thriller from deep within the rumbling heart of 1970s New York than the original Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three. Then try to find a weaker, forgettable train wreck then Tony Scott's 2009 remake. With the same premise of a highjacked subway, great tough guy character actors like Robert Shaw and Martin Balsam are replaced with an irritating, prancing John Travolta. Scott's frenetic shooting style is totally mismatched for what should be a tense showdown of steel nerves. If you've missed the 1974 version, be sure to hop a ride on that one and leave this remake at the station.
The self-deprecating, urbane wit of Dudley Moore in the 1981 original is traded for the pompous, egregious and altogether nauseating Russell Brand, the worst thing to come from England since beans on toast. It's the same story of a wealthy snot with a wry butler (Helen Mirren in the new version) who gives up his fortune for true love (Greta Gerwig.) Again, this is an unfortunate case of a lesser performer taking someone else's signature role for a spin. Moore's diminutive size and undercurrent of sadness turned the original farce into a touching story. The 2011 version is just shrill and annoying.
Total Recall (2012)
A special award for Total Recall for being one of the quickest remakes out there. Just twelve years after the exciting, mind-scrambling Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger collaboration, this flat snoozer from director Len Wiseman stars Colin Farrell as the dull worker who gets action-adventure memories implanted in his head. Ignoring the catchphrase of the original, Farrell's version does not get its ass to Mars – it stays on the tediously designed Earth of the future, and rolls through the same “is this real or a program” scenario of the very familiar original. There's nothing at stake though and, more importantly, there's a complete lack of fun. Dull action sequences in dreary settings are all you get, leading us to wonder if there's a service out there that can remove memories (like bad movies) from our minds.