Hollywood remakes movies for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a studio just wants to reintroduce an older successful film — such as RoboCop — to a new generation. In other cases, a director wants to recycle a storyline in an entirely different setting, like John Sturges did when he reimagined Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai as a western with The Magnificent Seven. However, some films are remade simply because the original is a foreign film. Unfamiliar cultural references, the language barrier, or a lack of bankable Hollywood stars can make many foreign films less marketable in the U.S.
While there are many great foreign films that have been remade into equally great American films, there are also quite a few foreign movies that would have been better off if the studio had just slapped some subtitles on the screen and called it a day. In the interest of illuminating the causes behind these cinematic disasters, here are eight successful foreign films that were remade into American flops. The movies are ordered according to critical rankings on Rotten Tomatoes, from best to worst.
8. The original: Solaris (1972)
The remake: Solaris (2002)
Since both of these films were adapted from a science fiction novel of the same name, it can be argued that the 2002 Steven Soderbergh-directed film is not technically a remake of the Andrei Tarkovsky-directed 1972 film. However, since the critically acclaimed original was considered such a landmark science fiction film, it was inevitably compared to the 2002 adaptation and — not surprisingly – the newer movie was judged as inferior.
Tarkovsky’s film earned the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prize of the Jury and is still considered by many fans to be one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made, as reflected by its 96% Certified Fresh rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Although Soderbergh’s version starring George Clooney was well-received by some film critics and earned a 66% critical rating from Rotten Tomatoes, it was still a box office flop. According to Box Office Mojo, the 2002 version of Solaris only made $15 million in domestic gross, but had a $47 million production budget.
7. The original: Spoorloos (1988)
The remake: The Vanishing (1993)
Spoorloos, a psychological horror film about a young woman’s mysterious disappearance, was a critical hit for Dutch filmmaker George Sluizer and the film garnered multiple awards from European and American film critic associations. Spoorloos has maintained its status over the years and currently has a 100% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
Sluizer later tried to capitalize on the film’s popularity with an American remake that starred Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, and Sandra Bullock. Unfortunately, Sluizer also made the unwise decision to alter the shocking ending that made the original film so powerful. The result was a film that Roger Ebert called “laughable, stupid and crude.” In contrast to the original, the remake currently only has a 47% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. With a total domestic gross of only $14.5 million, The Vanishing was also considered a commercial failure, according to Box Office Mojo.
6. The original: Oldboy (2003)
The remake: Oldboy (2013)
Korean director Park Chan-wook’s original Oldboy was a commercial and critical hit that earned the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Grand Prize of the Jury award and currently has a Certified Fresh rating of 80% from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. On the other hand, the remake helmed by director Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin failed to impress both critics and American moviegoers.
The 2013 remake currently only has a 42% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes who noted that “[The] remake neither surpasses the original nor adds anything new to its impressive legacy.” The remake was also a certifiable box office flop since it had an estimated $30 million production budget, but only made $2.2 million in total domestic gross, according to Box Office Mojo.
5. The original: Banlieue 13 (2004)
The remake: Brick Mansions (2014)
Produced and written by renowned action director Luc Besson, Banlieue 13 (English title: District B13) is a parkour-packed dystopian film that has achieved an impressive 80% Certified Fresh approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. In 2014, director Camille Delamarre helmed a remake that starred Paul Walker, David Belle and RZA.
Unfortunately, despite having parkour expert David Belle reprise his role in the remake, Brick Mansions fell short of the original. The film earned a low 26% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes who noted that the film “wastes a likable cast on a pointless remake.” The remake was also a commercial disappointment after only making $20.4 million in domestic gross on a $28 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
4. The original: Les Diaboliques (1955)
The remake: Diabolique (1996)
Unlike some of the films on this list, Les Diaboliques seemed like a good candidate for being remade. After all, Les Diaboliques was critically acclaimed, it was a black-and-white film, and it was over 40 years old at the time the new version was made. Unfortunately, 1996’s Diabolique starring Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, and Chazz Palminteri failed to recreate the thrills of the original.
While the original film has a 97% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, the Hollywood remake only achieved a dismal 12% approval rating. Diabolique was also considered a box office flop with a total domestic gross of just over $17 million, according to Box Office Mojo. One reason the remake was so poorly received may have been because the plot twists that made the original so compelling were old hat to modern moviegoers. Another reason may have been the actors’ performances. Stone’s performance in Diabolique helped earn her a sarcastically titled Worst New Star nomination from the Razzies.
3. The original: Get Carter (1971)
The remake: Get Carter (2000)
Directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine, the original Get Carter shocked audiences at the time of its release with its realistic and graphic depictions of violence. In the film Caine plays an amoral gangster out to avenge his brother’s death. Although the movie flew under many critics’ radars, it has since been recognized as one of the best British gangster genre films ever made. “’Get Carter’ is a tense, hard-boiled crime movie that uses Michael Caine, for once, as the sure possessor of all his unconscious authority,” wrote Roger Ebert. The film currently has an 89% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
The poorly received remake moved the setting to America and featured Sylvester Stallone in the title role. The film currently has a 12% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes who noted that the remake “doesn’t approach the standard of the original.” The remake was even nominated by the Razzies for Worst Remake or Sequel, while Stallone’s performance garnered him a nomination for Worst Actor. Not surprisingly, Get Carter was also a box office bomb that only made $15 million in domestic gross on a production budget of $63.6 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
2. The original: The Wicker Man (1973)
The remake: The Wicker Man (2006)
The 1973 version of this horror film has long been recognized as a classic of the genre and has garnered rave reviews from many critics. In the film, a British policeman investigates the mysterious disappearance of a girl on an isolated island where the inhabitants practice a bizarre pagan religion. The original film currently has a 90% Certified Fresh rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
In 2006, director Neil LaBute made an ill-advised remake of the original with Nicolas Cage in the role of the policeman. The new film garnered terrible reviews and currently has a mere 15% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes who noted that the movie “struggles against unintentional comedy and fails.” Although The Wicker Man had a $40 million production budget, it only managed to make $23.6 million in domestic gross, according to Box Office Mojo.
1. The original: Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto (1974)
The remake: Swept Away (2002)
Swept Away, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Madonna, is a remake of a similarly titled Italian film (full English title: Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August) that was directed by Lina Wertmüller. The original film earned critical acclaim and multiple critic associations’ awards, including the National Board of Review’s award for Top Foreign Film.
On the other hand, the remake garnered widespread derision from the critics and earned Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Director, and Worst Remake or Sequel awards from the Razzies. While the original has a respectable 69% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, the remake has mere 5% approval rating. The remake was also an utter commercial flop that recouped less than $1 million of its $10 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
All movie cast, crew, and awards information courtesy of IMDb.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS
Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!