While we have previously highlighted 10 movie remakes that are much better than the original, the truth is that there are far more examples of inferior movie remakes than there are superior. Arguments about Hollywood’s lack of creativity aside, it’s simply hard to improve upon a film that already works. It’s also not easy to improve upon a film that doesn’t work, either. And while it seems a little unfair for a remake to be compared endlessly to the film from which it was based, the question remains: shouldn’t a remake be better than its predecessor? Isn’t that the entire point?
If the goal of a remake is to improve upon the original film, it becomes clear that any film being remade from an already great film is in significant trouble from the start. But when a well-regarded film is being remade with additional misfires from filmmakers and actors, it can be a recipe for disaster. Here are ten of the worst movie remakes of all time, most of which should have exhibited red flags from the very start.
1. Psycho (1998)
Often hailed as the worst movie remake of all time, Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho is train wreck of epic proportions, bolstered by the classic status of the original 1960 film by Alfred Hitchcock. The film is even more puzzling given Van Sant’s considerable skills as a director, which seemingly went out the window for this specific project.
While remakes are often criticized as being unnecessary, Van Sant’s Psycho pushes that argument into unusual territory. Sure, the 1998 version is in color, features a different cast, and sets the film in modern times, but Van Sant chose to remake the film in nearly shot-for-shot remake, using most of Hitchcock’s camera angles, camera movements, and editing techniques making it seem even more unnecessary than it already was.
Roger Ebert explained it best, writing, “The movie is an invaluable experiment in the theory of cinema, because it demonstrates that a shot-by-shot remake is pointless; genius apparently resides between or beneath the shots, or in chemistry that cannot be timed or counted.” Psycho holds a 37 percent Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, but that number would surely plummet if there were more critics to show for.
2. Swept Away (2002)
The original 1974 Italian film Swept Away, entitled Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto in Italy, is an adventure comedy-drama written and directed by Lina Wertmüller about a wealthy woman and a boat crew member whose social roles are reversed when they are marooned on an island. While the film has been the recipient of controversy over the years for its alleged depictions of misogyny, it’s nonetheless attained classic status over the years from various critics, including Ebert, who awarded the film four stars.
But the 2002 remake from director Guy Ritchie starring his then-wife Madonna was an absolute train wreck that Ritchie has yet to truly move past — and many onlookers have joked that the film directly led to Ritchie and Madonna’s divorce. The film was awarded five Razzie awards in 2002 for Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Madonna), Worst Screen Couple (Madonna and Giannini), Worst Remake or Sequel, and Worst Director.
Swept Away wins the award for the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score on this list, coming in at five percent Fresh. Depending on who you ask, Swept Away might truly be the worst remake of all time — that is, if you can find anyone who has actually seen it.
3. The Wicker Man (2006)
The Wicker Man is a 1973 British horror film from Robin Hardy that is often ranked among the best horror films of all time, earning cult classic status along the way. The 2006 American remake directed by Neil LaBute and starring Nicolas Cage has become somewhat of a cult classic in its own right — albeit, for its unintentional hilarity.
While the original film is best known for its tension and shocking ending, the remake has become infamous for a variety of bizarre moments that have become staples of Internet lore and memes. One well-known scene sees Cage yelling, “Oh, no, not the bees! Not the bees!” as a wire mesh helmet is filled with live bees. Another scene sees Cage dressed in a beat suit as he sprints toward a woman and punches her in the face.
Sure, the remake is worth a look as a Mystery Science Theater 3000 candidate, but there’s no doubt that the film is a complete mess if taken at all seriously. Time Out’s Nigel Floyd writes, “Neil LaBute’s utterly misconceived remake of Robin Hardy’s 1973 cult horror film is a boring, fright-free catastrophe.” The Wicker Man sits at 15 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, although the humor factor might make this one worth watching.
4. Godzilla (1998)
Since the original 1954 Godzilla from director Ishirō Honda was highly inspired by hydrogen bomb testing in Bikini Atoll, the idea of a remake in New York City without any of the original film’s nuclear symbolism still seems a little odd all these years later. But even disregarding that aspect of the 1998 remake, Roland Emmerich’s $130 million blockbuster was still a poor film overall that wasted its occasionally impressive special effects on a weak script.
Despite the Godzilla remake earning nearly $380 million worldwide, the film was blasted by fans and critics for everything from the acting, to the directing, to the redesign of the titular character. The film was nominated for several Razzie Awards, including Worst Remake or Sequel, and TriStar’s original plans for a Godzilla trilogy went out the window due to the overwhelmingly negative response to the first film.
Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures gave an American Godzilla another shot in 2014 when they released a new film directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters), starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Bryan Cranston. That version was well received by the critics and currently has a 74% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, unlike the 1998 version, which currently has 16% rating.
5. The Invasion (2007)
Released in 2007, director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s The Invasion is the fourth film adaptation of Jack Finney’s 1955 novel The Body Snatchers. While Don Siegel’s 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of the same name have been praised as classics of the genre, the 2007 failed to make an imprint with both viewers and critics alike.
The issue that comes up time and time again with The Invasion is that the film is surprisingly boring — and boring shouldn’t be used as a description for a film about an alien invasion in which humans are replaced with alien duplicates. The newest remake also falls flat in social allegory, which each of the previous entries used as a central theme to add to the basic alien invasion story. ”If the first three movies served as parables for their times, this one keeps shooting off parable rockets that fizzle out,” writes Ebert. “How many references in the same movie can you have to the war in Iraq and not say anything about it?” The Invasion is currently sitting at 20 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
6. Clash of the Titans (2010)
Best known for its stop-motion special effects by Ray Harryhausen, the original 1981 Clash of the Titans is not exactly considered one of the greatest films of all time, but that doesn’t excuse the problems with the awful 2010 remake by director Louis Leterrier.
By far, the biggest knock against the 2010 remake was in its poor use of 3D post-conversion technology that appeared as nothing more than a rush job to add 3D ticket sales to the film’s box office. That strategy backfired terribly as viewers and critics used the film as a rallying call not only against 3D post-conversion techniques, but of 3D technology in general. But in all honesty, the film was terrible even without the added 3D insult — with a script that had huge issues and a fantasy story that just wasn’t any fun. Clash of the Titans holds a 28 percent Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. The Haunting (1999)
Robert Wise’s 1963 supernatural horror film The Haunting ranks among the greatest horror films of all time, so it’s a shame that most people are more aware of Jan de Bont’s terrible 1999 remake of the same name than the original.
Criticism of The Haunting remake was swift when the film was released with critics citing a lousy screenplay, overuse of horror cliches, overdone CGI effects, and poor acting among many other problems. The film would go on to be nominated for five Razzie Awards including Worst Screenplay, Worst Director, and Worst Picture. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 2000, “The only thing scary about the new version is realizing that someone keeps giving director Jan De Bont money to make movies.” Ouch. The Haunting remake currently owns a 12 percent Fresh score with Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics, which seems fair considering it’s a horror film that isn’t scary.
8. Pulse (2006)
Pulse was released in 2001 from Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, screening in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival before attaining strong marks from critics and a cult following. But a 2006 American remake from Jim Sonzero seemingly took little of what made the original film so successful — instead drenching the concept in horror cliches.
The biggest problem with the Pulse remake is that it tries desperately to push the basic concept into horror territory even if Kurosawa’s source material is more a slow-burn drama with some extremely creepy moments. Considering that Kurosawa’s intention for Pulse was to study the alienation and loneliness of modern technology (at the time, the Internet was in its nascent stages), it makes sense that the entire concept would collapse in on itself when the film’s central themes were modified and diminished. Pulse currently sits at 10 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has somehow produced two sequels.
9. Stepford Wives (2004)
The original 1975 film adaptation of Stepford Wives by Bryan Forbes, based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Ira Levin, was a moderate hit with audiences and critics. But the 2004 remake by Frank Oz was a huge misfire that drew widespread pans from critics despite a talented cast that included Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, and Glenn Close.
Eschewing the original film’s sci-fi horror roots, Oz’s 2004 remake took the concept and rewrote it as a campy comedy, but the change of pace appears to have done more harm than good. J. Hoberman of Village Voice writes, “What’s funny is that the joke – Invasion of the Body Snatchers reconfigured as anti-feminist backlash — was scarcely fresh when Bryan Forbes shot the first movie version nearly 30 years ago.” Additionally, the film was plagued with rumors of onset discord among the director and actors eventually leading the film to have huge losses for Paramount. Stepford Wives holds a 31 percent Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics.
10. Planet of the Apes (2001)
While the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes holds classic status among film fans, there was definitely reason to believe that a modern version could update the story in a positive way. Unfortunately, director Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of the same name fell flat with critics and audiences alike despite becoming a moderate financial success.
Although the remake was praised for its style, especially the make-up effects by Rick Baker, critics pointed to a listless script as a particular sticking point. The film was also criticized for seemingly going out of its way to pay homage to the 1968 classic without adding anything of its own. “[Burton] made a film that’s respectful to the original, and respectable in itself, but that’s not enough. Ten years from now, it will be the 1968 version that people are still renting,” wrote Ebert at the time of release. Planet of the Apes holds a 30 percent Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics.
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