The 2017 ‘Beaches’ and Other Misguided Remakes of ’80s Movies

Some remakes are class acts — well cast, well written, and modernized just enough to reach a new audience while still drawing in the original fanbase. Successful remakes are rare and few, for it not easy to strike the proper balance between originality and familiarity, between reference and reinvention. While the recent takes on A Star Is Born, The Jungle Book, and Dawn of the Dead got it right, the same can’t be said about the remakes of classic ‘80s movies below. 

Jackie Earle Haley
Jackie Earle Haley at the premiere of New Line’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ | Kevin Winter / Staff

1. ‘Beaches’

The original Beaches starred Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler as two best friends from childhood — two best friends with vastly different personalities, from different walks of life, who loved each other like sisters. One is a wealthy debutante; the other is a to-be entertainer. And, through thick and thin, sickness and health, they remain united. 

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While the original movie was deemed melodramatic, audiences raved for Midler and Hershey. Though the script was trying a little too hard to conjure those tears, the leading actors made up for the deficit in other areas. Unfortunately, without Midler and Hershey, the movie no longer worked. The remake starring Idina Menzel and Nia Long became pure schmaltz without the sincerity and weight Hershey and Midler offered the film. 

2. ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

The original A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was known for its twists and turns, as well as its tendency to veer into the campy horror direction. Robert Englund was animated and flamboyant, while Jackie Earle Haley’s Krueger was purely malevolent. 

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The 2010 movie focused on Krueger’s darkness and sinister behavior, and abandoned the character’s original duality; his twisted sense of humor and bizarre behavioral illustrations were amiss. The tendency to make all horror utterly dark is a contemporary genre trend that did not suit the source material. Thus, it failed to pay homage to the Englund-led movies, which thrived in the campy ‘80s space. 

3. ‘Red Dawn’ 

Red Dawn was not entirely realistic when it first premiered, but the remake was utterly out of time. When the first version came out, Reagan had recently labeled the Soviet Union an evil empire, as The Atlantic notes. Thus, placing a Cuban-Soviet invasion at the center of a narrative wasn’t too far a stretch. 

In the remake, North Korea invades. And, the logistics don’t exactly add up. Audiences appreciated the original as it felt timely and reflective (to an extent), despite the harsh critical response. Yet, the remake was condemned by audiences and critics alike. 

4. ‘Fame’

The original Fame tackled difficult and heavy themes, which many musicals do not dare venture into. From class issues, academic struggles, race conflicts, and more, it’s not just about kids trying to make it as dancers, singers, and actors. Unfortunately, that’s all the remake really is. The remake completely sanitized the original, gutting its grit and leaving its sincerity and poignancy dead on arrival. 

5. ‘Conan the Barbarian’

The original Conan the Barbarian features Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime; the movie’s got action, it’s got funny and memorable lines, and it’s got just enough story and characterization to keep it afloat. Unfortunately, the remake with Jason Mamoa focused so heavily on graphics and cinematography that the basic blocks of filmmaking didn’t make the cut. The characters were bland, the story was flat, and the themes were…were there any bigger themes?