Top 10 Best Action Movie Remakes of All Time

Top 10 Best Action Movie Remakes of All Time

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
Originality doesn't always equal quality. For this list, we're looking at remakes of action films that matched or were better than the originals. Our list includes “Ben-Hur” (1959), “Scarface” (1983), “Ocean's Eleven” (2001), “King Kong” (2005), “The Departed” (2006), and more! What do YOU think is the best action movie remake? Let us know in the comments!

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Script written by Garrett Alden

Top 10 Best Action Movie Remakes of All Time

Originality doesn’t always equal quality. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 best action movie remakes.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most successful action film remakes, and we’ll be ranking them based on the quality of the films themselves, rather than how well they remade their source material. We’re using the term “action” rather loosely here: thrillers, westerns, heist films, etc. - they’re all welcome, so long as they’re undeniably action-heavy. We also won’t be including film reboots of popular properties that went back to the source material rather than re-adapting the preceding film, such as the excellent “Dredd”.

#10: “The Italian Job” (2003)

Based on the 1969 film of the same name, “The Italian Job” follows a group of thieves looking for payback after one of their own betrays them during the titular heist; leading to their leader’s death, and causing them to execute a complex plan to rob the traitor back. Though it features many departures from the original film, the remake features a strong ensemble cast with great chemistry, a healthy dose of comedy, some surprising dramatic moments, and thrilling chase scenes, all of which help make it a fantastic heist film in its own right.

#9: “Cape Fear” (1991)

A remake of the similarly titled 1962 film, “Cape Fear” follows a defense attorney and his family as they are menaced by a convicted rapist out for revenge against the man who landed him in prison. Though the original is an atmospheric thriller in its own right, the 1991 version takes everything up to 11, with a powerful and terrifying performance by Robert De Niro, an atmosphere so ominous you may have trouble sleeping, and an explosive finale. “Cape Fear” is a masterclass on how to craft a psychological thriller.

#8: “King Kong” (2005)

An update of the classic 1933 monster film, “King Kong” follows a film crew’s exploration of a mysterious island and their encounters with many strange and dangerous creatures, including the eponymous giant gorilla, which they bring back to the mainland with inevitable results. Visually stunning, chock full of fantastic action, and featuring Andy Serkis’ second best ape performance, “King Kong” is a worthy successor to the original. Director Peter Jackson has often cited the first version as his favorite film, and his passion for the story is visible in nearly every frame.

#7: “3:10 to Yuma” (2007)

Revamping a classic film of any kind is a tricky proposition, but these days... westerns are an especially tough sell. Released in 2007, “3:10 to Yuma” is a remake that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can be done, and done well. Telling the story of a rancher who takes on the task of delivering a dangerous outlaw to the titular train in order to save his struggling family, this remake operates on an epic scale, while delivering intense gun battles and spectacular performances all around courtesy of the talented cast. Often overlooked, “3:10 to Yuma” is a modern classic of the western genre, and one well worth catching at any time of day.

#6: “True Lies” (1994)

Here’s one you may not have realized is a remake! Based on a French film called “La Totale!,” “True Lies” tells the story of a seemingly ordinary family man who is in fact a spy, and his wife, who becomes wrapped up in his life of danger and espionage. While it is a bit hard to buy Arnold Schwarzenegger as anything approaching ordinary, this spy film is rife with twists and turns, solid laughs, a strong supporting cast, excellent action sequences, and its lead actor’s signature charisma and one-liners. All in all, there’s nothing false about it: “True Lies” is great.

#5: “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)

A remake of the classic Rat Pack film, “Ocean’s Eleven” follows Danny Ocean and his crew of criminals as they attempt an audacious plan to rob three casinos simultaneously. Featuring a brilliant, charismatic ensemble cast, this is a heist film for the ages, with comedy and incredibly detailed plans galore, which, combined, make for an endlessly watchable movie. We may be stretching the definition of what constitutes “action” with this entry, but there’s no denying that “Ocean’s Eleven” is a thrilling experience from start to finish.

#4: “Ben-Hur” (1959)

Some remakes are so successful, they largely eclipse the original movie, as is the case with this remake of a 1920s silent film. When the titular character is betrayed by his best friend and forced into slavery, his quest to rescue his family and get his revenge make for one impressive tale. A true classic of cinema, the movie features lavish sets and costumes, memorable performances, and, indisputably, the single greatest chariot scene ever put on film. “Ben-Hur” is a grand, nearly Biblical epic that helped define the genre.

#3: “Heat” (1995)

Here’s another movie you may not have realized was a remake! An expanded take on a failed pilot turned TV movie from 1989 called “L.A. Takedown,” “Heat” follows the intense leader of a group of robbers and the equally driven lieutenant who pursues him. It also depicts the collateral damage that happens when criminals and law enforcement clash and the obsession that can affect both sides; isolating them from the people close to them. In addition to the electrifying performances of its two leads, “Heat” features several gripping and realistic run-and-gun action scenes that will have you on the edge of your seat.

#2: “Scarface” (1983)

Based on a 1932 film that shares its name, “Scarface” deviates significantly from the movie that inspired it, but in doing so, it became an iconic film in its own right. This cult hit gangster movie details the decadent rise and bloody fall of Tony Montana in the Miami underworld. Featuring perfectly crafted violence, commentary on excess lifestyles, and one of Al Pacino’s best performances, “Scarface” is a powerhouse of a movie - with countless iconic quotes and scenes. It’s impact on popular culture... is anything but little. “Say hello my little friend!”

#1: “The Departed” (2006)

In keeping with the trend of great mob movies that are also remakes, “The Departed” is a retelling of a Hong Kong crime film, “Infernal Affairs.” The Scorsese retelling sees an undercover cop sent to investigate a Boston crime organization who must ultimately reveal the identity of a mob man working undercover in the police. The struggle both characters experience with regards to loyalty, as well as their cat and mouse attempts to find the other, make for an incredibly compelling viewing experience. With powerful performances all around, a myriad of themes, and plenty of twists, “The Departed” takes home the honor of being our top pick for the best action movie remake.