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VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Matthew Geiger
The student has surpassed the master! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the movie remakes that, against all odds, manage to surpass their source of inspiration. We're not saying the original movies were bad, but some things are better the second time around. Our countdown includes “Scarface”, “The Thing”, “True Lies”, “Ocean's Eleven”, “The Departed”, and more!

Top 10 Movie Remakes That Were Better than the Original

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the movie remakes that, against all odds, manage to surpass their source of inspiration. We’re not saying the original movies were bad, but some things are better the second time around.

#10: “Dune” (2021) & “Dune: Part Two” (2024)

A revolutionary piece of fiction should easily inspire an equally revolutionary adaptation, right? Well, all we can say is watching Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling two-part sci-fi epic just makes us wonder how it took THIS long for a proper visit to Arrakis to see the light of day. We’re not saying David Lynch didn’t try back in the 80s, but it’s clear Villeneuve’s ambition and passion made all the difference in bringing the world of “Dune” to life. In fact, the decision to divvy up Frank Herbert’s text paid dividends, giving us a fully realized landscape to get lost in. Throw in state-of-the-art CGI, a haunting Hans Zimmer score, and a top-notch ensemble cast, and the “Dune” duology is a blockbuster prophecy come true.

#9: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978)

Another frequently adapted novel, Jack Finney’s “The Body Snatchers” has found its way to the big screen on four different occasions. The initial outing from 1956 is undoubtedly a classic in its own right, but the premise of aliens invading Earth via replication was even more at home in 1978. Upgrading the story from a small town to San Francisco, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” maintains the chilling paranoia that made its predecessor great. But an added emphasis on disturbing practical effects brought the material much closer to body horror while also making the stakes far more personal. It’s a taut thriller about the loss of individuality and the dangers of conformity, one that encapsulated the uncertainty of a complicated time in history.

#8: “The Departed” (2006)

English language remakes of international movies can be risky. When done wrong, they can seriously diminish the value of their source. When done as well as “The Departed,” though, they can elevate the original to a new level of prestige. That’s exactly what Martin Scorsese does with this interpretation of the Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs.” Switching the setting to Boston, the remake maintains the premise of an undercover cop and a mob member attempting to infiltrate each other’s organizations. But “The Departed” sets itself apart due to its impressive ensemble cast and staggering twists. It’s a dark but thoughtful exploration of complex themes like loyalty and justice, and one of Scorsese’s absolute best!

#7: “True Lies” (1994)

Following the success of “Aliens” and “Terminator 2,” James Cameron went in a decidedly different direction while keeping things on the biggest scale possible. This remake of the French spy farce “La Totale!” finds Arnold Schwarzenegger as globe-trotting spy Harry Tasker, who keeps his profession a secret from his oblivious yet bored family. It’s definitely the kind of movie that requires you to suspend your disbelief, especially once Harry wrangles his wife, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, into a fake mission that turns into a very real one. But “True Lies” still has plenty going for it, from its over-the-top action sequences to the screwball comedy of the two leads. Notable for being the first movie made for $100 million, the results speak for themselves.

#6: “War of the Worlds” (2005)

Steven Spielberg would go on to helm another worthy remake in 2021’s “West Side Story.” But when it comes to definitive film adaptations, the legendary director’s take on H.G. Wells’ seminal sci-fi classic has a slight edge. Whereas the original from 1953 blends in with other movies that used the threat of invasion as a Cold War metaphor, this remake stands out due to its modernized action and unsettling parallels to the September 11 attacks. This “War of the Worlds” effectively presents its Martian invaders as singular, unprecedented threats that don’t distinguish their victims. Although the film was criticized for its convoluted ending, it still captures a palpable sense of panic as ordinary citizens’ way of life is upended in an instant.

#5: “Scarface” (1983)

Although it makes many of the same points as its 1932 predecessor, “Scarface” takes a wildly different approach to doing so. Trading in the streets of Prohibition-era Chicago for the beaches of Miami, this remake also turns its Italian immigrant protagonist into a Cuban refugee named Tony Montana. In one of his most iconic roles, Al Pacino gives life to a violent and vulgar force who will do anything to stay on top of the criminal underworld. Equally defined by its graphic violence and memorable quotes, “Scarface” was not widely embraced upon initial release, with many criticizing its extravagant deviations from the original. Luckily, opinions have softened in subsequent years, with the film’s bleak portrayal of excess eventually finding a loyal following.

#4: “The Fly” (1986)

If you think horror can’t get weirder than the image of a fly’s head on a man’s body, prepare to bug out – pun very much intended. Bringing body horror into the mainstream, David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” refashions the 1958 B-movie of the same name into a terrifying tragedy. Jeff Goldblum assumes the role of an eccentric scientist whose teleportation experiment is upended by a rogue insect, and the film is helped greatly by his likeable charisma. Its equal parts thought-provoking, disgusting, and sad as Seth Brundle slowly morphs into an unrecognizable monster. With its unflinching, Oscar-winning makeup making his transformation all the more realistic, “The Fly” easily surpasses its campy origins to become an unforgettable experience.

#3: “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)

Exactly how do you top a movie that brought together the most charismatic men in Hollywood? It’s simple: bring together the most charismatic men in Hollywood. 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven” did just that, but took things a step further by matching its star power with a more compelling caper. The basic premise is still the same, with the titular group of thieves setting their sights on a series of Las Vegas casinos. But the movie succeeds where the Rat Pack-led original doesn’t thanks to its brisk pace and the intricate staging of the central heist. Much like George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, this is a confident remake that remains one step ahead of the audience the whole way.

#2: “Heat” (1995)

Of all the films on this list, “Heat” keeps its remake roots the most well hidden. You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but this crime opus starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro began in earnest as an underseen TV movie entitled “L.A. Takedown.” Both films depict the cat-and-mouse chase between an overworked police lieutenant and a career bank robber, and the trail of devastation the two leave in their wake. “Heat” may have the advantage of a larger budget, but it seizes every chance to craft unrivaled action sequences around two iconic leading men at their most intense. It's really not hard to see why scenes like the diner exchange and the immortal bank shootout fare so much better on the big screen.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Birdcage” (1996)
This Remake of a French Comedy Was a Milestone for LGBTQ Representation

“True Grit” (2010)
It’s Hard to Top John Wayne, But the Coen Brothers Make it Look Easy

“It” (2017) & “It: Chapter Two” (2017)
Another Remake That Benefits from a Divided Story

“Father of the Bride” (1991)
Somehow Even Sweeter Than the Spencer Tracy Original

#1: “The Thing” (1982)

Although still highly regarded, 1951’s “The Thing from Another World” was considerably hampered by how much of its titular antagonist it could and couldn’t show. In comparison, director John Carpenter’s 1982 remake brings the otherworldly invader to life in all of its horrific glory. Following a group of scientists trapped by an alien that can assume each of their appearances, it’s at once an intriguing mystery and an all-out fright fest. We can’t be sure of who to trust from one moment to the next, and the revolutionary special effects that helped bring the creature to life remain the stuff of nightmares. As we’ve seen, plenty of remakes have improved upon the original. But few have accomplished that job as well as this one has.

Is there a remake you thought surpassed the original? Let us know in the comments!
King Kong should have been on this list.