Top 10 Worst Changes in Movie Remakes
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
If it ain't broke don't fix it! For this list, we're looking at changes in remakes that had us wishing they'd just left the original alone. And yes, of COURSE we included Godzilla's design in “Godzilla” (1998) - along with changes in “I Am Legend” (2007), “The Karate Kid” (2010), “The Stepford Wives” (2004), and more! What change really ticked YOU off in a movie remake? Let us know in the comments!
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Top10 Worst Changes in Movie Remakes
Hollywood seems obsessed with remaking classic films, but some movies are better left untouched. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Worst Changes in Movie Remakes.
For this list, we are looking at those changes in remakes that made us wonder why the movie was even made in the first place. We’re using the word “remake” loosely here, as some may use different terms to label the films; but if they’ve been described as such by the press, or are considered straight-up remakes in general, then they’re eligible. Since we’ll be delving into some key plot details, a spoiler alert is in order.
#10: Change to Campy Comedy
“The Stepford Wives” (2004)
The original film, released in 1975, has become a cult classic over the years thanks to its satirical concept and combination of the science fiction and horror genres. Essentially, the housewives of Stepford have been replaced by robots that happily go about their chores to please their husbands. The remake, however, changes the film’s genre into campy comedy. The original film works as a commentary on the male desire for subservient women, which is completely undermined in the remake because of the genre change. Remarkably, the remake even makes one of the female characters the main antagonist.
#9: Changing His Appearance
The original “Godzilla,” released in 1954, acts as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, a particularly relevant theme in Japan following World War II. The 1998 remake, set in New York City, not only lacks this important symbolism, but also completely changed the look of the character. Perhaps attempting to build on the success of “Jurassic Park,” Godzilla was changed into more of a giant reptile. Everything was changed, from its color scheme, to its size, to its walking style. The change was received poorly, particularly in Japan, where the creature was later dubbed GINO, or Godzilla In Name Only.
#8: Removal of Political Subtext
“Swept Away” (2002)
On the surface, 1974’s “Swept Away” may look like a rom-com about a man and a woman that end up stranded on a deserted island. However, there is an underlying theme about the conflict between capitalism and communism, and acts as a commentary on class and status in society. Guy Ritchie’s modern remake, however, lacks this political subtext. Madonna, who plays the leading female character, was particularly criticized for her acting. What’s left is simply a cheesy melodrama that earned a paltry 5% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
#7: Making It an Action Movie
We won’t question the decision to remake “Ben-Hur.” Sure, the 1959 film won a record 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but that was over 50 years ago, so it isn’t necessarily a terrible idea to give it an update. What is a terrible idea, however, is to change the film into a senseless, generic action flick. The modern version relies way too much on CGI, with several reviewers criticizing the film’s editing. Despite having a bigger budget than the 1959 film by nearly $85 million, the 2016 version actually earned $50 million less at the box office! Now that’s a biblical failure.
#6: Ignoring the Title
“I Am Legend” (2007)
Although “I Am Legend” is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, it can also be considered a remake of “The Last Man on Earth” and “The Omega Man” - especially the latter. Ironically, although it is the only film to share the name of the source material, it is also the only film to completely ignore the meaning of the name. In the novel, and in the first two adaptations, the main character discovers that he has become a legend among those infected by the vampire/zombie plague, similar to how these creatures were previously legends among humans. The modern film, although commercially and critically successful, is more of a straight zombie flick without the connection to the title.
#5: Flamboyant Willy Wonka
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005)
Willy Wonka is one of the most eccentric characters in all of literature, which was captured perfectly by Gene Wilder back in 1971, earning him a Golden Globe nomination. Johnny Depp’s later portrayal of the Wonka Candy Company owner, however, was received much less warmly. While Depp certainly puts his own spin on the character, many critics found his performance to be just plain weird, seeming more like Michael Jackson than Willy Wonka. When asked, although showing respect for Depp as an actor, Wilder said that he found the performance and the film as a whole to be an insult.
#4: Replacing Karate with Kung Fu
“The Karate Kid” (2010)
Back in 1984, the story of a teenage underdog standing up to a group of bullies and beating them in a karate tournament became a cult classic. The remake has an almost identical plot, although karate has notably been switched out with kung fu. While the remake is still an effective drama with impressive fight choreography, there is one lingering question: why would a film entitled “The Karate Kid” revolve around kung fu? The change in martial art was so drastic that the film is actually called “The Kung Fu Dream” in China, while in Japan and Korea it is referred to as “Best Kid.” Given the false advertising, the US title should’ve been changed too.
#3: Ape-raham Lincoln
“Planet of the Apes” (2001)
The ending of the original “Planet of the Apes” is one of the most iconic of all time, as Charlton Heston realizes that the alien planet he is on is actually Earth following a nuclear war. Tim Burton and company attempted to create their own iconic twist ending, but instead gave us one of the worst in early 21st century memory. Mark Wahlberg returns to Earth, only to discover that the apes have already beaten him there... or something. Wahlberg discovers that the Lincoln Memorial has been replaced by a monument to General Thade, and he is quickly swarmed by a police force of apes, neither of which makes any sense.
#2: They Don’t Go to Mars
“Total Recall” (2012)
Some things are better left untouched. Released in 1990, “Total Recall” is still an immensely popular film and features Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. So the decision to remake the film just 22 years later was a bit surprising to say the least. Even more surprising is the decision to change the setting of Mars to Australia, which the characters travel to via a gravity elevator running through the Earth’s core. We get that the remake was going for a more quote unquote serious tone, but a trip Down Under isn’t nearly as much fun as a voyage to the Red Planet. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
Change from Horror Drama to Straight-Up Horror
Releasing in 3D
“Clash of the Titans” (2010)
Ditching Plot & Characters
“The Italian Job” (2003)
Gaston Tries to Murder Maurice
“Beauty and the Beast” (2017)
His Assistant Becomes an Unnecessary Love Interest
“The Upside” (2019)
#1: Peephole Private Time
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is one of the most celebrated films in history and gave birth to the modern day slasher genre while also making us terrified of our showers. Gus Van Sant decided to remake the film in 1998, but instead of updating the plot, he gave us a nearly a shot-for-shot remake. One bizarre addition, however, is having Norman Bates, played by Vince Vaughn, masturbate during the infamous peephole scene. Seriously, of all the things Van Sant could’ve changed, why did he think this was necessary? It’s not surprising that the film was a commercial and critical disaster, with critics calling it completely pointless.