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VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
These movie remakes really brought the action! For this list, we'll be looking at the most excellent action remakes of other films, judging the quality of the remake itself more than how it compares to the original. We're including subgenres of action movies, like Thrillers and Westerns, but we're excluding films that aren't remakes and only share common source material. Our countdown of the best action movie remakes includes “The Mummy” (1999), “3:10 to Yuma” (2007), “Ambulance” (2022), “Scarface” (1983), and more!

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Best Action Movie Remakes of All Time. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most excellent action film remakes of other films. To be clear - we’re a bit flexible with what an action movie is. As long as it contains some major action scenes, we’re counting thrillers, westerns, and others. Also, we’re judging on the quality of the remake itself, not the original (or how good it is compared to the original). Lastly, we’re excluding films that aren’t remakes and only share common source material. Otherwise, “Dredd” or “True Grit” would absolutely be on here! If there’s a remade action flick you’d like to remake our list to include, take action in the comments!

#20: “Gone in 60 Seconds” (2000)


While the details of this remake of the 1974 film of the same name are a bit different, “Gone in 60 Seconds” still follows the same basic premise - car thieves stealing roughly 50 cars on a deadline. The key differences involve the characters and the stakes involved. While the remake doesn’t make a ton of sense, it does ratchet up the danger involved, with British gangster Raymond Calitri’s exacting standards in the cars and willingness to kill creating higher stakes. “Gone in 60 Seconds” has a stellar cast and some good car chases. Critics may not have loved it, but audiences love a good car heist movie.

#19: “Ambulance” (2022)


This Michael Bay movie may be a remake of a Danish film from 2005, but, like everything Bay does, he goes much bigger with it! When two brothers join a bank heist to pay for one’s wife's expensive treatment, things quickly go wrong, leading to the pair hijacking an ambulance and taking several hostages. All of Bay’s characteristic bombast is here, with chases galore and plenty of explosions and gunplay. But the performances are pretty solid too with Jake Gyllenhaal being especially charming, if sociopathic. “Ambulance” is a wild ride with some terrific action throughout.

#18: “The Mechanic” (2011)


A remake of a Charles Bronson film of the same name, “The Mechanic” follows Arthur Bishop, a hitman. After Bishop is forced to kill his mentor, Harry, he takes Harry’s son under his wing and shows him the ropes of being an assassin. Jason Statham and Ben Foster deliver solid performances as the two leads. Meanwhile, the action is consistent with Statham’s other films, but with some added twists, turns, and betrayals thrown in for good measure. While “The Mechanic” doesn’t rebuild its source material from the ground up, it’ll still give you a great action “fix.”

#17: “Assault on Precinct 13” (2005)


Based on the John Carpenter film it takes its name from, “Assault on Precinct 13” features a similar plot, namely the eponymous police precinct being attacked. However, it’s set in Detroit instead of Los Angeles and adds a new twist by having the attackers be corrupt police officers. Led by Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke, “Precinct 13” has a strong cast. Additionally, the shootouts are exciting and the thrills and intrigue are fast and frequent. While it may not have the cult following of the original, this remake is still an excellent action flick.

#16: “Dawn of the Dead” (2004)


A remake of the George A. Romero classic, “Dawn of the Dead” is also a zombie outbreak movie set at a mall, but features a more diverse, excellent ensemble cast and a greater emphasis on action. The writer and director combo of James Gunn and Zack Snyder is absolute dynamite, and the movie delivers the usual zombie apocalypse tropes with gusto and plenty of memorable set pieces, even if not everything about it works. “Dawn of the Dead” helped revitalize the zombie genre and it’s often considered one of its best!

#15: “The Mummy” (1999)


This remake of the 1932 horror film “The Mummy” sheds some of its horror roots to tell a rousing and crowd-pleasing adventure story. Like its predecessor, “The Mummy” follows a revived, undead mummy named Imhotep who seeks to resurrect his lover, Anck-su-namun. However, the remake follows American adventurer Rick O’Connell, and English siblings Evelyn and Jonathan, in their battles against Imhotep. The cast is all phenomenal and has great chemistry. The humor is welcome, the effects hold up… okay, and the action is delivered with all the pulpy gusto that you just don’t see anymore in film. It’s just a terrifically fun movie that also happens to be a remake.

#14: “Sorcerer” (1977)


Despite its title being entirely different, “Sorcerer” is frequently regarded as a remake of the French thriller, “Le Salaire de la peur” or “The Wages of Fear.” “Sorcerer” sees a group of rejects from all over the world end up in Colombia. There, these disparate characters take on a dangerous job - transporting sweating dynamite to put out an oil fire. Pulsing with tension and danger throughout, with the threat of death from the dynamite and local bandits around every corner, “Sorcerer” is often seen as an underrated masterpiece that didn’t get the attention it deserved when it debuted. Given that it was released around the same time as “Star Wars,” it’s no wonder!

#13: “The Magnificent Seven” (1960)


No, we don’t mean the remake of this film from 2016 - although that’s also pretty good. Rather, the “original” movie “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake itself! It’s basically Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed epic “Seven Samurai,” but with cowboys instead of samurai. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you probably know the story - seven gunslingers are hired to protect a village from bandits. The cast is among one of the best ever assembled in a Western, with greats like Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and Eli Wallach. And the gunfights are equally legendary. The title is apt since this is a magnificent film and certainly a stellar remake.

#12: “Insomnia” (2002)


A remake of the Norwegian film of the same name, “Insomnia” follows crooked police detective, Will Dormer. While investigating a killing in a small Alaska town, Dormer accidentally kills his partner. When the killer Dormer is investigating blackmails him to help cover up his own crimes, a psychological battle ensues between the two. Al Pacino and Robin Williams deliver phenomenal performances, and the film is easily the most underrated by director Christopher Nolan. “Insomnia” is a brilliant, suspenseful thriller that will have you losing sleep over how good it is!

#11: “13 Assassins” (2010)


This samurai film is a remake of a ‘60s film of the same name. The plot follows a group of samurai who plot to kill the corrupt and murderous lord, Matsudaira Naritsugu, whose crimes have gone unpunished due to his connections. Their mission leads to most of their deaths, but before they go, they wreak some havoc, with a bloody and brilliantly executed plan. The ensemble is excellent, the action is intense and incredibly violent, and the direction evocative. It’s one of the most superb modern samurai films, remake or not!

#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: “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964)


It may be one of the most celebrated Westerns ever made and the film that launched Clint Eastwood to stardom, but “A Fistful of Dollars” is also a remake. And not of a Western! It’s actually an unauthorized, yet surprisingly faithful, remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo.” When “Joe,” the Man with No Name, comes to a border town terrorized by two rival gangs, he decides to play them both against each other, while also saving the locals. While it may be a remake, “A Fistful of Dollars” has plenty to distinguish itself from its origins, from Sergio Leone’s distinct, visual style, to Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score, to Eastwood’s gruff, iconic performance. It’s one of the quintessential Westerns that any fan of the genre must see!

#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.
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