(Robocop’s old silver-metal suit was better because he looked like an ’80s VCR.)
By Dustin Seibert
I saw the RoboCop remake this week, and while its light-in-the-ass PG-13 rating prevented it from capturing the 1987 original’s nihilistic bloodshed, it didn’t suck as bad as I expected it to. The movie got me thinking about some of the worst film remakes ever made — but if I tried to shoehorn even half the remakes that were weaker than the original into one column, it would be longer than Infinite Jest.
So, I decided to work with a more manageable, far more exclusive list: movie remakes that actually topped the originals. At first, I could name them on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to pleasure your girlfriend. But when I really sat down, turned off the Royksopp and gave it some quiet thought, I came up with six remakes that I’d defy anyone to argue are not better than the originals…
1. The Thing: The late 1970s/early 1980s were the halcyon days of sci-fi/horror, and John Carpenter was the patron saint of pants-pissing cinema. The 1982 version of The Thing has a spectacular sense of atmosphere that has aged well, as well as gory, ahead-of-their-time special effects that look like they belong in tentacle-porn Japanese animation. Still, the coolest parts of the remake are Kurt Russell’s beard and Kurt Russell, in that order. As you can imagine, Howard Hawks’ 1951 The Thing From Another World is firecrackers, foam costumes and overall lameness that would only interest the most committed sci-fi/horror nerds in 2014.
2. Oceans 11: Shoot me down where I stand, purists: I strongly believe that most movies made before 1970 suck in general. Just as we’re going through a so-called “golden age of television,” in which everyone has figured out the elements of quality TV, we went through something similar with films within the last 20 years or so. As cool as the Brat Pack was when my parents were, like, 10 years old, their hammy acting combined with comparably subpar production values just don’t stand up to Brad Pitt’s sexiness. You can roll all of the Brat Pack into one man and he still wouldn’t be as dope as Brad Pitt. Screw that hack Clooney and the rest of the 11 — it’s all about Brad.
3. The Departed: Most people still aren’t aware that Martin Scorsese’s 2006 return to grace is a remake of a Hong Kong movie called Infernal Affairs that was released just four years earlier. Even less people know that the movie was a damn good flick in its own right with actors who are very respected in their native land. But man…nothing is touching The Departed. It’s damn near unfair to have the guy who did Raging Bull and Goodfellas tell you he wants to remake your movie. It’s like Usain Bolt saying, “Yo, I really like the way you ran down the block like that. Can I try to do it like you did it?”
4. The Italian Job: See #2 for this entry as well. There’s an inherent British cool to the original 1969 film, and it reminds you that Michael Caine has been kicking ass for around 60 years. But that cool holds no candle to Marky Mark leading a heist team and Edward Norton playing the third-best villain in his career (behind American History X and being Salma Hayek’s boyfriend. I never got over the latter.). Plus, there’s Charlize Theron looking just as bad as she wanna look and Mos Def, before his irrelevance-rendering name change. [Note: The inclusion of two Marky Mark movies on this list is an absolute coincidence, I swear.]
5. Dawn of the Dead: Zombies in a shopping mall! Novel idea! George Romero’s anti-consumerist 1978 classic is still amusing to watch today, but Zack Snyder’s 2004 film debut is one of the most underrated horror films of the new century. Starring the guy from House of Cards and the dude from Modern Family before anyone knew who the hell they were, not to mention the black dude who played Eminem’s friend in 8 Mile and the other black dude who beat the black dude from the Sprite commercial’s ass in Baby Boy, the remake was a polished, character-driven piece that made us root (and mourn) for the good guys and delight in seeing assholes become zombie food way before The Walking Dead.
6. I Spit On Your Grave: This one is kinda-sorta negligible, because both movies are such lowbrow, exploitive cinema that it’s hard to really give any one significant merit over the other. I’d say the reason the 2010 remake is better is because the heroine/victim is hotter than the one in the 1978 original, but that would get me in loads of trouble with my wife. So I’ll just say that the elaborate and extremely gory kills in the remake were simply more awesome.
Related: 10 Upcoming Movie Remakes You’ll Actually Want to See