The October release of A Star is Born features Bradley Cooper as the hard-drinking musician who falls for a rising talent. As Lady Gaga steps into the shoes of Janet Gaynor (1937), Judy Garland (1954) and Barbara Streisand (1976), Hollywood’s fascination with remakes remains as fervent as ever.
Is Hollywood’s unending stream of remakes testament to the increasing influence of fans? The audience’s thirst for nostalgia and sentimentality? Or simply the desire to keep the money machine churning with every Disney animation turned live-action remake? Whatever the reason, remakes are here to stay. And, when the stars align, some are even quite good.
Without further ado, here is the Top 5 Movie Remakes:
1) Solaris (1972, 2002) remake directed by Steven Soderbergh
When legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky took on Stanislaw Lem’s acclaimed novel ‘Solaris’, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Yet Lem was ambivalent to the movie, and Tarkovsky described it as one of his least accomplished works. Solaris focuses on a team of scientists who are sent to study a mysterious, sentient planet. A multilayered message on knowledge and the unknowable, in the hands of Tarkovsky, Solaris is transformed into a soaring meditation of space, time and illusion. Perhaps one criticism you could make about Tarkovsky’s 1972 film is its inaccessibility. Soderbergh’s Solaris, remade in 2002, does not match the sheer scale of the original. He is less concerned with epistemology, instead focusing on the relationship between George Clooney’s Chris Kelvin and the alien version of his dead wife (played with luminous restraint by Natascha McElhone). At a runtime of 1 hour 39, Soderbergh shaves over an hour off the original. The movie moves serenely from past to present, memories and reality intertwining until the climatic twist. Soderbergh does not attempt to imitate the original, but instead creates a quietly affecting love story which bridges the gap between Lem’s scientific concerns and Tarkovsky’s mind-bending meditation.
2) The Magnificent Seven (1954, 1960) remake directed by Antoine Fuqua
Such is the status that The Magnificent Seven holds in the Western Genre, it seemed almost inconceivable that the movie was not an original work of art. In fact, the classic movie starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen was based upon the Japanese film Seven Samurai. Replacing samurais with gunslingers, director Jon Sturges follows a group of skilled killers tasked with protecting a village from bandits. Its success spawned three sequels and a 2016 remake, yet it is The Magnificent Seven which managed to do the impossible: update a genre-defining classic by creating another.
3) Dracula (1931, 1992) remake directed by Francis Ford Coppola
If you googled the term “remake”, it wouldn’t be surprising if the word “Dracula” appeared alongside it. Since Bram Stoker’s gothic horror novel hit shelves in 1897, it has spawned so many remakes, reboots and adaptations it is hard to keep track. The first version of Dracula to hit the big screen starred Bela Lugosi as the seductive blood-sucking anti-hero. A review by Variety wrote it was difficult to “think of anyone who could quite match the performance in the vampire part of Bela Lugosi”. Yet the 1992 remake – boosted by a stellar cast including Anthony Hopkins and Winona Ryder – depicts Gary Oldman at his most imperious, complimented by Annie Lennox’s haunting soundtrack.
4) Annie (1982, 1999) remake directed by Rob Marshall
When “little orphan Annie” first burst onto the screens in 1982 – a bundle of curly ginger hair and wide-eyed innocence – she could not fail to pull at the heart strings. Despite the best efforts of her scheming guardian Miss. Hannigan, Annie finds love and a father figure in the billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks. The original was such a success it is hard to see how it could be improved. However, a special shout out goes to the lesser-known 1999 Disney remake. The casting is flawless. Kathy Bates plays the cantankerous caretaker to perfection, whilst Alan Cumming as the scheming brother and (pre-Wicked fame) Krystin Chenoweth as the ditzy blonde are cruel, camp and charismatic. Annie, played with a compelling mix of hope and lurking sadness by Alicia Morton, is as heartwarming as ever.
5) Ocean’s Eleven (1960, 2001) remake directed by Steven Soderbergh
Coming off the back of the critically successful Erin Brockovich and Traffic, Steven Soderbergh’s next project revisited the world of smooth-talking criminals and glitzy casinos. With Rat Pack Era stars Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean, the original 1960 film was littered with stardust. Yet the reception was lukewarm at best; sitting somewhere between melodrama and (unintended) musical comedy. Steven Soderbergh’s update therefore had little to lose. George Clooney as Danny Ocean –whose old-style movie charm was made for the role – sets about recruiting his team of highly skilled criminals. With solid outings from Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia and Matt Damon, it is George Clooney and Brad Pitt who steal the show. Despite two follow-up movies and an all-female adaption, the first film in the franchise remains the best. Ocean’s Eleven is a modern classic, entrenching Soderbergh’s position as one of cinema’s most interesting directors, whilst launching Clooney’s career into the stratosphere.