Bad Remakes Of Classic 80s Films That Should Have Been Left Unmade
A lot of movie fans get sensitive when their old favourites get remade. Usually, we’re afraid that the new movie will besmirch the good name of the original. On some happy occasions, we’re proven wrong, but sadly there have also been many times when the remake has indeed paled in comparison to what went before.
Consider the following remakes, none of which can hold a candle to the 80s originals on which they were based.
25. The Hustle (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)
Most readers who were around in the 1980s are likely to have a fond memory of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The 1988 comedy directed by Frank Oz starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin as rival con men. However, even though 2019’s The Hustle was made far more recently, we expect most readers have forgotten all about it already.
Almost released under the title Nasty Women, The Hustle was a gender-reversed take on the story starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. It should of course be pointed out that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was itself a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story. However, unlike The Hustle, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was actually funny, and worth watching more than once.
24. The Fog
Director John Carpenter’s 1980 supernatural chiller The Fog is widely regarded as one of the best horror movies of its time. A modernised take on a classic ghost story format, the film sees a small coastal town come under attack by murderous phantom pirates. While plenty of fans would call the original a classic, the same can most definitely not be said of director Rupert Wainwright’s remake.
The 2005 take on Carpenter’s film has flashier visuals, but none of the panache of what went before. 2005’s The Fog is a lifeless, by-the-numbers horror movie with no scares, the likes of which we’ve seen too often in the last 20 years. Tellingly, while original director John Carpenter is credited as a producer on the remake, the filmmaker says all he did was show up on set one day to say hello.
23. Clash of the Titans
1981 Greek myth adaptation Clash of the Titans is one of the most enduring, influential fantasy films of its era. Significantly, the film was the last hurrah of Ray Harryhausen, pioneer of stop-motion animation effects. The film makes beautiful use of Harryhausen’s signature creature work in retelling the classic story of Perseus and Medusa.
The 2010 remake cashed in on renewed popularity of 3D in the wake of Avatar, even going so far as to cast Avatar’s leading man Sam Worthington. Despite some impressive CGI monster work, director Louis Letterier’s film failed miserably thanks to a messy script and half-hearted performances. Despite poor reviews, it performed well enough commercially to spawn a sequel, Wrath of the Titans.
22. Friday the 13th
When the original Friday the 13th opened way back in 1980, no one could have anticipated what it would lead to. Against all odds, director Sean S. Cunningham’s low-budget slasher became a massive hit, influencing a slew of imitators. The film also launched a franchise, with ten sequels made to date (ending with 2003’s A Nightmare on Elm Street crossover Freddy Vs. Jason).
By 2009, horror reboots were all the rage, and it was decided that it was time for Friday the 13th to get that same treatment. While some fans enjoyed the brutality of director Marcus Nispel’s new take on Friday the 13th, its overly downbeat tone is at odds with the original series. Despite the goriness of the original films, there was a light-hearted sense of fun to them which the remake sorely lacks.
1981 comedy Arthur is one of the signature movies of British comedy legend Dudley Moore. Director Steve Gordon’s film casts Moore as a drunken millionaire playboy who falls in love with a waitress (Liza Minelli). When a remake came up, Russell Brand seemed the obvious choice for the title role.
Oftentimes, however, the most obvious choice turns out to be the least inspired one. Small wonder, then, that 2011’s remake of Arthur came and went with barely anyone noticing. To his credit, Russell Brand has admitted that he “made a mistake” in choosing to appear in the film.
20. The Karate Kid
Director John G. Avildsen’s 1984 hit The Karate Kid was a landmark film for children of the 80s. Millions related to the story of Ralph Macchio’s bullied teen, who seeks redemption through learning karate under Pat Morita’s philosophical sensei Miyagi. The Karate Kid spawned three sequels (including the largely forgotten 90s semi-reboot), and its legacy lives on in recent TV series Cobra Kai.
Sadly, not even martial arts legend Jackie Chan could save the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid from mediocrity. Featuring new characters but a similar premise, the 2010 film casts Jaden Smith as a youngster picked on by martial artists when he moves to China. Centring the action on pre-teens just feels wrong, and the title doesn’t even make sense considering this time around the kid learns kung fu.
Director Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic RoboCop stands proud as one of the greatest sci-fi action thrillers of the era. With its sleek visuals, profanity-strewn dialogue, excessive violence and satirical overtones, it’s a huge favourite of both action fans and high-brow critics. RoboCop spawned two subpar sequels, and any attempt to remake it was always going to be a thankless task.
Unsurprisingly, the PG-13 rated 2014 take on RoboCop wound up utterly underwhelming, lacking as it does both the visceral power and sharp sophistication of the original. Both director José Padilha and leading man Joel Kinnaman have spoken of their disappointment about how the remake turned out.
18. A Nightmare on Elm Street
Of all the horror classics to have been remade in the last 20 years, 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street offered a particular challenge. In a lot of 80s horror movies, the killer was just a big guy in a mask, and as such was fairly easy to replace. However, the Nightmare on Elm Street series boasted the truly iconic work of actor Robert Englund, as the dream-stalking serial killer Freddy Krueger.
Watchmen actor Jackie Earle Haley was a fine choice to take over as Freddy, but that’s about the only thing the Nightmare on Elm Street remake gets right. The first film from music video/TV ad director Samuel Bayer (who, tellingly, hasn’t made another film since), the 2010 film reeks of apathy on all levels, from the script to the performances to the lifeless redesign of Freddy’s make-up.
The 1982 big screen adaptation of Broadway musical Annie has always been a bit too cutesy for some tastes. Directed by the esteemed John Huston, the film cast Aileen Quinn as the little orphan adopted by millionaire Daddy Warbucks (Albert Finney). It spawned TV movie sequel Annie: A Royal Adventure! and was also remade outright for TV in 1999, before the second big screen adaptation came in 2014.
Casting Quvenzhané Wallis in the title role, this updated take on the premise sees the little orphan taken by Jamie Foxx’s wealthy mayoral candidate Will Stacks. While a reasonable box office hit, the Annie remake was almost universally blasted by critics as half-baked and lazy. Attempts to make the music a bit more hip by adding new songs and contemporary elements only make the whole thing more cringe-inducing.
16. Red Dawn
Director John Milius’ action-adventure Red Dawn is one of those films that really only could have been made in the 80s. The 1984 film sees middle America come under attack by invading forces commanded by the USSR. A band of youngsters including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson then take up arms to fight back.
Red Dawn is so deeply rooted in 80s anti-Soviet sentiment, it’s hard to see how that concept could work in the post-Cold War years. Small wonder that the Red Dawn remake (which replaces Patrick Swayze with Chris Hemsworth) failed so miserably. Infamously, the 2012 film’s invaders were initially Chinese, but the aggressor was hastily changed to North Korea in post-production to avoid an international incident.
15. The Thing
Director John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror The Thing was itself a remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World. However, this was one of the rare remakes to surpass the original; it was also one of the most inventive, well-made films of the decade. Although it flopped on release, Carpenter’s The Thing has long since been acknowledged as a masterpiece.
The 2011 take on The Thing was officially presented as a prequel to the 1982 film. Critics and audiences weren’t fooled, however, recognising it as simply a lazy rehash of Carpenter’s film. Most damningly, where the 1982 film boasted practical FX work which is still astonishing today, the 2011 film opted for generic CGI.
Director Ivan Reitman’s supernatural comedy Ghostbusters is unquestionably one of the most beloved films of the 80s, although the sequel isn’t so well-loved. A third film in the series had been stuck in development hell for years, before finally being cancelled with the death of actor/co-writer Harold Ramis. Fans were still eager for more Ghostbusters adventures – but almost no one liked the idea of a remake.
When director Paul Feig announced plans to remake the film with an all-female cast, some of the less enlightened fans of the 1984 supernatural comedy classic were quick to voice their displeasure. Sadly, even those who weren’t opposed to the gender swap had to admit that 2016’s Ghostbusters simply didn’t work. The plot and characters are a mess, and both the laughs and the scares are thin on the ground.
13. Red Dragon (Manhunter)
1986 thriller Manhunter was the first screen adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon. Directed by Michael Mann, the film stars William Petersen (later of TV’s CSI) as Will Graham, an FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer. It also co-stars Brian Cox as another serial killer previously captured by Graham – a certain Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (the spelling inexplicably changed from the original book’s Lecter).
A critical hit but commercial flop, Manhunter helped set the stage for the blockbuster adaptation of Harris’ follow-up novel The Silence of the Lambs. Following 2001 sequel Hannibal, Red Dragon was re-filmed (under its original title) as a prequel, with Anthony Hopkins playing Lecter for a third, final time. Unfortunately, the 2002 film has neither the style nor substance of Mann’s earlier, far superior adaptation.
1987 rom-com Overboard casts Goldie Hawn as a conceited rich heiress, who through an unlikely set of circumstances gets amnesia and finds herself the ‘wife’ of Kurt Russell’s lowly working man and mother to his four unruly sons. The concept may be a bit creepy if you think about it too hard, but on the whole director Gary Marshall’s film is so good-natured and sweet that it’s hard not to get caught up in it.
2018 saw Overboard remade, once again with a gender reversal: this time, Goldie Hawn lookalike Anna Faris is the working-class single mother with three daughters, whilst Eugenio Derbez is the spoiled rich layabout. The gender-swap notwithstanding, there’s very little about the Overboard remake that stands apart from what went before, and the chemistry of the original leads is sadly lacking in Faris and Derbez.
1984 musical drama Footloose is one of those quintessentially 80s hits which really captured the mood of the era. Kevin Bacon ascended to star status as a big city teen whose wild ways cause a stir in a conservative country town where dancing is banned. Director Herbert Ross’ film offers up that tricky balance of heartfelt drama and pure cheese that only worked in the decade that taste forgot.
This begs the question of why anyone would consider remaking Footloose almost thirty years later. Even with surprisingly edgy director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Coming 2 America) calling the shots, the 2011 Footloose remake falls flat. New leading man Kenny Wormald can’t match the charisma of Kevin Bacon, and the story just doesn’t work as well in a contemporary context.
Director Tobe Hooper and writer-producer Steven Spielberg’s 1982 hit Poltergeist is one of the most spectacular horror films ever made. It’s as loaded with jaw-dropping special effects as any Spielbergian blockbuster – but it’s also truly terrifying. The two sequels proved a bit of a let-down, but all these years later the original hasn’t lost an ounce of its power.
Poltergeist has also long been plagued by urban legends claiming that the film is cursed, thanks in part to the deaths of two of its young cast members. There were those that claimed the Poltergeist curse was still in effect when producer Sam Raimi and director Gil Kenan remade the film in 2015. As with so many remakes, the new film failed to find its own identity, and wound up feeling profoundly pointless.
9. Love Don’t Cost a Thing (Can’t Buy Me Love)
1987 rom-com Can’t Buy Me Love isn’t necessarily regarded as one of the great 80s teen movies. Patrick Dempsey stars as a high school loser who pays Amanda Peterson’s cheerleader $1,000 to pose as his girlfriend. While it may attempt to critique the social hierarchies of adolescence, Can’t Buy Me Love ultimately winds up a fairly standard young love fantasy.
As it’s hardly the best-remembered film of the 80s, it’s doubtful too many people were upset when Can’t Buy Me Love got a remake in 2003. The new version, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, cast Nick Cannon as the nerd and Christina Milian as the popular girl. While inoffensive enough, Love Don’t Cost a Thing failed to stand apart either as a remake or a teen rom-com in its own right.
8. The Hitcher
1986’s The Hitcher is a unique blend of horror and action thriller, hinging on an iconic performance from Rutger Hauer. The legendary Blade Runner actor lends his distinctive sinister sensibilities to the part of John Ryder, an enigmatic hitch-hiking serial killer. C. Thomas Howell plays a young man on a cross-country drive whose journey goes straight to hell when he foolishly gives Ryder a lift.
Though considered a cult classic, The Hitcher remains fairly unknown by many – so production house Platinum Dunes considered it fair game for a remake in 2007. While Sean Bean was a promising replacement for Hauer, this new interpretation of The Hitcher lacks the subtle creepiness of the original, with a greater emphasis on violence, gore and flashy visuals.
Few could have anticipated the impact that National Lampoon’s Vacation would have on Hollywood comedy. The 1983 movie, centred on a family holiday in which pretty much everything goes wrong, presented what proved to be a winning formula. This resulted in a slew of further Vacation movies in the years that followed, most of which saw the return of leading couple Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo.
Chase and D’Angelo make a brief appearance in 2015’s Vacation, officially a sequel but essentially a remake of the 1983 original. Ed Helms plays the grown-up version of original series character Rusty Griswold, who endeavours to recreate his memorable childhood road trip with his own wife (Christina Applegate) and their kids. The results are sadly lacklustre, with an over-abundance of feeble gross-out jokes.
6. Child’s Play
Child’s Play presented the last great slasher movie icon of the 80s in evil possessed doll Chucky. Six sequels followed, and unusually for a long-running horror series, the same core creative team was behind them all: screenwriter Don Mancini, producer David Kirschner and Chucky voice actor Brad Dourif, all of whom returned for 2021 TV series Chucky.
However, at the same time the Chucky series was announced, a remake of the original Child’s Play arrived in cinemas. Long-standing fans of the series were outraged – but they needn’t have worried too much, as the 2019 film flopped. Not even esteemed voice actor Mark Hamill could prove an adequate replacement for Dourif as Chucky (in this case an AI toy gone wrong, rather than a doll possessed with the spirit of a murderer).
Thanks to its memorable theme song, 1980 musical drama Fame tends to be misremembered as something very frothy and light-hearted. In fact, director Alan Parker’s look into the lives of students at an exclusive performing arts school is a surprisingly hard-edged, R-rated movie – although the TV spin-off series and pop band Kids from Fame were more geared towards all ages.
When studio MGM decided to remake Fame in 2009, it was very much with the PG audience in mind. Dance-based movies were enjoying a resurgence at the time, in the wake of such hits as the Step Up series. Unsurprisingly, the Fame remake is pitched along these lines, showing lots of happy youngsters smiling and busting moves – but it lacks any real depth.
4. Prom Night
1980 horror Prom Night is a simple but entertaining entry in the initial wave of slasher movies. There are two key elements that make the film memorable: the presence of Halloween legend Jamie Lee Curtis, and its groovy disco soundtrack (which was already dated by 1980!) In the years since, Prom Night has remained in the popular consciousness in part because of how heavily it’s referenced in 1996 classic Scream.
As Hollywood seemed determined to rehash every well-known 80s horror movie in the 2000s, it was no surprise when a new Prom Night landed in 2008, but fans were immediately shocked to see it rated PG-13; the words ‘slasher’ and ‘family-friendly’ really don’t go together. Apart from the toned-down content, the 2008 Prom Night also suffers from being painfully formulaic.
3. Endless Love
Despite being directed by the esteemed Franco Zeffirelli, 1981’s Endless Love is not generally held up as any kind of classic. Based on Scott Spencer’s darker novel, the film turned what had been a sinister tale of obsession into a rather sappy romance. Today, the film is best remembered for Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ theme song, and for giving Tom Cruise his first movie role.
Considering how badly the original film botched the source material, there was clearly scope for Endless Love to get a more faithful remake. Unfortunately, when director Shana Feste’s new take on the novel arrived in 2014, the results were arguably even worse. Author Scott Spencer was particularly damning of the remake, complaining that his original work had been “egregiously and ridiculously misunderstood.”
2. Dirty Dancing
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Dirty Dancing is one of the definitive movies of the 1980s. The music-fuelled, 60s-set tale of summer romance between Patrick Swayze’s Johnny and Jennifer Grey’s Baby became pivotal for millions. The film has long since been so iconic, it seemed like no one would ever have the gall to attempt a remake.
However, in 2017 a Dirty Dancing remake did indeed hit screens – although as it was just a TV movie, a lot of people didn’t notice. While the casting of Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland) impressed some, as did the addition of some new plot elements, most viewers were left wondering quite why the filmmakers had bothered.
1. Day of the Dead
1985’s Day of the Dead is the concluding instalment in the initial zombie trilogy of pioneering horror director George A. Romero. 1968’s Night of the Living Dead had shown the beginnings of a zombie outbreak, whilst 1979 sequel Dawn of the Dead sent it nationwide. Day of the Dead, meanwhile, shows the last-ditch efforts of humanity to survive in a world where the dead have completely taken over.
After the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead proved far better than expected, hopes were high that a new take on Day of the Dead could enjoy similar success. Alas, this was not to be. 2008’s Day of the Dead was a half-baked mess that completely failed to do justice to what went before, and was happily ignored by the wider audience.