20 Hollywood Hits You Didn’t Know Were Remakes Of Foreign Films
Some people say Hollywood has run out of ideas. Perhaps this is true, perhaps not, but one thing we can confidently say is this: even when it runs short of original ideas of its own, Hollywood tends to recognise a good idea when it sees one. And there are few ways more effective at proving an idea for a movie works than for someone to have made the movie already.
Given the global reach of American-made movies, it can be easy to forget that most countries have their own domestic film industries too, producing films in their own native tongue. A rarefied few non-English language productions might go on to international success – such as South Korean Oscar-winner Parasite. However, in most instances these films tend not to be seen much beyond their own shores.
Hollywood has long taken advantage by producing new takes on these films in English – oftentimes with the audience not even knowing there had been another version in the first place. Did you know all of the following films had previously been made in a different language?
Escape to Victory
The awe-inspiring casting of Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max von Sydow and Pelé made an all-time dad’s favourite of director John Huston’s 1981 World War II drama.
Escape to Victory (or simply Victory!, as it’s known in some territories) centres on a group of Allied prisoners of war who happen to be skilled at football (or, for the benefit of our transatlantic readers, soccer).
The dream team then find themselves forced into an exhibition match against their Nazi captors.
Escape to Victory has (in Britain at least) been a Sunday afternoon staple for decades, but you might not have known it’s actually a remake.
The story was originally told in the 1962 Hungarian film Két félidő a pokolban, or Two Half Times in Hell (also known as The Last Goal).
Three Men and a Baby
Few films reflected the changing face of Hollywood masculinity in the 80s quite so pointedly as Three Men and a Baby.
Directed by Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy, the film cast Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson as a trio of apartment-sharing bachelors whose leisurely lives are disrupted by the unexpected arrival of a newborn.
Three Men and a Baby wound up the biggest comedy hit of 1987, and spawned a sequel in 1990’s Three Men and a Little Lady (and there have long been rumours of a possible upcoming third instalment, Three Men and a Bride).
A whole lot of people went out to see Three Men and a Baby when it first hit cinemas, many of whom probably didn’t know that it was a remake.
The story was first told two years earlier in 1985 French comedy Trois Hommes et un Couffin (aka Three Men and a Cradle).
2006 crime thriller The Departed was, in its own way, a landmark film in Hollywood history.
It was the film for which, after decades of being overlooked, Martin Scorsese was finally given a Best Director Oscar, with his work also named Best Picture.
However, the tale of two opposing undercover agents respectively infiltrating the mob and the police was not an all-new story.
The Departed was a liberal adaption of 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, which was itself a huge hit in Asia and a cult sensation in the West.
Infernal Affairs performed well enough to spawn two sequels, both of which were released in 2003.
The Man with One Red Shoe
1985’s The Man with One Red Shoe gave us one of the earliest lead performances from future Oscar-winning superstar Tom Hanks.
Hanks stars in the film as a concert violinist who unwittingly steps off a plane wearing mismatched shoes and, under bizarre circumstances, finds himself being spied on by the CIA.
It’s a simple if forgettable comedy, although it caught the attention of many 80s kids thanks to the presence of Carrie Fisher, playing a woman Hanks is having an affair with.
Like so many comedies that involve mistaken identity and infidelity, The Man with One Red Shoe was originally a French film.
The 1972 original was entitled Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire (The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe).
This 2006 adventure movie from director Frank Marshall was one of the few non-Fast & Furious hits of the sadly missed Paul Walker.
Walker stars as an Antarctic guide who, at the behest of Bruce Greenwood’s scientist, sets out on a perilous journey by dog sled.
The Disney production co-stars Jason Biggs and Moon Bloodgood, and made $120 million at the box office.
Eight Below was in fact a remake of a 1983 Japanese drama, Antarctica, which was inspired by true events.
Antarctica was a huge hit in Japan, and held the country’s record for highest-earning domestic film release for 14 years.
The Jesus Rolls
22 years after The Big Lebowski, John Turturro has reprised his iconic roll – sorry, role – of Jesus Quintana, expert bowler of questionable morals.
While not technically a Big Lebowski sequel, 2020’s The Jesus Rolls picks up with Turturro’s Jesus as he gets out of prison and reunites with his (literal) partners in crime, played by Bobby Cannavale and Audrey Tautou.
As well as taking the lead as ‘The Jesus,’ John Turturro is also the film’s director and screenwriter; The Big Lebowski writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen are not involved, although they gave Turturro their blessing.
Filmed in 2016, The Jesus Rolls was originally set to be released under a different title: Going Places.
This was the title of the original 1974 French film (also known as Les Valseuses) on which The Jesus Rolls is based.
This dark 2002 thriller was the third film from British director Christopher Nolan, and by far his biggest up to that point.
No one yet knew what a cinematic juggernaut Nolan would become, but Insomnia gave some early indications, thanks in no small part to an Oscar-laden line-up of leading actors in Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.
Insomnia centres on a sleep-deprived cop (Pacino) who struggles both with a horrific murder and his own demons while investigating a case in Alaska, at the time of year when the sun never goes down.
The film announced Nolan as one to watch – but many viewers may not have known that the director’s first big Hollywood project was a remake.
Insomnia was originally made in 1997 in Norway (another region which gets 24-hour sunlight) with Stellan Skarsgård in the lead.
Thanks to such films as 9½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal, director Adrian Lyne already knew a thing or two about sexually-charged drama before making Unfaithful.
The 2002 film stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane as a New York couple whose lives fall into disarray after the wife starts an illicit affair with a stranger (Olivier Martinez).
Unfaithful was a fair-sized hit, making $119 million off a $50 million budget, and often finds itself mentioned in lists of the sexiest movies ever made.
However, by the time the film made it to screens, it had been in development for many years, as a remake of an earlier French film.
Unfaithful was an update of La Femme infidèle (The Unfaithful Wife), a 1969 thriller set in Paris.
The Talented Mr Ripley
This 1999 thriller from director Anthony Minghella boasts several of the most acclaimed actors of their generation.
Matt Damon takes the title role of Tom Ripley, a gifted but troubled young con artist who is hired by the wealthy father of hedonistic rich kid Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to track his son down in Italy and bring him home.
Filling out the impressive ensemble of awards-laden actors are Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The Talented Mr Ripley was originally a 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith, which launched a series of Ripley stories.
The story had previously been adapted for American television, but had been in cinemas as Plein Soleil (AKA Purple Noon), a 1960 French production starring Alain Delon.
This 1995 science fiction movie from director Terry Gilliam is one of the most memorably unique entries on Bruce Willis’ CV.
Willis takes the lead as a man sent back from the future to help avert a catastrophic viral outbreak – but on arrival, finds himself incarcerated in a mental institution.
The bizarre, reality-bending thriller also stars Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt (in what proved to be a bit of a breakthrough role for the future Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Oscar-winner).
Twelve Monkeys was a box office success, earning a cult following and later being remade as a TV show – though it was itself a remake.
The 1995 film was based on La Jetée, an experimental, black and white French short film released back in 1962.
Blame It on Rio
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if a Hollywood comedy deals with infidelity and/or boundary-pushing relationships, chances are it’s a remake of a French film.
This is again the case with Blame It on Rio, the sun-kissed 1984 comedy starring Michael Caine and a young Demi Moore.
Caine stars as an unhappily married middle-aged man who, whilst vacationing in Rio, has an ill-advised fling with his best friend’s teenage daughter (Michelle Johnson).
Blame It on Rio was a remake of 1977 French film Un moment d’égarement, which was itself remade again in France in 2015, under the same title.
Given the current climate in Hollywood, though, we wouldn’t anticipate another English-language film taking on the concept any time soon.
Welcome to Collinwood
This 2002 film went under the radar on release, but is now notable as an early film from future Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo.
Produced by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney (who also co-stars), Welcome to Collinwood is a madcap caper comedy that centres on a bunch of dim-witted would-be jewel thieves.
As some critics observed, the film seemed to owe a lot to the works of Joel and Ethan Coen – though in fact, it was a remake of another film entirely.
Welcome to Collinwood was based on I soliti ignoti (AKA Big Deal on Madonna Street).
This 1958 Italian production was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 31st Academy Awards.
If we ever wanted to pinpoint exactly when Sylvester Stallone’s career started to veer off course, it would probably be with this 1991 movie.
Directed by John Landis, Oscar is a broad comedy set in Depression-era New York, starring Stallone in the title role as a mobster trying to go straight.
It was one of the first times the Rocky and Rambo legend had tried his hand at comedy – and it resulted in mostly bad reviews and low box office takings.
Oscar was a remake of a 1967 French film of the same name, itself based on a stage play.
Stallone has since admitted some regrets over his involvement in the remake, which was originally earmarked for Al Pacino.
Prior to Vanilla Sky, writer-director Cameron Crowe and actor-producer Tom Cruise previously collaborated on Oscar-nominated 1996 rom-com Jerry Maguire.
As such, few people would have imagined their second collaboration being anywhere near as strange as this 2001 romantic psychological thriller with unexpected hints of sci-fi.
However, as weird as Vanilla Sky may be, it only gets weirder when you lean it directly recreates a Spanish film made only four years earlier.
1997’s Abre Los Ojos (AKA Open Your Eyes) was written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar – later director of 2001’s The Others, which Cruise produced.
Open Your Eyes also co-starred Penélope Cruz, who went on to play the same role of love interest Sofia a second time in Vanilla Sky.
The Woman in Red
This 1984 movie from director-star Gene Wilder is probably best remembered for introducing the world to Kelly LeBrock.
The saucy comedy helped make LeBrock one of the most lusted-after actresses of the 80s (with credit also due to Weird Science there).
The Woman in Red is also famed for winning Stevie Wonder the Best Original Song Oscar for I Just Called to Say I Love You.
Less well-remembered, however, is that The Woman in Red was not an all-new story of Gene Wilder’s own creation.
The tale of a married man struggling with an extra-marital infatuation is actually a remake of 1976 French comedy (yep, another one!) entitled Pardon Mon Affaire.
The Parent Trap
This 1961 Disney comedy starring Hayley Mills in the dual role of twin sisters is renowned as a long-standing family favourite.
It spawned three TV movie sequels in the 80s, and a 1998 remake starring Lindsay Lohan.
This Hollywood hit also had its roots overseas, in a 1950 German film entitled Two Times Lotte.
Two Times Lotte was itself an adaptation of a 1949 German novel, Lottie and Lisa – which had already been remade twice before The Parent Trap.
The story was also filmed in Japan as 1951’s The Lullaby of Hibari, and in Britain as 1953’s Twice Upon a Time, before Disney’s version arrived.
This 1990 crime comedy stars Bill Murray as a bank robber who stages an elaborate heist dressed as a clown.
To this day it remains Murray’s only credit as director, the comedy legend having jointly called the shots on the film alongside writer Howard Franklin.
However, it’s yet another Hollywood comedy that had previously been put to film in France.
Quick Change was an adaptation of Hold-Up, a French comedy thriller made in 1985.
Although, this was itself an adaptation of a novel by American writer Jay Cronley, which – just to confuse matters – was entitled Quick Change.
Some Like It Hot
Writer-director Billy Wilder’s 1959 classic Some Like It Hot is almost certainly the best-remembered film to have starred Marilyn Monroe.
Casting the iconic actress alongside Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag, the film has often been cited as one of the greatest comedy films ever made, topping numerous critics polls over the years.
As such, Some Like It Hot has completely overshadowed the largely forgotten French film on which it was based.
Some Like It Hot is a remake of Fanfare D’Amour, a French comedy made in 1935.
Prior to the Hollywood version, Fanfare D’Amour had already been remade once before, as 1951 German film Fanfare of Love.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis star in True Lies, writer-director James Cameron’s 1994 action-comedy.
The film centres on a secret agent who has hidden his real profession from his wife, but inadvertently gets her mixed up in the spy game when he suspects her of infidelity.
While Cameron writes and directs, he was brought to the project by Schwarzenegger, who recognised the potential for a remake after seeing the original version.
True Lies is a considerably bigger, louder and more explosive film than La Totale!, the 1991 French comedy on which it’s based.
Claude Zidi, director and co-writer of La Totale!, went on to greater international success with 1999’s Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar.
The Sound of Music
You’re probably aware that this Oscar-winning 1965 classic starring Julie Andrews is based on the true story of the von Trapp family and their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria.
You’re also likely to know that director Robert Wise’s film is adapted from the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical.
You might not have known, however, that the story had already been put to film beforehand.
Three years before The Sound of Music first opened on Broadway in 1959, the story of the von Trapps was told in the 1956 German drama Die Trapp-Familie.
Prior to the stage musical, Paramount Pictures had tried and failed to get a big screen remake of the non-musical Die Trapp-Familie off the ground, with Audrey Hepburn in the lead.