The Fly – 1958 vs. 1986
Co-starring Vincent Price, 1958’s The Fly sees a scientist’s atoms accidentally mixed with those of a common housefly, swapping the head and arm of man and insect. It’s creepy, but more-or-less family-friendly creature feature – which most definitely cannot be said of its 1986 remake. Horror director David Cronenberg’s take on The Fly sees Jeff Goldblum’s scientist undergo a far more hideous metamorphosis.
Planet of the Apes – 1968 vs. 2001
1968’s Planet of the Apes follows Charlton Heston’s world-weary astronaut to a world populated by sentient apes – which turns out to be Earth itself in the distant future. Where the original was a thinly-veiled allegory for the social changes of the era, Tim Burton’s 2001 remake is a basic adventure movie, set on what is most definitely an alien planet, with no discernible social commentary.
Cat People – 1942 vs. 1982
A groundbreaking horror film, 1942’s Cat People centres on a woman (Simone Simon) who believes she is a were-cat. While the original treats this ambiguously, the 1982 remake from director Paul Schrader handles the concept in a far more upfront and graphic manner, most notably bringing the sexual undertones of the original film to the forefront, plus a lot more bloodshed.
Little Shop of Horrors – 1960 vs. 1986
1960’s original Little Shop of Horrors is an ultra-low budget B-movie set in a florist’s shop, centered on a man-eating plant. Two decades later it inspired a stage musical, which was in turn adapted to film in 1986 by director Frank Oz. While the plot is essentially identical, the remake is a considerably more lavish affair – and, of course, it has a lot more singing.
The Stepford Wives – 1975 vs. 2004
Based on Ira Levin’s novel, 1975’s The Stepford Wives is a dark science fiction drama in which all the women of an idyllic community are androids programmed to serve their husbands. The 2004 remake (from Little Shop of Horrors director Frank Oz) follows the same basic premise, but plays it as a broad comedy. Unfortunately, the Nicole Kidman vehicle never quite finds its feet.
Scarface – 1932 vs. 1983
1932’s Scarface (aka The Shame of a Nation) is a fictionalised take on the exploits of infamous gangster Al Capone, which proved controversial over fears that it glamourized crime. Brian De Palma’s 1983 remake took that controversy to another level entirely. Starring Al Pacino as Cuban refugee-turned-drug lord Tony Montana, the film’s violence, swearing and drug use saw it run afoul of censors worldwide.
The Thing – 1951 vs. 1982
1951’s The Thing from Another World is based on Joseph W Campbell’s 1938 novella Who Goes There? and sees an Arctic research team confronted by an aggressive extra-terrestrial monster. The film omits one key part of Campbell’s original story: the alien’s ability to shapeshift. This is central to John Carpenter’s far more gruesome and suspenseful 1982 remake, which boasts remarkable practical FX work.
Dumbo – 1941 vs. 2019
In recent years, Disney has produced a slew of live-action remakes of their old animated classics, many of which have been criticized for being basically identical to the original. For better or worse, this cannot be said of Tim Burton’s Dumbo remake. While the 1941 original about a flying elephant centers on talking animals, the 2019 version instead follows a human cast of circus folk.
The Blob – 1958 vs. 1988
Best remembered for its catchy theme song and an early appearance by screen icon Steve McQueen, 1958’s The Blob sees a gelatinous alien escape from a fallen meteorite, which proceeds to eat all in its path. Director Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake is – as you might expect – a considerably gorier take on the same basic premise, with way more gloop and a higher body count.
The Italian Job – 1969 vs. 2003
1969 caper comedy The Italian Job is one of screen legend Michael Caine’s best-loved movies, noted for its quintessentially English sensibility. As such, when Hollywood decided to remake it as a comparatively straight-laced heist thriller, fans of the original were up in arms. However, director F. Gary Gray’s 2003 film is an enjoyable heist movie, whose car-based action arguably influenced the Fast & Furious series.
Assault on Precinct 13 – 1976 vs. 2005
In John Carpenter’s 1976 thriller Assault on Precinct 13, a cop is forced to team up with convicts when his isolated police station is attacked by a vicious street gang. Director Jean-François Richet’s 2005 remake has one major difference: this time, crooked cops attack the station. Beyond that, the remake sadly proves dull and forgettable, despite a solid cast including Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne.
The Wicker Man – 1973 vs. 2006
Director Robin Hardy’s 1973 British horror classic The Wicker Man is set on a remote Scottish island where Edward Woodward’s mainland policeman comes to locate a missing child. In 2006, acclaimed American filmmaker Neil LaBute remade the film with Nicolas Cage – but things didn’t quite go as planned. It’s considered one of the silliest, most unintentionally funny films ever, largely thanks to Cage’s unhinged performance.
Rollerball – 1975 vs. 2002
1975’s sci-fi drama Rollerball stars James Caan as America’s most famous player in a brutal no-holds-barred sport played on rollerskates and motorcycles. Despite the premise, it’s actually quite a somber, slow-paced affair – a far cry from director John McTiernan’s 2002 remake, which takes a more basic, rough-and-ready approach. Sadly, the remake flopped hard, killing the careers of both McTiernan and leading man Chris Klein.
Total Recall – 1990 vs. 2012
1990’s Total Recall was a huge hit for star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven thanks to its potent blend of futuristic spectacle and extreme violence. Eyebrows were raised when a Total Recall remake starring Colin Farrell arrived in 2012. For one, it toned things down significantly for a PG-13; also, where the original revolves around Mars, the remake is set entirely on Earth.
Man on Fire – 1987 vs. 2004
Based on A.J. Quinnell’s novel, Man on Fire was originally shot in 1987, starring Scott Glenn stars as a Vietnam veteran hired as bodyguard to the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. Tony Scott remade it in 2004 with Denzel Washington. Where the 1987 film was a largely conventional thriller, Scott’s version adopts a surreal, hyper-kinetic aesthetic with frenzied camerawork and editing and somewhat extreme violence.
Fright Night – 1985 vs. 2011
1985 comedy horror Fright Night is about a high schooler who realises his new neighbour is a vampire. The 2011 remake casts Colin Farrell as the vampire, with the late Anton Yelchin as anxious teen Charley. To stand apart, the remake alters various key plot points, including changing Peter Vincent (here played by David Tennant) from a TV horror host to a stage magician.
The Mummy – 1932 vs. 1999
1932’s The Mummy is a straight-laced, intimate horror movie starring Boris Karloff starred as the resurrected mummy Imhotep. Director Stephen Sommers’ 1999 remake vastly ups the scale, turning the story into an epic action-adventure. The two films couldn’t be much more different, but both stand up as classics in their own right – which can’t be said of the later Mummy movie with Tom Cruise.
Dawn of the Dead – 1979 vs. 2004
George A Romero’s 1979 zombie epic Dawn of the Dead follows a small group of survivors who shelter from the living dead apocalypse in an abandoned shopping mall. 2004s remake from director Zack Snyder and screenwriter James Gunn has a larger ensemble and much faster zombies. The results divided opinion; many hailed its fresh approach, others felt it lacked the original’s sophistication and satirical overtones.
Ghostbusters – 1985 vs. 2016
1985’s beloved supernatural comedy Ghostbusters and its 1989 sequel see a quartet of funnymen battle the paranormal in New York. Director Paul Feig’s 2016 reboot used an all-female ensemble, which annoyed a lot of (mostly male) fans of the original. Sadly, the final film didn’t do much to help matters with a dull story, few real laughs and largely forgettable characters, Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann notwithstanding.
Black Christmas – 1974 vs. 2006 and 2019
Director Bob Clark’s 1974 horror Black Christmas is often considered the first true slasher, and it has the perhaps dubious honor of having not one, but two remakes. 2006’s Black Christmas is a more gruesome and gloopy take with a more intricate backstory, whilst 2019’s Black Christmas is a milder, PG-13 movie in which a sorority comes under siege from a misogynistic secret society.