25 Movies From The 80s That Need Remakes
Movie remakes are often greeted with outrage. Some films, however, are just crying out for a reboot. There are not-so-great movies with killer concepts; there are those movies that were once dear to us, but which don’t hold up so well today; then there are those rare movies where, even though the original still works, the concept has enough potential to be tackled again. Here are some movies from the 80s that we’d love to see remade today.
25. The Last Starfighter
The Last Starfighter boasts an irresistible concept that was the stuff of many a child’s dreams back in the 1980s.
It’s a simple idea: what if a space-based arcade game was secretly a training program designed to locate those with the potential to become the greatest pilots in the universe, and help win an intergalactic war?
Thanks to this inspired premise (and some pioneering early use of CGI), director Nick Castle’s film has become a cult classic.
Even so, there’s little question that The Last Starfighter could have been a far stronger film than it really is.
Lance Guest isn’t the most engaging leading man, the FX (though groundbreaking) haven’t held up that well, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s all just a watered-down Spielberg imitation.
With the right director, the right cast and contemporary special effects, a new take on The Last Starfighter could be truly epic. Happily, there have long been rumours that a reboot may indeed be in the pipeline.
24. The Golden Child
Not long after action-comedy Beverly Hills Cop made him a superstar, Eddie Murphy took the lead in The Golden Child.
This moderately successful 1986 film is a curious attempt to blend epic fantasy-adventure with the leading man’s signature brand of humour.
Murphy plays a social worker who specialises in finding lost children, and who learns that he is the ‘chosen one’ destined to save a mystical Tibetan child from the forces of darkness.
While there are some engaging and exciting elements, overall The Golden Child simply doesn’t gel.
The action-adventure aspects feel a bit pedestrian, and Murphy’s occasional comedic outbursts feel shoehorned in, not to mention heavily diluted (this was the usually potty-mouthed funnyman’s first PG-rated movie).
Clearly, the film could have been a lot better, and there’s no reason why a modern remake couldn’t be just that.
23. Dead Heat
Made at a time when buddy cop movies were at their most popular, 1988’s Dead Heat presents us with an enjoyably absurd twist on that familiar formula.
Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo are a pair of detectives whose investigation leads them to a mysterious lab where the dead are being brought back to life.
Williams is killed in the line of duty, but soon finds himself revived, leaving Piscopo to deal with the oddities of battling zombies whilst also having a one for a partner.
A self-consciously oddball blend of action-comedy and horror, Dead Heat holds up pretty well today.
Still, even the most obsessive zombie movie fans should agree that it’s hardly hallowed ground.
If Dawn of the Dead can be remade (and wind up a good movie in its own right), then the same can definitely be said of Dead Heat. Imagine it as a mash-up of 21 Jump Street and 28 Days Later.
22. Sixteen Candles
The directorial debut of legendary 80s filmmaker John Hughes, Sixteen Candles kickstarted the new wave of 80s teen-oriented comedies in what became known as the Brat Pack era.
It’s one of those films we tend to look back on with warm, fuzzy feelings, as the romantic comedy that finally told the truth about the adolescent female experience.
The film delivered positive messages, demonstrating that you don’t have to be popular to find happiness – and it introduced us to one of the most iconic young actresses of the era in Molly Ringwald.
However, that’s only how we feel when we reminisce about Sixteen Candles. When we actually watch it again, a whole bunch of other, more unsavoury things grab our attention.
Specifically, we’re talking about the flagrant sexism on display, the appalling normalisation of rape-by-deception, and the shamelessly racist treatment of the film’s lone Asian character.
These things invariably taint our enjoyment of Sixteen Candles today, so a remake that does away with all that would be more than welcome.
Highlander boasts one of the most unique and memorable concepts of the 80s. 16th century Scottish warrior Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) discovers to his considerable alarm that he is one of a rarefied race of immortals.
Mastering the art of swordplay, MacLeod must battle through the centuries until the prophesied time of the Gathering, at the end of which (clears throat) there can be only one.
It’s a cool idea, and in many ways the original 1986 movie holds up pretty well today, thanks to the engaging performances of Lambert, Sean Connery and Clancy Brown, and the toe-tapping soundtrack from rock legends Queen.
However, there’s also a lot about Highlander that’s extremely dated, not least the low production values and director Russell Mulcahy’s excessive, MTV-inspired camerawork and editing.
The slew of subpar sequels (including the TV series) also proved pretty lifeless, making a back-to-square-one approach to the franchise all the more attractive.
A reboot has been stuck in development hell for many years, but all being well we may see it on the big screen soon enough, as John Wick’s Chad Stahelski is currently attached to direct.
20. Tango & Cash
We realise that a lot of die-hard action fans will be crying sacrilege at this one. On paper, Tango & Cash seems like the gold standard for 80s tough guy movies.
Action icons Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell star as mismatched LA cops jailed for a crime they didn’t commit, and who are then forced to bust out of prison, clear their names and take down the real bad guys, led by Jack Palance.
The 1989 film is still a hugely enjoyable, light-hearted action-adventure, so how dare we suggest it should be remade?
Let’s be honest now: Tango & Cash is a whole lot of fun, but it’s not exactly a masterpiece, nor does it by any means rank among the definitive works of either Stallone or Russell.
There’s no reason why it couldn’t work today with new stars and a new approach; we can easily see it as an explosive blockbuster in the vein of Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious.
Plus, there’s so much fun to be had imagining who could take over as the smooth Ray Tango and the streetwise Gabe Cash: Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt? Henry Cavill and Tom Hardy?
19. Howard the Duck
Credit must be given where it is due: for all its many screamingly obvious flaws, 1986’s Howard the Duck was without question a film ahead of its time.
As well as being the first theatrically released live-action movie based on a Marvel comic book, the movie also had the nerve to take on a comic character that strays from the conventional kid-friendly superhero formula, tackling more adult themes with satirical humour.
The problem was that director Willard Hyuck and producer George Lucas massively misjudged the material and attempted to rework it into something family-friendly. In so doing, they lost everything that was special about the original Howard the Duck comics, and wound up with a breathtakingly bizarre movie that didn’t seem appropriate for anyone.
Of course, in the years since Howard the Duck, comic book adaptations have become the dominant film genre, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the cream of the crop.
More to the point, Deadpool and its sequel have proved that less conventional characters can take centre stage in more sardonic movies geared towards older viewers.
On top of all that, Howard himself has already made brief appearances in the MCU. Can we get a remake already?
18. Trick or Treat
Not to be confused with 2007 Halloween horror Trick ‘r Treat, 1986’s Trick or Treat tells the tale of Eddie (Marc Price of TV’s Family Ties), a bullied teenager who finds solace in his love for heavy metal.
When his favourite rock icon dies, Eddie is distraught – but then to his alarm, his dead hero begins talking to him when Eddie plays his records backwards.
Trick or Treat is one of the few 80s horror movies to directly tackle the ‘Satanic panic’ anxieties surrounding heavy metal at the time, and for the most part it does so intelligently and to sinister effect.
Unfortunately, it runs out of steam by the final act, turning into a by-the-numbers slasher movie with undead rocker Sammi Curr (Tony Fields) as a more extravagantly dressed Freddy Krueger.
With a fresh pair of eyes and a sharper script, the potential is there for the concept to be explored in a far more interesting and satisfying way.
Should this ever happen, we just have one suggestion to make: any Trick or Treat remake would have to be a period piece set in the 80s, as the key plot point of hidden backwards messages in heavy metal records just wouldn’t work in the Spotify era.
17. Trading Places
A modernised retelling of classic tale The Prince and the Pauper, 1983’s Trading Places was one of the biggest hits of its year, and one of the most influential comedies of the 80s.
The film follows the fates of a privileged Wall Street trader (Dan Aykroyd) and a vagrant (Eddie Murphy), who they find their lives exchanged as part of a plot by the trader’s corrupt millionaire bosses (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy).
The film helped establish Murphy and Aykroyd as movie stars, elevated Jamie Lee Curtis to the Hollywood A-list (as well as earning her a BAFTA) and propelled director John Landis to further hits.
Whether or not Trading Places can be improved on is open to debate, as it’s still a very well-made film starring some true Hollywood legends.
However, given that the film deals with economic and social disparity and the role that race has to play in this, it’s clearly a concept that is still very relevant today.
As such, a new take on Trading Places might prove very welcome in the current climate.
Question: who was the first heroine to headline her own comic book? If you answered Wonder Woman, we’re sorry to say you’re wrong.
It was in fact Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, a feminine variation on Tarzan, and who made her print debut in 1938.
The character went on to appear in a 50s TV series, before being brought to the big screen in the form of the late Tanya Roberts.
There’s just one problem with Sheena, the 1984 film from King Kong remake director John Guillermin: it’s absolutely terrible. (Much the same can be said of the short-lived 2000 TV series starring Geena Lee Nolin.)
Considering the current demand for female-fronted comic book movies, surely now’s the time for the heroine to finally get the big screen treatment she deserves.
A Sheena reboot was reported to be in the works back in 2017, but nothing has been heard about it since.
Written and directed by Clint Eastwood, 1982 action thriller Firefox has all the makings of an adrenaline-pumping hit.
Eastwood takes the lead as a troubled Vietnam veteran enlisted to go behind the Iron Curtain and steal an experimental fighter jet, the fastest and most sophisticated ever built.
With a premise like that, you’d anticipate Firefox being a fast-paced thrill ride – but in reality it’s an inexorable slog, with the airborne action not taking off until more than an hour in.
Perhaps the idea had been to build suspense, but the lengthy build-up of Eastwood getting behind enemy lines (interspersed with endless scenes of boring old men talking in board rooms) only succeeds in building tedium.
Still, the core concept of a lone hero piloting a super hi-tech fighter plane is as appealing now as it ever was, and modern special effects could really do it justice.
Obviously the premise would need to be revised a little what with the Cold War being ancient history, but otherwise a fresh take on Firefox sounds like a winner to us.
14. Vice Versa
Judge Reinhold has personally identified the 1988 body swap comedy Vice Versa as the moment that his acting career lost momentum.
The light-hearted yarn sees Reinhold’s divorced businessman change places with his rebellious son (Fred Savage) by way of a strange mystical artefact.
While they try to figure out how to put things back to normal, father and son must get on with everyday life in one another’s bodies, preferably without completely humiliating themselves and each other.
Not a bad idea for a family-friendly comedy, but unfortunately Vice Versa was completely overshadowed by the similar (but much better) kid-turned-adult movie Big, not to mention a bunch of other subpar body swap movies released around the same time.
Nonetheless, Vice Versa sports a simple and charming premise that could always be done again, and better than it was here.
Let’s face it, if the mother of all parent-child body swap comedies, Freaky Friday, can be successfully remade, surely there’s nothing sacrosanct in rehashing Vice Versa.
13. The Witches of Eastwick
Director George Miller’s 1987 adaptation of John Updike’s 1984 novel The Witches of Eastwick boasts one of the most impressive ensemble casts of the time.
Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer play a trio of bored small town friends who unwittingly develop supernatural powers and summon a devilish figure to their sleepy community in the form of Jack Nicholson.
The three form a special relationship with the eccentric yet sinister newcomer, and soon find the town gossipers turning against them.
Thanks to the charisma of its cast (which also includes a wonderfully deranged supporting turn from Veronica Cartwright), The Witches of Eastwick still holds up pretty well today.
That said, there’s a lot about the film that feels dated, not least how coyly it presents the central four-way relationship, and how it degenerates into a fairly formulaic FX-driven climax after such an interesting build-up.
A remake would be welcome so long as it gave a more unflinching treatment of the material, not shying away from the darker aspects of the source material.
12. The NeverEnding Story
Director Wolfgang Petersen’s adaptation of Michael Ende’s 1979 fantasy novel is, for many, one of the key children’s fantasy adventure films of the 80s.
The NeverEnding Story sees lonely schoolboy Bastian (Barret Oliver) discover a mysterious storybook, which tells of the far-off magical land Fantasia being torn apart by a dark force known as The Nothing.
Bastian gets engrossed in the adventure of young hero Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) – but the more he reads, the more the lines blur between the story world and his own.
The NeverEnding Story remains close to the hearts of many. Revisiting it today, however, it’s clear that time hasn’t been kind to a lot of the film, not just in terms of production value and special effects, but also the performances of its mostly young cast.
Moreover, the film brings the story to an abrupt end when it’s only just about reached the midway point of the narrative in the original novel.
The potential is clearly there for a stronger movie, one which treats the material in a more heartfelt, less sentimental and above all less cheesy way. (And yes, when we’re talking about cheesiness, we’re also addressing that theme song.)
11. The Running Man
Depending on who you talk to, The Running Man is either one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s very best, or one of his absolute worst films. (The ones who say it’s the worst are, of course, wrong.)
The dystopian sci-fi thriller set in that far-off date of 2017 casts the Austrian Oak stars as Ben Richards, a principled police helicopter pilot sent to jail by his corrupt superiors for a crime he didn’t commit.
Circumstances ultimately land Richards with an unexpected offer to win his freedom: he must compete on brutal TV game show The Running Man, a gladiatorial battle to the death broadcast live all over the USA.
Though only a modest hit on release, The Running Man has long since become a firm favourite among fans of Schwarzenegger, thanks to the larger-than-life concept and the deluge of great one-liners from Arnie.
Even so, beneath all the cartoonish excess there’s a more serious movie trying to get out; one that’s closer in spirit to the original Stephen King novel on which the film is loosely based. Plus as reality TV has become a major industry in the years since, if anything The Running Man’s concept is more relevant today than it was back in 1987.
We’ll always love the original, but The Running Man is definitely ripe for a remake – and all being well we should be seeing one in the years ahead, as Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has recently signed on to direct a new take on the story.
10. My Stepmother Is an Alien
Dan Aykroyd and Kim Basinger played the unlikely inter-planetary couple in this quirky sci-fi comedy from 1988.
When Aykroyd’s widowed scientist sends a radio signal out to space, it’s answered by Basinger’s extra-terrestrial investigator, whose homeworld has been accidentally damaged by the signal.
While her mission is to go undercover as a human and gather intelligence to help save her world, the alien and the scientist find themselves falling in love, and an impromptu marriage soon follows.
My Stepmother is an Alien is well remembered for the pairing of beloved 80s stars Basinger and Aykroyd, plus its early appearance from Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Pie, How I Met Your Mother).
However, the film was a massive box office flop on release, and was widely blasted by critics as formulaic, predictable and more than a little sleazy.
Still, the core concept of a marriage between a nerdy scientist and an alluring alien is an entertaining enough idea to warrant revisitation – and there’s little question a remake could improve on what went before.
9. First Blood
Here’s another remake suggestion that will undoubtedly leave some devotees of 80s action cinema spitting feathers.
1982’s First Blood introduced Sylvester Stallone’s super-soldier John Rambo, one of the action superstar’s definitive roles.
Follow-up films Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III (the chronology was always a bit off there) were two of the biggest bullet-ridden action epics of the 80s.
The problem is, because the sequels got so bombastic, it tends to be forgotten that the original First Blood is a far more intimate, character-driven story about a traumatised war veteran who reverts to his warlike ways as he loses grip on reality.
In author David Morell’s original novel First Blood, we get a far darker and more serious approach to PTSD and the plight of soldiers coming home from Vietnam, in which the central character is more tragic than heroic. One key difference is that Rambo dies at the end.
It would be very interesting to see a new take on First Blood that disregards the icon Stallone’s interpretation of Rambo became, but instead remains true to the novel.
Among the many lurid horror titles that leered at us from the shelves of video rental stores back in the 80s, one that really jumped out was Ghoulies.
With the obvious innuendo of the title, and the cover image of a little monster climbing out of a toilet, young viewers obviously anticipated a tongue-in-cheek Gremlins rip-off with cheap thrills and gross-out gags galore.
The Ghoulies sequels may have offered this (in particular third instalment Ghoulies Go to College), but the 1985 original is a slightly different story, and one geared toward a marginally more mature audience.
For the most part, director Luca Bercovici’s film is a surprisingly straight-faced shocker, centred on a young man who gets drawn into occultism, by which he conjures the malevolent miniature demons of the title.
Honestly, given the sheer number of 70s and 80s horror movies that have been remade in the past decade, it’s surprising no one’s gotten around to remaking Ghoulies yet.
Monsters, magic and toilet humour never go out of style, so there’s no reason a new take on the franchise couldn’t work today.
7. The Cannonball Run
After the success of the Smokey and the Bandit movies and several other collaborations, Burt Reynolds and director Hal Needham reunited on this madcap road race comedy.
Though Reynolds is the top-billed star, The Cannonball Run sports one of the most star-studded ensembles of the era.
Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett and Jackie Chan were just some of the big stars to feature in the movie.
There’s not a whole lot of plot to speak of, but the set-up is simple: the Cannonball Run is an illegal cross-country road race with a hefty cash prize for the winner.
It’s a simple, winning idea, so it’s small wonder The Cannonball Run was a box office hit that spawned a sequel – yet there’s no denying that the film has aged terribly, thanks to its over-abundance of lame-brained jokes which tend to detract from the impressive car stunts on display.
Take the same simple premise, get a similarly starry cast of big names and a Cannonball Run remake could prove to be a real winner.
6. Fire and Ice
The 80s had no shortage of sword and sorcery adventure films in the vein of Conan the Barbarian.
Fire and Ice holds a particularly distinct position among such films, as it’s a feature-length animation.
When an evil sorcerer named Nekron moves to conquer the realm with his imposing mobile glacier, fate sees three of Nekron’s enemies thrown together: the bold young warrior Larn, the beautiful princess Teegra and the grizzled old barbarian Darkwolf.
Directed by Ralph Bakshi, Fire and Ice was co-conceived and designed by one of the biggest names in fantasy art, Frank Frazetta. The idea was to create an animated movie that brought Frazetta’s distinctive painting style to life – but this experiment didn’t prove entirely successful.
Perhaps the film had too low a budget, or perhaps the animation techniques of the time just weren’t up to the task, but Fire and Ice can’t help looking a bit crude today. It doesn’t help that the story and characters are also wafer-thin.
Even so, the film’s powerful iconography is crying out to be revisited, be it in animated form once again, or in live-action. Director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Machete) announced plans to remake Fire and Ice way back in 2010, but the project has yet to get off the ground.
5. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
This often-forgotten 1985 action-adventure movie (also known as Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous) casts Fred Ward as an NYPD cop who goes through a fake death and cosmetic surgery to be reborn as an assassin for a top secret government agency battling corruption.
As the title suggests, it was meant to be the first in a series of big screen adventures for Ward’s smart-talking tough guy, whose martial arts skills enable him to dodge bullets. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite turn out that way, as Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was a box office failure, hence no sequels were ever made.
This is unfortunate, as there was no shortage of available material to work from. The film’s characters originate in the Destroyer series by writers Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, which comprises well over 150 novels.
The blend of spy thriller with streetwise humour and a hint of superhero makes Remo Williams an endearing protagonist who could easily go down a storm on the big screen in the 2020s.
Writer-director Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys) has been attached to a Destroyer reboot for some time, so fingers crossed this eventually gets off the ground.
Also, we should hope they’ll cast an actual Asian actor as Remo’s martial arts teacher Chiun this time, rather than the original film’s regrettable choice of giving the role to Joel Grey and plastering the white actor in heavy make-up.
4. The Wraith
Another movie that boasts a super-cool idea that could have been pulled off better is road-racing revenge thriller The Wraith.
Charlie Sheen stars as a mysterious newcomer to an Arizona town, where a gang of young street punks terrorise local motorists by forcing them to race for the ownership of their cars.
At the same time, several balls of light fly down to earth from beyond the heavens, and corporealise into an extremely flashy black sports car, whose enigmatic masked driver is out to get the street racer thugs.
Any way you look at it, director Mike Marvin’s 1986 film has a pretty insane premise, and the level of high-octane car action on display helps make The Wraith hugely entertaining viewing.
Alas, when we’re not following road racers speeding up the dusty desert roads, The Wraith struggles to stay in gear. There’s some very dodgy writing and cringeworthy acting on display (for most of his scenes, Sheen looks as though he’s just wandered onto the set and has no idea what he’s doing there).
It would be hard to play such a ridiculous concept so straight today, but we can still imagine a contemporary remake of The Wraith tearing up the screen.
3. Masters of the Universe
Whether you like the movie or not, we can’t imagine there are too many children of the 80s who wouldn’t like to see Masters of the Universe remade.
Hitting screens in 1987, the Cannon Films production brought the colourful characters of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toy line and cartoon series to the big screen in live-action.
Dolph Lundgren, fresh from his star-making turn in Rocky IV, took the role of the heroic He-Man, whilst the esteemed Shakespearean actor Frank Langella donned make-up and a black cloak to play the villainous Skeletor.
There were just a few minor stumbling blocks. For one, director Gary Goddard had never made a movie before. Secondly, Dolph Lundgren still had a thick Swedish accent and could barely speak English. On top of all that, they didn’t have enough money in the budget to bring the distant world of Eternia to life.
For this reason, Masters of the Universe ditches many key supporting characters, and spends only a small portion of its running time in Castle Greyskull, with most of the action taking place on boring old Earth. It’s still an enjoyable enough film (though massively derivative of Star Wars), but it’s only a fraction of what a real Masters of the Universe movie should be.
A new take on Masters of the Universe has stuck in development for many years now. A reboot looked set to be made in 2020 before Covid-19 hit, but it was recently announced that actor Noah Centino (who had been cast as He-Man) has since dropped out, so it would seem to be stuck in limbo once again.
Director Steve Miner’s 1986 horror-comedy House has the simplest, yet most irresistible premise: a man moves into a strange old house and spooky stuff happens.
From that succinct synopsis, you’d be forgiven for expecting House to be nothing but a by-the-numbers ghost movie, but in truth it’s something altogether more outlandish.
The premise proved flexible enough to turn House into a franchise, with three ever-more-bizarre sequels produced within six years of the original.
For a time, then, House was a very successful and popular horror franchise – yet over the years, it seems to have faded from the popular consciousness somewhat.
So why not bring House back? The core conceit is so basic yet so flexible that there’s almost no limit to the directions it could be taken in.
Sure, the spooky old house trope may seem a bit played out with all the Insidious and Conjuring movies from recent years, but House represents an opportunity to pump up the outlandish fun that was such a key element of 80s horror.
1. The Beastmaster
This 1982 fantasy adventure became one of the most popular examples of the sword and sorcery genre at the time.
Co-written and directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm), The Beastmaster casts Marc Singer as a mighty warrior with the uncanny ability to telepathically communicate with animals. When his adoptive family is slain, he sets off to dethrone the corrupt sorcerer responsible (Rip Torn).
With its musclebound leading man, a great villain, Tanya Roberts on love interest duties and key supporting turns from a bear, a panther, an eagle and a pair of ferrets, The Beastmaster makes for easily rewatchable entertainment.
It also proved enough of a winning formula to spawn a number of sequels, and eventually a spin-off TV series.
Still, like a lot of relatively low budget films from all those years ago, The Beastmaster can’t help but look a bit dated today. So why not give it a nice shiny remake for the 21st century?