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: what if a space-based arcade game was secretly a training program designed to locate 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. 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
Eddie Murphy‘s 1986 film The Golden Child is a curious attempt to blend the leading man’s signature humour with an epic fantasy-adventure. 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; it’s never funny enough as a comedy, nor exciting enough as an action-adventure. Clearly, the film could have been done a lot better, so there’s no reason a modern remake couldn’t do just that.
23. Dead Heat
Made at the peak of buddy cop movie boom, 1988’s Dead Heat casts Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo as two detectives whose investigation leads 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.
An oddball blend of action-comedy and horror, Dead Heat still holds up – but even diehard horror fans should agree 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.
22. Sixteen Candles
The directorial debut of legendary 80s filmmaker John Hughes, Sixteen Candles is one of those films we tend to look back on with warm, fuzzy feelings. As well as kick-starting Hughes’ iconic run of teen movies, the 1984 film also introduced one of the most iconic young actresses of the era in Molly Ringwald.
However, there’s a whole bunch of other, more unsavoury things that Sixteen Candles is now infamous for: the flagrant sexism on display, the appalling normalisation of rape-by-deception, and the shamelessly racist treatment of the film’s lone Asian character. 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. Immortal Scottish warrior Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) battles through the centuries until the prophesied time when (clears throat) there can be only one. The 1986 film soon became iconic thanks to 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. A reboot has been stuck in development hell for many years; John Wick’s Chad Stahelski is currently attached to direct, with Henry Cavill in the lead.
20. Tango & Cash
On paper, 1989’s Tango & Cash seems like the gold standard for 80s tough guy movies. Action icons Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell play mismatched LA cops jailed for a crime they didn’t commit, and are then forced to bust out of prison, clear their names and take down the real bad guys.
It’s still a hugely enjoyable, light-hearted action-adventure, so how dare we suggest it should be remade? Well, let’s be honest: Tango & Cash is a whole lot of fun, but it’s not exactly a masterpiece. We can easily see it being remade as an explosive blockbuster in the vein of Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious.
19. Howard the Duck
For all its many screamingly obvious flaws, it’s fair to say 1986’s Howard the Duck was ahead of its time. As well as being the first theatrically released live-action movie based on a Marvel comic book, it was also bold enough to pick a more mature character, steering clear of the more obvious superhero tropes. There’s just one problem: it’s a notoriously dreadful movie.
Today, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominating popular culture and a proven market for comic book movies geared towards older viewers, there’s never been a better time for Howard to stage a comeback. The character has already made brief appearances in the MCU, so can we get a solo film already?
18. Trick or Treat
Not to be confused with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, this 1986 teen horror follows young metalhead Eddie (Marc Price of TV’s Family Ties) left distraught by the death of his favourite rock star (Tony Fields). However, Eddie’s dead hero talking to him when he plays his records backwards, making Trick or Treat one of the few 80s horror movies to directly tackle the ‘Satanic panic’ anxieties surrounding heavy metal at the time.
Unfortunately, it runs out of steam by the final act, turning into a by-the-numbers slasher movie. With fresh eyes and a sharper script, the concept could be explored in a far more satisfying way. However, it would probably have to be a period piece set in the 80s: the key plot point of hidden backwards messages in heavy metal records just wouldn’t work in the Spotify era.
17. Trading Places
One of the best-loved comedies of the decade, 1983’s Trading Places centres on a privileged Wall Street trader (Dan Aykroyd) and a vagrant (Eddie Murphy) who find their lives exchanged as part of a plot by the trader’s corrupt bosses. The film helped establish Murphy and Aykroyd as movie stars, elevated Jamie Lee Curtis to the Hollywood A-list and propelled director John Landis to further hits.
Whether or not Trading Places can be improved on is debatable, but given that it 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 remake 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.
Sadly, 1984’s Sheena is total stinker. Given the recent 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.
Clint Eastwood’s 1982 thriller Firefox has all the makings of an adrenaline-pumping hit. As well as directing, Eastwood stars as a troubled Vietnam veteran sent behind the Iron Curtain and steal the world’s fastest, most sophisticated jet. 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.
Still, the core concept of a lone hero piloting a super hi-tech fighter plane is as appealing now as it ever was, and Top Gun: Maverick proved that airborne action remains as crowd-pleasing as ever. Obviously the premise would need to be revised a little what with the Cold War being history, but otherwise a fresh take on Firefox sounds like a winner to us.
14. Vice Versa
1988 body swap comedy Vice Versa casts Judge Reinhold as a divorced businessman who mystically changes places with his rebellious pre-teen son (Fred Savage). 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 in 1988 by the similar (but much better) kid-turned-adult movie Big. Still, if the mother of all parent-child body swap comedies, Freaky Friday, can be successfully remade, surely there’s nothing harm 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 Witches of Eastwick is still enjoyable, but 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 formulaic FX-driven climax after an interesting build-up. A remake would be welcome so long as it doesn’t shy away from the darker, racier aspects of the source material.
12. The NeverEnding Story
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.
While the 1986 film is close to the hearts of many, time hasn’t been too kind to it, not just in terms of production value and special effects, but also the performances of its mostly young cast. The potential is clearly there for a stronger movie which treats the material in a more heartfelt, less sentimental and above all less cheesy way. (And yes, when we say cheesy, we mean 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 dystopian sci-fi thriller casts Arnie as Ben Richards, a good cop falsely imprisoned for a mass shooting. Circumstances ultimately land Richards with an unexpected offer to win his freedom: he must compete on gladiatorial game show The Running Man.
The 1987 film is a larger-than-life action fest with a deluge of classic Arnie one-liners, yet beneath the cartoonish excess there’s a more serious movie trying to get out; one that’s closer in spirit to the Stephen King novel. We’ll always love the original, but The Running Man is definitely ripe for a remake – and there’s currently one in development, with Edgar Wright attached to direct.
10. My Stepmother Is an Alien
This quirky 1988 sci-fi comedy sees Dan Aykroyd’s widowed scientist send a radio signal out to space, which is answered by Kim Basinger’s extra-terrestrial investigator. While her mission is to go undercover as a human and gather intelligence to help save her world, the alien and the scientist fall in love, to the alarm of his daughter (an early appearance from Alyson Hannigan).
Widely blasted as formulaic, predictable and rather sleazy in its treatment of Basinger, My Stepmother is an Alien flopped on release. Still, the core concept of a marriage between a nerdy scientist and an alluring alien is entertaining enough 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.
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 losing his grip on reality. 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 original source novel by David Morrell.
With its iconic VHS cover image of a little monster climbing out of a toilet, most of us expected Ghoulies to be a tongue-in-cheek Gremlins rip-off. However, while the sequels were plenty trashy and silly, the 1985 original is a surprisingly straight-faced shocker, centred on a young man dabbling in occultism, by which he conjures the malevolent miniature demons of the title.
Given the sheer number of 70s and 80s horror movies that have been remade in the past two decades, 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 revival of the franchise couldn’t work today.
7. The Cannonball Run
Car chase comedy The Cannonball Run sports one of the most star-studded ensembles of the era, with Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Jackie Chan and more besides. There’s not a whole lot of plot to speak of, but the set-up is simple: an illegal cross-country road race with a hefty cash prize for the winner.
It’s a simple, winning idea, yet there’s no denying The Cannonball Run has aged terribly, with its 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, 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’s crying out to be revisited, be it in animated form once again, or in live-action. Director Robert Rodriguez announced plans for a remake Fire and Ice way back, but the project has yet to get off the ground.
5. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
This often-forgotten 1985 action-adventure (also known as Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous) casts Fred Ward as an NYPD cop who goes through a fake death 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, based on long-running pulp novel series The Destroyer.
Unfortunately Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins bombed, and no sequels were ever made. This is unfortunate, as there’s no shortage of available material to work from, with over 150 Destroyer novels published. The blend of spy thrills with streetwise humour and a hint of superhero makes Remo Williams an endearing protagonist who could easily go down a storm in the 2020s.
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. A mysterious black sports car suddenly appears on the streets of an Arizona town to do battle with a gang of young street-racers terrorising the local roads. Could this be related to the previous year’s murder of a local teen, and the arrival of strange newcomer Charlie Sheen?
Blending car chase action, teen drama and supernatural thrills, The Wraith is very odd and very 80s, but also a huge amount of fun. Alas, when we’re not following road racers speeding up the dusty desert roads, it struggles to stay in gear. A new, slightly smarter take on the concept could result in a thoroughly entertaining movie.
3. Masters of the Universe
Many children of the 80s who wouldn’t mind seeing Masters of the Universe remade. The 1987 Cannon Films production brought the colourful characters of the toy line and cartoon series to the big screen in live-action, with Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor. Due to budgetary constraints and creative issues, the film is pretty far removed from the source material.
Masters of the Universe remains a well-loved property, and a big screen reboot has been in development for many years now. A reboot looked set to be made in 2020 before Covid-19 hit, with actor Noah Centino cast as He-Man. However, Centino has since dropped out, and the film seems to be stuck in limbo once again.
From its none-more-basic premise (a man moves into a strange old house, and spooky stuff happens) you might not expect House to be anything 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 it back? The spooky old house trope may seem a bit played out in modern horror (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Conjuring), but a House reboot could bring back the sense of fun that was so key to 80s horror.
1. The Beastmaster
One of the most popular examples of the 80s sword and sorcery genre, The Beastmaster casts Marc Singer as a mighty warrior who can telepathically communicate with animals. With its musclebound leading man, a great villain turn from Rip Torn, Tanya Roberts on love interest duties and supporting turns from a bear, a panther, an eagle and a pair of ferrets, the 1982 film 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?