From that fateful moment back in 1895, when the Lumière brothers screened the first motion picture of laborers leaving their factory in Paris, mankind has constantly ascended in its cinematic pursuit. Year after year, beginning with Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope and ending with today’s iMax and 3D technologies, we find ourselves not only still making new tales for the screen, but also reinventing the old ones.

Remakes are as old as cinema itself, if one looks back in time. Directors are always eager to take others’ stories and add their own vision and artistic execution to them. But the endeavour itself has always been a double-edged blade, and in some cases, blood was metaphorically spilled. Industry people and viewers alike agree, to this day, that sometimes a remake simply isn’t welcome. That the original director’s version was the best form in which that particular story could be told. That there is no amount of new technology and visual pizzazz that can replace the often gritty, if not ancient appeal of an original production.

The Good

There have been some successful reboots. In fact, the new versions outdid the originals and are loved by critics and audiences alike. 

John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ (1982), for example, starring Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley, is not only a cult classic these days, but also an illustrious adaptation of Howard Hawks’ ‘The Thing from Another World’ (1951). While Hawks went on to be better known as the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award for his cinematic contribution, giving us timeless classics such as ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953), ‘Scarface’ (1932), ‘Bringing Up Baby’ (1938), and ‘Rio Bravo’ (1959), he is less remembered for what later became Carpenter’s horror masterpiece.


‘The Thing’, much like Ennio Morricone’s score, was not immediately loved. In fact, Mr Morricone earned himself a Razzie nomination for his work on the movie. Not long afterwards, however, the brilliance of John Carpenter shone through, as did the music, and ‘The Thing’ became a titan of the goosebump-inducing genre. 

Joel and Ethan Coen’s ‘True Grit’ (2010) remake of Henry Hathaway’s 1969 epic starring John Wayne, was a resounding success. It racked up ten Academy Award nominations, and a BAFTA award for Best Cinematography. The latter was not unexpected for Roger Deakins, also known for ‘Skyfall’ (2012), ‘Blade Runner 2049’ (2017), and ‘Fargo’ (1996), as his work on ‘True Grit’ is used to this day as an example for exquisite cinematography. And who could possibly forget Jeff Bridges’ startling performance, right?

Another excellent rendition of a previously made movie was Martin Scorsese’s ‘Cape Fear’ (1991), which gave us a chilling Robert de Niro terrorizing Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange’s characters. The original of 1962 saw Robert Mitchum’s Max Cady going after Gregory Peck and Polly Bergens’ Sam and Peggy Bowden, respectively—each memorable in their own way.


The 2007 version of ‘3:10 to Yuma’ also garnered applause. James Mangold did a fantastic job with Halsted Welles’ original script from 1957. The cinematography, along with the sharp editing and finer treatment of certain key scenes from the story, make the second version slightly better, though both Russell Crowe and Glenn Ford’s Ben Wade are just as hypnotizing.

And let us not forget about ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (2004), directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Denzel Washington and a very young and ridiculously talented Liev Schreiber. The original from 1962 had Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey playing Raymond Shaw and Ben Marco, respectively. Even now, both productions yield an equal amount of appreciation, as staples of drama and suspense.

The list might go on, but five should do the trick in getting the positive point across. Now, let us move on to the unavoidable negative.

The Bad

A more recent disaster would certainly be ‘Flatliners’ (2017), directed by Niels Arden Oplev. It stars Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev, and Diego Luna. It even gives us a Kiefer Sutherland cameo that doesn’t do anything to enhance the story. Unlike the previous examples, where each of the directors offered a fresh take and a somewhat different vision from the originals, ‘Flatliners’ falls horribly flat.


The first one from 1990 had depth and originality. Joel Schumacher made the most out of Peter Filardi’s screenplay, and Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, and Julia Roberts—all fresh-faced emerging talents at the time, knocked their performances out of the park. ‘Flatliners’ (1990) was substantive and profound, exploring a realm beyond death which we’ve only theorized on. It was daring and provocative for its time. The idea behind a successful remake is to bring something new and different to the table. 

‘Footloose’ (2011), directed by Craig Brewer, dared to take on a legend. It is one of those movies that no one even asked for, since nobody could really replace Kevin Bacon and his feverish dance moves from the 1984 version. In Brewer’s defence, the storyline itself made more sense then than it does now. After all, taking a city teenager and having him shake up a small town where rock music and dancing are banned is a tad unbelievable for this day and age. It made much more sense in the 1980s, for some reason, back when Kenny Loggins’ chart-topping hits made so many hearts beat faster.

There was a certain style to Kevin Bacon’s acting and dancing, too, that made him and the movie absolutely unique. ‘Footloose’ deserved to be left alone, at best, and if anyone did take it on, a bold new take would’ve been advised. Since none of those things happened, we now have one more reboot to toss into the slush pile or have as an option for in-flight viewing.


Gus Van Sant is best known for impeccable works such as ‘Milk’ (2008), starring Sean Penn as iconic gay rights activist Harvey Milk; ‘My Own Private Idaho’ (1991), which brought Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix as two hustler friends whose journey of self-discovery begins to affect their relationship; and ‘Elephant’ (2003), a film that stunned audiences with its graceful rendition of life before a mass shooting and earned Van Sant a Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. 

He is also known for his 1998 remake of ‘Psycho’, and not in a good way. Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, and Julianne Moore were enlisted to bring his version of Joseph Stefano’s screenplay to life, but the entire affair left viewers scrunching their noses. For a director with such artistic sensitivity, one would’ve expected more but, truth be told, trying to do better than Alfred Hitchcock was an endeavour doomed to fail from the start. And as talented as Vince Vaughn might be, he is no Anthony Perkins, just like Anne Heche is no Janet Leigh. Some things are just better left untouched.

Neil LaBute must’ve had high hopes for his version of ‘The Wicker Man’ (2006). Using Anthony Schaffer’s screenplay from the 1973 original starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, Mr LaBute chose Nicholas Cage as his protagonist. Some of the harsher critics might say this was his undoing, but the overall production lagged considerably behind Robin Hardy’s directorial masterpiece.


But of the many remakes that have flopped over the years, few have been as resoundingly bad as ‘Dirty Dancing’ (2017), directed by Wayne Blair. While no one dares dispute Abigail Breslin or Sarah Hyland’s thespian gifts, Blair’s persistence of redoing a film that was already flawless was frowned upon.

The classic and impossible-to-redo ‘Dirty Dancing’ of 1987 was written by Eleanor Bergstein, and it was an instant hit. It had a gorgeous Patrick Swayze flashing his provocative dance moves and brooding, steely blue eyes. It had an ingenue Jennifer Grey and a doting father in Jerry Orbach. It had some of the greatest songs that were ever written, and it had a formula that has been almost impossible to reproduce elsewhere without getting eyerolls from the audience.

The Ones No One Should Ever Touch

Not every great movie can be reimagined successfully. Slapping a coat of bright new paint on an old car does not change the car’s make or model, nor does it make the car drive better or faster. Sometimes, a vintage beauty should remain a vintage beauty. To emphasize this, it’s time to look at five movies that really, really, really should never be remade.


Rob Reiner’s ‘Stand by Me’ (1986) brings Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell as four friends who go on a search for the body of a missing boy outside the small town of Castlerock, Oregon. Along the way, they come to learn more about themselves, eventually learning to stand up for what is right. It’s a wonderful and maybe a little bit troubling coming-of-age story based on Stephen King’s novella ‘The Body’, originally published in ‘Different Seasons’ back in 1982, and it is basically impossible to reimagine as anything else than what it already is.

Even with its high nostalgia appeal and preteen protagonists, ‘Stand by Me’ was never meant to be a children’s movie. However, it did tap into our inner kids, and its entire brilliance stands solely on the shoulders of its unapologetic realism. It wasn’t easy to pull off a story like this the first time around, and there’s serious doubt it could ever be… repurposed.


‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981), based on a story by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg, is probably one of the best Indiana Jones movies ever made. It has Harrison Ford running around on behalf of the US government to retrieve the fabled Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis get to it. It has heart-pounding adventure and sassy one-liners, ancient artefacts and the lovely Karen Allen playing Indy’s love interest, Marion. 

Roger Ebert said it’s ‘an out-of-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures, and deposits you back in reality two hours later—breathless, dizzy, wrung-out, and with a silly grin on your face.’ So far, no one has managed to give ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ a more accurate description than Mr Ebert. Most importantly, it is one of those movies that will never work again. Its adventurous blueprint is one-of-a-kind.


‘Casablanca’ (1941), directed by Michael Curtiz, is definitely one of the ‘untouchables’ of the cinematic universe. Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, giants of Hollywood’s Golden Age, both shine on the silver screen with their ardent performances. It’s a marvellous feat signed by the same man who gave us ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938) and ‘The Comancheros’ (1961), and it won three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing/Screenplay.

A poignant and emotional war drama, ‘Casablanca’ cannot be rebooted in any way. The effect of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s onscreen chemistry cannot be copied, regardless of how much talent or experience any proposed actors might have. It’s simply impossible to do more or better than what Michael Curtiz achieved. The closest anyone ever got to bringing ‘Casablanca’ back was with a prequel for television from 1983 featuring Hector Elizondo. The fact that it was a short-lived production should not surprise anyone at this point.


Directed by Victor Fleming and graced by George Cukor’s influence, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) sees Judy Garland as Dorothy, who gets swept up in a tornado with her dog, Toto, and ends up in the dazzling, dangerous, and colourful world of Oz. We all know the story, and yet we can never get enough of it. Based on Frank L. Baum’s critically acclaimed novels, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is an everlasting tale of wonder, magic, and courage, as seen through the eyes of a sweet girl with ruby slippers and three downright memorable, yet unexpected friends.

While there have been other versions imagined for television, along with some sequels and prequels for Broadway and the big screen, no one has yet plucked up the courage to take on the movie itself. The world has vaguely accepted Sam Raimi’s ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ (2013) and Matthew Arnold and Josh Friedman’s ‘Emerald City’ (2016) TV series, though neither made much of a splash. At best, we’re left with Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth’s unforgettable songs from ‘Wicked’. One can only hope that’s all there will be, and that Judy Garland will be the only Dorothy we’ll ever know.


With rumours of Sony Pictures Entertainment being in talks for a ‘Princess Bride’ (1987) reboot, it is only appropriate to address what is clearly an issue for too many people. Written by William Goldman and directed by Rob Reiner—worth noting here that Mr Reiner has given us at least two cinematic gemstones that shouldn’t be remade and therefore must be forever cherished, ‘The Princess Bride’ stars Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, and Mandy Patinkin. It also offers truly charming performances by Christopher Guest, Peter Falk, and Carol Kane, among others. 

It’s the heart-warming tale of a farmer-turned-pirate who faces many obstacles in order to be reunited with his one true love. ‘The Princess Bride’ is also, perhaps, the closest we’ll ever get to a veritable movie fairy tale—charming, amusing, wholesome and, at times, adorably ridiculous. Given Sony Pictures Entertainment Chief Executive Tony Vinciquerra’s recent statements, the fans have had some strong reactions, though none have been more convincing than Cary Elwes’, who tweeted: ‘There’s a shortage of perfect movies in this world. It would be a pity to damage this one.’

While ‘The Princess Bride’ was not a box-office hit, it did become a beloved cult classic. And in an age where everyone is trying to remake something, it has become rather exhausting to see perfectly good works of art taken apart and wrapped up in something shiny and glittery that basically kills the very thing that made them unique, in the first place.

There have been excellent remakes, yes. Surely, there will be more. But there are movies that simply must not be touched, for they are perfect just the way they are. It would be a pity to try to do better when we know, deep down, that we cannot.