Classic films Hollywood should and shouldn’t remake, plus the ones it made a mess of

When it comes to remakes, movies such as Ghost are perfect for a 2020s makeover, while others – think The Godfather – should be left well alone

While Ghost is set to be remade, The Godfather has so far proved a film Hollywood won't revisit. Photos: Paramount Pictures
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Every time a remake of a film is announced, it generates the usual headlines about whether or not Hollywood has completely run out of new ideas.

Because, for every critically acclaimed reinterpretation such as Ocean’s Eleven, All Quiet on the Western Front and A Star is Born, there’s a Total Recall and The Wicker Man.

And that’s before factoring in the reimagined films. Those such as The Magnificent Seven, based on the 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai, and Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed The Departed, a take on the 2002 Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs.

With the news that Channing Tatum is set to reimagine the 1990 film Ghost, we take a look at the remakes we’ll be first in line to see, the ones that should not have been green-lit and the films we hope never get a Tinseltown do-over…

Remakes we’re excited for…

Ghost

US actor Channing Tatum, right, has acquired the rights to the 1990 film Ghost, which starred Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. EPA

Magic Mike star Channing Tatum this week revealed he has acquired the rights to Ghost, the 1990 film starring the late Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore.

The film launched former Brat Pack member Moore into the Hollywood high-earners stratosphere and won co-star Whoopi Goldberg, who played the clairvoyant Oda Mae Brown, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. It also won for Best Screenplay.

“We’re going to do something different,” the actor and producer told The Hollywood Reporter of his plans for the remake, in which he would take on Swayze’s role. “I think it needs to change a little bit.”

Akira

Thor: Love and Thunder director Taika Waititi is set to remake the classic Japanese anime Akira. Photo: Bandai Entertainment

The 1988 anime film remains a high point for fans of Japanese manga, but a subsequent attempt by Sony Pictures in the 1990s to reboot it as a live-action film was eventually cancelled.

This latest version has Thor: Love and Thunder director Taika Waititi directing. He also co-wrote the script, which will bring the tale of a biker gang member’s murderous rampaging into the 2020s to life.

Highlander

The Witcher star Henry Cavill, left, is rumoured to be starring in the remake of Highlander, made famous by Christopher Lambert. Photos: Netflix, 20th Century Fox

Whether it was his styling as Geralt of Rivia in the Netflix hit The Witcher — which pretty much mirrors that of Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod in 1986’s Highlander — that clinched the deal or not, fans are excited about rumours that British actor Henry Cavill will take on the role of the immortal warrior.

John Wick director Chad Stahelski, who will helm the reboot, said last year: “We're in the process of tweaking right now. I think we know what we want. More importantly than anything, we know what we want to make.”

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London, which starred Griffin Dunne and David Naughton, is set to be remade. Photo: Universal Pictures

The grisly fate that awaited American backpackers David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) on their ill-fated trek across the Yorkshire Moors has ensured the 1981 original remains a cult classic.

The groundbreaking scene in which Naughton’s character David transforms into a werewolf on the floor of his London flat won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Make-Up in 1982.

While there are no stars yet attached to the remake, original screenwriter John Landis returns to script it, with his director son, Max Landis, at the helm.

Remakes that no one asked for…

Dirty Dancing

The 1987 version starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze remains one of the most-loved films of all time, but the 2017 made-for-TV version was critically panned and largely hated by audiences.

While Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger is a suitably sultry Penny Rivera, Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin was wildly miscast as Baby Houseman, and Johnny Castle’s shoes were filled by dancer and choreographer Colt Prattes, whose claim to fame had been as the love interest in Pink’s music video for Try.

The Hollywood Reporter decried the film, saying: “ABC’s bloated, unconvincingly musical remake of Dirty Dancing has no reason to exist.”

Romancing the Stone

Romancing the Stone, starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, has been remade numerous times under different titles. Photo: 20th Century Fox

The 1984 adventure comedy starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas as romance novelist Joan Wilder and bird smuggler Jack Colton thrown together in the Colombian jungle remains a rom-com standard.

However, the film has already been remade a dozen different times in all but name in 2005’s Sahara, starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz; 2008’s Fool’s Gold with McConaughey and Kate Hudson; and in last year’s The Lost City, with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum.

It could also be argued that Netflix’s Outer Banks scratches that Goonies-meets-Romancing the Stone itch for Gen Z.

The Birds

Remaking Hitchcock has never really worked out for Hollywood.

The 1998 version of Psycho featuring Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates and Anne Heche as Marion Crane in the roles made famous by Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh led film critic Roger Ebert to declare: “I felt oddly as if I were watching a provincial stock company doing the best it could without the Broadway cast.”

The 1998 reinterpretation of Rear Window fared a little better with critics, perhaps because it billed itself as “a modern update” as opposed to a remake. And the less said about Netflix’s beyond-flat 2020 version of Rebecca the better.

All of which is why a redoing of The Birds with Scarlett Johansson in the role Tippi Hedren made famous might not be the best idea.

Films we hope will never be remade…

The Goonies

Josh Brolin, Sean Astin, Ke Huy Quan, Corey Feldman, Martha Plimpton, Kerri Green and Jeff Cohen in The Goonies. Photo: Warner Bros Pictures

The 1985 Richard Donner-directed hit was a staple of Gen X childhoods, dealing with the enduring adolescent themes of friendship and feeling like an outcast.

Starring Josh Brolin, Sean Aston, Martha Plimpton and Corey Feldman, the plot has a group of friends find a lost treasure map and head off on the sort of adventure that has been the plot for many YA novels since.

Far better to indulge your cinematic treasure-hunting in the likes of Outer Banks, Uncharted and National Treasure than to remake this truffle-shuffling classic.

The Godfather

Parts I and II of the Francis Ford Coppola-directed classic regularly make the top 10 in Greatest Films of All Time lists, and it would be a foolish director indeed who would think they could improve on the originals.

The films gave us phrases still used in today’s pop culture lexicon — “You keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” — and put the American immigrant story up there on the big screen for millions to relate to.

The first film turned 50 last year, a milestone which might have sparked a desire to remake, but thankfully Hollywood has so far resisted.

Jaws

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss as Quinn, Brody and Hooper in Jaws. Photo: Universal Studios

Yes, the technology now exists — both in animatronics and CGI — to create a shark that’s way more realistic than Steven Spielberg’s mechanical behemoth who he famously nicknamed “Bruce”, after his lawyer. But that would be to assume 1975’s triple-Oscar-winning Jaws was ever about a killer shark (it wasn’t).

From composer John Williams’s legendary two-note score to Spielberg’s masterfully slow build-up of looming, palpable dread culminating in Chief Brody’s insistence that they were “going to need a bigger boat”, over the years the film has been consistently reappraised in its endless symbolism to represent anything from the state of masculinity to idealism and immortality, even Watergate.

And don’t even get us started on who could possibly deliver the legendary USS Indianapolis speech better than Robert Shaw's Quinn. *Chef’s kiss.*

Updated: January 20, 2023, 3:01 AM
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