Probably the worst thing about movie remakes is that they feel the need to top their predecessor. They can’t just update a story or take advantage of new technology, they want to become the new classic, leaving the older one to become its “inspiration.”
Needless to say, this almost never, ever, ever works. Even if you haven’t seen the original (and better films) they’re based on, these remakes are hard to watch. Here are the worst movie remakes of all time.
The Mummy (2017)
There have been several remakes of the classic 1932 film starring Boris Karloff. But in 2017, Universal wanted to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe with their classic monster properties like Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and Dracula. They called their film series Dark Universe and started with The Mummy. Starring Tom Cruise, the film seemed destined for success, but failed to ignite the box office or the critics. With 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Mummy was so bad it effectively put an end to “Dark Universe.” Any future Universal monster films will be stand-alone projects.
Point Break (2015)
Trying to remake a classic surfer dude/master criminal movie seems like it should be doable. But all the charm of the 1991 original, directed by future Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, was lost in the 2015 update. Not only that, but the surfing was out, in favor of extreme sports, because of course that’s what all the cool kids are doing nowadays. The original film starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves is at 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, while the retread starring nobody in particular rests at a deserved 11%.
Remaking a classic Hitchcock film is no easy task; this was also the year that Rear Window was remade starring Christopher Reeve. But the Psycho remake was a remake in the most literal sense: it was a shot-for-shot copy of the 1960 original except, of course, this one was in color. Directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, it’s best left on the cutting room floor, earning a dismal 38% on Rotten Tomatoes.
King Kong (1976)
The 1933 classic King Kong is a stunning achievement of stop-motion visual effects and features an iconic performance by Fay Wray. In 1976, the story was updated to modern day. Instead of stop motion animation, they actually used an actor in an ape suit. Meanwhile, Jessica Lange, in her film debut, took on the Fay Wray role. Famed producer Dino De Laurentiis famously said “when Kong dies, they all cry,” but the only people crying were from laughter at how bad the campy writing was.
Ben Hur (2016)
Believe it or not, the classic 1959 version starring Charlton Heston was itself a remake of a 1928 silent film that was incredibly popular in its day. But the age of the epic sword and sandals Biblical dramas is long over. 2016’s Ben-Hur is often coupled with 2012’s John Carter in studies of how not to produce a modern day blockbuster. The Ben-Hur remake sits at 25% on RT.
Pink Panther (2006)
The classic Pink Panther movies have little to do with the cartoon cat, but rather the misadventures of a bumbling detective. Played brilliantly in the originals by Peter Sellers, Inspector Clouseau managed to solve crime without managing to tie his own shoes. But casting Steve Martin in the 2006 remake to update the character missed the point, even though both actors were masters of physical comedy. They managed to make a sequel to the remake (Pink Panther 2 in 2009) but neither one scored with audiences (21% and 13% on the Tomatometer, respectively).
Planet of the Apes (2001)
In between the original Planet of the Apes series starting in 1968 starring Charlton Heston and the current series starting in 2011 starring Andy Serkis, there was a notorious failed remake in 2001. Directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg, the movie took liberties with both the original film plot and the book it was based on to deliver one of the worst twist endings in cinematic history. Burton later claimed that the nonsensical ending was supposed to be explained in a sequel. But the awfulness of the film ensured a sequel was never made.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Remaking a classic sci-fi film of the ’50s is already tough, because half of their charm is their cheesiness. But this retelling of the story of an alien come to Earth somehow stripped the story of its imagination and almost set back Keanu Reeves’ career (again). It sits at 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Oompa Loompa Doompity Don’t. That’s the reaction of audiences to this remake of the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The original starred Gene Wilder in the role of an eccentric but otherwise affable candy maker. The 2005 version saw Tim Burton cast Johnny Depp in the role, in a bizarre Michael Jackson-inspired performance. His take scared the little ones and confused the adults. It remains one of the least imaginative re-imaginings of an otherwise magical movie ever made.
There is no shortage of Stephen King remakes, so of course the 1976 horror classic Carrie would get the remake treatment. This time, Chloë Grace Moretz takes on the role of Carrie originated by Sissy Spacek. The story of a bullied telekinetic girl and a prom gone wrong is one of the most famous setups in film. Yet all the 2013 remake does is update the film to a time of cell phones and social media. Other than that, it’s not particularly engaging even in the final confrontations. It sits at a paltry 50% on RT. At least they didn’t try to make a musical out of the story… oh wait, yes, there is a musical version, and it’s one of the biggest Broadway flops of all time.
Wicker Man (2006)
Wicker Man is a 1973 British horror classic starring Edward Woodward as an upright policeman sent to investigate a disappearance on a mysterious island. The 2006 remake made many mistakes, not the least of which was casting Nicolas Cage in the lead. The horror of the first film comes from its built-up narrative to the shocking conclusion, but the remake just runs by the plot to get to the good stuff at the end. The original is 89% on Rotten Tomataoes while the remake is at 15%. Perhaps the best thing to come out of the remake was the “Not the bees!” meme it generated.
Red Dawn (2012)
Remaking the 1984 action drama needed to fix one small plot point: there was no Soviet Union to invade the US anymore. The filmmakers changed the villain to North Korea, but they couldn’t change their film to be a good movie. At 14% on the Tomatometer, at least Chris Hemsworth managed not to tank his career.