There are more than a few mantras that cinephiles like to throw out when discussing films with the more casual viewers, but none are more prevalent than you really should watch the original. You know it’s coming every time you talk about the latest reboot or sequel, but there’s not stopping it. Fortunately, when there’s a “rule” there are – especially in the English language – many exceptions. So next time you find yourself in one of these predicaments, just a list a few of these films that surpass their original counterparts.
Casino Royale (2006)
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of James Bond. In fact, my interest in the franchise has decreased increasingly as I’ve gotten older. That being said, Casino Royale is one of the few James Bond films that, not only would I consider actually good, but excellent.
The first of the Daniel Craig reboot franchise, Casino Royale is the only James Bond story to have had two adaptations. While the first adaptation was a dull spin-off of sorts, the 2006 re-do was an exhilarating reinvention of the series. The James Bond character wasn’t overly altered, keeping his hot-headed and machoistic mannerisms, but Martin Campbell’s direction and Craig’s performance recentred these characteristics as detriments rather than idles of masculinity.
This deconstruction of the character was partnered with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, a fellow agent and supervisor to Bond’s mission. Lynd broke the mould of typical Bond Girls, being extremely intelligent and perceptive, surpassing Bond’s own abilities.
Remembering how good Casino Royale was casts a freezing shade over its follow-ups. But, hey! At least Daniel Craig can end his tenure in No Time to Die (2020) knowing that he had the best Bond film.
Constructing this list, I decided that a good rule of thumb for how significantly more popular a remake is to the original is when most people aren’t aware that the remake isn’t the original. I don’t think any film on this list fits that brief quite like Hairspray. Originally, Hairspray was a 1988 comedy-drama with much of the same plot as the remake and was received extremely well critically.
Despite the original’s critical success, it wasn’t until the film was adapted into a Broadway musical and then into the 2007 film that it came into its own. Trading a duller colour palette for vibrancy and a barrage of the catchiest musical songs you’ll ever come across, Hairspray (2007) became a turning point for a whole new generation.
Its great cast was no doubt part of its appeal, particularly the casting of Zac Efron as love-interest Link, who had had the leading-role of Troy Bolton in High School Musical (2006) the year before. Additionally, the acting debut of Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad saw an all-out performance as the optimistic and body-positive lead.
Retaining LGBTQ+ and racial integration themes continued the legacy of the original, while also immortalising it through a greater sense of style.
The Mummy (1999)
Unlike Hairspray, The Mummy swings on the other end of the pendulum in the world of remakes. Instead of being more well-known but ultimately faithful to the original, The Mummy (1999) has very little in common with The Mummy (1932) except for, yep you guessed it, the mummy. While the original is an important piece of cinema – I would recommend watching it if you’re at a loss during lockdown – it isn’t an overly exciting film.
The Mummy (1999), however, offers up plenty of thrills. Combining supernatural horror with action-adventure energies, the remake takes several important notes from the wildly popular Indiana Jones franchise. Bolstered by its charismatic leads in Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weis, is pure pop-corn entertainment. Although Weis’ performance defines many traits of the action heroine, Fraser’s lead performance set the character-type of the action hero in the years to come: handsome and adventurous, but not self-serious.
The subsequent sequels and spin-offs, as well as the 2017 remake, have only added to my personal appreciation of this 1999 adaptation.
The Invisible Man (2020)
Like The Mummy, The Invisible Man is almost a remake in title only, sharing the titular character and a couple of other character names as Easter eggs throughout. Don’t get me wrong, the original film, adapted from the eponymous H.G. Wells’ novel, is great in that classic sense, but this 2020 remake excels in its updates.
While the original story centres around the breakdown of a scientist who has turned invisible, the 2020 adaptation follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) as she escapes from her abusive boyfriend, optical scientist Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Some time after escaping, Griffin is declared dead in an apparent suicide, leaving his estate to Cecilia, while terrorising her as an invisible man.
Acting as allegory for the #MeToo movement, The Invisible Man (2020) is horror at its finest, being completely unnerving and paranoia-inducing through director Leigh Whannell’s use of negative space (believe me, you’ll feel crazy watching this yourself), and the compelling performances of Moss and her co-stars, who thinks this is part of her post-traumatic stress.
Tackling PTSD and mental health, while also embedding an ever-so-sightly unreliability to the narrative voice, gives this remake more thematic nuance and relevance that could ever be believed before its release. Although the current £15.99 rental price is a bit steep at the moment, it is a must-watch for any horror fan.
The Thing (1982)
I debated for a while if I was putting too many horror remakes into this article, but it only seems proportionate that there would be more. The oldest remake on this list, John Carpenter’s The Thing wasn’t exactly a huge success or film icon that it is today.
Based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?, The Thing also serves as a remake to the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. With thirty extra years of practical effects behind it, Carpenter’s remake was able to rise as a more gruelling piece of body horror.
A shapeshifter, the titular alien terrorises the Antarctica crew of American researchers through posing as themselves. The shared feeling of paranoia between the group serves the larger narrative of societal fragility in a fear-inducing spectacle.
It’s no wonder that this cult-classic has carved its name in the horror canon and has become the quintessential Lovecraftian film, standing by the belief that the only thing scarier than seeing the monster is never seeing it at all.
Last modified: 19th April 2020