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Films that Should Never Be Remade - From 'The Goonies' and 'Die Hard' to 'Deer Hunter' and 'Shawshank'

by Sophia Savage
December 27, 2012 5:11 PM
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'Thelma & Louise'

You'd think the great auteurs would be safe from remakes -- it's hard to imagine someone taking on a Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Terrence Malick or David Lynch film, for example. But that hasn't stopped Hollywood from remaking everything from "The Haunting" to "Psycho."  Studio heads figure the lazy new generation doesn't know the classics. And marketers want to cash in on easy-sell branded titles and fan followings -- it's the way it works. But more often than not, when less-than-great movies get remade into even less great "reboots" like 2012's "Total Recall," they flop with audiences anyway. And when the great ones get remade, like Federico Fellini's "8½," even canny movie stars like Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard can't save them.

While we don't want any movies to be remade, here are eight films to begin our official Please Do Not Even Try list.

PLEASE DO NOT EVEN TRY: Films That Should Never Be Remade

"The Deer Hunter" (1979), Dir. Michael Cimino, Wr. Cimino, Deric Washburn

This devastating, viscerally disturbing film was a profound expression of the Vietnam era. Recreating its effect be impossible -- despite still relevant themes -- and compiling a cast of such high caliber would also be a challenge (of course they were less established then): Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale…where would you start to replace them? The film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Sound and Editing. A year later, Francis Ford Coppola's equally provocative Vietnam film "Apocalypse Now" -- which should also never be remade -- won two.

"The Goonies" (1985), Dir. Richard Donner, Wr. Steven Spielberg

The 80s are long behind us, as are the halcyon days of imagination and boredom. Thanks, technology. Recapturing this Steven Spielberg classic in our modern era is impossible, so those who would dare to try would end up embarrassed and nostalgic at best. On the other hand, J.J. Abrams did a pretty good job with "Super 8."

"Die Hard" (1988), Dir. John McTiernan, Wr. Roderick Thorp (novel), Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza

It's quite possible that Bruce Willis has no intention of ending his days as John McClane. We're safe for now. But sooner or later someone is going to think "reboot" and a replacement will be sought to take over the yippee ki-yay mother-fucking franchise. A wise idea? No. But even Paul Thomas Anderson would've liked a shot at directing the original.

"Thelma & Louise" (1991), Dir. Ridley Scott, Wr. Callie Khouri

It's hard to imagine this film without Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald and Brad Pitt or director Ridley Scott. It could have come together entirely differently back in development stages, and thank god it didn't. (Producer Scott realized that all the directors wanted to "soften" the inherent feminism of the piece. So he decided to do it himself.) To have this movie any other way, set in any other era, with different music and landscapes, would be a cinematic abomination. (On the other hand, you'd think we'd have come farther than we have. Its theme, shockingly, is still relevant.) (Khouri, David and producer Mimi Polk Gitlin celebrated the film's 20th anniversary at the Academy.)

Next: "The Silence of the Lambs"...

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More: Lists, Classics, Remake, Features, Directors


  • Jenny | September 17, 2013 6:41 PMReply

    The Back to the Future trilogy should be on here.

  • regista | February 4, 2013 5:31 PMReply

    Films, good or bad, are like plays. Have you ever heard of Shakespeare or Ibsen not being remade? Stories have been retold since the dawn of time, but today, more than ever before, with films we have a technological conundrum. Have you ever tried to show a 12 year old the classics? They just won't get past the black and white, or the slow set up, or the bad "effects". Great stories should be preserved in eternity EXACTLY by being remade, no matter how many times, by future generations. The only reason why we even KNOW a lot of great stories and myths, is that they were endlessly retold by people. Whoever compiled this list thinks that everyone is a film buff or a die-hard cinephile, when clearly 99,9% of the public is not. They'll never see the movies on this list. They'll keep seeing bad movies, if we don't remake the good ones.

  • Ralph Hartman | December 28, 2012 8:51 PMReply

    E.T. should be on this list.

  • Brian | December 28, 2012 3:26 PMReply

    I for one would welcome remakes of DIE HARD and THELMA AND LOUISE if there was a whole new approach to the subjects. I think both stories can be told in different ways, DIE HARD just as effectively as the original, THELMA AND LOUISE more effectively (i.e. more realistic and not such a delusional feminist fantasy and with a more believable ending where they get caught and take their lumps, like 99% of criminals).

  • Roy Munson | December 27, 2012 8:56 PMReply


  • clinique | December 27, 2012 6:15 PMReply

    Showgirls should be added to this list.

  • Keith | December 27, 2012 6:07 PMReply

    Oops. Make that "...nothing to DESTROY the original...".

  • Keith | December 27, 2012 6:05 PMReply

    "great works should stay intact"

    Which they will. Someone doing a new version of "Thelma and Louise" or "The Silence of the Lambs" does nothing to destory the original, which is why a "never remake" list is such a silly and snobby exercise to begin with.

  • brace | December 27, 2012 6:02 PMReply

    no great movie should ever be remade.only movies that had the potential (like good story,idea,characters...) but something went wrong (wrong director,casting,timing...) should be remade. great works should stay intact, especially the movies made from the original script.

  • Nato | December 27, 2012 5:55 PMReply

    and don't even think about touching "The Crow" !!! Having anyone else playing Eric Draven would be like Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher...

  • Roy Munson | December 27, 2012 8:55 PM

    Please. No one would care. That's considered a great film by no one

  • Migilicuty11 | December 27, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    Taxi Driver should be on this list.

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