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

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood December 27, 2012 at 5:11PM

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.
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Thelma and Louise
'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"...

This article is related to: Lists, Classics, Remake, Features, Directors


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.