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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.

"The Silence of the Lambs" (1991), Dir. Jonathan Demme, Wr. Ted Tally (Thomas Harris, novel)

Silence of the Lambs
'Silence of the Lambs'

Who would be naive enough to try and top Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter? Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling should also be considered sacred territory. This is the only horror/thriller to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture (it also won Best Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay), and it's easy to see why. It's also easy to see the ways in which it could be taken over the top, exaggerated and pushed to the point of parody. (Ridley Scott himself did it in the "Hannibal" sequel.) No one can touch this film. Television is going to try; Mads Mikkselsen is starring as a younger Lecter in an upcoming 13-episode NBC series.

"Shawshank Redemption" (1994), Dir. Frank Darabont Wr. Stephen King, Darabont

It's no surprise that Stephen King's novels make for excellent films ("The Shining," "The Green Mile," "Dolores Claiborne"), and as some of them are already being redone ("Carrie," "Pet Sematary"), it would be nice to keep at least one safe from consideration. Let it be "Shawshank"; there will never be a better pair than Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman as Andy and Red. Darabont's direction is perfection, and the film holds up swimmingly nearly twenty years on.

"The Usual Suspects" (1995), Dir. Bryan Singer, Wr. Christopher McQuarrie

A cult classic mystery with a stellar cast, including Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro and Stephen Baldwin. To pull off this convoluted story as cleverly as Singer did is no easy feat, and to attempt re-engaging an audience --old or new--with the same story would be an invitation for endless comparisons, if not disaster. The original holds up, and if people haven't already seen this movie, they should go in knowing as little as possible.

"Fight Club" (1999), Dir. David Fincher, Wr. Chuck Palahniuk

It may have been considered a commercial failure when it debuted, but this film, one of Fincher's finest, has become one of the most beloved cult films of all time. Cinematically and conceptually, "Fight Club" was ahead of its time and to try to reassign its scathing social commentary to 2013 or beyond just wouldn't have the same jolting effect. We're too jaded now. And making this movie without Brad Pitt and Edward Norton? Please.

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.