by Jason Koenigsberg
Making a list of the worst movie remakes of all time is an exercise in futility. Most of the truly worst ones I have not bothered to watch and many people probably were smart enough to avoid in droves. What is even more annoying are big budget remakes of classic films that have aged well and serve no purpose other than to earn millions from good natured movie goers willing to pay, hoping for a decent product but instead are given mediocrity at it’s finest. These are the movies that after you see them, you just want to go home and watch the original because those have that magical element that transports you where the remake felt cold, hollow and pointless. Here are Pan and Slam’s Top 5 truly worthless Most Unnecessary Remakes…
But before we get to that a special dishonorable mention should go to two Tim Burton directed remakes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). The former is certainly superior that the latter, however neither one proved to be necessary nor did they bring anything unique, fun, or new to the beloved stories of Willy Wonka or Alice. They both feature Johnny Depp doing his shtick as a scenery chewing hack, which used to be charming but since Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) it has just grown tiresome. Both made a huge amount of money at the box office, yet today few people ever discuss them and nobody considers them the definitive versions of either story. Willy Wonka is still synonymous with Gene Wilder and the Disney animated feature of Alice in Wonderland (1951) remains the gold standard for multiple generations. As unnecessary as those two Tim Burton blockbusters were, the movies listed below are even more worthless…
5. Conan the Barbarian (2011)
What a wasted opportunity. This movie set back Jason Momoa’s film career about 7 or 8 years. After scoring a big role in HBO’s Game of Thrones he earned well deserved recognition and has an undeniable screen presence. Unfortunately his first leading role and star vehicle in a feature film is one of the most bland and utterly pointless remakes of all time. The first Conan the Barbarian (1982) is the picture that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star. It is far from a perfect film and Arnold hardly speaks in the picture because Dino De Laurentiis thought his English was bad and his accent too off putting. But John Milius directed the hell out of that movie with a script from Oliver Stone and the result was a sword and sandals epic that is still memorable thirty five years later. Less than a decade after Marcus Nispel directed Jason Momoa in the remake most people have already forgotten that it existed. They replaced the practical effects with some of the most generic CGI and the result is a bad movie, but not bad enough that anyone who sees it will actually remember it. Arnold is still Conan for all cinematic purposes and Jason Momoa has to wait until this fall’s Justice League and his Aquaman solo film to see if he is a viable movie star. His Conan the Barbarian may as well have never been made.
4. Swept Away (2002)
Guy Ritchie has never been a director of quality films. He got lucky with his debut film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) which is filled with undeniable energy, but since then has coasted on tweaking that style in only slightly different variations. Whether you liked Snatch (2001), RocknRolla (2008), or his Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. one cannot deny that they are filmed with a kinetic energy and gusto that makes them exciting and never boring. However, that trademark energy was nowhere to be found in his deadpan remake of Lina Wertmuller’s sensual, comedic romance Swept Away (1974). Nothing in Guy Ritchie’s remake works. If he was trying to be artsy, he failed miserably, if he was trying to be funny, he failed even worse. With a running time of only 89 minutes it feels like we are stuck on this island for at least twice as long. Madonna is at her most dreadful as a spoiled rich socialite and Adriano Giannini (son of Giancarlo Giannini, who starred in the original Italian version) as her servant who gets shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted island with her. He puts up with her abuse yet somehow they fall in love. They have no chemistry and their romance is completely implausible, but worst of all is how truly boring Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away is. I remember walking into a friend’s house and he was watching it on cable. I said to him, “this movie is terrible”, he responded, “Does anything actually happen? They’re just sitting around on a deserted island.” That is basically the movie. I think Guy Ritchie made this film simply to have a paid vacation with his then wife Madonna. I would love to get paid to be on a tropical island with my wife. It was critically panned and bombed at the box office. The original Swept Away is one of the best films from one of the world’s finest female directors. The remake is one of the worst films from one of the twenty-first centuries worst filmmakers.
3. Psycho (1998)/Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)/Halloween (2007)/Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)/Carrie (2013)
I know this is a little lame, having five horror remakes tied for third place as the worst remakes of all time. However, I cannot tell the difference between these five and accurately judge which one is truly the worst of the bunch. They all have a lot of things in common. Uninspired retellings of classic horror films that did not make any impact or difference in the legacy of the story. When discussing the history of any of these classic original films, these remakes will simply be a blip on the radar of their cultural impact. They all star talented actors giving decent performances stuck in a thankless role because no matter how good they are they will never surpass the importance or influence of the original. Plus these films were all directed by talented filmmakers. Gus Van Sant followed up his career best film Good Will Hunting (1997) with a shot for shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic. Literally the only differences were that his version was in color and he had Vince Vaughn masterbating as he spied on Anne Heche through a peephole, otherwise nothing. Rob Zombie added more gore and nudity to his Halloween and also gave us an unnecessary and incredibly stupid origin story for Michael Myers. But I do not know what Kimberly Peirce who directed Boys Don’t Cry (1999) was thinking when she made her version of Carrie. There was nothing special about her version at all. Julianne Moore starred in both the Psycho and Carrie remakes and even though she is a better actress than the original ladies who performed her roles, she added nothing unique to either film and especially failed when compared to Piper Laurie as the religiously zealous and abusive mother in Carrie. The 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a slasher film done MTV style and is the second movie on this list directed by Marcus Nispel and was only good for showcasing Jessie Biel as she ran around in a tight, white shirt for the majority of the film. The less said about the Nightmare on Elm Street remake the better. It is just unfortunate because like Julianne Moore, Jackie Earle Haley is a much more talented actor than Robert Englund, but he will never be the definitive Freddy Krueger. All of the original films remain classics and masterworks from some of the best directors of all time; Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) are all still definitive horror movies and these remakes did nothing but make them look even better as time passes because the greatness of those films was not duplicated.
2. Total Recall (2012)/Robocop (2014)
Another tie but these two films have so much in common it is pathetic. The fact both of these films flopped at the box office is a sign that restored my faith in humanity. These are both remakes of films by Paul Verhoeven. They are two of his most successful and outstanding big budget Hollywood pictures that a remake was bound to be a pointless endeavor unless they completely redefined these two titles. Of course hack directors Len Wiseman, famous for the Underworld movies and Jose Padilha, famous for absolutely nothing made these classic, violent, unforgettable sci-fi movies extremely safe and ultimately forgettable. Robocop (1987) and Total Recall (1990) are two of the best futuristic action thrillers of their era. The remakes most people have probably forgot existed whether they saw them or not. These are the worst types of remakes. Taking hard R-rated films and dumbing down their serious themes and intelligent concepts with a generic story that is a shell of what the original had to say about humanity and technology and replacing phenomenal practical effects with generic CGI shots. These films are as run-of-the-mill as movies get. This is the second Jessie Biel film on this list and I only know that because I looked at the imdb pages of both of these remakes as I wrote this, I totally forgot she was in the remake. The second Arnold Schwarzenegger film on the list and I guess either he was that amazing of an actor in his prime, or films were just that much better during the 80’s and 90’s. I think it’s a little bit of both.
1. The Wicker Man (2006)
The film that marked the beginning of the end for the once great Nicolas Cage. Unlike many other films on this list, Neil LaBute’s Wicker Man was not a generic paint-by-numbers shot-for-shot remake of the original 1973 Robin Hardy classic. Instead his remake was a bizarre, misogynistic train wreck of a movie that has to be seen to be believed. It could easily be categorized in the “So Bad It’s Good” column. The original Wicker Man features career best performances from the great Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward and Britt Ekland. Nicolas Cage in some ways is a better actor than all three of them, but in his Wicker Man he delivers the worst performance of his career. Cage has a reputation for overacting and being weird and bizarre when it is not called for. He has never been more guilty of overacting than in this outrageously bad film. If he was the only thing wrong with it, then it would not matter as much. But everything around him is laughably bad, his over the top performance actually fits in perfectly with the rest of the craziness surrounding him. Ellen Burstyn is wooden and seems like she is reading her lines from a cue card and Leelee Sobieski acted worse than a WWE diva in her ridiculous fight scene. Her fight scene was not even the worst fight in the movie. Later on Nicolas Cage punches a woman in the face in a bear costume. It has elements from the first Wicker Man, but that is all that the outlandish remake has in common with the original. The first movie was a powerful, anti-Christian allegory about the belief in God and the absence of God, the remake is so anti-woman Donald Trump would probably take exception to it. But even if you are a sexist, chauvinist pig, Neil LaBute’s Wicker Man is terrible from a technical standpoint. Shots that do not match, takes that seem like they did not even bother to film a second one, dialogue that is just plain awful, and using the guise of a classic movie to no avail other than to confuse fans of the original and guarantee that viewers unfamiliar with the first one will never seek it out. The Wicker Man is the film that marked the moment Nicolas Cage lost his credibility as a respectable Academy Award winning actor and box office star to a punchline and he has never recovered as most of his movies this decade have gone straight to DVD and rightfully so. This is the most unnecessary, worthless and despicable remake of a classic film ever made.
Here are some clips from the 2006 Wicker Man. If you watch these highlights you do not have to bother watching the horrendous remake in its entirety.
And here is Nicolas Cage in a bear suit punching a woman in the face with some bear jokes.