It is a truth universally acknowledged: a single movie in possession of a large following must be in want of a remake. At least, that’s how Hollywood executives seem to see things!
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the real truth is that remakes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s even understandable, to some extent. Aside from the obvious cash-grab, there is some value in the idea of updating an old story: whether it didn’t quite hit the mark the first time around or social values have changed, or even just bringing an important story to a new audience who may otherwise ignore it. Some movies may well benefit from a fresh take._
In that spirit, today we’re going to take a look at five movies we think are due for a remake — and five that are perfect, just the way they are.
Remake: Ella Enchanted (2004)
We’ll start with an easy one. Gail Carson Levine’s book, Ella Enchanted, is a delightful twist on the fairy tale we all know and love: about a girl named Ella of Frell, who is “blessed” with the gift of obedience when she’s a baby. It has all the makings of a great movie, from fairy curses to giants and ogres to royal balls, yet the 2004 adaptation is, well… if we’re being polite, we’ll say it failed to deliver. From the wild changes between the book and the screenplay to the cringey anarchisms, this movie dropped the ball on so many fronts that even Carey Elwes couldn’t save it!
Still, that doesn’t mean the idea of an Ella Enchanted movie is bad. There’s a lot of material in the book that would make for an utterly delightful movie, with a fun twist and an important message (especially for young girls). In fact, in the right hands, it would have the full potential to become a fantasy classic right up there with Willow or The Princess Bride.
Speaking of which…
Perfect: The Princess Bride (1987)
Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… Does The Princess Bride really need any introduction?
Framed as a story being read to a sick boy by his grandfather, this classic movie was so quirky and downright weird that it had every potential to fail. Instead, it’s captured the hearts of millions of fans around the world for more than thirty years now. It’s this strangeness that makes it so beloved, and so impossible to replicate. Even if you wanted to try rebooting it, there’s no way these ingredients would recombine to create the magic twice. Better to leave it as it stands.
Remake: The Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005)
Well, they’re owned by Disney now, so isn’t this one just a matter of time?
As flawed as the prequels are, there are some really interesting nuggets of potential buried down deep within the mess of midichlorians, horrible romance, and Jar Jar Binks — and we would love to see what could be done with it if they were only given the right treatment. Between the rise of the Empire, the corruption of Anakin Skywalker, and the open-ended potential the original trilogy gave us with the mere phrase “clone wars,” there’s got to be more than enough material here to do this prequel trilogy right.
Perfect: The Matrix (1999)
When it first burst onto the scene in 1999, audience’s reactions around the world were mirrored quite perfectly on screen with Keanu Reeves’ now-iconic “Woah.”
To put it simply, The Matrix was unlike anything movie-goers had ever experienced before. From the groundbreaking special effects, to the incredibly moving and heartfelt depictions of what it would be like to realize your entire world is a lie, we were enraptured by this stunning new addition to science fiction cinema. And in the decades since, the film has only become more important, as the public began to clue in to the trans-experience woven deep into the narrative. Trying to remake it today, with everything already knowing what to expect, would be impossible — the only way to surprise audiences would be to fundamentally change things up, and then it really wouldn’t be The Matrix anymore.
Remake: Anastasia (1997)
Though not owned by Disney, Anastasia feels like the perfect candidate to jump on the live-action remake bandwagon. It’s got all the right ingredients: catchy songs, fun characters, a delightful story of adventure and mystery and romance.
A live-action remake would have a high bar to reach, of course, but we think it could be done. With the right cast and director, this would bring the fun of hidden identities and political backstabbing to a whole new audience. Plus, who doesn’t want to daydream about a world where you can suddenly find out you’re a long-lost monarch? That level of posh escapism is exactly what a lot of us need right now.
Perfect: Titanic (1997)
While we’re on the topic of escapism, let’s head to the opposite end of the spectrum and get lost in a world of doomed love and tragedy. Yes, it sounds grim — but in fact, knowing how this story ends lends a tension and urgency to the film, even when the pacing would otherwise be languid and relaxing.
It’s precisely this duality that makes Titanic such an engrossing watch, even for the thousandth time. We always secretly hope that this time things may turn out differently, even though we know better. Still, out in the middle of the sea, surrounded by fresh salt air and possibility, we can allow ourselves to believe for one perfect sunset of a moment that we have the chance to change our fates. Dress it up in gorgeous costuming, and throw in the lively dynamic of DeCaprio and Winslet, and it’s no wonder this film once held the mantle of highest-grossing movie of all time.
(All that said, if they’d like to remake it solely to make this version canon, we will change our tune in a heartbeat.)
Remake: The Breakfast Club (1985)
Unlike some of the other entries on this list, we’re not calling for a Breakfast Club remake because there’s anything wrong with the original — on the contrary, the original is untouchable.
No, this one is on this list because it did such an amazing job resonating with people: the new generation deserves their own version, one that speaks directly to the issues facing young people today. And while recreating the magic would be near-impossible (re-casting Molly Ringwald’s role alone is a challenge we wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy), we can only imagine the wonders that would result if Hollywood was able to nail this one. With a diverse cast and a painfully honest examination of the unique challenges facing Gen Z, a proper remake of The Breakfast Club could easily become the best reboot in cinematic history.
Perfect: Back to the Future (1985)
About ten years ago, we would have argued for a Back to the Future remake for one purpose and one purpose only: to reboot it where the present day was 2015, and the trips to the past were instead taking us back to 1985.
But here in 2020, that window has long since closed, and with it, the only valid reason to mess with such an iconic slice of cinematic history. The pitch-perfect performances by Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox leave no room to criticize, and the tension and pacing are spot-on. This movie strikes the perfect balance between ‘80s cheese and timeless entertainment, creating an appeal that still resonates to this day.
Remake: Waterworld (1995)
In the ‘90s, our disaster movies were typically based on asteroids striking Earth or alien invasions. So when this film originally came out, its premise seemed like a bit of far-flung, sci-fi escapism.
Well. Not so much anymore, and this is precisely why it’s the perfect time for a reboot. One where the threat feels real, the tension is high, and the stakes take on a thriller level of suspense. It would be great to see how our modern perception would shape the way we tell this story — not to mention what filmmakers could do with the level of special effects at their disposal now. A reboot of this movie could have it all, from intense levels of dread to the most explosive set pieces, all the makings of a perfect summer blockbuster.
Perfect: Die Hard (1988)
But even in light of the advanced special effects of modern cinema, when it comes to action films, Die Hard is almost impossible to beat. There’s a talented cop, cut off from his usual resources; tense and clever action sequences with excellent use of choreography, space, and intelligence; high stakes, both in terms of plot and for the main character himself; and the dynamic characterization brought to life in Bruce Willis’s John McClane, and the excruciatingly perfect debut of Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber. There really is no way to improve upon this mix.
Plus, the instant communication and interconnectivity of modern technology would make a straight-up remake almost impossible, and if you change the premise too much, you’d lose out on a lot of what makes it Die Hard, and not one of its increasingly ridiculous sequels.
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Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories — and watching films!