Guest Post: Comparing five Hollywood original films to their remakes


Hollywood is crazy about doing remakes, just recently Ridley Scott signed on to direct a remake/reboot/redo/prequel/sequel his own original film Blade Runner. Then his brother Tony Scott announced he was in talks to do a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s great western, The Wild Bunch, I hope to god that this will never ever happen. The original is one of the best films ever made and it’s on my top ten favorite films of all time. So needless to say I’m not happy that Tony “I’m such a hack” Scott wants to do a remake of it.

Anyhoo, I thought of writing an article about comparing the original films to the remakes since Hollywood can’t seem to think of anything original now a days. The way it works is I’ll write about the differences between each films and declare which one is the winner, the original or the remake.

Ok, here goes:

1. Man on Fire

1987 Original: Speaking of Tony Scott, he was actually set to direct this film way back in the 80s but at the time he was still new in the industry, so the studio didn’t want him to take over the project. They let some French director named Elie Chouraqui do the film instead. The original starred Scott Glen as Creasy and Joe Pesci as David, his character is that of Christopher Walken’s in the remake. I saw this version years ago at the recommendation of Quentin Tarantino, he loves the film and can’t stop talking about it while he was promoting Pulp Fiction. To be honest with you, the film wasn’t that good. The first 30 minutes or so was hard to sit through, but the rest of the film was pretty decent. The film was badly directed and acted, especially Joe Pesci, he was quite awful in the film. Also it was a very low budget film so it looked very cheap.

2004 Remake: So 17 years later, Tony Scott was finally able to make the film he wanted to do years back. He has more prominent stars with Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken, and a bigger budget. The remake is pretty much the same as the original, except this one took place in Mexico while the original was set in Italy. Also the remake was much more violent and since it cost $70mil to make, so the action scenes were bigger and louder than the original.

Winner: 2004 remake

2. Infernal Affairs/The Departed

2002 Original: The original version from Hong Kong was a very slick and cool thriller, and I knew Hollywood would do a remake of it right after I saw it back in early 2000s. In fact, Brad Pitt bought the rights to the film after he saw it and was going to star in it himself but he decided to just be the producer. The film was very fast paced with great cinematography and a cool soundtrack. To me though, the film didn’t spend enough time on character development, so we didn’t really know about them all that much. The women in the film were simply there just for eye candy purposes and the main gangster (Nicholson’s character in the remake) was played by a very weak actor.

2006 Remake: So the remake is pretty much the same as the original plot wise with the exception of the ending, I wouldn’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen either the original or the remake. In my opinion, the remake did a better job when it comes to developing the main characters, we know more about them and their motivations as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. Of course it helps a lot when it was directed by the master Martin Scorsese and the fact that Jack Nicholson played the Irish gangster.

Winner: It’s a tough one but I’m gonna have to go with the 2006 remake

3. The Day of The Jackal/The Jackal

1973 Original: The original version directed by Fred Zinnemann was a very smart thriller that took its time to tell the story. The plot centers on a professional assassin codenamed “Jackal” who’s hired to kill French president Charles de Gaulle. The pacing might turn off some of today’s movie audiences but if you’re patient enough, the payoff is pretty good.

1997 Remake: This updated version was loud and stupid, seriously, Bruce Willis still looks like Bruce Willis even after he put on all those supposed disguises. The director of the original felt so insulted by this remake, he threatened to sue if Universal uses the same title, that’s why they cut the title to just The Jackal. Even the author of the original book asked his name be removed from this film. Also, Bruce Willis and Richard Gere didn’t get along at all during filming and vowed to never work with each other again.

Winner: No questions about it, the 1973 original win hands down

4. La Femme Nikita/Point of No Return

1990 Original: The original, directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional), kicked off the Nikita franchise that somehow never goes away. I really like this version and I even watched the TV show version that aired in the late 90s. I’ve also been watching a few episodes of the new show that stars Maggie Q.

Anyhoo, back to the movie version, I thought it was a very good action thriller with a great concept. The story revolves around a convicted felon who’s given another chance to redeem her life by becoming an assassin for the government. The down side for this movie was the last 30 minutes or so, the film just fell apart in my opinion. It seems to me the filmmakers didn’t know how to end the story and just came up with some lame idea.

1993 Remake: The remake starred Bridget Fonda and I thought she was quite a miscast. Ok so maybe if Fonda gained a few more pounds of muscle, she might look more appropriate for the role. Besides the miscasting, the remake is basically a carbon copy of the original and I enjoyed it.

Winner: It‘s a tie

5. The Mechanic

1972 Original: This version starred the great Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent. I think it’s one of the best action films of the 70s. The slower pacing might not sit well with today’s movie audiences though. Some suggested that the film has some homosexual undertones since the two leads spent a lot of time together and we don’t see them interact with women. I think that’s BS, the story’s about an aging and highly-trained assassin who wants to train a younger version of himself, so to me it’s more of a father and son story. But of course that’s not the case, if you seen the film, than you know what I’m talking about.

2011 Remake: The remake has been in the work for years. In fact in the late 90s early 2000s, Michael Douglas was in talk to star but it never happened. So finally the new one came out earlier this year and it was one of the most dreadful remakes I’ve ever seen. I didn’t mind the casting of Jason Statham as the main character but I thought Ben Foster was a total miscast. I know some people said Foster is one of the best young actors today but I’m not one of them. To me he’s pretty bland actor, actually he reminds me a lot of Stephen Dorff.

This updated version decided to up ante on the action and violence level but have non of the intelligence of the original. Also, I mentioned some people think the original has the homosexual undertones, so in order to dissuade people from thinking the two characters are gay, the filmmakers decided to show our leads having sex with hookers. Classy I tell you.

Winner: 1972 original

Have you seen any of these films? If you happen to have seen both the original movie(s) and the remakes, please share which version you prefer.

58 thoughts on “Guest Post: Comparing five Hollywood original films to their remakes

  1. PrairieGirl

    Hi Ted, excellent post! Haven’t seen any of your picks, because when it comes to remakes, I lean more towards:
    1. Sabrina (1954) – Audrey Hepburn and remake Sabrina (1995) – Julia Ormand.
    2. The Shop Around the Corner (1940) – Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, and remake You’ve Got Mail (1998) – Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
    And as you can see, I like my remakes spaced farther apart than is usual these days… A remake of Nikita only three years after the original? Yikes!

    1. I haven’t seen the original Sabrina yet, which I should as I love Audrey Hepburn, but I love the 1995 remake. Julia Ormond is lovely in the lead role, plus I like Harrison Ford. I also like You’ve Got Mail, but also haven’t seen the original.

      1. PrairieGirl

        The original Sabrina is as good as the remake, so since you like Audrey, you’ll enjoy the original, I love the 1995 remake too. And as for TSATC, it’s so quaint to see them actually using snail mail P.O. box! But Jimmy Stewart keeps the same sly, snarky attitude as Tom Hanks had throughout YGM… and the attraction he has towards Margaret Sullivan is manifested just like Hanks did towards Meg Ryan. The main differences are TSATC is set in Hungary (of all places), and the shop is a gift shop versus a book store.

    2. Ted S.

      Thanks Becky, I haven’t seen Sebrina, the original or the remake. I did enjoy You’ve Got Mail, never seen the original version though.

  2. What timing, Ted! (given the film I reviewed today). And as usual, an excellent comparative overview of the films. The only original I’ve yet to see is ‘Man on Fire’, though. I’d go with HK’s ‘Infernal Affairs’ over ‘The Departed’, however. The svelte police thriller has the benefit of being original in the truest sense and doesn’t overstay its welcome (which I found in Sorcese’s longish remake). Plus, I kinda hold it against MS for not, till the end when he received criticism over the fact, for not speaking about that it was a remake of Wai-keung Lau’s film.

    I’m still firmly in ‘La Femme Nikita”s camp, too. But, I’m in so, so much agreement with you about ‘The Mechanic’. None of the original’s nuance and stoic badass-ry of Bronson made it to the remake. It’s almost the poster child of what today’s studio remake are all about these. Really enjoyable post, Ted. Thanks.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Michael, a great review of the original The Day of the Jackal, just finished reading it on your site. I was so excited to see the remake, especially with two big named stars in Willis and Gere but after I saw it, I wanted my money back, what an awful film.

      You know I was surprised too that Martin Scorsese and his writer didn’t even mention the original film until later on, I kinda loss a little respect for them since they basically copied the original film.

      Yeah I thought the original Nikita was very good, except I just wish they came up with a better ending. I know the remake they included a showdown between Nikita and the cleaner and that still didn’t work for me.

  3. I’ve been thinking about remakes too – and am working away on a similar post but didn’t even think of the films here. I’m just dreading the fiasco that’s bound to be Footloose and Dirty Dancing (spot the 80s girl)!.

  4. good run down! I am a big fan of Man on Fire myself! Curious if you have a list of your least fave remakes?

    I like the fact that you left room for one of your picks to be a “tie,” I have some like that myself. i.e. The Italian Job remake vs original.

    great post!

  5. You know I’d rather have Ridley Scott going back to his roots with Blade Runner and Alien then making some of the stuff he’s made lately. A Good Year??? I don’t think so Ridley.

    Remake The Wild Bunch? Hmmm… with Tony Scott at the helm somehow I don’t think it’s gonna turn out like True Grit. The only really great westerns, IMHO, in the last 20 years were The Unforgiven, True Grit and the Nick Cave’s western The Proposition. Dances With Wolves has faded over time and of course it might be possible that I’m still jaded at it getting the oscar for Best Picture and Director over Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Booo.

    Infernal Affairs/The Departed was a tie for me. Enjoyed them both. Big ups for
    The Departed changing the ending around. Didn’t work so well for The Manchurian Canidate though did it?

    La Femme Nikita was the better movie. Of course Jean Reno’s playing an assassin/hitman/cleaner for umpteenth time (Leon: The Professional, Mission: Impossible, Ronin…). I though Bridget Fonda was miscast badly too Ted. Besson liked her so much he even cast her in the Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon. Go figure.

    Haven’t seen the rest but I’m gonna make it a point to see The Day of The Jackal. Love those old 70’s thrillers.

    Wow… didn’t even know about the original movie The Mechanic. Ben Foster… Steven Doriff…lol. Doriff wishes he was Timothy Olyphant almost as bad as Skeet Ulrich used to wish he was Johnny Depp. You can throw Shia LeBouf in the overhyped, young actor category.

    Dave W

    1. The only reason I like The Point of No Return is because I love Gabriel Byrne! But I can’t stand Harvey Keitel, he’s just despicable, so because of that, I like the ending, ahah.

    2. Ted S.

      Thanks Dave and I agree with you about Ridley Scott, even though I’m too thrill about his involvement with the new Blade Runner, I’d rather see him going back to do his best work than something like A Good Year or Robin Hood.

      Exactly, I love Unforgiven; also True Grit and The Proposition were very good westerns. Yes I’m so in agreement with you about Dances with Wolves, it should not have won the best picture that year, Goodfellas was a way better film.

      It was hard to pick The Departed over Infernal Affairs but I thought the American version did a better job of expanding the characters’ background.

      I really enjoyed the original Nikita until the end, just thought they should end it differently. I totally forgot Bridget Fonda was in Kiss of the Dragon, I wonder where she is now? She sort of disappear from Hollywood.

      Check out The Day of The Jackal since you’re a fan of 70s flicks, you won’t be disappointed.

          1. No need to apologize. I thought of just mentioning that there was a cameo but then I thought that would give away too much away for this group who loves the inside stuff. I cant believe there were actual “professional” reviewers who gave away the best part of Zombieland in their reviews. Shame on them.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah I still watch the new Nikita show, it’s better than I thought and somehow it keeps improving on every episodes.

      Well you can skip the original Man on Fire if you’ve already seen the remake, the new version is much better. On the other hand, if you’ve never seen the original Mechanic, I highly you check it out. The remake was awful.

  6. Hi, Ruth and company:

    Excellent mid-week topic and thread, Ruth!

    In all cases, I still prefer the originals to the remakes.

    Scott Glenn still has it all over Denzel as a conflicted, self-destructing professional with fewer and fewer demons top battle than his own in ‘Man On Fire’.

    Never understood all the Hoopla over ‘The Departed’. A Scorsese film that neither looks nor feels like a Scorsese film. There’s an Old School Crime Boss who may have put crooked cops in Boston’s PD…. And?

    I don’t care who was in the re-make. Zinnerman’s ‘The Day Of The Jackal’ is a perfect Political Thriller whose outcome is already known. Yet helps to aid and personalize the Jackal’s mission…. Should NEVER have been touched. Bruce Willis or not!

    Bridget Fonda is not Anne Parrillaud. Enough said.. What caught my attention in ‘Point Of No Return’ were Gabriel Byrne as Fonda’s handler and Harvey Keitel’s non-Harvey Keitel role as the Clean Up Guy.

    I completely agree with your critique of the original, ‘The Mechanic’. And more than a bit with the re-make’s critique, Ben Foster still has the ‘Good Guy Glow’ from NBC/TNT’s noteworthy ‘Southland’ and that may have been a mistake. Especially if Josh Brolin, Tom Hardy or Eric Bana had been available.

    1. Ted S.

      Hi Jack, thanks for your great comments as always.

      It was hard for me to sit through the original Man on Fire, I did like the gritty feel to the movie though but I just thought the remake was just a bit better. Same with The Departed, I thought the original was great but somehow I really dig the remake.

      So true about The Day of The Jackal, it’s a great film.

      You know I think Tom Hardy would’ve been better actor in The Mechanic remake but the script was so bad I don’t think any good actor can make the film better.

  7. Great post. I didn’t realize that Man on Fire had an original. Not sure I’m ready to check it out, though. I totally agree about the Jackal remake, which is just terrible. Infernal Affairs and The Departed are both great, and while I prefer La Femme Nikita to Point of No Return, both are decent action films.

    Another good comparison to make would be the two versions of the Vanishing, which I believe have the same director. The first half of each is similar, but they make big changes in the American version to make it more conventional.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Dan, yeah I don’t think many people knew that Man on Fire was a remake of a film from the 80s. Both actually were based on a novel.

      I saw the remake of The Vanishing but never saw the original, it’s from France correct? I remember liking the remake but I think it was because I was in love with Sandra Bullock at the time, even though her role was minor in the film.

  8. Just for the record I thought the new Fright Night was a worthy remake. Smartly updated by writer Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Colin Farrell was ferocious in it.

    1. Hear, hear. I was pleasantly surprised how clever the ‘Fright Night’ remake was, too. Marti Noxon’s script made what I had assumed would be a difficult transition from the almost quintessential horror flick of the 80s into something equally relevant and spot-on for 2011 audiences (and the Vega$ setting was perfect for that).

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  10. Ooh, very cool idea. Strangely, I haven’t seen any of these other than The Departed (and not the original).

    I’m pretty grouchy about the Straw Dogs remake but there are times where remakes make some sense. The original “The Crazies” was a good concept but flawed, and I thought the remake did a great job of modernizing it, giving it a current context, and fixing up the flaws of the first one.

    I saw one the other day that I thought would be ripe for a remake- “Star Chamber”. The concept was good; the execution was awfully meh. Done the right way, it could have a lot of potential. And it helps that not many people know what it is (i.e. they aren’t remaking a classic like Straw Dogs).

    1. John,

      I hear you on the Straw Dogs remake. Back in the day the violence in Straw Dogs was downright shocking. It was way ahead of its time violence-wise for what was basically a drama. Nowadays with all the violence remaking a movie like Straw Dogs is kind of like remaking Psycho. They’ve lost their impact due to movies like Hostel, the Saw franchise, Audition, The Hills Have Eyes remake, the original Funny Games, etc. I will say this, the casting of Alexander Skarsgård and Walton Goggins as the bad guys is inspired casting. I’m just not sure writer/director Rod Lurie is the right guy to pull this off what with his only decent movie being The Contender. Now if it was Takashi Miike’s or Park Chan-wook’s Straw Dogs… then I might be interested to see their spin on it.

      Star Chamber… nice choice for a remake. Here’s my two cents. While were at it lets remake The Parallax View. We’ll update it to the mysterious deaths surrounding the Clinton’s. Google “The Clinton Body Count” and see all the fodder for a remake. Just a thought.

      Dave W

      1. Ted S.

        Now that would’ve been cool had Miike or Chan-Wook directed the remake of Straw Dogs. I think I might check out the new version, I thought the original was good, definitely not one of Peckinpah’s best films.

    2. Ted S.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing the remake of Star Chambers at all, like you mentioned, the concept was great but the final film was a let down.

  11. The only pair I saw is The Departed/Infernal Affairs. Although I liked Scorsese’s take, I was surprised to see that there was a whole other dimension to the main two characters in Infernal Affairs and that they weren’t as black and white. For example, the undercover gangster was yearning to become a good guy and become a real cop.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah it was tough choosing between the two but like I mentioned, I thought the American version did a better job on the characters of Di Caprio and Damon character. Also, the lead gangster in the original really bugged me, that actor just annoyed the heck out of me.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah, I didn’t really enjoy the original Man on Fire. If you like the remake, no need to see the original, just my opinion of course.

  12. Agree with you on Infernal Affairs and The Departed. Watched them both and The Departed is better paced and tells the story in a more coherent way.

    Would like to add The Taking of Pelham 123. Saw both the original and the new version and the new one missed the magic and grittiness the original one had. Of course it also had Walter Matthau, who is one of my favorite actors…

    1. Ted S.

      I almost included Taking of Pelham 123 on the list, the original was so good, definitely one of the great thrillers of the 70s. The remake was a pile of poo, Tony Scott needs to stop doing remakes, I hope his talk of doing The Wild Bunch never go further than just talk.

  13. Well you know how I feel about remakes. So often we have talked about this Ted, I often do not see the point.

    I agree with you on every film you are so right. Although I enjoyed The Mechanic remake (yes I am THAT guy) I have to defer to the original.

    Thanks for this wonderful post matey

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Scott, ha ha yeah I really despised The Mechanic remake, not because of the actors, well Ben Foster sucks but I thought the script was so weak and the direction was even worst. I’m still waiting for the original version to come out on BD, haven’t seen in a while.

  14. i had no idea man on fire was a remake. interesting story behind that one too. and i make it a completely forgivable reason to remake the film.

    i think i must be in the minority in liking infernal affairs so much more than the departed. i just didn’t like any of the characters in the remake. they already had so much baggage brought to them by their respective big name actors. apart from marky mark of course.

    1. Ted S.

      I don’t think you’re in the minority in preferring Infernal Affairs over The Departed, I think it’s pretty even. Some, like myself, prefer the remake while others tend to stick with the Hong Kong version.

  15. Several original films I have to see here. But I certainly enjoyed the new versions of The Jackal, Man on Fire and The Departed. Recently, I thought the American remake of The Ring was superb – one of the few instances when the Hollywood remake of an east Asian horror film has bettered the original.

    1. Ted S.

      I definitely enjoyed Man on Fire and The Departed but The Jackal was so awful opinion, I wanted my back after I saw it in theater. Ha ha.

  16. I haven’t seen any of those movies, both the original and the remake…so I can’t contribute anything toward those movies.

    I can share I have seen. I have seen Ringu and The Ring, The eye and the remake. Both remakes aren’t even close to the originals. The Ring becomes too cliche while Ringu stays as a classic horror. The eye (remake) is boring and I fast forward all most of the scenes while the original is very thrilling. My experience on those remakes made me avoid watching any other remake.

    I do however enjoy Lake House, a remake from Korean Drama…but that is simply because the leads are 2 actors I like so much, Keanu and Sandra

  17. Wow, nice list. I can think of tons of remakes I didn’t like. In fact, not too long ago I was discussing the Soderbergh remake of Tarkovsky’s Solaris with a friend and how much I loathed it.

    The amount of remakes these days is really scary. It’s as if Hollywood wants to ruin all their great classics by remaking them. This will be nothing but trouble.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Tyler.

      I don’t remember much about Soderbergh’s version of Solaris, I haven’t seen Tarkovskiy’s original in a long time. I gonna have to pick up the Criterion Blu-ray soon.

      I know what you mean, I think these younger studio executives are afraid to take chances on some new ideas when it comes to films. If it’s not a sequel, prequel or reboot, they’ll just green light a remake instead. Pretty sad.

      1. Tyler,

        the thing about Hollywood is it’s all about the money. Return on investment. Think the studios worry about ruining their legacy? For gods sake they’re remaking The Great Gatsby in 3D as we speak! Sequels, prequels and reboots have a built in audience for their opening weekend. I don’t have to tell you how important that is to Hollywood’s bottom line. For example Hollywood ignored the urban, film-going audience until they started to make what? Money. Just ask Melvin Van Peebles or Gordon Parks Jr . Remember the breakout of early ’90’s directors like Spike Lee, Ernest Dickerson, The Hughes Brothers, John Singleton, Robert Townsend, Mario Van Peebles, Keenan Ivory Wayans, etc. . They kicked the doors wide open for future afro-centric filmmakers like Tyler Perry, Dave Chappelle, and Lee Daniels. And the doors didn’t open because of foresight, artistic integrity or equality. It was because Hollywood happened to stumble upon an untapped market thanks to the talent of the filmmakers listed above. New revenue stream? I’ll take that thank you very much.

        And Ted, you’re right… the young studio executives ARE afraid. Their jobs hang by a thread and one box office bomb can bring down a entire studio. (See Heaven’s Gate and Orion Pictures) Ever hear the phrase “Nobody knows nothing”? William Goldman*, the screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and All The President’s Men famously said it about Hollywood years ago. The reality of it is most studio heads started out as accountants, lawyers or business people from Ivy League schools. Ever see the movies Swimming With Sharks or The Player? And you thought they were black comedies. They’re not too far off the mark let me tell you. A lot of people don’t know it but on the movie Se7en when David Fincher, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman were given a new ending because New Line thought it was too dark, they all demanded the that original ending be put back in or they wouldn’t do the movie. Well… apparently somebody knows something.


        * I can’t recommend enough picking up William Goldman’s book “Adventures in the Screen Trade”. Required reading for film buffs.

        1. Ted S.

          So true Dave and yes I really enjoyed Swimming with Sharks and The Player, those two films probably made me changed my mind about moving to CA and try to become a filmmaker. It’s just too much ass kissing and backstabbing than I care to be part of. I haven’t Goldman’s book yet I’ve heard good things about, may have to pick up soon.

  18. Out of your pairings, I’ve only seen Infernal Affairs and The Departed. I agree that The Departed had better character development and better pacing. But I also enjoyed Tony Leung Chiu Wai’s acting in Infernal Affairs. I’m probably one of the few people who hated the ending of The Departed and I forgot how Infernal Affairs ended but I think I would have preferred it over The Departed ending.

    I don’t mind remakes if a significant amount of time had passed from the original, if I think the original film was terrible, or if there aren’t too many of them (i.e. three versions of A Star Is Born with a fourth on the way). Seriously, wasn’t Let the Right One In remade a year or two after its original release?! I hate when Hollywood producers assume that we Americans are just too damn lazy to read subtitles.

    Also, I have been dying for The Great Gatsby to be remade since I think the one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow is terrible and it’s my favorite book in American literature. So I was so excited when I read that it was finally going to happen especially with Leonardo Dicaprio playing Gatsby. And then I read it was going to be in 3D. Now I’m a little less excited but I’ll end up watching it and hoping there’s a 2D option.

    1. Ted S.

      Hi Sherry, the ending of both Infernal Affairs and The Departed is pretty much the same, except at the very end the Mark Walberg’s character didn’t show up in Infernal Affairs so Damon’s character in the original got away with everything. I believe there are two sequels to the original film but I’ve never seen any of them. Even there were talks of making a sequel to The Departed with Mark Walberg as the main character but it never happened.

      Yeah I don’t mind remakes as long as they offer something new or refresh from the original. I hate the remakes where they were just carbon copy of the original but somehow it’s worst than the original film.

  19. illuminati7590

    I’m a great fan of Scorsese and Denzel Washington. So,Departed and Man On Fire looked very good to me even though not the best of both. Mechanic looked more action less story type of movie, but that’s what everyone expected from a Statham movie. Haven’t heard of the other two. Can you also compare the Cape Fear, Scarface and Italian job with originals.

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