If there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s a remake. Filmmakers have been remaking older movies since the earliest days of cinema, whether it was updating a hit story with dazzling new technology or turning a beloved foreign film into one for an American audience.
The practice continues today, and while remakes are usually weak imitations of the original version, there have been times where they actually improved on the one that came first. We’ve already told you about some famous sequels that were better than the originals, and now it’s time to look at an even rarer creation: the remake that’s better than the original.
Here are some remakes that critics and audiences have preferred.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
The Original Film: “The Wizard of Oz” (1925)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie-lover who isn’t familiar with 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz,” but far fewer of them know the original feature-length version. This earlier adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s beloved novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” changes the storyline a great deal and was a silent film, meaning it obviously didn’t have any of the great musical numbers the remake is known for. The 1925 version is mostly remembered for having a young Oliver Hardy in the role of the Tin Man. Meanwhile, the 1939 remake is widely considered one of the best films ever made.
‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956)
The Original Film: “The Ten Commandments” (1923)
Another beloved Hollywood classic that’s a remake is “The Ten Commandments.” The 1956 version, which stars Charlton Heston as the prophet Moses, was directed by Cecil B. DeMille, who also directed the 1923 original. DeMille’s first version of “The Ten Commandments” was also a hit with audiences and critics, but it was silent and told the biblical story of Exodus alongside a modern-day story about a family. When he remade the movie more than 20 years later, DeMille focused solely on the biblical material, blew up the budget and added more than an hour to the runtime.
‘A Star is Born’ (2018)
The Original Film: “A Star is Born” (1937)
The 1937 movie “A Star is Born” has been remade three times since it was first released — with mixed results. The original film, about a young woman who aspires to be a movie star and is helped along by an aging man who was once a great star, won two Oscars and is still regarded as a great movie, but both the 1954 (which starred Judy Garland and James Mason) and 2018 remakes have been called even better. The most recent version, which switched the dream job to being a famous musician and saw Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the lead roles, won an Oscar of its own and was nominated for eight of them. Everyone seems to agree the 1976 remake with Barbra Streisand is the worst by a mile.
‘A Little Princess’ (1995)
The Original Film: “The Little Princess” (1939)
The 1939 movie version of the beloved novel “A Little Princess” was the second filmed adaptation of the book, but it was the one that is most similar to the eventual remake in 1995. The 1939 version stars Shirley Temple as Sara, a wealthy girl who gets mistreated in an orphanage after her father goes missing during a war. It was a hit with critics and audiences, but 1995’s remake was even more acclaimed, earning a 97-percent grade at Rotten Tomatoes. The remake was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, who’s won two Oscars for best director.
‘Freaky Friday’ (2003)
The Original Film: “Freaky Friday” (1976)
The original “Freaky Friday” helped make Jodie Foster into a young star in 1976, and the remake did the same for Lindsay Lohan in 2003. Both movies have the same wild premise — a mother and daughter switch bodies and hilarity ensues — and both were hits. The remake has a better rating at Rotten Tomatoes than the original, with plenty of praise being given to Lohan and co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. Disney has proven that this is a story that can entertain multiple generations, as long as the film has the right actors.
‘Ocean’s Eleven’ (2001)
The Original Film: “Ocean’s 11” (1960)
There may be no better example of star power dominating the screen than in 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven.” It had a huge cast of incredible actors including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts. But the 1960 original of this heist flick was no slouch in the star department, featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Angie Dickinson in its fun cast. The remake, which came more than 40 years later, was even more popular with audiences and critics than the first film. “Ocean’s Eleven” was such a big hit it kicked off its own trilogy, which the original can’t boast.
‘True Lies’ (1994)
The Original Film: “La Totale!” (1991)
Remaking foreign movies for English-speaking audiences is an age-old Hollywood tactic, but rarely are the remakes better than the originals. Director James Cameron’s 1994 action-comedy “True Lies” pulled this off when it was deemed even more entertaining than the 1991 French film that inspired it, “La Totale!” Both movies are about a man who tries to keep his work as a special agent secret from his family. The original was a hit with audiences in France, but the Hollywood version, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, made nearly $400 million worldwide and was America’s third highest-grossing movie of 1994.
‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978)
The Original Film: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956)
The 1956 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is still renowned as a horror classic, but the remake, which came 22 years later, has supplanted it as the definitive version. The paranoid story told in both films is about aliens who are able to hide in plain sight by copying a person’s entire look. Both versions are highly rated but many prefer the remake because of its stellar cast — Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy are just a few of its players — and the depth of its universal themes. Most everyone agrees that the two further remakes that have since followed don’t hold up as well as the first pair of movies.
‘The Departed’ (2006)
The Original Film: “Infernal Affairs” (2002)
This is one of those that movie-lovers will debate endlessly, but the bottom line is that both of these movies are fantastic. The 2002 Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs” boasted an all-star cast, made a ton of money and kicked off an acclaimed movie franchise. The 2006 American remake, “The Departed,” was directed by legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, had a mind-blowing cast that included Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson, plus it ended up winning the Oscar for best picture. “The Departed” holds a slightly better score at IMDb than “Infernal Affairs,” but it will honestly depend on whom you ask as far as which one is truly the best.
‘True Grit’ (2010)
The Original Film: “True Grit” (1969)
The original “True Grit” is known for earning Western icon John Wayne his only Oscar, for his portrayal of the eye patch-wearing U.S. Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn. It was a charming movie about an old gunslinger teaming up with a young girl to find her father’s killer, but critics thought the 2010 remake was even better. The new version was made by the Coen Brothers and starred Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, who earned an Oscar nomination for his take on the crusty character. This is a case where the remake changed the tone of the original to something heavier, which seems to be a key in making a memorable remake rather than a simple copy.
‘Casino Royale’ (2006)
The Original Film: “Casino Royale” (1967)
Speaking of changing the tone when doing a remake, there may be no more drastic example than with 2006’s James Bond flick, “Casino Royale.” The book of that title was the very first novel to feature the spy, acting as his introduction to the world. The book was made into a film in 1967, but it was a wacky comedy that starred David Niven as the spy and had more in common with an Austin Powers movie than a true 007 outing. When “Casino Royale” was finally remade as a proper entry into the series in 2006, it announced Daniel Craig as the new Bond and became the highest-grossing movie in the franchise at the time.
‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ (1988)
The Original Film: “Bedtime Story” (1964)
Another David Niven comedy that fared even better as a remake was 1964’s “Bedtime Story.” The original version starred Niven and Marlon Brando as a pair of con artists competing to scam a rich woman out of some money. That pair is pretty hard to top, but the 1988 remake, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” saw Steve Martin and Michael Caine as the leads and earned even better reviews. The newer version holds better scores at both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and was among the 25 top-earning movies of 1988. In 2019, it was remade again as “The Hustle,” starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, to reviews that weren’t as kind.
‘The Maltese Falcon’ (1941)
The Original Film: “The Maltese Falcon” (1931)
The 1930 novel “The Maltese Falcon” was such a hot property at Warner Bros. that the studio made two different versions within a decade of each other. The original adaptation hit theaters in 1931 and starred Ricardo Cortez as private eye Sam Spade. The 1931 movie earned solid reviews, but it’s the 1941 remake, starring Humphrey Bogart as Spade, that has gone down as an all-time classic. The 1941 version was nominated for three Oscars and was called one of the 30 best movies ever made by the American Film Institute.
‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1992)
The Original Film: “The Last of the Mohicans” (1936)
“The Last of the Mohicans” has been around for nearly 200 years as a novel, so it makes sense that it’s been made by Hollywood multiple times over the years. In 1936, it was adapted into a United Artists screen version that saw Randolph Scott in the lead role and earned an Oscar nomination. It took a while, but an even better and more beautiful remake hit theaters in 1992 with acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis as the star. That version of “The Last of the Mohicans” won an Oscar and was a big hit at the box office, finishing 1992 in the year’s top 20 earners.
‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1956)
The Original Film: “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934)
This one is still debated among fans of Alfred Hitchcock, but there’s little doubt the director’s remake of his own 1934 movie “The Man Who Knew Too Much” is at least as good as the original. Hitchcock’s first version of a film with this title was about a man whose daughter was kidnapped as a way to keep him from using information he had about an upcoming assassination. It starred British actors Leslie Banks and Edna Best, along with Peter Lorre. When Hitchcock decided to remake it in 1956, he used a slightly different plot and chose massive Hollywood stars, Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, as the leads.
‘The Fly’ (1986)
The Original Film: “The Fly” (1958)
This is another one that can be debated either way, but the 1980s remake of “The Fly” certainly stands on its own merits as one of the best sci-fi/horror movies of all time. The original, 1958 version of the film tells the story of a scientist whose DNA gets combined with that of a fly, making him transform into a hideous hybrid creature. It was a major hit with critics and audiences, spawning two sequels, but the 1986 remake has a higher IMDb score and would end up winning an Oscar for its disgusting makeup effects on star Jeff Goldblum.
‘Show Boat’ (1936)
The Original Film: “Show Boat” (1929)
From 1929 to 1951, the novel and hit stage musical “Show Boat” was made into a movie three different times, but the second version, released in 1936, stands as the definitive one. The original version of the film was initially made as a silent movie, but two songs from the popular show were eventually added. Seven years later, Universal decided to remake “Show Boat” as a full-blown musical with more than two dozen songs in it and a large, multiracial cast. It was a huge hit and is still hailed as one of the first great movie musicals, especially because of Paul Robeson’s timeless performance of the song “Ol’ Man River.”
‘State Fair’ (1945)
The Original Film: “State Fair” (1933)
This one can be debated, based on whether or not you prefer musicals to straight dramas, but the remake has better grades at IMDb than the original. The 1933 film version of the novel “State Fair” was nominated for best picture at the Oscars and has been chosen by the Library of Congress as a film worthy of preservation. The remake decided to turn the story into a big-budget musical, with new songs written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. That version won an Oscar for the song “It Might as Well Be Spring.” “State Fair” was remade again in 1962, but that one didn’t earn the acclaim of the first two versions.
‘The Thing’ (1982)
The Original Film: “The Thing From Another World” (1951)
“The Thing” is one of those movies that was slammed by critics when it first came out but has since become regarded as one of the best sci-fi/horror movies ever made. It was a remake of 1951’s “The Thing from Another World,” which was beloved by audiences and critics alike in its day. Both movies were based on a 1938 novel about a group of scientists trapped in the Arctic with a violent alien but each took the story in a different direction, with the 1982 version being more about paranoia and mistrust than the more straightforward 1951 version. “The Thing” has a much better score at IMDb, showing that modern audiences seem to prefer it a great deal.
‘The Three Musketeers’ (1973)
The Original Film: “The Three Musketeers” (1916)
There have been many screen versions of Alexandre Dumas’ immortal book “The Three Musketeers” over the past century, starting with the 1916 silent version. A few of the remakes have been considered better than the first, especially the ones made in 1948 and 1973. The latter remake stands for many as the definitive screen version because of its sense of playful humor and its outstanding cast, giving it the most robust IMDb score of all the adaptations. The 1973 remake won Raquel Welch a Golden Globe and her co-stars include people like Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee and Charlton Heston.
‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938)
The Original Film: “Robin Hood” (1922)
Similar to “The Three Musketeers,” many screen versions of the story of Robin Hood have been made over the years, starting in 1922 with the first feature-length adaptation. That version, starring Douglas Fairbanks, was a huge hit and holds a rare 100-percent score at Rotten Tomatoes. However, the 1938 version, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn, also holds a 100-percent grade but pairs that with a higher IMDb score. Both of these movies are still beloved, but the second one, which won three Oscars, stands as the ultimate cinematic version of Robin Hood.
The Original Film: “Victor and Victoria” (1933)
Hollywood loves a wacky story, and that’s exactly what the 1933 German comedy, “Victor and Victoria,” offered audiences. The movie was about a woman who pretends to be a man in drag in order to get work as a performer. Nearly 50 years later, the film was eventually made as “Victor/Victoria” for American audiences, with Julie Andrews starring in the lead role. This updated version won an Oscar on seven nominations and is widely praised as one of the best remakes in movie history, holding better scores than the original at both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb.
The Original Film: “Willard” (1971)
This one is a close fight and will likely depend upon whom you ask, but the 2003 version of “Willard” is one of those rare remakes that has a higher Rotten Tomatoes grade than its predecessor. Both of these horror movies are about a young man who befriends rats and uses them to get revenge on people who bully him. The 1971 version and its remake each earned decent reviews, but people seemed to prefer the remake because of star Crispin Glover’s creepy performance in the title role.
‘About Last Night’ (2014)
The Original Film: “About Last Night” (1986)
David Mamet’s 1974 play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” has been made into two movies with the title “About Last Night.” The 1986 version starred Rob Lowe and Demi Moore and proved to be a hit at the box office on top of decent reviews. About 30 years later, it was remade with a majority black cast that included Kevin Hart and Regina Hall and earned even better reviews. The remake also earned nearly $50 million at the box office, showing audiences still enjoy Mamet’s story.
‘3:10 to Yuma’ (2007)
The Original Film: “3:10 to Yuma” (1957)
The fact that a modern remake of a beloved Western could come close to the original, let alone possibly surpass it, is impressive. That was the case with 2007’s “3:10 to Yuma,” which was made 50 years following the first one. The original starred Glenn Ford and Oscar winner Van Heflin and was a hit with critics and audiences. The remake told the same story, about a desperate rancher who tries to hold a dangerous outlaw until his train arrives, and had plenty of modern star power with Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in the lead roles. The remake has a slightly better score at IMDb but both have stellar reputations.
’13 Assassins’ (2010)
The Original Film: “13 Assassins” (1963)
The Japanese movie “13 Assassins” was a hit with critics and viewers in 1963, yet its remake managed to somehow one-up it. Both films were about a group of heroic warriors who team up to take down an evil ruler and both are highly praised by fans of the samurai genre. The 2010 remake is also in Japanese and keeps the same runtime, but critics were blown away by its action, especially the epic final battle, which takes up nearly half of the movie. In 2019, Time Out named the 2010 version one of the 101 best action movies of all time, putting it alongside some incredible films. The remake has a better score at both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb than the original.