Movie studios are constantly under pressure to come up with the next big Hollywood hit, but rather than taking a risk on something new, increasingly they’re choosing to take the safer route by making a sequel, prequel, or often a complete remake of a classic film.
Even in the last twelve months, we’ve had big reworkings of A Star is Born, Suspiria and Robin Hood, while Disney will soon be following up their Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book live action remakes by giving a similar treatment to Dumbo and The Lion King.
While these remakes often pull audiences into the cinema, their actual quality can vary considerably, and it’s not often that a remake surpasses the original film.
The research ranked 100 remakes from the last 40 years on factors such as critical acclaim, audience reception, box office revenue and profitability.
We’re going to dive into this research to take a look a look at which remakes flopped and which hit the mark.
You might not always agree with movie critics, but they’re a pretty good way to judge how good a film is.
When looking at the average rating given by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s two very different films which tied for top spot with 83 out of 100, the gory 1986 ‘body horror’ remake The Fly and the 2015 live action remake of Cinderella starring Lily James.
At the other end of the scale, it’s actually also a tie for the critics’ least favourite movie remake, an honour which falls to Prom Night (2008) and The Fog (2005), which both scored just 27 out of 100 with critics.
As you can already see, there’s been a real trend for horror movie remakes, but unfortunately, they also rank amongst some of the worst.
In fact, 31 of the 100 remakes analysed fell into the horror genre, but just three of those turned out to be better than the original!
Audiences and critics don’t always agree on movies, but you might not have even known that some of your favourite films were remakes at all.
The remake with the highest audience score (again, according to Rotten Tomatoes) was Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (94/100), which is actually a remake of a Hong Kong movie called Infernal Affairs.
And in second place was Scarface, which you may not have known was a remake of a film from way back in 1932.
Once again though, it’s the same familiar horror remakes which proved the least popular, with The Wicker Man (2006), The Fog (2005) and Poltergeist (2015) making up the bottom three.
Box Office & Profitability
Critical acclaim is one thing, but movies also have to be a financial success, so the research also took into account each film’s domestic box office revenue (adjusted for inflation) according to Box Office Mojo.
It’s no surprise to see the recent Disney remakes dominate here, with The Jungle Book bringing in $386.6m, while Beauty and the Beast made a huge $526.5m, so all eyes will be on Dumbo and The Lion King!
These two also came out on top when looking at worldwide box office vs production budget, with Jungle Book making a profit of $789.6m and Beauty and the Beast making a profit of just over $1bn!
As for the biggest box office flops, the US remake of Oldboy a 2003 South Korean movie only made $2.4m (although the original didn’t fare much better), while the 2005 remake of the Oliver Twist story made just over $3m.
So, bringing all of this together, what does the research tell us about movie remakes on the whole?
Well, it seems pretty clear that in terms of quality, the remakes are lacking, with just one in five actually surpassing the original when it comes to critic and audience ratings.
Despite this, it still shows us why the studios persist with making them though, as half of the remakes made more money than their original, and 87% of them turned a profit, showing that familiarity of a remake is still more than enough to get people to part with their cash, even if the movies aren’t actually all that great.
Having said this, the research also shows us that not all Hollywood remakes are necessarily just desperate cash-grabs.
You only need to look at the likes of The Departed, Casino Royale, Scarface and even recent films like A Star is Born to see that some remakes can be massively successful with critics, audiences and the box office too.
However, even the best remakes sometimes struggle to live up to the original. For example, despite scoring a credible 84/100 with critics and audiences, 1983’s Scarface still doesn’t match up to the 86/100 scored by its 1932 original.
The research also shows that if anyone can claim to be the master of the remake, it’s Disney, with their live action remakes making huge amounts of money, a trend which shows no sign of slowing down, while horror movie remakes are probably best avoided.
To see the full research for yourself click here and see where your favourite (and least favourite) remakes rank.