Top 10 Remakes (That You Didn’t Know Were Remakes)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

Every year, fans lament the lack of originality in Hollywood. From sequels and remakes filling the multiplexes, people question what happened to all of the original stories. Well, a lot of the time you may not even realize that your favorite movie is already a remake of a foreign film or a less successful original. Here is our ranking of ten films that you may not have realized were remakes of previous movies. If you think we missed one, let us know in the comments below.


James Cameron reteamed with Arnold Schwarzenegger for 1994’s TRUE LIES, a movie that should have kicked off a franchise and featured the perfect blend of action and comedy. While we never got a second chapter in the story, you can go back and revisit 1991’s LA TOTALE!. While the earlier film doesn’t have the same action set pieces as the Schwarzenegger film, the plot about a secret agent whose family gets drawn into his hidden career. Cameron used a previous movie as the basis for a box office smash? The next thing you will tell me is that AVATAR is based on FERNGULLY!


While a cult classic for some, most regard MAJOR PAYNE as a forgettable comedy from the mid-90s. Made back when Damon Wayans would take any and every paycheck that came his way, you may be surprised to know it was based (loosely) on the 1955 comedy THE PRIVATE WAR OF MAJOR BENSON starring Charlton Heston. Both films follow a group of rowdy military cadets being groomed by a tough talking officer. While this may be the first and only time that Wayans and Heston would share the same role, this is a piece of trivia that may help you at your local bar.


2002’s INFERNAL AFFAIRS was a blockbuster overseas but it was 2006’s remake from Martin Scorsese that earned all the awards. THE DEPARTED starred a massive cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, and Jack Nicholson and very few bothered to seek out the original movie. In my opinion, INFERNAL AFFAIRS is the better movie, but what do I know.


Tony Scott’s 2004 action thriller is a stylistic masterpiece that puts Denzel Washington into the lead role of John Creasy. Featured in five novels, Creasy was updated to deal with the kidnapping of Dakota Fanning’s character in Mexico. It is a great role for Washington but he was not the first to play it. MAN ON FIRE was previously adapted in 1987 with the role played by Scott Glenn. While that movie was not nearly as stylish, it was an entertaining take on the story.


In 1996, THE BIRDCAGE became a pop culture sensation thanks to the leading roles played by Nathan Lane and the late Robin Williams. Going beyond stereotypes, THE BIRDCAGE introduced mainstream audiences to two relatable gay characters who were just parents trying to give their son the best future. But it was over a decade earlier that the French/Italian LA CAGE AUX FOLLES did the same thing and even spawned two sequels and a Broadway musical.


Martin Brest’s coming of age drama earned an Oscar for Al Pacino as the blind veteran who befriends a young Chris O’Donnell. Acclaimed for the acting talent on screen as well as the crew behind the camera, credit truly should go to the source material. Based on the 1974 film of the same name, SCENT OF A WOMAN has now enchanted two countries in two different time periods with the same tale.


Cameron Crowe’s 2001 thriller is a divisive film amongst movie fans and critics. Despite a very memorable soundtrack, the Tom Cruise movie was also not wholly original. Almost a scene for scene recreation, VANILLA SKY was based on the 1997 film OPEN YOUR EYES from director Alejandro Amenabar. That film also starred Penelope Cruz in the same role she portrayed in VANILLA SKY.


While many know of THE SOUND OF MUSIC as being based on the stage musical of the same name, the film was not produced until after a German film titled THE TRAPP FAMILY. Based on Maria Von Trapp’s memoir, the original 1956 film served as the basis for the 1965 musical that has become one of the most memorable movies of all time.


While Clint Eastwood’s iconic Man With No Name would appear in a trilogy of films, the first 1964 movie was a critical and box office success that launched a wave of similar movies. The story of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS was also so similar to the Japanese classic YOJIMBO that Toho Studios sued United Artists for credit. Director Sergio Leone ignored Akira Kurosawa’s claims but they eventually settled out of court for 15% of the film’s receipts.


The biggest box office hit of 1987, THREE MEN AND A BABY spawned a sequel and is already being bandied about for a remake/sequel to debut on Disney’s upcoming streaming service. While the Leonard Nimoy directed movie spawned four remakes, it was itself a remake of the 1985 French comedy THREE MEN AND A CRADLE. That film spawned a 2003 sequel itself.


About the Author

5929 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.