In a time where moviegoers are being bombarded with flat, needless, star-fueled vehicles like “Arthur” and overproduced travesties like “King Kong,” movie remakes that were better than the original are often overlooked. Re-crafting original material in impressive and imaginative ways, movies like “Scarface” and “The Fly” have far surpassed the films on which they were based both in the moviegoer’s memory and in popular culture. Full of tense action, standout performances and nightmarish effects, these films have gone on to earn multiple Academy Awards and often produce the defining roles for which stars like Al Pacino and Jeff Goldblum have become known.
This edgy, action-packed thriller was based on Hong Kong director Andrew Lau's “Infernal Affairs” trilogy. “The Departed” earned legendary director Martin Scorsese his first Academy Award! "The Departed" tells the story of two cops who have infiltrated the mob and must race to reveal each other’s identity before their own identity is blown. Scorsese replaced the Hong Kong-based Triads with the Boston mob and cast a powerful ensemble team which included actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson as deranged mob boss Frank Costello. “The Departed” played the tension that develops between the mob and the undercover informants, replacing the heavy dialogue and quick, forced performances of “Infernal Affairs” with fast action and realistic, moving portrayals by actors like Nicholson and Alec Baldwin. Where the “Infernal Affairs” trilogy rushed through the plot and character backstories with shoddy flashbacks and voice-overs, “The Departed” earns its place as one of the best movie remakes that were better than the original because Scorsese takes time to flesh out characters and unfold a fluid plot that is not only well-crafted but also expertly performed.
A remake of the 1958 sci-fi sleeper about a scientist who mistakenly splices his DNA with that of a housefly, “The Fly” was directed by horror and suspense legend David Cronenberg. An exceptional example of movie remakes that were better than the original, the film starred Jeff Goldblum as scientist Seth Brundle and Geena Davis as his love interest, Veronica Quaife.The transformation of man-to-fly in the original film was unoriginal and B-movie quality at best—a man with a fly’s head and an altered hand—while the drama was melodramatic and heightened as was typical of low-budget science fiction movies of the 1950s. Cronenberg’s remake takes Brundle through a gradual, nightmarish transformation that eventually turns him into an enormous, grotesque creature beyond imagination that is just as horrifying as it is moving to witness. Characterized by the moody cinematography and tone for which Cronenberg is known, as well as one of the best performances of Goldblum’s career, “The Fly” earned makeup designer Chris Walas a much-deserved Academy Award for Best Makeup in 1987.
A modern retelling of the 1932 Howard Hawks classic of the same name starring Paul Muni in the title role, this sprawling remake starred Al Pacino at the height of his fame as Tony Montana, one of his most iconic roles to date. Replacing Chicago gangsters with Cuban refugees and the illegal running of beer during Prohibition with the cocaine boom of the 1980s, “Scarface” has not only become a cult classic, but also an oft-quoted cultural phenomenon since its release in 1983. While just as gritty and tense as the original, the remake of “Scarface” is dominated by Pacino’s ruthless portrayal of Montana as well as the bleak cinematography and expert direction of Brian De Palma. Though the original film is still regarded as a Hollywood classic, the remake of "Scarface" far surpasses the original not only in scope, but also in action, intensity and drama.