In recent years Hollywood’s fever for remakes and reboots has morphed into a full-blown epidemic. No film or TV show from the silent era to the Cold War is safe. If there’s even the slightest possibility of re-capturing a niche audience for a latent property, you can bet there’s a half dozen studio executives working the phones to snatch the rights.
In past years, Hollywood has mined and plumbed the 60s, 70s, and 80s to give us movie gems like Lost in Space, Dukes of Hazzard, The Flintstones, Red Dawn, and The Mechanic (I’m being facetious, these are horrible movies). But hey, sometimes it works: True Grit, 3:10 To Yuma, Casino Royale (the failures far exceed the successes, unfortunately).
But what about films from the 90s? Flatliners (1990), was a modest success for Columbia, starring younger versions of Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, and Julia Roberts. Next week, Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and Nina Dobrev pick up the baton and take their shot at a remake. Of all the 90s films to remake, why this one?
Better question: What other films from the 90s are likely to be remade (but probably shouldn’t be?) Let’s find out!
10. Dances With Wolves (1990)
Kevin Costner’s epic tale about the conflict between expanding white settlers and the military vs. indigenous Sioux Indians on the Western frontier during the Civil War. The film made an incredible $424 million worldwide on a budget of just $22 million. Part of the appeal of this film was the amount of time spent exploring and understanding the Native American culture in that region. There was, however, some controversy with the film, as many of the actors playing Sioux parts were actually Native Americans — a rarity in Hollywood history — but were not of the Sioux tribes or culture, nor did many speak the Lakota language spoken in the film.
This is a classic American Western that sought to give voice to some of our indigenous populations. It’s such a well-made and compelling film, it’s hard to imagine anyone making a better version today, and it certainly couldn’t be made today with the tiny budget of the original (even adjusting for inflation, in today’s dollars $22 million is only $41 million). However, James Cameron’s Avatar movie covered a lot of the same ground (a white man visits an alien society and decides to assimilate, until the man’s former associates come calling and try to kill everyone), so maybe the deed’s already been done.
9. Cape Fear (1991)
A psychological thriller about a lawyer, his family, and the maniac he (maybe) unjustly imprisoned but who just-got-out-of-prison-and-is-really-pissed-off. This film starred Nick Nolte and Robert DeNiro — this is DeNiro’s most over-the-top, scenery-chewing performance ever (and that’s truly saying something). The film made over $182 million (budget unknown, but it’s probably on a par with Dances With Wolves). Cape Fear was also directed by Martin Scorsese and nominated for 2 Oscars… so yeah, good luck improving on this film!
To be fair, Cape Fear itself was a remake of a 1962 film starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. This is one of those cases where a great film was remade by another great filmmaker, who made an even greater film. So, logic presumes that there’s really not much to improve upon… not that that’s going to stop Hollywood from attempting a three-peat starring The Rock and Jason Statham, because why not?
8. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola was down on his luck in the early 90s. Sure, he made mega-successes like The Godfather I/II and Apocalypse Now, but he also made mega-flops like One From the Heart and Rumble Fish — and really, there should be a price to pay for such hubris. Interestingly, Coppola was a huge fan of Gothic literature and horror. He optioned Bram Stoker’s Dracula to make an authentic version of the novel, which really hadn’t been done before. Coppola hired a diverse cast, employed period camera techniques (using cameras and tools from the turn of the century), and focused on a love story to offset the horror elements — and it’s wildly entertaining, a true masterwork.
It’s a film that shouldn’t have worked, but made over $216 million worldwide on a minuscule $40 million budget. Others have since tried (and failed) to bring Vlad the Impaler to the big screen since Coppola’s film with comparable success, which only reaffirms Coppola’s genius.
Of course, it’s well-known that Universal is trying to revive all of their classic monsters in its Dark Universe shared films (The Mummy, Wolfman, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Invisible Man, etc.), so it’s inevitable that Dracula will be remade yet again, but whether it’s narrative adheres to Stoker’s source novel or is retconned to fit Universal’s connected universe remains to be seen.
7. In The Line of Fire (1993)
Clint Eastwood as a Secret Service Agent who failed to save Kennedy but seeks to redeem himself against John Malkovich’s Wanna-Be-Assassin during a 90s Presidential election. This was a really solid film that made $177 million on a $40 million budget (I’m noting a trend).
Sure, there’s a bit of Dirty Harry in this film — it’s Clint Eastwood with a gun, it’s unavoidable — but the cat-and-mouse game played between the lead characters really elevates this from Eastwood’s 70s rogue cop films. To be honest, given our current cultural and political climate, this might actually make for an interest remake… wait, forget I said it, that’s a terrible idea.
6. Forrest Gump (1994)
Now we’re getting serious. Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump is an all-time classic starring Tom Hanks as an idiot everyman with a heart of gold who can run really fast. This film was the biggest hit of the year, making over $678 million worldwide on an absurdly low $55 million budget. The basic premise of a good-humored, simpleton who wants nothing more than to mow his lawn, becomes a hero in Vietnam and a millionaire entrepreneur — the film was pure genius. Zemeckis even took the narrative a step farther, by placing Gump into key moments in history — Zelig-style — to illustrate the absurdities of life in America during the 60s and 70s, skewering everything from college football to war to meeting the President.
There’s really no good reason to remake this film, except that it made a boatload of money and earned 6 Academy Awards — this movie rocketed Hanks and Zemeckis (who were already huge successes in Hollywood) into the megastratosphere of Hollywood’s elites. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Gump but Hanks, but then again it’s pretty well-established that nothing is sacred in Hollywood!
#5 – #1
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