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Great American Remakes of Foreign Films


by Alex Poquette

Oftentimes, the term “remake” comes with a lot of negative baggage. This negativity is frequently warranted, as many Hollywood remakes are much worse than their original counterparts and show no creativity or purpose. However, once in a blue moon, an American remake of a foreign-language film is actually worth watching. The movies that made this list are American remakes so good that they are classics (or potential classics) in their own right, sometimes even better than the original.

To be included on this list, a film had to be an American movie that was a remake of a foreign film, in English. Even if the remake isn’t better than the original (some aren’t), each one stands on its own as a great viewing experience. I’ve also included movies which aren’t exactly remakes, but are just different interpretations of the same source material. Every movie on this list is worth giving a chance.

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David Fincher’s take on the Swedish novel is really a great movie. Although not technically a remake, the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out in 2011, 2 years after the Swedish film of the same name. Production of Sony’s project also didn’t begin until 2009, the same year the Swedish version was released. The story follows the investigation  of a missing woman by Michael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), who enlists the help of computer hacker Lisbeth Slander (Rooney Mara). Before the movie hit theaters the main question surrounding the film was how anyone could possibly match Noomi Rapace’s take on the character Lisbeth, let alone the relatively unknown Rooney Mara. Those haters were quickly silenced when Mara stole the show from veteran Daniel Craig (who was also fantastic), as “the girl with the dragon tattoo.” She perfectly portrays Lisbeth Slander as a confident and brilliant young woman with a dark and troubled past and even more disturbing present. Other than Rooney Mara’s performance, the movie as a whole outshines its predecessor as it dives deeper into the psychology affecting each characters’ personality and actions. It also manages to keep the same darkness and violent/disturbing qualities of the original movie, which is rare for an American remake. The most modern film on this list, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a movie that any fan of mysteries and thrillers should watch.

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James Cameron makes fun movies. Whether it’s a perfect love story like Titanic, a sci-fi epic like Avatar, or sci-fi action thrillers like Terminator 2 or Aliens, you can always count on a Cameron movie to be entertaining. That being said, True Lies might just be the most purely fun movie Cameron has ever made. Based on the French comedy La Totale!, True Lies is an over-the-top action comedy starring action superstar, Arnold Schwarzenegger. To date, this is both, the funniest Cameron movie and funniest Schwarzenegger movie ever made (sorry but not sorry Twins). The story follows Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), a government spy who claims to be a traveling agent to everyone he knows. This includes his wife Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis). After an unfortunate series of events, Harry’s family gets caught up in his secret life, which leads to huge gunfights, car chases, stripteases, helicopter fights, and anything else you can think of for a spy thriller. It’s a shame that True Lies doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves, as both Cameron and Schwarzenegger have done more widely-known and popular films. Nevertheless, if you are in the mood for a no-brainer action comedy, this is the one to watch.

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As Scorsese’s first Best Picture Oscar win, many people forget that The Departed  is a remake of the Chinese film Internal Affairs. The Departed follows the story of two men, one a police officer and one a gangster, as they both go undercover in the other’s profession. Both of the men’s jobs are to uncover the others’ identity. This complicated story is handled extremely well by Scorsese’s direction where we learn about each character’s past and how their motivations have been formed by the people around them. The acting is also superb with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon at the lead. Jack Nicholson also shines as Frank Costello (the mob boss). Sadly, with all these great performances, only Mark Wahlberg was nominated for an Oscar (which was admittedly deserved). The movie surprisingly doesn’t take place in New York, and instead is Scorsese’s first movie set in Boston, which fit the story very well. It may not be the best Scorsese film out there, but it sure is a great movie to watch.

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Many movies have been directly inspired by Kurosawa films, including A Fistful of Dollars, Last Man Standing, and even Star Wars. However, none of these remakes are as great as John Sturges’ adaptation of Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven. More so than any other movie on this list, The Magnificent Seven benefits from being a remake of one of the greatest films of all time. I want to make this clear, if you haven’t seen either of these movies yet, go out and watch Seven Samurai because it is truly a masterpiece and is the better of the two movies. That being said, The Magnificent Seven is one of the most perfectly handled remakes of all time. It smoothly adopts a story created for 16th century Japan into an American western setting. John Sturges masterfully keeps the same basic plot and themes as the original movie, while updating the entirety of the movie to a much different setting. The biggest difference for me is the introduction of guns into the story. Guns play a huge part in The Magnificent Seven as they are expensive and hard to come by, but by far the most deadly weapon available. It’s incredible how easily they worked into the already complex story. The Magnificent Seven  has its flaws (e.g. a seemingly major character disappears for over an hour of the movie), but overall, it is a special movie and a great example of how to remake an already classic film.

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Considered the greatest comedy of all time by many (including myself), Some Like it Hot was a groundbreaking movie in film history. Without it, films today would probably be much more restrained, specifically when dealing with issues of sex and gender. When Some Like it Hot was made, the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, was still in effect, which basically restricted Hollywood movies from being  too risqué. Billy Wilder, one of the cleverest screenwriters of all time, used his talent to avoid breaking most of the rules, while still infusing each word with a double meaning for some of the best dialogue ever written (the candy shop scene is the best use of dialogue in a movie ever). This is one of the few movies I recommend to anyone I meet, especially fans of comedy. Even if you don’t like comedy, this movie is still going to make you laugh. Starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as cross-dressing men, the movie follows these two as they act as women, so they can make some money playing in an all-female band. The movie mostly follows Tony Curtis’s character, Joe, as he falls in love with lead vocalist Sugar Kane (Marylin Monroe). The movie was such a success that it basically ended the Hays Code. It’s such a classic that it’s almost hard to believe it was a remake of the German film Fanfaren der Liebe. If you haven’t seen Some Like it Hot yet, stop reading this article and go watch it. It’s a necessary film for anyone who enjoys watching movies, laughing, having fun, and generally anything positive in life.


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