5 Movies That Cannot Be Remade

I mean, you could try I guess

There are many movies in the history of movies that shouldn’t be remade. Whether it is because it was so masterfully done the first time, the acting performances cannot be replicated, technology would change or even degrade the movie, or simply that the movie is so beloved that to reproduce it would be hurtful and unnecessary, sometimes it just shouldn’t happen. I am going to take a look at 5 movies that should not be remade and look at these categories to see why it cannot be remade. While you, no doubt, have movies you treasure; these one’s wouldn’t work for reasons beyond just, “I don’t want the one I love to change.”  Here are 5 that shouldn’t be considered for any reason, and the reasons why it shouldn’t be considered.

  1. The Princess Bride

    Why can’t it be remade?

    Let’s take a look at the criteria

    Masterfully done: This movie uses excellent pacing, perfect tone and an amount of camp that works perfectly for what it is, a fantasy book being read to a child. Rob Reiner elicits a sense of child like wonder that many other filmmakers have struggled to replicate. Ultimately it is the simplicity that makes this work. Simplicity is rare to find these days.

    The acting performances cannot be replicated: Obviously there is no such thing as another Andre the Giant, so we can start there. Any other giant would be laughably smaller. Shaq is small compared to Andre. Wallace Shawn’s masterful “Inconceivable” is delivered so perfectly, with haughty insecurity that I doubt another actor could pull off quite right. A slew of other great character actors carry parts that you would never see played so well today. One reason is the insistence that kid’s movies have celebrities reading or acting every part. This isn’t necessary. A great character actor can make a small part more enjoyable by imbuing their unique nature to it, like Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Chris Sarandon, and obviously Andre and Wallace. None of these people were immensely popular (maybe Crystal, who, of course, is virtually unrecognizable) and definitely not first choices for a kids movie.

    Technology cannot help… only hurt: This is a real problem. The camp level of the movie is the beauty of it. To make it slicker, better filmed, with CGI and with great actions sequences would undercut the entire point. This is happening in the imagination of a child. It is supposed to be stilted, campy, and have weird set pieces with the kind of violence a child would imagine. Making this movie “better” would destroy the best aspect of it.

    Remaking it would be hurtful: This is especially true, as millions of kids have likely grown up seeing this movie and having it etched into their minds. I did. My kids already have. There is virtually nothing offensive about it, even for the most prudish or sensitive of folks. It is a period piece in a sense, so updating it to a new era isn’t an option. To create a new one, when this one exists and remains relevant, is silly. Leave it be.

  2. The Shawshank Redemption

    Why it can’t be remade:

    Actually, it IS being remade. Stephen King is determined to prove that he can recreate his own stories as films better than anyone else. This is perhaps his greatest undoing as a master of horror.

    Masterfully done: Once again, the pacing works in a way you wouldn’t expect. It is slow and deliberate, without high peaks and low valleys (well, except one or two). This is intentional to reflect the slow repetitiveness of prison life. All of the performances are muted, with the exception of the warden, who is the evil, religious hypocrite dialed up to a million. His tenacity hides the slow buildup of rebellion happening underneath him. The shots are beautiful, with gorgeous cinematography. Perhaps the best thing about this Stephen King adaptation though, is that Stephen King didn’t do it. For whatever reason, he is not able to convert his own works to the screen (try to find a good one that he did… I will wait). As The Shining or the recent It shows, letting an auteur handle his work brings out a side and splendor to it that he cannot, for whatever reason.

    The acting performances cannot be replicated: Here is where things would get very tough. In the upcoming remake, the plan is to switch to a female cast, which is a smart dodge. This way the performances won’t be compared to the stunning work of Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Bob Gunton and James Whitmore. Each person perfectly hones their character. Morgan Freeman sets the stage for his future work as the best narrator since James Earl Jones by providing the movie with its backbone. Tim Robbins catches the aloof and quiet nature of Andy in a very understated way. The only thing harder than being the star of the show, is to be the star without being a star. His ability to downplay the part of Andy until the critical moments is rarely matched. Finally, James Whitmore as Brooks delivers a glorious performance that is at the heart of the movie. It is exactly the kind of element King cannot ever recreate in his movies. A small part that controls the story of the film in subtle ways that you barely notice. Subtlety is not a King specialty. Brooks’ death sets the stage and stakes for the remainder of the movie as both Andy and Red look to avoid his fate in their own way.

    Technology cannot help… only hurt: Period pieces are uniquely protected from the benefits of technology. CGI couldn’t play any role in the film and attempts to inject it, let’s say by replacing Brooks’ raven, would just be a lazy way of saving money and time.  The movie setting is intentionally dilapidated, so improving the sets won’t help.

    Remaking it would be hurtful: This would be less painful than The Princess Bride. I will admit that it is not attached to people’s psyches like a children’s movie we all grew up with. I also understand King’s desire to tell the story he intended. The problem is that it won’t be better. Making a female Ghostbuster’s protected against the same comparisons to previous excellent male performances, but it didn’t make up for bad filmmaking and writing. When King makes a much worse version of the same movie, it is just going to be awkward. For someone who has struck out so often on his own work, why set out for an inevitable loss. The only reasonable answer is pride. The same pride that keeps him from seeing that The Shining is great. He can only see that it isn’t his. The real key to why remaking this is so impossible is the reveal though. We already know what happens now to Andy. While the movie is still very enjoyable on 2nd or third viewings, it is that big reveal that is the high point of the movie. In a remake, that moment is forever lost to our own anticipation.

  3. Jurassic Park

    Why it can’t be remade: Well, they did remake it, if you want to count endless sequels as versions of a remake. It is not quite at the level of Star Wars episodes 4 and 7, but they generally remake and repeat the same beats and tones in different ways. The issue here is that none of the remakes are Jurassic Park. They are leftovers from the perfect feast, scrounged for by the less fortunate.

    Masterfully done: Of course 80’s and 90’s superstar Steven Spielberg nails the pacing, special effects, tone and energy of the film. That is what he did over and over for two decades. What truly separates this film from the flock of imitators though, is the minimal use of CGI. The torrent of CGI used moving forward saved money and allowed for “bigger” and “badder”, but the follow up films lost the grounded, realistic, gritty feel of the original. This was, of course, a huge strength of Spielberg, and you can see it in films like the Indiana Jones Trilogy, Jaws, and Saving Private Ryan. As soon as he started relying on CGI in his later films, much of the magic that made him great faded. His ability to create believable action without computers was what set him apart from other filmmakers (including his aging self).

    The acting performances cannot be replicated: This would be the easiest part to replicate. While I enjoyed all of the performances, I would hardly say they cannot be reprised. The dinosaurs are the real stars of the movie. That is why the incredible special effects work was so important. This is not to say the performances were bad. Goldblum, Neill, Dern, Samuel L Jackson and naturalist legend Richard Attenborough all are fantastic. The child acting is even respectable. Your chances of getting so many strong performances in the same movie are slim (as half a dozen remakes have proven) but not impossible. The characters are mostly thin and the action required of the humans is fairly limited.

    Technology cannot help, only hurt: This is a key piece. Adding CGI just keeps making every adaption worse, and the existence of it seems to preclude going back to practical effects. Its mere existence is preventing future versions from being great.

    Remaking it would be hurtful: Much like The Princess Bride, boys of a certain age all remember when they saw Jurassic Park. I know I remember so many details (I saw it on video unfortunately). This is at the heart of why this cannot really be remade. There can only be one time I first thought I was seeing real dinosaurs. It was real movie magic. I went to see Jurassic World in theaters and it was enjoyable (despite its many flaws). I had forgotten that feeling you get inside seeing something so incredible. The thing is, I was just re-experiencing what I felt watching Jurassic Park. When it comes time to show my kids, I am not going to show them Jurassic World. I am going to show them what I saw growing up. The perfect “real” dinosaur movie that was already made. As for remaking the same movie again, there is no reason you would. It already exists, and the dinosaurs can’t look any more real. So why bother.

  4. Schindler’s List

    Why it cannot be remade: Another Spielberg classic, this is simply the definitive version of this film. It was made by a director who cared deeply about the project. It is a period piece. It is in black and white (intentionally so, so adding color would diminish the product). It features outstanding performances and an ending that is almost universally known among those who treasure movies.

    Masterfully done: This films is one of the greatest films of all time, and almost certainly the best about the holocaust. Spielberg’s direction creates a very moving story, and he gets phenomenal performances from his leads. In retelling the true story of Oskar Schindler he hits all the right notes, keeping it from being too heavy handed, sorrowful or overwhelming. He finds the right line to maintain the elements of emotion that are felt so powerfully right up to the end in the climactic finish. His choice to leave the coat red is a touch that cannot really be reintroduced elsewhere.

    The acting performances cannot be replicated: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes, all tremendous actors, give some of the best performances of their lives. The story itself lends to a sense of importance and intensity, which surely helps, but each provides their character with gravitas and meaning. The final scene with Neeson is one of the most remembered movie moments of all time.

    Technology cannot help… only hurt: Adding color, CGI or better digital film/cameras would decrease the feel of the film as a period piece and a one of kind production. There is no way to improve on the production in any meaningful way.

    Remaking it would be hurtful: Besides the simple greatness of the film, this is the main reason for it to be left alone. This was a passion project for Spielberg, one of the great storytellers of my lifetime. To remake it by someone else would be an insult to him, and other Jews. For him to remake it would be pointless, as it is a near perfect film. What else could be done? What else could be said? The heart of this film comes down to the desire to do more good, but being unable to. The same could be said for any remake. You might want to do more, but you cannot.

  5. Apocalypse Now

    Why it cannot be remade:

    Hearts of Darkness is the reason this movie cannot be remade. The documentary goes behind the scenes and reveals the incredible challenges that faced the production, Francis Ford Coppola’s decent into madness and self-doubt, and all of the challenges dealing with the personalities at the heart of the film. Apocalypse Now is another period piece, shot overseas, released at a time when the Vietnam War was still being dissected. Recreating this now would be impossible, and the reasons for doing so fade as we get farther away from Vietnam.
    Masterfully done: Watching Hearts of Darkness reveals the director’s intense struggles as he questions again and again if what he is making is even good. But watching the finished product, a raw, brutal, shocking and revealing look at the psyche of the soldier and the madness of war is astonishing. Very few directors could even be so ambitious, fewer still could be so determined, and even fewer still could actually produce something so incredible. There are only a few directors in history who could even consider doing the PROJECT, let alone produce this.
    The acting performances cannot be replicated: The unhinged performance of film icon Marlon Brando was so bizarre and overpowering, that a movie could be made just on his process and chaos. Stunning performances were also provided by legends like Robert Duvall whose astonishing portrait of a surf loving Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore ranks as one of the all-time war move portraits. Martin Sheen’s decent into madness is its own brilliant character study. Sheen imparts tremendous depth that few characters in a movie ever receive (the extended run of the movie helps with this). Beyond them, Lawrence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, and Harvey Keitel provide incredible acting chops to more limited roles. Good luck creating one of the best casts of all time, sorting through the madness and producing brilliance worthy of long term reverence.
    Technology cannot help… only hurt: This is a rare spot where some technological advancements might have helped at least the challenges of production. Ultimately the stunning practical effects that include the near total destruction of a jungle are shocking and unlikely to be redone in the age of environmental conservation and CGI. Recreating a war through actual total destruction is not something we see much anymore. The grime ridden nature of the filming fits right into the ethos of the story and attempts to improve the quality of the filmmaking wouldn’t lend much to the story.
    Remaking it would be hurtful: It’s not that it would be hurtful to us, it would be hurtful to the future director. To get this sort of madness fueled tension, the people involved were literally mad. The drugs, destruction, fighting and chaos are all on the screen. It’s just that at some points they turned the cameras on and off. Now, with unions, production standards, studio interference and more, this film simply cannot exist. It has been weeded out. In its place are more palatable blockbusters like Avengers or even something like 1917 or Dunkirk, that were beautiful, but completely different films. They are controlled and designed. Not utter mayhem. We may never see another film like Apocalypse now, let alone a remake.