(Ch)Op-Ed #9: Horror Remakes Better Than The Original

Remakes can be hit or miss. Oftentimes, they are reviled, the worst of the worst, despised by critics, die hard and casual fans, men, women, babies, dogs, cats, and even God himself. However, there are a few instances where lightning strikes, and we see a remake that adds something different, something unique, or even just a different point of view from the original. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the original may be a classic, but sometimes the remake just hits differently. What follows are the top 20 horror remakes of all time. I did not include remakes that are shot for shot copies, i.e. Psycho or Funny Games. These are original takes on a classic.

#20 Little Shop of Horrors

The 1960 version, directed by Roger Corman, pales in comparison to the 1986 musical. “Suddenly Seymour,” “Skid Row,” “Dentist,” “Feed Me!” and so many more songs from the soundtrack will crawl into your ear and live there forever. And that doesn’t even touch upon Steve Martin’s hilarious performance as the chauvinistic abusive dentist.

#19 Piranha

The 1978 original was a quick cash grab directed by Joe Dante and executive produced by Roger Corman, intended to ride the coattails of Jaws, whereas the 2010 remake by Alexandre Aja was a big budget box office success. One was low budget and goofy,  while one was big budget and tongue in cheek. You can’t go wrong with a modern 3-D film.

#18 War of the Worlds

This 2005 version remakes the 1953 film, as well as the 1938 radio drama that scared a nation. Steven Spielberg drove this big budget Tom Cruise vehicle to the tune of 603 million dollars in box office returns. The modern special effects and the thrills that Spielberg is known for, all contribute to a great popcorn summer blockbuster.

#17 Nightwatch

Ole Bornedal directed both the 1994 original film, and the 1997 American remake. Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, and Patricia Arquette, all contribute great acting to the big budget remake, all intertwined with an incredible atmosphere and a more brutal approach to the source material than the original.

#16 House of Wax

What’s not to like about the 2005 remake? The melting wax, the modern metal soundtrack, and teen idols of the moment Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Jared Padalecki, and of course, Paris Hilton. Did the 1953 version OR the 1933 version bring us the satisfaction of watching a spoiled rich socialite getting brutally murdered? Nope.

#15 Silent Night

There are some who argue the 1984 original is a cult classic and I will admit that it is. However, the 2012 remake expands upon its story, budget, special effects, and gore. A huge surprise when it was released, it truly is one of the best remakes you probably haven’t seen.

#14 House on Haunted Hill

The 1959 original is a great film, but I always enjoy when a classic film gets a big budget remake with big name stars. William Castle’s gimmicks were always fun for the theater experience, but those times have become outdated. Director William Malone delivers and stars Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, and Ali Larter contribute nicely.

#13 Last House on the Left

The 1972 original is ground breaking in its brutal depiction of rape and revenge. But tonally, it’s a mess. Some scenes and characters are goofy, and then the next scene is just incredibly hard to watch. But the 2009 remake got it right. Sorry Wes (R.I.P.), but you lost this battle.

#12 It

The 1990 cast, in particular Tim Curry as Pennywise, is such a great memory for me. It’s creepy and pushes the limitations of a TV miniseries. The 2017 and 2019 two part film expand upon this with a bigger budget, better special effects, scarier scenes, and the wherewithal to split the film in two, with one telling the story of the kids and the other telling the story of the adults. It’s a genius concept.

#11 The Crazies

George Romero is a God to horror films. But the fact of the matter is that outside of the Living Dead series, his films are very hit or miss. And the 1973 original was a miss. The 2010 big budget version is very different and brings a unique approach to the film, treating its antagonists more as zombies. They’re two totally different films.

#10 Maniac

William Lustig’s 1980 film is incredible. Tom Savini’s effects coupled with a creepy performance by cult actor Joe Spinnell, make this a genre classic. But the 2012 remake, starring Elijah Wood and written by Alexandre Aja, did something totally unique, something seldom seen in film. It’s not found footage, but instead, it’s first person POV. You are the killer and you see everything through his eyes.

#9 Hills Have Eyes

Another Wes Craven film, this one is also a mess tonally. The 1977 original pales in comparison to the 2006 remake. Once again, a remake directed by Alexandre Aja, this one is frightening and makes so much more sense. It fell into the whole torture porn trend at the time, but watch it again and you’ll see that it still holds up as a modern classic.

#8 Invisible Man

The character first appeared in the 1933 film, but has gone through numerous sequels and reboots over the years. But the 2020 remake did something different with the character and turned the story upside down by injecting some truly terrifying elements to it. Rightfully so, it became the sleeper hit of the pandemic.

#7 Bram Stoker’s Dracula

There are too many versions of the character, with so many different takes and tones that it has become a cultural icon. The 1931 original, as well as every version thereafter, pales in comparison to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version. The star power, the effects, the music, the masterful direction, all expand upon the original. And it’s so faithful to the original, while also injecting a little sexuality and humor along the way.

#6 The Ring

Hideo Nakata’s 1998 film introduced the world to the long haired little Japanese girl phenomenon that took over the world in the late 90s and early 2000s. But Gore Verbinski expanded upon this with the 2002 American remake. It’s creepy, eerie, and so expertly acted by everyone involved, that it surpasses the original in every way.

#5 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The 1978 remake is so much better than the 1956 version, and that’s saying a lot. It comments on the counter culture movement of the 60s and 70s, i.e. the hippies selling out to corporate America, the consumerism of the 70s, and the decline of the nuclear family. It features a baby Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, and Donald Sutherland in THAT scene at the end.

#4 The Fly

One cannot underestimate the charm of the 1958 original. But the David Cronenberg 1986 version turns it on its head. A body horror film that is going to disgust you at every turn, with performances by Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, it absolutely blows every other version and sequel out of the water.

#3 The Blob

The 1958 original set the bar but the 1988 remake knocked that bar down and stepped on it. Both a modern re-telling and a throwback to the 50s monster movies, Chuck Russell’s tongue in cheek effects heavy pink masterpiece is one of the best remakes of all time.

#2 The Thing

The 1951 movie The Thing From Another World got a big budget remake in 1982 directed by John Carpenter. A dud at the time, history has been very kind to this special effects heavy version. It is one of his best films, as well as one of the best horror films of the decade. Kurt Russell cemented himself as a leading man, and that jump scare with the Petri dish is amazing.

#1 Dawn of the Dead

Before everyone lynches me, the 1978 Dawn of the Dead is a horror masterpiece and might just be one of the best horror films of all time. The 2004 version is one of the most fun remakes of all time. It’s not necessarily BETTER than the original, but it is different enough to be its own beast. They share the same setting, but the pace is so different, as well as the acting performances and the zombies themselves. One of the best horror films of the decade.


How did I do? What did I leave out? Other than Dawn of the Dead, what do you disagree with?

About RetRo(n) 61 Articles
I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.