BySree Lal, writer at
Engineer by occupation. Movie geek for a lifetime....
Sree Lal

Hollywood has been keen to capitalize every scrap of idea that they could get their hands on. Whether it was remakes or reboots, they had their way of squeezing every penny out of it. Mostly, the blind pimping of well-acclaimed sources resulted in shocking abomination of art, but some of them even surpassed the expectations of even the original creators. This article tries to list out some of the best incidents in which Hollywood succeeded to produce well-constructed, artistically and commercially successful movies out of foreign films.

The movies are evaluated for its entertainment and artistic factors, along with how much it succeeded to take the quality of the original to a further, improved level. So, without any delay, here are the 10 best foreign movie remakes by Hollywood…

10. True Lies / La Totale! (France)

"What can I say? I'm a spy!" - Harry Tasker

Claude Zidi sows the seed and Cameron reaped it. True Lies, comparing with its French original, La Totale!, was miles ahead on both critical acclaim and collection. Even though it is less favored among the works of the master director, True Lies is an explosive and entertaining take on the life of a secret agent who hides his identity from his wife. True Lies was rich with Schwarzenegger’s action swaggers, and an impressive turn of a troubled suburban wife earned Jamie Lee Curtis a Golden Globe. With an engaging script and presentation, Cameron prepared True Lies in a superior way, and it shows….

9. The Ring / Ringu (Japan)

"Don't you understand, Rachel? She never sleeps" - Aidan Keller

Considering rip-offs, there is no other kind of movies that suffered so much mistreatment than Japanese horror films. The Grudge, Premonition, One Missed Call and Pulse, to name a few of these unfortunate remakes. Mostly, it’s because of the cultural differences. Even though 'Woman in White' is a popular myth in many of our cultures, these movies failed to adapt the subject into the Western media. Yet, one movie succeeded in transcending the horror beyond continents. Gore Verbinski’s 2002 horror-thriller, The Ring. Based on the movie Ringu, which is itself an adaptation of a novel of the same name. It satisfied viewers and critics alike. Without depending on gory visuals, like most of the horror movies done at that time, Verbinski’s Ring managed to impress the viewers with pure, dreadful horror.

8. The Talented Mr. Ripley / Plein Soleil (France)

"I thought, being a fake somebody is better than being a real nobody" - Tom Ripley

Even though Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist, the first film adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley was done by French director René Clément, in the name Purple Noon. It was the breakout movie of Alan Delon, who is famous for movies like The Red Circle and Le Samouraï. The 1999 American adaptation by Anthony Minghella was also a brilliant take on the masterful source, and in some merits, it even surpassed its predecessor. Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley was a much more likable character than of Alan Delon’s, and it also had a satisfying conclusion considering the source material. Jude Law’s impressive performance garnered him an Oscar nod.

7. Insomnia / Insomnia (Norway)

"You're a good man. I know that. Even if you've forgotten it." - Walter Finch

The original Norwegian version was praised for its psychological study and semi-noir presentation. The impressive character development and the complexity of the underlying subject make it a work of sheer brilliance. It’s no wonder Christopher Nolan put his hands on the subject, and again, it’s no wonder the end result was a brilliant piece of cinema. Heavyweights like Al Pacino and Robin Williams replaces an equally brilliant duo of Stellan Skarsgård and Bjørn Floberg in the remake, and it's a bit difficult to weigh these two films because of the precise presentation both of them has.

6. The Magnificent Seven / Seven Samurai

"The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose." - Chris Larabee Adams

There are some landmarks that no one can surpass. Kurosawa movies are one of them. To make matters simple, Seven Samurai is absolutely one of them. The only thing any director would do is to replicate the success of the original by directing the movie with much respect the source deserve. John Sturges’ 1960 remake of the classic movie was an entertaining western. With acting legends like Yuri Brynner, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen and Eli Wallach, along with a well-written story, The Magnificent Seven was a well deserved homage to the original. The swords were traded with guns, but the action never stopped, The Magnificent Seven is on its way for a remake with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt on the lead.

5. Scent of a Woman / Profumo De Donna (Italy)

"Women! What can you say? Who made 'em? God must have been a f**kin' genius." - Lt. Col. Frank Slade

This remake of the 1974 Italian movie by the same name finally earned Al Pacino his Oscar after an array of nominations. The original starring Vittorio Gassman was a success at its release, and it even managed to get nominated for an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film that year. The 1992 Martin Brest adaptation, with some minor changes in the screenplay, succeeded to repeat the success of the original. Scent of a Woman will always be remembered for the commanding performance of Pacino, in which he gave certain weight for the character that Gassman’s hadn’t. With a supporting cast of Chris O’Donnell and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Scent of a Woman is one of the finest movie adaptations Hollywood has ever done.

4. A Fistful of Dollars / Yojimbo (Japan)

"Get three coffins ready... My mistake, four coffins..." - Joe

Yet another Akira Kurosawa movie on the list and it’s another classic samurai tale. Yojimbo is the story of a nameless samurai who plays a double agent between two rival gangs. Sergio Leone’s classic western, A Fistful of Dollars, didn’t change much from the original when it comes to the screenplay. But, he had Clint Eastwood to replace the iconic Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. With an equally brilliant performance, Eastwood sealed the deal. A Fistful of Dollars is the first entry in Leone’s Dollars trilogy, and he will be thankful for Kurosawa making Yojimbo. Adaptable to a perfect western, Yojimbo had everything from mind-blowing action sequences to a compelling story. Today both movies share the status of classics, even though Kurosawa’s original will have a slight edge for its originality.

3. Hachi: The Dog's Tale / Hachiko Monogatari (Japan)

"Hachi, my friend, Parker is never coming home. But if Hachiko wants to wait, then Hachiko should wait. Have a long life Hachi." - Ken

An ideal movie to break our hearts and wet our tissues, Hachiko Monogatari, is the story of an Akita dog, which followed its master till its death. This film was the top grossing movie in Japan in the year 1987. Lasse Hallström chose wisely, when he decided to remake this Japanese smash hit. Starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen in the leads, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale was a sincere adaptation of the Japanese original. A movie for the family viewers, Hachi gained favors in home media, and is considered as one of the best family movies. A story of love and hope, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is one of those adaptations that you’ll root for without the sense of culture and boundaries.

2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor (Sweden)

"If you touch me, I'll more than alarm you." - Lisbeth Salander

One name: David Fincher. His dark, gritty adaptation of the already dark Swedish original was a remarkable improvement over Steig Larsson’s celebrated novel. Artistically brilliant, rich with uncompromising content, this 2011 adaptation is one of the best. From the captivating titles to the shady settings, Fincher got everything right. Rooney Mara’s dedicated performance even managed to compete with Naomi Rapace in the original. While the Swedish one managed to make sequels and complete Larsson’s trilogy, Hollywood sequels are still hanging in the limbo. If Fincher commits to it, there is no doubt in making two more classy movies of this kind.

1. The Departed / Infernal Affairs (China)

"when you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?" - Frank Costello

“What will you do with a modern classic like Infernal Affairs?”

“I’ll make The Departed”.

At least, it happens to people like Scorsese, I guess. Infernal Affairs was a critical and box office success, and it had a good reason for that. The plot was good, the screenplay was engaging and the acting was superb. Moreover, it had sentiments that most action films lacked. When Scorsese committed to the project, he ruled out the soft spots and made it a tale of hate, fear and betrayal. With a stellar cast, including Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, to name a few, a blockbuster was written all over it. The final product was a brilliant crime drama that presented some dedicated acting and some mastery direction. With Scorsese, the plot evolved to a classic with vibrant visuals, sneaky edits and gritty realism. Unlike Infernal Affairs, The Departed wrapped up with tying every loose knot, and even though there isn’t a chance to have a sequel, like the original did, this brilliant adaptation stands out as a strong film that surpasses the original in many merits.


Can Hollywood make a good remake after all?


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