You’d think the great auteurs would be safe from remakes — it’s hard to imagine someone taking on a Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Terrence Malick or David Lynch film, for example. But that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from remaking everything from “The Haunting” to “Psycho.” Studio heads figure the lazy new generation doesn’t know the classics. And marketers want to cash in on easy-sell branded titles and fan followings — it’s the way it works. But more often than not, when less-than-great movies get remade into even less great “reboots” like 2012’s “Total Recall,” they flop with audiences anyway. And when the great ones get remade, like Federico Fellini’s “8½,” even canny movie stars like Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard can’t save them.
While we don’t want any movies to be remade, here are eight films to begin our official Please Do Not Even Try list.
PLEASE DO NOT EVEN TRY: Films That Should Never Be Remade
“The Deer Hunter” (1979), Dir. Michael Cimino, Wr. Cimino, Deric Washburn
This devastating, viscerally disturbing film was a profound expression of the Vietnam era. Recreating its effect be impossible — despite still relevant themes — and compiling a cast of such high caliber would also be a challenge (of course they were less established then): Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale…where would you start to replace them? The film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Sound and Editing. A year later, Francis Ford Coppola’s equally provocative Vietnam film “Apocalypse Now” — which should also never be remade — won two.
“The Goonies” (1985), Dir. Richard Donner, Wr. Steven Spielberg
The 80s are long behind us, as are the halcyon days of imagination and boredom. Thanks, technology. Recapturing this Steven Spielberg classic in our modern era is impossible, so those who would dare to try would end up embarrassed and nostalgic at best. On the other hand, J.J. Abrams did a pretty good job with “Super 8.”
“Die Hard” (1988), Dir. John McTiernan, Wr. Roderick Thorp (novel), Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza
It’s quite possible that Bruce Willis has no intention of ending his days as John McClane. We’re safe for now. But sooner or later someone is going to think “reboot” and a replacement will be sought to take over the yippee ki-yay mother-fucking franchise. A wise idea? No. But even Paul Thomas Anderson would’ve liked a shot at directing the original.
“Thelma & Louise” (1991), Dir. Ridley Scott, Wr. Callie Khouri
It’s hard to imagine this film without Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald and Brad Pitt or director Ridley Scott. It could have come together entirely differently back in development stages, and thank god it didn’t. (Producer Scott realized that all the directors wanted to “soften” the inherent feminism of the piece. So he decided to do it himself.) To have this movie any other way, set in any other era, with different music and landscapes, would be a cinematic abomination. (On the other hand, you’d think we’d have come farther than we have. Its theme, shockingly, is still relevant.) (Khouri, David and producer Mimi Polk Gitlin celebrated the film’s 20th anniversary at the Academy.)
Next: “The Silence of the Lambs”…
“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), Dir. Jonathan Demme, Wr. Ted Tally (Thomas Harris, novel)
Who would be naive enough to try and top Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter? Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling should also be considered sacred territory. This is the only horror/thriller to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture (it also won Best Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay), and it’s easy to see why. It’s also easy to see the ways in which it could be taken over the top, exaggerated and pushed to the point of parody. (Ridley Scott himself did it in the “Hannibal” sequel.) No one can touch this film. Television is going to try; Mads Mikkselsen is starring as a younger Lecter in an upcoming 13-episode NBC series.
“Shawshank Redemption” (1994), Dir. Frank Darabont Wr. Stephen King, Darabont
It’s no surprise that Stephen King’s novels make for excellent films (“The Shining,” “The Green Mile,” “Dolores Claiborne”), and as some of them are already being redone (“Carrie,” “Pet Sematary”), it would be nice to keep at least one safe from consideration. Let it be “Shawshank”; there will never be a better pair than Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman as Andy and Red. Darabont’s direction is perfection, and the film holds up swimmingly nearly twenty years on.
“The Usual Suspects” (1995), Dir. Bryan Singer, Wr. Christopher McQuarrie
A cult classic mystery with a stellar cast, including Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro and Stephen Baldwin. To pull off this convoluted story as cleverly as Singer did is no easy feat, and to attempt re-engaging an audience –old or new–with the same story would be an invitation for endless comparisons, if not disaster. The original holds up, and if people haven’t already seen this movie, they should go in knowing as little as possible.
“Fight Club” (1999), Dir. David Fincher, Wr. Chuck Palahniuk
It may have been considered a commercial failure when it debuted, but this film, one of Fincher’s finest, has become one of the most beloved cult films of all time. Cinematically and conceptually, “Fight Club” was ahead of its time and to try to reassign its scathing social commentary to 2013 or beyond just wouldn’t have the same jolting effect. We’re too jaded now. And making this movie without Brad Pitt and Edward Norton? Please.