Do-over gold: JW Ward’s five best remakes from the past decade

If there’s one thing Hollywood seems to be afraid of these days, it’s an original idea.

Friday brings another remake to the big screen with Straw Dogs, director Rod Lurie’s take on the infamous 1971 film of the same name by director Sam Peckinpah that starred Dustin Hoffman and Susan George.

This time around, it’s James Marsden who has to man up to protect his home, his wife (Kate Bosworth) and his way of life when some not-so-simple country folk decide to take advantage of his timid demeanor.

Will James Marsden hold a candle to Dustin Hoffman’s performance in the original?  Will the notorious violence of the first film be embraced or dismissed in the new version?  Will the movie be a worthy remake?

Who knows?  You’ll have to see it to find out.

With no signs of Hollywood backing off from the “do-over” trend, we’re counting down the best five remakes of the last ten years.  

5) Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
When Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack made the original Ocean’s Eleven in 1960, it was largely an excuse to make a few extra bucks while performing and hanging out in Las Vegas.

The spirit of class, style and attitude of the Rat Pack era was brought into the new millennium in director Stephen Soderbergh’s version, starring an all-star ensemble including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and many, many more.

This Las Vegas heist flick turned out to be great fun, becoming enough of a success to inspire two sequels and creating a franchise that earned $1.1 billion worldwide at the box office.

4) The Ring (2002)
Remaking Japanese horror was all the rage in the 2000s, and director Gore Verbinski’s adaptation of the 1998 original was the high point for the entire trend.

Naomi Watts plays Rachel, a journalist investigating the mysterious deaths that follow seven days after victims watch a supposedly cursed videotape.  When she and her son watch the tape, she finds the images coming to life around her as she races to discover the truth and save both of their lives.

Inspiring other Japanese-to-North America remakes like 2004’s The GrudgeThe Ring was enough of a hit for Hollywood to greenlight The Ring Two in 2005 and the forthcoming Ring 3D for 2012. How they’ll get around videotapes being obsolete is anybody’s guess.

3) Batman Begins (2005)
Okay, this might not count to some because it’s an adaptation of a comic book character, but the Dark Knight has received enough treatments in film over the years (most notably the 1966 version starring Adam West and the 1989 version starring Michael Keaton) that it deserves its place on the list.

Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, this was the movie that took the camp and cartoonishness out of the character in favour of a more serious, grounded-in-reality approach.  Bale’s Bruce Wayne comes home after years away to save a city overcome by criminals and threatened by a former mentor, all while disguised as a human bat.

As great as Batman Begins turned out to be, no one was prepared for how huge a hit its sequel, The Dark Knight, became in 2008.  The series has become the model of how a superhero film should be done by Warner Brothers ever since, and will see its trilogy completed in 2012 with the arrival of The Dark Knight Rises.

2) The Departed (2006)
Back in 2002, Hong Kong film director Andrew Lau unleashed Infernal Affairs, one of the most highly regarded crime films of all time.  Two friends in the Hong Kong police force find themselves at odds – one has infiltrated a triad mob, while the other has infiltrated the police for the triad, and both are on the hunt for each other without knowing it.

Four years later, director Martin Scorsese took the story, transplanted it to Boston and cast Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson in starring roles.  The Departed achieved box office glory to the tune of $290 million worldwide and won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 2007.

The kind of movie you can’t help but watch if you find it on a television, Hollywood’s ready to milk this one out with a sequel that may or may not be made in 2012.

1) Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Remaking one of the greatest horror movies of all time isn’t easy, but director Zack Snyder broke from making music videos in just the right way with his take on the survive-the-zombie-apocalypse-in-a-mall concept.

Based on the 1978 original by director George A. Romero, the new Dawn of the Dead scared the daylights out of moviegoers with fast zombies, vicious kills and a great cast that included Sarah Polley (Splice), Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) and Ty Burrell (TV’s Modern Family).

Less cerebral than the original and more a popcorn pleasure, Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is best enjoyed as the great horror flick it is, and the film most responsible for the zombie renaissance we’ve enjoyed over the last seven years.

Your turn now – what’s on your list of the best remakes of all-time?

JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at
@jasonwardDOTca, through his website at and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop!

2 Replies to “Do-over gold: JW Ward’s five best remakes from the past decade”

  1. Nice list amigo. All time being the question? John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is one of the scariest movies of all time. Why a remake of his rendition was made is beyond me.

    Footnote: Dawn was filmed at the mall I grew up hanging out at. Thornhill Square…the pink elephant mall of the land. So central, yet so *ahem* Dead.

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