Total Recall
Credit: Michael Gibson

Complaining about Hollywood’s dearth of fresh ideas and its obsession with remaking, rebooting, and repackaging every half-successful movie from yesteryear is a constant and not-undeserved gripe. But let’s also acknowledge that recycling classics — and less-than-classics — is an age-old plague tradition (See: The Maltese Falcon) and some remakes even become classics in their own right (See… The Maltese Falcon).

Still, there’s no denying that Hollywood has gone into its attic with greater and greater gusto in recent years. The industry is churning out countless sequels, prequels, and sidequels, and even adapting old TV shows (21 Jump Street, Dark Shadows) for the big screen. The latest addition: An updated Total Recall with Colin Farrell, opening on Aug. 3. Time will tell if Farrell’s remake will approach the glorious camp of the original, which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger getting his ass to “Mahrs” to breathe life into a rebellion. But it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on the best and worst of Hollywood’s remake machine.

For our purposes, let’s stick to remakes of actual movies. (No adaptations of TV shows, like 21 Jump Street or The Fugitive.) My five best, in no particular order: The Maltese Falcon (Surprise!), Ocean’s Eleven, Cape Fear, Heaven Can Wait, and Dawn of the Dead. My Five Worst? Psycho, Sabrina, The Pink Panther, the 1976 version of King Kong, and Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.

I ignored Hollywood remakes of foreign movies — like The Departed and The Birdcage — because those films have the creative luxury of being reinvented in a different culture, thus freeing them from expectations. But feel free to include such films in your own selections, which I hope you’ll share in the comments below.

What are your five best and five worst remakes?

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