THE BEST THE DEPARTED (2006) Original: Infernal Affairs (2002)
Director Martin Scorsese transplanted the original cat-and-mouse thriller from gleaming Hong Kong to the gritty streets of South Boston, where Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio play a gangster pretending to be a cop or vice versa. It’s not thought of as Scorsese’s finest work, but it did win him his long-overdue Oscar.
THE WORST PLANET OF THE APES (2001) Original: Planet of the Apes (1968)
”You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you, Tim Burton! God damn you all to hell!” Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But simply upgrading Charlton Heston’s classic B-movie with modern-day special effects doesn’t make it better. Or even necessary. And did anyone really think the Lincoln Monkee-morial would trump the Statue of Liberty reveal?
THE BEST FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991) Original: Father of the Bride (1950)
Steve Martin is no Spencer Tracy, and that’s what made this remake fresh. Neurotic but hopelessly devoted to his betrothed daughter’s happiness, Martin’s befuddled and panic-stricken dad became as symptomatic of 1990s movie dads as Tracy’s understated frustration was of the 1950s.
THE WORST CITY OF ANGELS (1998) Original: Wings of Desire (1987)
This adaptation of Wim Wenders’ film about an angel who falls for a mortal also borrows liberally from 1990’s supernatural smash, Ghost. But for some reason — possibly due to Nicolas Cage’s glazed-over portrayal of a melancholic seraph — this love story, co-starring Meg Ryan, is more creepy than tender.
THE BEST THE FLY (1986) Original: The Fly (1958)
Director David Cronenberg located the terror and real tragedy in the schlocky B-movie tale of a scientist (Jeff Goldblum) who mutates into an insect after a disastrous experiment. The special effects still have the potential to gross out, if not terrify, but the line ”Be afraid…be very afraid” is delightfully timeless.
THE WORST SABRINA (1995) Original: Sabrina (1954)
This lifeless love triangle between the rich Larrabee brothers (Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear) and the made-over Sabrina single-handedly ended Hollywood’s temporary infatuation with It Girl Julia Ormond and exposed a chink in Ford’s acting armor: He seems as bored as we are.
THE BEST THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) Original: The Seven Samurai (1954)
Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, et al, defend a helpless Mexican village against an onslaught of bandits, with the assistance of Elmer Bernstein’s rousing, rambling score. It doesn’t approach Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, but it’s still loads of fun.
THE WORST VANILLA SKY (2001) Original: Abre Los Ojos (1997)
Never has a talented director been more ill-suited for his material. Cameron Crowe’s pretentious translation, starring Tom Cruise opposite Cameron Diaz and Penélope Cruz, is simultaneously incomprehensible and condescending. Oh, but it’s got a great pop soundtrack.
THE BEST INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) Original: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Stripped of its Cold War paranoia, director Philip Kaufmann’s thriller about pod people from outer space surreptitiously replacing human beings is a delectable creep show. Filled with tension and suspense, it’s the best X-Files episode never made.
THE WORST PSYCHO (1998) Original: Psycho (1960)
Chutzpah would’ve been a more appropriate title for director Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s genre-defining classic. (It’s like Norman Rockwell attempting to copy Munch’s ”The Scream.”) Just a bad idea all around, and the cast, led by Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche, is a curious collection of misused talent.
THE BEST OCEANS ELEVEN (2001) Original: Ocean's 11 (1960)
It wasn’t enough that George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and their merry band of grifters made this entire Vegas heist production seem like adult summer camp — no, Clooney also had to woo Julia Roberts. Their characters’ painful history, conveyed in just a handful of scenes (masterfully directed by Steven Soderbergh), provides the perfect dose of depth.
THE WORST THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004) Original: The Stepford Wives (1975)
The 1975 women’s lib satire is hardly a classic, but director Frank Oz’s rehash is a Stepford Wife in it’s own right. The lobotomized redo (starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick) soft-pedals any sociopolitical relevance. But, hey, how about those shiny special effects!
THE BEST THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999) Original: The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Pierce Brosnan is double-O-my! charming, but it’s the underrated Rene Russo who gives director John McTiernan’s ode to coolness its heat. She matches Brosnan’s suave art thief step-for-step, making this elaborate tango more complex and more fulfilling than the original’s unabashed paean to the tao of Steve McQueen.
THE WORST KING KONG (1976) Original: King Kong (1933)
That Jessica Lange recovered to have a career at all after this campy embarrassment, much less win two Oscars, is an indication of her great talents — none of which are on display in this big-budget debacle in which the great ape defies Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin and, ultimately, scales the World Trade Center.
THE BEST DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) Original: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Director Zack Snyder turned George A. Romero’s fun but low-tech frightfest into a glossy Hollywood thrill-ride that delivered even more chills than the original. (Plus, I can no longer listen to Johnny Cash’s ”The Man Comes Around” without craving brains.)
THE WORST THE WOMEN (2008) Original: The Women (1939)
A lot has changed for women since Claire Boothe Luce’s play about female rivalries and camaraderie was a smash hit on Broadway. But according to director Diane English, her sex has devolved into annoying stereotypes cribbed from television sitcoms.
THE BEST 3:10 TO YUMA (2007) Original: 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Russell Crowe is the captured outlaw, and Christian Bale is the wounded Civil War vet tasked with escorting the ruthless bandit to the authorities, via the 3:10 train. Tracing the original’s plot but amplifying themes and sequences also found in 1952’s High Noon, director James Mangold crafted the best Western since Unforgiven.
THE WORST THE LONGEST YARD (2005) Original: The Longest Yard (1974)
Just because some current Hollywood star is going to defile your work doesn’t mean you have to lend a hand. When Burt Reynolds appears — in football pads — in this Adam Sandler gridiron sham, part of me was hoping his character would break the Sandman’s freakin’ neck.
THE BEST HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978) Original: Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
Warren Beauty initially wanted Muhammad Ali to star in this romantic comedy about an athlete who mistakenly dies before his time, but Beatty’s pitch-perfect performance made him the first to be nominated for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture for the same film. (In 2001, Chris Rock remade Heaven Can Wait into the conversely awful Down to Earth).
THE WORST THE JAZZ SINGER (1980) Original: The Jazz Singer (1927)
This Neil Diamond vehicle — yes, you read that correctly — suffers from severe delusions of grandeur and poor taste. Fifty-three years after Jolson broke the sound barrier, Diamond donned blackface. Maybe costar Laurence Olivier, a renowned Othello, didn’t mind, but this melodrama hits all the wrong notes.
THE BEST CAPE FEAR (1991) Original: Cape Fear (1962)
Martin Scorsese preserved the best parts of the eerie 1962 original, including Bernard Herrmann’s spine-tingling score. Robert DeNiro’s vengeful Max Cady leads audiences to some seriously twisted places, especially when he’s toying with a naïvely flirtatious Juliette Lewis.
THE WORST THE PINK PANTHER (2006) Original: The Pink Panther (1963)
Which was worse? Slapping together footage of the deceased Peter Sellers for 1982’s Trail of the Pink Panther, or Steve Martin resurrecting the bumbling Clouseau behind a bad accent and mustache. Hold on…I’m still thinking.
THE BEST THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) Original: The Maltese Falcon (1931)
Director John Huston’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel is a landmark achievement of storytelling and acting. Humphrey Bogart’s iconic portrayal of callous private eye, Sam Spade, doomed the decent original to the dust-bin of cinematic history.
THE WORST ARTHUR (2011) Original: Arthur (1981)
Dudley Moore?s childish boozehound was lovable and whimsical, but Russell Brand’s updated Arthur paled in comparison by being a cruder sort that played to Brand’s off-screen persona. Rather than fully embrace its dark side, the flaccid update was undone by political correctness and never really located the heart of the original.