Films That You Might Not Have Known Were Remakes

Film franchises release remakes and reboots all the time, but there are definitely some originals that are less known than their predecessors.

The Birdcage (1996) and La Cage Aux Folles (1978)

The 1996 film was directed by Mike Nichols and stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane whilst the original French film was directed by Édouard Molinaro. The plots are exactly the same, except the first film is set in St Tropez. Unsurprisingly, La Cage Aux Folles is in French.

Carousel (1956) and Liliom (1930)

Henry King’s 1956 music film Carousel was based on Rodgers and Hammerstein 1945 stage musical. Originally, the story of Carousel was based on a 1909 play by Ferenc Molnár called Liliom, which had a film adaptation made in 1930 under the same name. The film, Liliom, was directed by Frank Borzage and was a drama film.

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)

Shawn Levy’s 2003 family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen stars Steve Martin trying to look after twelve kids. The original film, directed by Walter Lang, was based on the 1948 autographical book by Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey which chronicled their lives growing up as a family with twelve children in New Jersey. Both films were distributed by 20th Century Fox.

© 20th Century Fox

Chicago (2002) and Chicago (1927)

Rob Marshall’s crime musical Chicago, released in 2002, stars Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere. It won six Academy Awards. Marshall’s version is based on the stage music of the same name which debuted in 1975 but the stage show was based on the 1926 play also titled Chicago. There was a silent film produced in 1927 by Cecil B. DeMille also called Chicago which acts as the original film version.

© Miramax films and Pathé Exchange

The Departed (2006) and Infernal Affairs (2002)

Martin Scorsese’s crime film The Departed stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson. Whilst Scorsese’s film is set in Massachusetts, the original, Infernal Affairs, is set in Hong Kong but largely follows the same plot. Infernal Affairs was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2003 but did not win, whilst Scorsese’s remake won four Academy Awards.

© Warner Bros. and Media Asia Distribution

Fatal Attraction (1987) and Diversion (1980)

Adrian Lyne’s thriller Fatal Attraction stars Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. It was a huge box office success and received six nominations at the 60th Academy Awards. The film was based on a short British film written by James Dearden titled Diversion. Dearden worked with Lyne to adapt his short film into a major motion picture.

© Paramount Pictures and Dearfilm

Flubber (1997) and The Absent Minded Professor (1961)

Flubber, directed by Les Mayfield, features Robin Williams as Professor Philip Brainard, an absent minded professor. Flubber is a remake of the 1961 film The Absent Minded Professor which was produced by Walt Disney. In it, Fred MacMurray plays Professor Ned Brainard who also invents the substance flubber. Both films were distributed by Buena Vista Pictures.

© Buena Vista Pictures

The Hand (1981) and The Beast with 5 Fingers (1946)

Now this entry constitutes an “unofficial” remake as it has not been confirmed by Oliver Stone, director of the 1981 film The Hand. Stone’s psychological horror, featuring Michael Caine and Andrea Marcovicci, was a commercial flop and today ranks at just 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. The striking likeness to The Beast with 5 Fingers is very obvious, with the plots being almost exactly the same except for a few character differences. Both films were distributed by Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

The Nutty Professor (1996) and The Nutty Professor (1963)

Tom Shadyac’s The Nutty Professor stars Eddie Murphy and Jada Pinkett Smith. Shadyac’s film is based on the Jerry Lewis film on the same name, which he directed, produced, wrote, and starred in in 1963. The original film is a parody of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It’s clear to see how The Nutty Professor (1996) became a silly comedy due to it’s original being a parody.

© Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures

The Parent Trap (1998 and 1961) and Twice Upon a Time (1953)

Although it’s commonly known that Nancy Meyers’s 1998 film The Parent Trap is based on David Swift’s 1961 film of the same name, you might not have known that both versions are actually based on a 1953 British film titled Twice Upon a Time which was released in 1953 and directed by Emeric Pressburger. All three films have the same plot!

© Buena Vista Pictures and London Film Productions

Scarface (1983) and Scarface (1932)

Brian De Palma’s 1983 crime drama Scarface starts Al Pacino as Tony Montana. The crime classic was nominated for three Academy Awards but did not win. It is rumoured that Martin Scorsese told De Palma Hollywood would hate it due to it being about them. The original Scarface was released in 1932 and was directed by Howard Hawks. In the original Paul Muni stars as Tony Camonte (as opposed to Tony Montana). Both films were loosely based on Scarface, a 1929 pulp fiction novel written by Armitage Trail. 

© Universal pictures United Artists

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

Ben Stiller directed, produced and starred in the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The film is a remake of the 1947 film of the same title, directed by Norman Z. McLeod. The 1947 film features Danny Kaye as Walter Mitty. Both versions of Walter Mitty work at a magazine firm and both are daydreamers. The 1947 film is based on a short story of the same name by James Thurber.

© 20th Century Fox and RKO Radio Pictures

The Wizard of Oz (1939) and The Wizard of Oz (1925)

Although it’s well known that Victor Fleming’s 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there was a much lesser known silent film released in 1925, also titled The Wizard of Oz. This version starred Oliver Hardy and was directed by Larry Semon and was co-written by Frank Joslyn Baum, son of L. Frank Baum.

© MGM and Chadwick Pictures

You’ve Got Mail (1998), In The Good Old Summertime (1949), and The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Nora Ephron’s 1998 romcom You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was inspired by a Hungarian play titled Parfumerie, written by Miklós László. Two films based on the play had come before You’ve Got Mail, including The Shop Around the Corner in 1940, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and the musical film In the Good Old Summertimein 1949, directed by Robert Z. Leonard and an uncredited Buster Keaton. All three films feature anonymous correspondence at their heart.


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