9 Movies You Might Not Realize Were Remakes

Hollywood's obsession with reboots and remakes may sound relatively now, but it's been a cornerstone of the business for decades.
Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ / Herbert Dorfman/GettyImages

Though it might seem like Hollywood is rebooting more classic films than ever before, this trend is nothing new: Studios have always remade movies. In fact, some of your favorite films are remakes of other popular movies. Here are nine of them.

1. Remake: The Wizard of Oz (1939) / Original: The Wizard of Oz (1925)

While many are aware of the film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, and Margaret Hamilton, L. Frank Baum’s children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was adapted a few times before the classic we know and love was released in 1939. The most notable was the first feature film version of The Wizard of Oz released in 1925. Silent film actor and director Larry Semon adapted the film with Baum’s son L. Frank Baum, Jr., as the pair took a more realistic and romantic approach to the 1900 source material.

In the silent film version, the Scarecrow, Tin-Man, and Cowardly Lion are not actual characters, but rather three farmhands in disguise after they were transported to the Land of Oz with Dorothy, who is revealed to be the long-lost princess of Oz. The silent film also features Dorothy courting various suitors, including the Scarecrow, the Tin-Man, and Prince Kynd, the crown prince of Oz.

In 1939, movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer commissioned director Victor Fleming to direct a musical version of The Wizard of Oz that featured the more fantastical side of L. Frank Baum’s novel and used new Technicolor film technology. Despite being nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Wizard of Oz was a box office bomb and didn’t gain widespread admiration until the film was first re-released in 1949.

2. Remake: A Fistful of Dollars (1964) / Original: Yojimbo (1961)

In 1964, director Sergio Leone released his second film, A Fistful of Dollars, and started a cinematic revolution in the Italian Western or Spaghetti Western genre. Although the movie launched Clint Eastwood’s career into super-stardom, the Spaghetti Western classic wasn't fully original—it was a remake of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo.

While both films feature a mysterious stranger who is caught in the middle between two crime families vying for complete control of a small town, A Fistful of Dollars exchanges Yojimbo’s samurai swords for cowboy gunplay. The similarities between the two films are so prevalent that Kurosawa and Toho Studios, the movie studio behind Yojimbo, sued Sergio Leone; the Italian director eventually settled the lawsuit out of court for 15 percent of his film's total box office receipts. A Fistful of Dollars went on to be a giant success for Leone and Eastwood when it was released in the United States in 1967, while it also spawned two sequels with For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in the Man With No Name trilogy.

3. Remake: You’ve Got Mail (1998) / Original: The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Nora Ephron’s romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail is actually a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 film The Shop Around The Corner. Both films are about an unlikely pair—in Shop, the couple is played by Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, while in Mail, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan take on the roles—that can’t stand each other in real life, but are unaware they are both falling in love with each other through an anonymous correspondence. While The Shop Around The Corner uses letters to facilitate the pair’s correspondence, Ephron updated the plot device for You’ve Got Mail with America Online's email for Ryan and Hanks’ onscreen characters. In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly’s small bookshop is called “The Shop Around The Corner,” which is a direct reference to Lubitsch’s classic romantic comedy.

4. Remake: Meet The Parents (2000) / Original: Meet The Parents (1992)

In 2000, Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller starred in Meet The Parents, a comedy directed by Jay Roach that grossed more than $330,000,000 worldwide. The film was based on a small indie film of the same name, released in 1992. While the original Meet The Parents went mostly unseen upon its release (and we couldn't find any footage online), Universal Studios liked the premise of a man meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time and acquired the film’s remake rights in 1995.

The movie studio hired screenwriter Jim Herzfeld, who exchanged the original’s dark comedy for an edgy family-friendly film. The remake also spawned two sequel films (Meet the Fockers in 2004 and Little Fockers in 2010) and two failed TV shows (the reality show Meet My Folks and the sitcom In-Laws), both for NBC.

5. Remake: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) / Original: Purple Noon (1960)

Author Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley was adapted twice for the big screen: First, in 1960, came the French film Purple Noon from director René Clément; then, in 1999, came a remake of that film, which bore the same title at the novel and was directed by Anthony Minghella. While both films examine the psychology and charms of a serial killer, the original French version takes a more conclusive approach to Tom Ripley’s fate, while the remake is far more ambiguous with its ending. Purple Noon and The Talented Mr. Ripley are both praised for their stars’ stellar performances from Alain Delon and Matt Damon, respectively.

6. Remake: The Ladykillers (2004) / Original: The Ladykillers (1955)

Joel and Ethan Coen’s films effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

While the original film is regarded as one of the greatest British comedies ever made, the Coen brothers’ remake received a mixed critical response when it was released in 2004. The remake earned a moderately successful box office, while the original enjoyed BAFTA Award wins and Academy Award nominations.

7. Remake: Brewster’s Millions (1985) / Original: Brewster’s Millions (1914)

Believe it or not, Brewster’s Millions has been remade 10 times since author George Barr McCutcheon wrote the original novel of the same name in 1902. While the first was a silent film—which is now considered lost—from legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille in 1914, the most popular version of Brewster’s Millions was from director Walter Hill and starred Richard Pryor and John Candy from 1985. In total, there have been three silent films, two films from England, two more from America, and three film adaptations from India since 1914.

The story of a young man who inherits millions, only to be enticed to a deal that would involve him spending all of his inheritance without any assets remaining by a certain time period to claim even more money, has stayed relatively the same. The money involved has changed, though: In the 1914 version, Brewster would have to spend $1 million within one year to claim $7 million, while in the 1985 version he would have to spend $30 million in 30 days to claim $300 million.

In 2009, screenwriters Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan were commissioned to write a yet another remake based on McCutcheon’s original novel for Warner Bros.

8. Remake: The Last House on the Left (1972) / Original: The Virgin Spring (1960)

In 1972, Wes Craven made his directorial debut with the low budget horror film The Last House on the Left. The story of two parents seeking revenge on the murderers who raped and killed their daughter is actually a remake of Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 art-house film The Virgin Spring, which was based on a 13th-century Swedish ballad, "Töres döttrar i Wänge" ("Töre's Daughters in Vänge").

While Bergman’s original is about the morality of vengeance from a deeply Catholic point of view, Craven takes The Virgin Spring’s story and infuses it with gruesome blood and gore. Needless to say, The Last House on the Left was quite controversial when it was released in the early '70s. In fact, the horror film was banned in the United Kingdom for excessive scenes featuring sadism and violence. Craven’s debut was eventually released in the UK, after 31 seconds were cut from the film, in 2002.

9. Remake: The Bourne Identity (2002) / Original: The Bourne Identity (1988)

Although the spy novel The Bourne Identity spawned a widely popular trilogy starring Matt Damon—and a less-popular spin-off, The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner—not many people are aware of its TV movie counterpart. The Bourne Identity aired in two 2-hour installments over the course of two nights on ABC in 1988. The made-for-TV movie starred Richard Chamberlain as amnesia-stricken undercover superspy Jason Bourne, while Jaclyn Smith played his love interest, Marie St. Jacques. While the 2002 version directed by Doug Liman is action-packed, the television movie adaptation is more faithful to Robert Ludlum’s first installment of The Bourne Trilogy. Chamberlain would later earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for his performance in 1988.