If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Try telling that to Hollywood. Mainstream cinema has a nasty habit of taking a film and then re-hashing it repeatedly – often with increasingly diminishing returns (hello, Fox’s recent Fantastic Four). Some films, however, hit such a strong home run the first time round that they should never be touched. As rumours do the rounds of Back To The Future and Jaws reboots, here are 21 of cinema’s great sacred cows – the unremakeables, as we’re calling them…
Regularly voted the greatest films in cinema history, it would take a brave (and surely foolish) man to tackle this saga. While Marlon Brando’s ‘cotton wool in the cheeks’ routine might be good fodder for dinner party impersonations, you wouldn’t want to tackle the role of Vito Corleone in real life.
“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here…” And that’s how it should stay. With De Niro as the only one to attempt his iconic portrayal of a troubled New York taxi driver pushed to the edge.
Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic Goodfellas occupies nearly as hallowed a space in movie lore as The Godfather. Here, however, the iconic leads are three-fold. Who would they get to play Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta’s roles now? Danny Dyer? Jason Statham? Best left alone.
One of Jack Nicholson’s most iconic roles, it would be impossible to imagine the film’s unravelling protagonist Jack Torrance played by anyone else. The only exception? The Simpsons’ 1994 ‘Treehouse Of Horror V’ parody. Homer gave Jack a good run for his money.
Almost certainly Woody Allen’s finest hour, Annie Hall was literally made for its two central characters. The eponymous title role was written specifically for Diane Keaton, while no-one could play Alvy Singer like Allen himself. Subtle, nuanced and dryly witty, it’s an understated classic that couldn’t be bettered.
The role that turned Jake Gyllenhaal into a superstar, Donnie Darko remains one of this century’s greatest indie flicks. Theories as to the open-ended meaning behind the film’s close are still rife, and a remake would only diminish the original’s dark, psychological power.
The Big Lebowski:
A cult classic and one of the Coen brothers best offerings, The Big Lebowski exists in its own heightened, absurdist America where the plot is as warped as your mind. Praised and criticised for its meandering script in equal measure, a second attempt could never capture the same original energy.
This Is Spinal Tap: While Spinal Tap has been remade in real life various times by the likes of Razorlight and Kasabian, the cinema version is a hilarious (and often a little too accurate) send-up of of the rock doc that still stands as the ultimate music spoof out there. Hollywood execs shouldn’t go near this one with a ten foot trouser armadillo.
2001: A Space Odyssey: Less of a case of “this shouldn’t be remade”, more a case of “good luck trying” – the technical prowess on show on Stanley Kubrick’s legendary science fiction epic has yet to be rivalled all these years on. Even last year’s ‘Interstellar’, which wore its love of Kubrick’s masterpiece on its sleeve, fell short of the breathtaking artistry on display in the original.
The Matrix: Back before Apple made computers seem all shiny and friendly and fun, when the internet was still a murky cyber hinterland, 1999’s The Matrix took cinema-goers’ fears surrounding technology and AI and spun them into a stunning action adventure very much of its time. Rumours spring up every now and again of a reboot, but it’s hard to imagine one striking the same chord.
Apocalypse Now: Another film truly of its time – full of dark, twitchy post-Vietnam guilt and paranoia, Coppola’s seminal war opus was a moment of catharsis for its American movie public. All these years on, with war having evolved so totally, a remake just wouldn’t have the same gravitas.
Dr Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb:
There are few character actors in film history who could play the unhinged and eccentric like Peter Sellers. In Dr Strangelove, Sellers plays three: the title character, President Merkin Muffley and Group Captain Lionel Mandrake. Vivid and varied, it’s a tour-de-force from a true one-off.
To Kill A Mockingbird:
Adapting Harper Lee’s seminal 1960 novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck, came out just two years later to equally universal acclaim. On one hand, a remake could highlight how little has changed for US race relations, but maybe a better call would be to tackle the current, understandable rage in places like Ferguson with an original script.
Lost In Translation: Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray’s chemistry was what made this immaculate drama about finding your place in life – a once-in-a-lifetime kind of onscreen charisma it’s impossible to imagine a remake coming close to, no matter the actors. A sequel, catching up with the characters and where their lives led after that whisper, though…? That we’d be interested in.
Harold and Maude:
If Harold and Maude came out today, you wouldn’t be able to move for outraged thinkpieces. The story of a 20-something-year-old boy obsessed with death who falls in love with a 79-year-old woman that teaches him about the joy of life, it’s innocent in a way that 2015 could sadly never accept.
OK, sure, so there was a spin-off television series made following the 1995 classic film, but as far as the big screen goes Clueless stands strong and solo. See, the beauty isn’t just in the relationships but in the plotlines. So, so 90s, its catchphrases and timely wardrobe-based technology should stay rooted in the decade forever.
Featuring one of Dustin Hoffman’s breakthrough roles as Ratso alongside Jon Voight’s Joe Buck, Midnight Cowboy is so of its time that a modern-day remake would never do it justice. Alongside its stars, the film taps into Warhol’s scene and burgeoning discussions around homosexuality: 2015 just wouldn’t carry the same heft.
The Breakfast Club:
Distilling school stereotypes into five succinct characters – the nerd, the jock, the rebel, the weird kid and the prom queen – it would be easy to think that the John Hughes-directed classic could feature an interchangeable cast. But the magic’s in the chemistry and plus – who can really surpass Molly Ringwald in teen flicks?
A gritty tale of a Northern lad and his pet kestrel, Kes is the kind of film that would likely turn into a hammy parody of how grim it is up north if it were remade today. Shane Meadows might just about manage the task, but let’s not chance it.
Pulp Fiction: Where to begin? Tarantino proved beyond any doubt his status as American cinema’s expert infant terrible with this whip-smart thriller, plugged into the coolest pop culture of the time. Any remake would be against the principles that make the notoriously sequel, reboot and rehash averse Quentin who he is.
The Shawshank Redemption: The thing about updating timeless movies is, what could you possibly add to them? Frank Darabont’s telling of Stephen King’s prison story is sublimely told – the pacing, the darkness, the chinks of light. There’d never be a need to repackage this for a new audience.