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7 Great Movies That Didn’t Need Their Modern Remake

Why mess with a good thing? Check out these classic movies that didn't need any reupholstery. Keep it classic, Hollywood!

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‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ (1979)

The original movie didn’t make a splash at the box office, but it became a favorite for every generation of kids since its premiere. There’s a reason for that. Gene Wilder gave a signature performance as the witty, effervescent chocolatier and dream-maker. He made the film endlessly watchable. And the original also did justice to Roald Dahl’s beloved novel. It offers a still-relevant lesson on greed and calls out bad parents everywhere. All with dashes of humor, zany set pieces and touching emotional moments. Wilder captures Wonka’s sarcasm as well as his genuine love for good deeds. Not even Johnny Depp could fill Wilder’s shoes and Tim Burton’s 2005 remake turned out overwrought. It missed the key ingredient—magic.

2 / 7
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‘King Kong’ (1933)

In the seventies we got a King Kong remake with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges, and then again in 2005, we got a long retelling with Jack Black and Naomi Watts. Truth is, you don’t really need anything but the 1933 classic. Yes, it’s in black and white and has an old-timey vibe, but that adds to the charm and the pathos. Even though the monster is created with stop-motion animation, you can still identify with his rage and emotion—and his love for the bombshell blonde. Fay Wray gives a screaming performance for the ages. And by the time the giant ape is swatting at airplanes and tumbling from a skyscraper, you’ll feel it in your gut. The original still pulls heart strings, and you might even cry.

3 / 7

‘Psycho’ (1960)

Hitchcock’s masterpiece still packs a punch. Even if you’ve seen it before you’ll be haunted by its relentless creep factor. The infamous shower scene has a stark, visual power that’s disturbing even for audiences raised on gore that’s way more graphic. You don’t see the knife actually stab Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) body, but you feel like you’ve witnessed something awful—even in black and white. In 1998, director Gus Van Sant made a shot-by-shot remake in color. He claimed that modern audiences couldn’t relate to old movies, but he ended up proving that you can’t redo an original. Even when you follow the formula to a tee. Psycho is actually one of these horror movies inspired by true stories.

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‘The Goodbye Girl’ (1977)

For some reason, TNT decided to remake Neil Simon’s classic romantic comedy for television audiences in 2004. Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton go through the motions, but they don’t come close to the chemistry in the original. Richard Dreyfuss plays a witty actor who has a lot of charisma even though he’s not your classic leading man. Marsha Mason is phenomenal as the neurotic, skittish single mom who has already been walked out on one too many times. They hate each other, but you know how that goes! The original still feels contemporary, and it holds a deserved spot as one of the best rom-coms of all time.

5 / 7

‘Footloose’ (1984)

Kevin Bacon busting a move in Converse All-Stars in an old factory. John Lithgow preaching about the dangers of dancing. Christopher Penn epically failing at finding the beat in the pop song “Let’s Hear it for the Boy!” Big hair. Eighties fashion. Everyone can relate to the timeless stress of growing up as an oppressed teenager. The original also features a young Sarah Jessica Parker as a passionate teeny-bopper who just wants to dance. The 2011 remake with Juliane Hough felt flat. It was going through the motions without having the same charm or watch-ability as this eighties favorite.

6 / 7
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‘Ben-Hur’ (1959)

This fifties sword and sandal epic was itself a remake from a silent-era version of the same name. It harnessed Charleston Heston’s star power with the widescreen format that came to define Hollywood grandeur. It won the Best Picture Oscar, garnered a whopping 11 nominations, and was an early blockbuster for MGM. The famous nine-minute chariot scene features stunning artistry that still makes audiences rapt. That’s why you watch it every Easter. Critics hated the 2016 redux. The CGI modernization just didn’t compare to the original’s epic look. Audiences agreed, as it’s considered one of the biggest box office flops of its premiere year.

7 / 7

‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968)

This sci-fi cult classic stood out for the way it offered a cynical, ironic view of sixties social politics. Charleston Heston leads a group of astronauts marooned on a planet run by an intelligent, but oppressive species. Heston has to feel all the horrors of being treated like an inhuman beast. When his captors turn on the water hoses it signaled the larger cry for civil rights. Heston’s hammy delivery captures the audience’s shock in the final scene when he discovers the Statue of Liberty buried in sand. It’s future earth! Metaphor! The 2001 remake with Mark Walberg didn’t pack the same wallop. The ending gave us the Lincoln Memorial altered with an ape’s head. Sure, it was some kind of social commentary, but it was also just silly.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Molly Pennington, PhD
Molly is a writer and collage artist with a PhD in film and cultural studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Her professional astrology services and artwork are available at Baroque Moon Astrology. She covers the zodiac, books, movies, TV and culture for Reader’s Digest, and loves to talk about all the ways we make meaning.