10 Iconic Movies You Didn’t Realize Are Actually Remakes

Meet The Parents, Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Universal Studios
Universal Studios via Everett

Hollywood today is often derided for its lack of creativity and over reliance on sequels, remakes, and adaptations, but this has been going on far longer than most people would suspect. In fact, some of Hollywood’s most iconic films were, themselves, remakes.

1. Meet the Parents

The 2000 Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro comedy Meet the Parents spawned two sequels and two television series, but the movie was actually a remake of a 1992 independent film of the same name. The original film was much darker. Instead of temporarily losing the family cat like Ben Stiller’s character does in the Hollywood version, in the original movie the character accidentally drowns the family dog. Film producer Elliot Grove called the original Meet the Parents one of his personal favorite films writing it was “much funnier and tighter than the Hollywood version.”

2. The Wizard of Oz

The now famous 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz, was actually the fourth adaptation of L. Frank Baum’ s 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The first film (also titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), was released in 1910 and was based on the 1902 Broadway adaptation of the novel.

3. The Bourne Identity

Before Matt Damon was Jason Bourne,  Richard Chamberlain played the eponymous spy in a 1988 TV movie adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel.

4. The Maltese Falcon

The 1941 film noir classic The Maltese Falcon was based on a 1929 detective novel of the same name. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and in 1989, The Maltese Falcon was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. The film was cited by Panorama du Film Noir Américain as the first major film noir, but the movie was actually the second adaptation of the novel, after a 1931 film starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade.

5. I Am Legend

The 2007 Will Smith movie I Am Legend was adapted from a 1954 horror novel of the same name and it was actually the third adaptation of the book, after the 1964 Vincent Price movie, The Last Man on Earth, and the 1971 Charlton Heston film The Omega Man.

6. Brewster’s Millions

Originally published in 1902, the George Barr McCutcheon novel Brewster’s Millions has been adapted for the screen ten times. The most popular version is the 1985 Richard Pryor film, but there was also a 1921 version starring Fatty Arbuckle and a 1945 version starring Dennis O’Keefe which was nominated for an Academy Award. There have also been three Indian adaptations of the novel.

7. Big

The 1988 Tom Hanks film Big was nominated for two Academy Awards, including (ironically) “Best Writing, Original Screenplay,” but the film was actually inspired by a 1987 Italian comedy, Da Grande.

8. Scarface

The 1932 version of Scarface was loosely based on the life of Al Capone (who was nicknamed “Scarface”) and tells the story of rival gangs in 1920s Chicago. The film was adapted from Armitage Trail’s 1929 novel Scarface in only eleven days. The 1982 version of Scarface starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana even included a dedication to the original film’s producers, Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht.

9. Casino Royale

Long before Daniel Craig staked his claim as 007, Casino Royale was the first full length James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming. The novel also served as the basis for a 1954 TV adaptation starring Barry Nelson as an American James Bond as well as a 1967 James Bond parody film starring David Niven.

10. Airplane!

While it’s not a traditional remake, fans may not realize that Airplane! isn’t just a parody of disaster films, but is actually a shot-for-shot comedic remake of the airplane disaster film Zero Hour!.


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