Movies & TV / Columns

Movies That Need to Be Remade: They Live, Nightbreed, Howard The Duck, More

April 27, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
They Live Roddy Piper

Before we jump into things I needed everyone to take a deep breath and relax. I know when someone mentions “remakes” you’re pulse goes up, your fist clench, and you have bile fill your mouth but I’m not here to suggest classic movies like Godfather, Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Ark

I’m here to talk about those movies that came with an interesting premise but the finished product was lacking. Or maybe technology wasn’t where it needed to be for the movie to work. Of course we have some exceptions because some classic movies have a formula that can be updated for today’s audience. 

For example, Cannonball Run and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Both classics and both are movies I could see being remade with hilarious results. Cannonball Run can keep the same story as the 1979 original of a cross-country outlaw road race beginning in Connecticut and ending in California and give it an update by casting well known comedy groups like Team Adam Sandler vs Team Will Ferrell vs Team Judd Apatow vs…you fill in the blank. A couple of random cameos with some sharp writing, almost “sketch” style to showcase the humor of each that ties into the race and you could have a fun time. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World can follow the same path. Grab an all-star cast to remake the madcap pursuit of stoeln cash…but we’d have to up the cash amount a bit…but have some colorful characters and keep close to what made the original work. 

I went back and forth on this next one but given today’s political and social climate, They Live could really push some buttons when given a bigger budget and insert some current headlines into the mix. 
One of the first movies I think of when someone talks about remakes is The Last Starfigher. Loved it as a kid but when I rewatched it recently…WOOF. The CGI just wasn’t there and it’s a glaring step down. With today’s effects, this could be franchise player. 


Comic book movies are an easy field to pick and choose from. I could throw out Steel and Howard the Duck as two obvious ones but what about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? What an amazing concept that failed in so many ways. Same with Masters of the Universe. I have to see Cowboys vs Aliens again but I remember that being one that started promising and then went downhill quickly. 

My Super Ex Girlfriend is a romantic comedy with a superhero twist that I thought had charm and could work, especially with the popularity of comic book movies. Done right it could bridge to a wide demographic and perfect date night flick. 

While it’s cliche to say the book was better, for the most part that’s correct. I could fill a whole column with movies based on books that failed to recreate why the source material was so beloved in the first place. I’m not a zombie guy but I really got into World War Z and when I heard a movie was being made, I was excited to see how they were going to bring it to the big screen. I was impressed and I felt it squandered so much potential to tell a fairly by-the-numbers story. The movie version of Battlefield Earth deserves all the bad reviews it received. And then some. And Cloud Atlas has one of my favorite movie trailers of all time but the actual movie is a convoluted mess and the book deserves better. 

Then we have movies that on paper sound awesome but missed the target entirely. Take  M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, about an apocalyptic threat to humanity arrives out of nowhere with a series of violent, inexplicable deaths spreading across the country. It’s a few tweaks away from being a great movie. Same for 2011’s In Time. The first half was solid but fell into cliche territory and never recovered. With a different cast and a strong rewrite of the second half, the story of how a society where people stop aging at 25 could be a cool time at the theater. The whole concept of Instead of using paper money, a new economic system uses time as currency, and each person has a clock on their arm that counts down how long they have to live could click with audiences, if done right. 

I believe Clive Barker’s Nightbreed was ahead of it’s time and due for a remake. A move where Aaron Boone, a mental patient falsely led to believe by his doctor that he is a serial killer. He’s on the run from the police, his doctor, and his girlfriend, and finds refuge in an abandoned cemetery called Midian among a “tribe” of monsters and outcasts known as the “Nightbreed” where they hide from humanity. Updated CGI and the right marketing could give this new life. 


The movie Copycat from 1995 was decent but didn’t find its audience and not remembered much by movie lovers. You’d think a concept that dealt with serial killers would be more popular but for whatever reason it didn’t catch on, even if it did get good reviews. Perhaps an updating it for the modern day would be enough. 

I put Limitless, Jumper, and Equilibrium in the same general category. Each are cool concepts (Limitless: a struggling writer takes a drug called that gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and vastly improve his lifestyle. Jumper: a young man capable of teleporting as he is chased by a secret society intent on killing him. Equilibrium: In an oppressive future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system and state.) that could be franchise starters, if given the a slight overhaul in writing, a fresh casting, and proper marketing. Each just missed nailing what separates a great movie from a forgettable one. 

I’ll finish up with Water World. I know I’ll catch flack but it isn’t a horrible movie. Taking place in the future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw “smokers,” and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land. It was sunk even before it was released but I think it’s worth taking another shot. Give Tom Hardy the lead and see if he can swim with it. 

Alright, let’s not take it too serious and have some fun with it in the comments. I’ve left you plenty of low hanging fruit.