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American remakes of foreign films: the good, the bad and the ugly

Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon in Taxi (2004)
Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon in Taxi (2004)
Kerry Hayes/SMPSP

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But when it comes Hollywood remakes of foreign films, this isn't always the case.

Whether it’s jokes lost in translation, a complete shift in genre, or cultural nuances changed in the writing process Hollywood doesn't have the best track record with remakes. Movies such as Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell, Josh Brolin’s Oldboy, 2004’s Taxi with Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla, and last but not least Nicolas Cage’s The Wicker Man, come to mind as some of the worst offenders.

However, despite these films, Hollywood does manage to have a good remake from time to time. One of the earliest Hollywood films to set itself apart from the original foreign film is 1960’s The Magnificent Seven starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen (which itself was remade in 2016 starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt).Other notable examples include Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars, Robin Williams’ The Birdcage, the horror remake The Ring and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed

Which are your favorite or least favorite American remakes of foreign films? What do you think makes a good one versus a bad one? Do you think Hollywood should leave foreign films alone? Are there any foreign films you’d like to see given an American remake? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.


Amy Nicholson, film critic for KPCC, film writer for The Guardian and host of the podcasts ‘The Canon’ and ‘Unspooled’; she tweets @TheAmyNicholson

Peter Rainer, film critic for KPCC and the Christian Science Monitor

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine