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The 8 Worst Movie Remakes (Per Rotten Tomatoes)

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.

Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell in Bewitched (2005).

Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell in Bewitched (2005).

1990s: Birth of the Big-Budget Remake

The trend toward remakes started in the 1990s with big-budget pictures like Godzilla and Psycho. Since then, most major studios have frequently turned to the films of cinema’s past for inspiration. It seems that producers often depend on already established and beloved works to turn a profit.

Starting in 1999, the highest-grossing movie of all but three years was a sequel or a remake, and the five highest-grossing movies of each year for the past five have all been sequels or remakes, except for 1917. While independent cinema and streaming platforms are thriving with original content, these statistics about mainstream movies may lead people to think that cinema has run out of originality and creativity.

Remakes Occasionally Work

Though there are some remakes that have done justice to their counterparts (some, like The Thing, even transcending them), many adaptations have been condemned as hollow and lifeless, inciting indignation and resentment from fans of the originals. As an audience, it can be intriguing to see such revered pictures once again find life on the silver screen, but sadly these remakes rarely live up to the hype and standards of their source material.

Deciding to take on a remake in any capacity can be a daunting task, with the odds already stacked against you for the film to be unfavorably compared to the original. The directors, writers, producers, and actors of the adaptations have to be ready for the inevitable comparisons and criticisms that will undeniably come their way, which can certainly be a tough pill to swallow.

Movie Remakes Ranked Best to Worst

Going by the critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes, these are eight of the worst-reviewed remakes of all-time. I have them ranked from highest score to lowest.

38%: Psycho (1998)
31%: House on Haunted Hill (1999)
31%: Total Recall (2012)
26%: Arthur (2011)
24%: Bewitched (2005)
19%: The Jazz Singer (1980)
15%: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
4%: The Fog (2005)

Gus Van Sant, director of Psycho (1998), at the 1993 Venice Film Festival.

Gus Van Sant, director of Psycho (1998), at the 1993 Venice Film Festival.

38%: Psycho (1998)

This is a unique one. Alfred Hitchcock’s original 1960 cinematic masterpiece Psycho introduced the world to the disturbed and deranged Norman Bates, both shocking and terrifying audiences everywhere with the psychological horror thriller.

The 1998 Gus Van Sant remake was intended to be a shot-for-shot adaptation, meaning there were very little creative changes and inspiration introduced and was either a blatant money grab or (as will be explained) a bizarre experiment. However, if you’re swinging for the fences and taking on such a renowned classic, critics usually like to see an attempt at a unique and interesting spin.

Both moviegoers and critics ripped into the 1998 film, with Roger Ebert thoughtfully writing that it “is an invaluable experiment in the theory of cinema, because it demonstrates that a shot-by-shot remake is pointless; genius apparently resides between or beneath the shots, or in chemistry that cannot be timed or counted.”

Gus Van Sant is a brilliant director, and in a really essential interview on Marc Maron's podcast, he deconstructed the ideas behind it in a fascinating way before admitting that he had taken on more than he could chew. In a supreme, ironic twist, the remake of Psycho is probably more iconic as a critically despised film than it would have been had it done well.

House on Haunted Hill (1999)

House on Haunted Hill (1999)

31%: House on Haunted Hill (1999)

Some classic movies simply don't need the remake, and the beloved 1959 Vincent Price staple House on Haunted Hill seemed to undoubtedly be one of them. The supernatural horror flick was once again brought to the big screen in 1999 (the same year the Owen Wilson and Liam Neeson remake of The Haunting was released and panned), this time featuring Geoffrey Rush and Taye Diggs. The remake did include special effects by famed make-up artists Greg Nicotero and Dick Smith, but that’s about all that critics found to like in the 1999 version.

The New York Times called the film “a sorry reincarnation” and said, “This film wastes the talents of actors like Geoffrey Rush and Peter Gallagher in hollow roles and relies heavily on its sets and special effects to do the work that should have been accomplished by its director and writer.”

Total Recall (2012)

Total Recall (2012)

31%: Total Recall (2012)

Len Wiseman’s 2012 remake of the smash hit sci-fi flick Total Recall boasts an impressive cast including Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, and Jessica Biel, but even their dynamite performances can’t make up for its lack of vision. The original 1990 film famously stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who receives an implanted memory of a wondrous adventure on Mars, with Farrell taking on the part in the remake.

The action movie legend had previously expressed interest in returning to the role of Douglas Quaid, but producers were wanting to go a new route with the remake. Though it earned praise for its exciting action sequences, the overall consensus for the 2012 version is that it lacked the elements that made the original such an innovative and groundbreaking feat. It seemed simply superfluous to both audiences and critics.

Arthur (2011)

Arthur (2011)

26%: Arthur (2011)

English comedian Russell Brand’s effort to fully break into the American film market proved to be quite the futile endeavor when he signed on to star in the 2011 romantic comedy Arthur.

The picture takes a stab at modernizing the 1981 original starring the delightful Dudley Moore, but the shoes were far too big for Brand to fill. Whereas Moore was praised for his charming and jovial performance as the drunken New York City billionaire, Brand’s man-child depiction was far less endearing to viewers.

Fellow funnyman Ricky Gervais was originally offered the role but sensibly turned it down; Arthur opened to scathing reviews and did nothing to build upon the legacy of the original. Though it stayed true to the content of the 1981 version, Arthur failed to resonate with both new and old fans.

Bewitched (2005)

Bewitched (2005)

24%: Bewitched (2005)

Despite the incredible talent of its gifted leads Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, 2005’s rom-com Bewitched fell flat with both audiences and critics alike. The updated version of the classic 1960s fantasy sitcom follows an out-of-work actor (Ferrell) who discovers during the remake of Bewitched that his newcomer co-star (Kidman) is an actual witch. The somewhat meta plot did nothing to entice viewers, and even an A-list cast of Hollywood’s finest like Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine couldn’t rescue the remake from critical dismissal.

Kidman and Ferrell severely lacked on-screen chemistry (evidenced by winning the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple), though the scattered script didn't help. Bewitched was seen to truly waste the talent of its stars, with The List commenting, “The concept may be enchanting, but the execution is not. The characters are such a ridiculous pastiche on the original show that they’re bland and one-dimensional.” Nonetheless, yet another reboot is in the works.

The Jazz Singer (1980)

The Jazz Singer (1980)

19%: The Jazz Singer (1980)

The 1980 musical drama The Jazz Singer is based on the Samson Raphaelson play of the same name and 1927 Al Jolson-led motion picture, and stars Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier.

The film centers on a young singer who is torn between tradition and pursuing his dreams as a pop singer, with Diamond appearing as the hopeful and determined Jess Robin. The original big screen adaptation was infamous for its controversial use of blackface, yet also demonstrated the profit potential of feature-length “talkies.”

The success of the 1927 film signaled the end of the silent motion-picture era, and led to an additional 1952 theatrical version and 1959 television adaptation. Neither were particularly noteworthy, and the 1980 remake proved to be both a critical and box office disappointment. Critics panned the acting of both Diamond and Olivier, calling the adaptation both uninspiring and unconvincing.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

15%: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Is it really A Nightmare on Elm Street if the insanely gifted horror legend Robert Englund doesn’t don the iconic striped red sweater and trademark metal claws? Director Samuel Bayer took on the epic Wes Craven slasher A Nightmare on Elm Street in 2010 with a modernized adaptation, following a group of teenagers who are being stalked and murdered by the spirit of the terrifying serial killer.

Craven himself expressed his displeasure with the project, having not been asked to consult the remake and telling IGN, “I don’t even know who’s doing it, and I’m not interested. It’s actually really painful to think about it. It’s the film of mine that I probably love the most, and which made the most money.”

The 2010 version stars Jackie Earle Haley as Krueger, with the character undergoing a drastic physical transformation that audiences and critics condemned. On the failed reboot, Englund said, “I think the change to a more “realist” burn make-up with melted features took a lot of strength away from the character. The strong nose and chin in the make-up I wore gives Freddy presence and power.”

The Fog (2005)

The Fog (2005)

4%: The Fog (2005)

John Carpenter’s 1980 supernatural horror treasure The Fog tells the tale of a strange, glowing fog that sweeps over a small California coastal town, bringing with it the vengeful spirits of mariners killed in a shipwreck a century before. Despite a lukewarm initial reception, it was a box office hit and has since received more positive reviews in retrospect and has become a cult classic.

A remake of the flick was released in 2005 and stars Tom Welling, Selma Blair and Maggie Grace, during the height of Welling’s fame on the hit TV series Smallville. Though a hot commodity at the time, the Superman actor was not enough to save the doomed modern adaptation; The Fog was universally panned for its lack of scares, suspense and uninspired characters.

© 2022 Rachel M Johnson