Why hasn’t Hollywood made a remake of The Sting or Soylent Green? Also, what's the hold-up on an English-language remake of The Raid? These films, as well as other crime and heist films I’ll discuss below, have passionate fans that may at first glance cringe at the idea of them being remade, but they could actually be perfect examples of updating stories for a modern or broader audience.
We may complain that remakes are an indication that Hollywood has run out of ideas, but it's a practice that goes back to the earliest days of the business. For instance, the Oscar-winning 1959 Ben-Hur is a remake of a remake. If an Oscar-winner and all-time classic can be a remake, then these crime and heist films could fit the bill as one of Hollywood’s next great remakes if done right.
The Sting, like Ben-Hur, is a best picture-winning film, earning its Oscar for 1973. This story of two grifters who come together to pull off a massive con won seven Oscars in total, including for director George Roy Hill, and starred Robert Redford (who was nominated for Best Actor) and Paul Newman. If you haven’t seen it, think of it as a period-piece Ocean’s Eleven (that actually should be the pitch if anyone attempted to do a remake of The Sting).
What makes The Sting so ripe for a remake is that the original has great moments and the cache of being a Best Picture winner, but it’s not among the most easily recalled, especially among today’s audiences. As a result, using David S. Ward’s award-winning screenplay as a jumping off point, you can honor the original while bringing a unique perspective - ideal qualities to have in any remake.
Laughs and a great heist did wonder for the Ocean’s franchise, and it could definitely work again here.
I watched Soylent Green for the first time a few months ago, knowing the film’s twist, which I will not spoil here. However, that did not dampen my enjoyment of the Charlton Heston-led, Richard Fleischer-directed adaptation of the Harry Harrison novel. After watching the film, I wondered why Hollywood had let nearly 50 years go by without an update?
Set in 2022, the world is overpopulated and short on food. Heston, a policeman, is put on the case of a murder of an executive at the biggest synthetic food company.
While our world may not look like the one the film depicts, many of the issues at the heart of the story are prescient issues today. And sci-fi-based stories are often great candidates for remakes because of the opportunity to update the look (1973’s vision of the future still features a lot of disco-like imagery, see above) but the themes remain relevant throughout time.
IMDb shows that a Soylent Green remake is, or was, in development, but there has been little to no news on it.
The Raid: Redemption
Besides older films, foreign films are often great sources for remakes - just look at The Departed, The Birdcage, The Ring and The Magnificent Seven. The Raid: Redemption, which has become an action cult classic since it debuted in 2011, would seem to be a perfect candidate to join these ranks.
Of course, The Raid: Redemption - directed by Gareth Evans and featuring fight coordination from Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian - translates pretty well already; the film features minimal dialogue and big action set pieces. However, it and its sequel, The Raid 2, were made for a combined $5.6 million.
Joe Carnahan is reportedly developing a project that while inspired by The Raid, may not be the traditional remake that some thought it might be. Personally, I’d like to see if Evans, Uwais and Ruhian could up their game with a little more money in their own English-remake of their own action-packed film.
To Catch A Thief
Alfred Hitchcock is the undisputed master of suspense, but many filmmakers have tried their hand at capturing some of his magic. Examples include 2020’s remake of Rebecca; the Shia LaBeouf-led Disturbia was a reimagining of Rear Window; Mission: Impossible II tried to do the same for Notorious; Gus Van Sant even attempted a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. One Hitchcock movie they haven’t tried remaking is To Catch a Thief.
To Catch a Thief stars Cary Grant as a retired jewel thief who becomes the prime suspect in a new string of robberies that emulate his style. Grace Kelly also stars as a young woman who becomes enthralled in Grant’s past as a thief.
The story (based on David Dodge's novel) is malleable enough to bring to present day if desired, can provide some great set pieces and a chance for a dynamic leading duo. It’s not an easy task for anyone to step into the shoes of Grant or Kelly, but perhaps George Clooney or Will Smith and Rebecca Ferguson or Ana de Armas would be up to it.
Mean Streets was not only the break-out film for Martin Scorsese, but Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel as well. In it, a small-time gangster (Keitel) tries to keep the peace between his unstable friend (De Niro) and his creditors.
Much of Scorsese’s early work found love because it brought a fresh sense of energy to filmmaking, as did the acting in the film, particularly De Niro. The opportunity available with a remake could be exactly the same.
Imagine a young filmmaker in the vein of the Safdie brothers (Good Time, Uncut Gems) - or even them if they were so inclined - getting their hands on Mean Streets and just running with it. At the very least it would be fascinating to see what a budding filmmaker could do in the playground that these Hollywood legends created. Also, not a stretch to imagine Scorsese - a staunch supporter of filmmakers - would give his blessing.
In this case we go to 1955 France for another foreign-language film that could do with a refresh and a chance at greater exposure. The heist in Rififi is one the most intricate and well-executed film crimes in history, but there’s more to the story than just the robbery, as the team of thieves’ lives become entwined in their plot.
The heist sequence would be such a fun one to develop for any filmmaker, while there’s plenty of meat elsewhere in the story (it is based on an Auguste Le Breton novel) to fill out the scope.
Even though Rififi has its fans - it is ranked in IMDb’s top 250 films - black-and-white, foreign films are often hard to get mass audiences to watch. So bring Rififi to the people with a remake.
The Thin Man
The original The Thin Man, released in 1934 and starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as witty, married, aristocratic crime solvers, spawned five sequels that ran until 1947. Hollywood is a franchise game, and The Thin Man could provide a combination of murder-mysteries that people seem to lap up, comedy and even a cute dog.
A remake of The Thin Man was being developed back in the early 2010s, with Johnny Depp attached to star and Rob Marshall to direct, but the film was put on ice before things got too far along, as Deadline originally reported.
Depp would be a no-go for the film if a remake were to come about again, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of charming leading men who could take on the role. However, I’d wonder if there’d be anyone better than Emma Stone to fill Myrna Loy’s shoes.
I said it once and I’m saying it again, Hitchcock has plenty of great sources for remakes. Rope is another that has not really been tried. The 1948 thriller centers on two men who attempt to commit the perfect crime, murdering a former classmate and then hosting a dinner party with friends while his body hides in a cabinet. James Stewart starred in the original as the murderous duos' suspecting former teacher.
Hitchcock filmed Rope in a way that is popular among today’s audiences - a long take. The entire film is composed of a stitched together single take, a la Birdman or 1917; it was adapted from a stage play, which may have given Hitchcock the inspiration.
A remake could attempt to show how new technology and techniques might improve on this method, or even abandon it and find a different way to tell the story. Either way, the tension inherent in the story of will they or won’t they discover the dead man mere feet away has the ability to work as well today as it did in the 1940s.
In between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Francis Ford Coppola made The Conversation, a taut thriller starring Gene Hackman as a paranoid secret surveillance expert who begins to expect the couple that he is spying on will be murdered. The film, in addition to being nominated for Best Picture the same year as The Godfather Part II, also won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’or.
The Conversation already has what we’ll call a foreign cousin in Germany’s The Live of Others, but a direct remake of Coppola’s original idea could be a lot of fun, especially today as our technology offers even more opportunities for us to be monitored.
Aneesh Chaganty, who has burst onto the scene with his masterful and original craftsmanship for thrillers Searching and Run, would be a match made in heaven for this material.
Time will tell if any of these films wind up getting the remake treatment in Hollywood. In fact, things are quickly coming together on one that I initially wanted to include on this list, 1985’s Clue. A new adaptation of the murder-mystery board game currently has Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman to star, with James Bobin (The Muppets) directing from a script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. If I could just make one suggestion, bring back Tim Curry!