Ugly Americans: the 5 Worst Foreign Film Remakes of All Time

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Hollywood is known for remakes, sequels and being blatantly unoriginal at times. If all goes well, a foreign language film will get remade for American audiences and will turn out just as good, if not better, than the original. That rarely happens though.

Even though executives are clamoring for the next great idea from overseas, it’s not always so easy to get that lightning in a bottle that the first film created. And sometimes Hollywood tries to whitewash a film, stripping away the edge and uniqueness that made it so great. Audiences in Europe and elsewhere are a little more open to strange, daring cinema than we are—or at least that’s what the big studios think. For every solid remake like The Birdcage (Le Caux Aux Folles), The Ring (Ringu) and Let Me In (Let the Right One In), there are five more that stink. So in that spirit, let’s take a look at our picks for the five worst offenders.

5 Godzilla

The 1950s Japanese version might be campy, but it’s a classic. American nuclear weapons tests create a giant, deadly, dinosaur-like monster and chaos ensues. It’s a cult classic, but remakes have never done it justice. Especially not the American remake from 1998 directed by Roland Emmerich (he made that disaster flick that flopped called 2012—so enough said). His Godzilla starred Matthew Broderick aka Ferris Bueller and was almost universally panned. There’s a new U.S. version planned for 2014 directed by Gareth Edwards who did the 2010 flick Monsters so… we’ll see.

4 Death at a Funeral

The original is one of the funniest comedies of the past twenty years. It’s a British flick directed by Frank Oz and it seriously is a gut buster. Chaos breaks out at a funeral when a guy tries to spill a dark secret about the dearly departed. The 2010 U.S. version isn’t horrible—who doesn’t love Chris Rock—but it does not live up to the original. Neil LaBute directed it and his movies are usually very, very dark comedies. It just didn’t translate, which is too bad, because if anyone can carry a comedy, it’s Chris Rock. Oh well.

3 Swept Away

Back when she was married to Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) she starred in his remake. It’s about a socialite who gets trapped on a Mediterranean island with a sailor. The Italian version, directed by Lina Wertmuller in the 1970s, has a solid cast and even won some pretty prestigious awards. The Madonna version is about as bad as a film can get. Stay away and check out the original.

2 City of Angels/Wings of Desire

This is one of the worst examples of Hollywood destroying a classic. The original German version was directed by Wim Wenders and it’s a beautiful black and white about an angel who gets tired of watching over people and decides to become mortal when he falls in love with a human. The remake, with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, is pretty much an insult to the original. Where the German version is romantic and unique, the remake is cheesy and stale. Skip it.

1 Vanilla Sky/Abre Los Ojos

This is a good lesson that you can’t just stick Tom Cruise in a movie and expect it to be awesome. This Cameron Crowe-directed remake of the Spanish film was rambling, corny and not nearly as great as the original. Cruise plays a publisher whose life gets turned upside down after a car accident with his lover. The reality/fantasy that worked so well in the original is just silly in this. Stick with the original—Penelope Cruz is in both.

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