Although some of the best films ever made are remakes, and the concept has been deeply embedded in Hollywood's DNA since the very beginning, there remains no denying that the form comes with an elevated series of challenges.

The perils of those challenges are highlighted this week by the New Zealand release of Ben-Hur, a remake of the 1959 William Wyler-directed classic which won eleven Oscars.

The new Ben-Hur, starring Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) in the title role, and directed by Timur Bekmembatov (Wanted), did not endear itself to the American public when it was released there last week. Whenever a big movie flops, industry prognosticators are quick to diagnose why, and in this case many cited the looming iconic shadow of the original film.

While I strongly believe that all movies are execution-dependent, it's difficult not to see the task of remaking Ben-Hur as pure folly.


To honour that folly, I will cite here five remakes that were clearly bad ideas from the get-go. These aren't necessarily bad films (although most of them are) - what defines these efforts is that they obviously should never have been attempted in the first place.

Conversely, 2010's Clash of the Titans remake is a terrible movie, to be sure, but the idea had promise. Ditto Godzilla (1998), Planet of the Apes (2001) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) - all bad movies, but not necessarily bad ideas.

The following five remakes were highly ill-advised, and should never have progressed beyond the idea stage.

5. Funny Games (2007)

Celebrated Austrian auteur Michael Haneke (Amour, Hidden) had every right to remake his own 1997 film in English with recognisable actors, but the resulting work is only impactful if you've never seen the original, from which it takes every single creative and aesthetic cue, resulting in a soulless work that exists only to scold the audience it was intended for.

4. The Truth About Charlie (2002)

This is a remake of the 1963 Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn caper thriller Charade, in which the most refined charmer in Hollywood history is replaced by Mark Wahlberg. Although arguably talented, debonair charm has never been Wahlberg's strong suit, and his blatant lack of chemistry with co-star Thandie Newton should've prevented this film from ever coming to life.

3. Arthur (2011)

In a world ravaged by the indecent behaviour of the One-Percenters, it's difficult to imagine why a studio thought that a comedy about an obscenely rich drunk idiot was what we all needed. A braying Russell Brand stars in this new take on the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy that embraces the most dated aspects of its inspiration, practically demanding the audience rejects it.

2. The Shining (1997)

Author Stephen King was famously displeased with Stanley Kubrick's iconic 1980 adaptation of his best-selling novel, so he went about getting a more faithful version mounted, the result being this mini-series in which the boring one from Wings takes over from Jack Nicholson. We know this version has at least one fan - King himself.

1. Psycho (1998)

Like many (well, some) cinemagoers, I was intrigued by the concept of Gus Van Sant's shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic. Like the same amount of cinemagoers, I reversed that position upon seeing the film, a muted, suspenseless rendering that wholly fails to justify its existence, and makes the viewer embarrassed for ever having embraced the notion in the first place.