Classic Hollywood Movies That Should Never Be Remade

Studios are currently busy turning out reboots of popular franchises. From Godzilla to Men in Black, it looks like nothing is sacred if it can be polished off and remade to make a quick buck. We’ve scoured various internet archives to find some of the best classic Hollywood movies that are so spectacular they should never be remade. It would almost be Hollywood blasphemy to remake these fan favorites.

Did your favorite flick make our list?

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick Productions

The late, great Stanley Kubrick was undoubtedly one of greatest filmmakers this world has ever seen. His sci-fi spectacular was so skillfully mastered that it’s still renowned as one of the best examples of the genre. Considering it was released in 1968, that’s impressive.

Everything from the visuals to the incredible score earned the movie numerous awards. In 1991, the movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 2001: A Space Odyssey regularly features on “Best Movies of All Time” lists. In fact, The Moving Arts Film Journal gave it the top spot in 2010. Kubrick created a masterpiece.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird
Brentwood Productions

It took Harper Lee 55 years to release another work after completing the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. If the author can never measure up to the success of their work, how on earth can anyone else expect to?

The 1960 book became an instant hit, getting its very own movie adaptation a short while later. Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his role as Atticus Finch, turning in one of the best performances of his life. Both the novel and the motion picture are part of pop culture history. You can’t remake history, and what’s more, it would be rude to try.

Up next is a Guillermo del Toro masterpiece that can’t be improved upon.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth
Telecinco Productions

Pan’s Labyrinth is probably as close as we’re ever going to come to getting inside Guillermo del Toro’s head. The eerie mix of magic and brutality works beautifully well. It’s escapism for the mind at its finest. As the movie is Spanish, there is something to be said for creating an English version.

However, the fact that it’s a foreign language film is part of its inherent charm. It adds to the allure of the entire aesthetic, which is largely mysterious as it is. Take that away and you’d still have a brilliant picture, but without del Toro, it simply wouldn’t work.

What remake list would be complete without a Tom Hanks masterpiece, that’s up next.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump
Wendy Finerman Productions

It’s hard to even think about a movie of this magnitude being remade, which is a good sign that it should never be attempted. The innocent running legend is so synonymous with Tom Hanks that no other actor could possibly do the part justice.

Forrest Gump remains a classic thanks to Hanks. Without his input, it’s quite possible that the movie would’ve tanked. It’s emotional, heartwarming and a true testament to the talent of author Winston Groom. Academy Award nominated screenwriter Eric Roth penned the screenplay and Back to the Future ace Robert Zemeckis directed.

The next movie on our list is a masterpiece that critics might be upset to see remade as a 21st-century movie.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane
RKO Radio Pictures

Orson Welles was one of a kind. A true Hollywood great and an influential author, Welles went from strength to strength throughout his career. He even married Rita Hayworth in the forties, although it lasted just four years.

Ask any film buff what Welles’ finest work is, and they’ll most likely say Citizen Kane. The tale focuses on a story about a man so mad with power that he can’t see what’s right in front of him. While this might sound like the perfect time to remake such a movie given the current political climate, no one has dared impeach on this hallowed ground.

Our next film is an iconic Quentin Tarantino film. Can you guess which one?

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction
Band Apart Productions

Pulp Fiction is as close to cinematic perfection as you can get. Not only does it pack some serious star power (including Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman) but it effectively launched the career of Quentin Tarantino. The multi-dimensional crime thriller showcases Tarantino’s quirky style magnificently.

Not to mention that it’s downright iconic. Thurman turns in a stellar performance as Mia Wallace, while Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta bounce off each other wonderfully. This movie is so stellar that you’d have to have no shame at all to even propose a remake. Any filmmaker that dares to do so would face the wrath of the Tarantino fandom.

Our next selection features a Robert de Niro role that can’t be improved upon.

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver
Bill/Phillips Productions

Taxi Driver remains a classic for multiple reasons. At that point in his career, Robert de Niro had shot less movies than his 12-year-old co-star, Jodie Foster. For a relatively unknown actor, he nailed the part of Travis. Not only is it uber quotable, but it’s from the mind of Martin Scorsese.

Scorsese has made many movies since, but this 1976 venture remains one of his best. Foster plays the part of teenage prostitute Iris with a grace beyond her years. Trying to find someone that young to play the part these days would be problematic at best. Let’s just leave this one well enough alone.

And now for something completely different…

The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski
Working Title Films

The formidable Coen Brothers cannot be imitated. The Big Lebowski is one of the jewels in their crown. Who would’ve thought that something so brilliant could come from something so inherently charmless. After all, bowling isn’t exactly your prime-time TV sport.

John Goodman and Jeff Bridges work wonders with an already intricate plot, but the beauty lies in their delivery. Without these two established greats, The Big Lebowski would have slim chances of a strike. You really can’t get better than the Coen Brothers, either. Many have tried, few have conquered. It’s unlikely they’d ever pass such a precious story on.

These days we can’t make a movie list without throwing praise on Keanu Reeves so he’s up next.

The Matrix Trilogy

The Matrix
Warner Bros

Keanu Reeves transitioned from Sandra Bullock’s romantic interest to a fully-fledged bad ass in The Matrix Trilogy. Not only did Reeves give one of the best performances of his life at that point, but the plot backed him up. It’s so out-there, while also being worryingly possible.

At the time of its release, the visual effects were interstellar. Audiences had never seen anything like it before. Should a remake be attempted to bring it up to speed with technological advancements? It’s tempting, but it’s going to be another firm no. There are reports that a reboot is in the works, but rumor has it this is a continuation of the franchise.

A Stephen King classic is next on our list and it deserves to be here!

The Shawshank Redemption

Shawshank Redemption
Castle Rock Productions

It’s the movie that broke millions of hearts and is so hard-hitting that it’s difficult to watch more than once. Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring things about The Shawshank Redemption is its lack of pomp and circumstance. It’s reliant on a wonderful script and well-versed actors. That’s what makes it shine.

Director Frank Darabont worked a short story by Stephen King into a fully-fledged masterpiece of American cinema. Thanks to Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, the 180-minute long thriller is akin to a book that you just can’t put down. It will forever be one of the best adaptations of King’s work.

Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream
Thousand Words

Putting Jennifer Connelly and Jared Leto together was nothing short of a stroke of genius. Although Requiem for a Dream didn’t shatter any box office records (in fact it barely broke even), it became a cult-classic. It’s a deeply disturbing and unsettling movie, thanks largely to its gritty look at addiction.

Leto paved the way for his career playing off-beat characters, while Connelly proved that she had the chops for serious drama. It’s not for the faint of heart, which makes one wonder – is anyone brave enough to take on a remake? If they did, would it have the same effect? Unlikely.

It’s a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life
Liberty Films

A Christmas family staple, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George, a suicidal businessman. That’s a pretty deep topic for a mid-forties movie to cover, but they went there – and the end result was worth it. Starring Jimmy Stewart as the main protagonist, the plot follows George’s struggle.

The message of the movie is timeless – it doesn’t need to be remade. In fact, to do so would sully the poignant message of Frank Capra’s film altogether. It doesn’t need to be redone, it’s perfect in all of its black and white glory.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Fantasy Films

We have Jack Nicholson to thank for many of our favorite films. There’s no one quite like him. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is as much a part of Nicholson as he is of the movie. Seeing Randle McMurphy try to navigate the hospital for mentally ill people is strangely uplifting, even though it doesn’t work out well for him.

This film is a rare gem, so highly-polished the first time round that it needn’t be tampered with. Milos Foreman created something that spoke to us all in certain ways, while also staying remarkably true to the novel. That’s no small feat.

Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands
20th Century Fox

For Tim Burton fans, Edward Scissorhands is a shining example of the director’s work. Mixing cookie-cutter suburbs with the dark and eerie qualities that are his trademark, Burton worked wonders on this movie. Not only that, but Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder had real, tangible chemistry. The pair started dating soon after meeting, going on to have a four-year relationship.

Only Depp could bring what is needed for the role of odd-bod Edward. Without his innocent, deer-in-the-headlights gaze and Winona’s angst-ridden teen, there would be nothing left to work with. There’s a reason why this is one of Burton’s most-watched movies almost thirty years later.

Back to the Future

Back to the Future
Amblin Entertainment

Out of all the movies on this list, Back to the Future is probably the most likely to get a remake, no matter how ill-advised that is. Given the extreme popularity that the franchise has and its appeal to younger viewers, it’s probably only a matter of time before someone takes it on.

They’ll never replicate the original, though. It’s impossible. Doc and Marty (played by Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox respectively) are too iconic to be replicated or challenged. Given Fox’s ongoing battle with Parkinson’s Disease and Lloyd’s advancing age (the actor is now 80, although still working) it’s unlikely the pair will ever reunite for a reboot.

Benny and Joon

Benny and Joon

If you haven’t watched Benny and Joon, then you’re missing out. The story focuses on two characters that each have minor mental illnesses. They fall in love, paving the way for a sweet tale of what happens when two kindred souls find each other. Johnny Depp shines as Sam, Joon’s love interest, who does whatever he can to make her laugh.

The simplicity of the movie would be lost on today’s audiences, so why bother touching it? Leave it for the die-hard fans to appreciate, right from Depp’s physical comedy routines to Mary Stewart Masterson’s sweet naivety. This is as close to perfection as you can get.

Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society
Touchstone Pictures

Robin Williams seldom made a movie that wasn’t worth watching. In fact, they were all epic examples of his talent, even if they weren’t always commercially successful. Dead Poets Society pits the heroic literature-championing teacher against a classroom full of obnoxious rich kids.

Also starring a young Ethan Hawke, the movie has the perfect balance of uplifting soul and emotional catharsis that makes a cinematic experience great. With Robin Williams sadly gone from us, who in their right mind would try and fill his shoes? Not only would it be immoral, but unethical and downright trashy. Respect the master!

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd
DreamWorks Pictures

Here’s Johnny! Again. You may have noticed a trend thus far. Johnny Depp works his magic so well on the parts he undertakes that it’s simply too difficult for anyone else to take them on. Tim Burton rocked the tale of Sweeney Todd, the good-barber-turned-bad that starts killing people and baking them into pies.

It’s a musical noir, marking somewhat of a departure from Depp’s usual roles. The disturbing tone is beautifully done, while Depp and Helena Bonham Carter make a humorous, yet terrifying coupling. How can anyone else dare to take on this murderous tale and get out alive?

Fight Club

Fight Club
Fox 2000

What’s the number one rule of Fight Club? You don’t remake Fight Club! Arguably one of Brad Pitt’s finest moments, you can watch Fight Club again and again without getting bored. The plot is so well executed that the ending seems like a shock every time, even if you know what’s coming. It’s created with such finesse that anyone crazy enough to remake it would need extensive training in how not to mess it up.

Say a prayer for this cinematic landmark. We can only hope that no one gets a chance to soil this movie just to make bank.

Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs
Polygram Filmed Entertainment

Before Pulp Fiction, there was Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino’s crime caper starred the likes of Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi. By this point in the nineties, crime movies were getting a little old and this flick changed the game in a big way.

There’s no romantic lead, no slapstick scenes. In fact, the only light relief comes when Madsen’s character dances around the room to “Stuck in the Middle with You” before slicing off someone’s ear. It’s Tarantino at his finest before the world had any inkling of the star he was going to become. Many viewers discovered this movie after watching Pulp Fiction.