A Star Is Born (2018)
Warner Bros.

Movies We Keep Remaking

Why do we keep returning to certain stories? These movies have been remade and rebooted over and over again, many of them since the earliest days of cinema.
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Are there any new ideas in Hollywood? When you look at the sheer number of sequels, prequels, reboots, revivals, and remakes that get produced every year, you have to wonder. The movies on this list have all been produced at least three times—and some of them have made it to the screen a lot more than that!

A Star Is Born

The history of A Star Is Born stretches back farther than you might think. Before the 2018 version starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, audiences were treated to the bittersweet story of fame, love, and addiction three more times.

The very first version premiered in 1937 and starred Janet Gaynor as a young ingenue taken under the wing of an older actor played by Frederic March. The screenplay was written by the legendarily cynical social critic Dorothy Parker.

In 1954, Judy Garland starred opposite James Mason, and this time, the leading lady was a singer as well as an actress. Turning the film into a musical took advantage of Garland’s immense talents as an entertainer. Both she and Lady Gaga were 32 years old when they took on the role as a young woman whose star was on the rise.

By the time the story was remade a third time in 1976, the story had pivoted away from Hollywood and into the music world. Kris Kristofferson played a self-destructive rock star who discovers Barbra Streisand’s character singing in a bar. The plot of the 2018 remake sticks pretty close to this version, though the tragic ending is different.

King Kong

King Kong is a literal movie titan. The “8th wonder of the world” first appeared in the 1933 film starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot. That film been consistently ranked as one of the most important in cinema history, and King Kong himself has appeared in dozens of movies, TV shows, comic books, video games, and novelizations.

You have to love the practical effects! Compare the clip above to the Peter Jackson version. Sure, the special effects are “better,” but I feel like the original has aged less poorly than the CGI version.

The first official remake as King Kong came in 1976 from producer Dino De Laurentiis. It was Jessica Lange’s first movie; she was joined by Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin. Peter Jackson took his shot in 2005, with Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody leading the cast. Jackson’s muse Andy Serkis provided the motion capture performance for the colossal ape.

Jackson was originally slated to make a sequel to his film, but Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment wanted to reboot the entire “MonsterVerse” instead. In 2017, Kong: Skull Island premiered. It starred Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson. The movie did well enough that a sequel was greenlit, and audiences were treated to Kong vs. Godzilla in 2021. Because, in the midst of terrifying global events, who wouldn’t want to watch a giant ape fight a big lizard?

The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling published The Jungle Book, a series of stories set in India, in 1894. Kipling grew up there during the British Raj, and his intended audience was his own daughter. While you can’t escape the imperialism that’s baked into the stories, they’ve served as the inspiration for five feature films, plus sequels and TV shows.

The first movie about Mowgli premiered in 1942 starring Indian actor Sabu. It was a massive commercial success, especially since it was released in Technicolor. The movie is not without its problems, but at least it didn’t star a white actor in brown face. The bar was low, friends.

Disney produced a much more family-friendly adaptation of the story, and if you don’t already have “The Bear Necessities” stuck in your head, let me fix that for you:

Walt Disney had to push for his vision of The Jungle Book to make it through production, and it ended up being the last film he ever made. It made boatloads of money, and Disney ended up releasing two additional live-action remakes. The first was directed by Stephen Sommers in 1994 and starred Jason Scott Lee. Jon Favreau directed another adaptation in 2016, which included mo-cap performances by Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, and Lupita Nyong’o, among others. It earned almost a billion dollars at the box office.

Andy Serkis directed his own version of the film, which ended up being temporarily shelved due to the similarity between Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle and Favreau’s The Jungle Book. Netflix bought the streaming rights, and the movie was finally released in 2018. Critics and audiences weren’t impressed, and the consensus seems to be that it was too upsetting for kids but not exciting enough for adult audiences.

Read More: Nostalgic Animated Movies That Aren’t Disney

The Mummy

Universal Pictures struck gold in the 1930s with its slate of horror films, including 1932’s The Mummy. Boris Karloff—whose real name was William Henry Pratt—played the leading role of the monster. Karloff had appeared as Frankenstein’s monster the previous year. The film was a success, and Universal produced four sequels over the next twelve years, plus Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy in 1955.

In 1959, Terence Fisher—the Hammer horror director who also made rebooted versions of Dracula, Frankenstein, AND Phantom of the Opera—made his version of the story starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

The story of Imhotep would lie dormant for 40 years until Stephen Sommers pushed for a reboot. His version of The Mummy starred Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and Arnold Vosloo. It’s perfect, I won’t hear anything bad about it, okay?

Finally, Universal Studios tried to return to its lucrative movie monster roots with the “Dark Universe” franchise. Alex Kurtzman directed Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wellis, and Sofia Boutella in this 2017 disappointment. Despite starring one of the most bankable movie stars in history, nobody wanted this iteration of The Mummy, and the Dark Universe was DOA.

The Phantom of the Opera

No, Andrew Lloyd Webber did not invent the story of The Phantom of the Opera from whole cloth. The gothic tale was penned by French author Gaston Leroux in 1910. The story was adapted 15 years after its release as a silent film starring Lon Chaney, but that wouldn’t be the last version by a long shot.

Herbert Lom and Heather Sears would step into the leading roles of the Phantom and Christine in 1962 for a horror film directed by Terence Fisher. A 1989 version starred Robert Englund—yes, as in Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street along with Bill Nighy in a small role. It was a total flop.

Italian horror master Dario Argento took a crack at the story in 1998, casting his daughter Asia Argento as Christine opposite British actor Julian Sands. In this version, the Phantom is not physically disfigured, but he was raised by rats in the tunnels beneath the Paris Opera House. Critics hated it. I also hated it. Zero out of ten, would not recommend.

The 2004 film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical starred Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. The film had languished in development hell since 1989, shortly after the stage version proved to be a smash hit on Broadway. By the time the movie finally arrived, many Broadway fans compared it unfavorably to the now-classic performances by Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford.

Alice in Wonderland

Can you guess when the very first adaptation of Alice in Wonderland was filmed? The answer is 1903! That makes it not only the earliest film on this list but also one of the first movies ever made. You can watch the whole thing for free thanks to the British Film Institute. In my opinion, it’s better than the Johnny Depp version.

It’s impossible to separate adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from those of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There since many movies borrow elements from both books.

Alice inspired a ton of movies, but most of them are very obscure. A version was made in 1915, followed by adaptations in 1931, 1933, and 1949. The most famous adaption of Lewis Carroll’s trippy novel is probably the Disney version from 1951. More TV movies followed in the 60s and 80s. Kate Beckinsale starred in Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1998—but sadly, it’s not very good. Tina Majorino would get her chance to play the character just a year later.

Tim Burton’s Hot Topic version of Alice in Wonderland saw a 19-year-old Alice return to Wonderland in 2010, followed by a sequel in 2016. I’m… not a fan. I much prefer Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, a deeply upsetting stop-motion film that will legitimately give you nightmares.

Dracula

You might think that the 1931 adaptation of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi was the first movie based on Bram Stoker’s classic novel. And you’d be right… sort of. F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922)was an unauthorized version, and the author’s heirs successfully sued to have the film destroyed. Luckily for cinemaphiles, a few prints survived.

Werner Herzog remade the movie in 1979. Shadow of the Vampire (2000) starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe wasn’t technically a remake but a movie about the making of the original movie.

Okay, but what about actual Dracula movies? The first was Tod Browning’s 1931 classic, followed by a Christopher Lee version in 1958. There were two adaptations in the 70s—the Jack Palance version in 1973 and the Frank Langella version in 1979. The most recent big-screen adaptation was Bram Stoker’s Dracula from Francis Ford Coppola in 1992.

This list doesn’t even include the many made-for-tv movies and miniseries, the NBC series starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Castlevania, or utter trash like Dracula 2000. Bram Stoker’s undead Transylvanian might be the most popular and influential character in movie history.

Read More: Ranking the Most Famous Movie Vampires