Remaking classic films for modern audiences is nothing new, but it seems as if Hollywood studios are churning out more remakes than originals every year. Usually, new directors are brought on to remake older films—but occasionally, the same director who made the original will be given the chance to remake his or her own work. Here are nine directors who did just that.
1. Yasujiro Ozu
Original Film: A Story of Floating Weeds (1934)
Remake: Floating Weeds (1959)
To take advantage of modern filmmaking technology such as sound and color cinematography, Yasujiro Ozu remade his 1934 silent film A Story of Floating Weeds in 1959 and called it Floating Weeds. While Ozu re-visited the same themes, stories, and artistic flourishes from film to film over his 35-year career, Floating Weeds is a more delicate and flavorful film than the original black and white version.
2. Michael Haneke
Original Film: Funny Games (1997)
Remake: Funny Games (2007)
In 2007, Michael Haneke released a shot-for-shot remake of his 1997 Austrian psychological thriller for American audiences. It featured a new cast—Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, and Brady Corbet—and relocated the setting from Austria to Long Island, New York. The original is in German, and the remake in English. Aside from those changes, both versions of Funny Games are exactly the same, and involve a wealthy family being held hostage and tortured with sadistic and vicious physical and psychological attacks.
3. Michael Mann
Original Film: L.A. Takedown (1989)
Remake: Heat (1995)
In 1989, Michael Mann wrote and directed a made-for-TV movie called L.A. Takedown for NBC. The original screenplay for the flick was 180 pages, which Mann had to cut down to 110 pages to fit its TV-timeslot.
After the success of The Last of the Mohicans in 1992, Mann returned to L.A. Takedown and elaborated on its narrative, characters, and themes; it became Heat, which was released theatrically in 1995. Heat is a layered film with several subplots and deeper characters, whereas L.A. Takedown is simpler and more straightforward.
4. George Sluizer
Original Film: Spoorloos (1988)
Remake: The Vanishing (1993)
When the Dutch film Spoorloos (which translates to Without a Trace) was released in 1988, it was a critical and commercial success—not just in the Netherlands, but around the world. It received top awards and accolades from top film critics and organizations, and Hollywood recruited the original director, George Sluzer, to make an English version of the film for American audiences. That film, called The Vanishing, was poorly received for its lack of nuance, broad characters, and its new (happy) ending. To many cinephiles and film critics, The Vanishing is a pale comparison to Sluzer's original.
5. Cecil B. DeMille
Original Film: The Ten Commandments (1923)
Remake: The Ten Commandments (1956)
Director Cecil B. DeMille didn't shy away from large-scale set pieces, over-populated crowds, and giant film productions. In 1956, he returned to his original 1923 silent epic The Ten Commandments with the intent of making a bigger and grander version. The Ten Commandments remake featured heavyweight actors including Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, and Edward G. Robinson, but also took advantage of new filmmaking technology such as eye-popping Technicolor, sizzling sound, and award-winning special effects.
6. Takashi Shimizu
Original Film: Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
Remake: The Grudge (2004)
The third film in director Takashi Shimizu's Ju-on series, Ju-on: The Grudge, was such a hit in Japan that it got the attention of major American movie studios. Sony Pictures Entertainment commissioned Shimizu to remake his original film for American audiences.
The American remake focused on only one of the original film’s six interconnected short vignettes and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, Bill Pullman, and Jason Behr. The Grudge remake received a mixed critical response, but managed to spawn a new American film series with two subsequent sequels.
7. Ole Bornedal
Original Film: Nattevageten (1994)
Remake: Nightwatch (1997)
In 1997, director Ole Bornedal released an American remake to his 1994 genre film Nattevageten, which translates to Nightwatch. The English-language version was almost a shot-for-shot remake of the Danish original, but starred Ewan McGregor as the university student who takes a job at a morgue as a night watchman; Bornedal shared screenwriting credits with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. The remake was not as well received as the original, however; critics believed the new film was too shiny and glossy.
8. Alfred Hitchcock
Original Film: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Remake: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Alfred Hitchcock’s 51-year career spanned many eras of movie-making, but perhaps the best example of the director's progression as a true master of suspense is The Man Who Knew Too Much: the original 1934 film and its remake, released 22 years later in 1956.
While the original has its merits with a resourceful heroine played by Edna Best and a very effective villain played by Peter Lorre, the American remake is far more polished and intricate, with Doris Day and James Stewart in the main roles. Although Day is more passive than Best and the villain is not as memorable as the original film’s, The Man Who Knew Too Much remake is Hitchcock’s favorite between the two films.
In the legendary Alfred Hitchcock biography by French director and film critic François Truffaut, Hitchcock said of the two films, "Let's say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional.”
9. John Woo
Original Film: Once a Thief (1991)
Remake: Once a Thief (1996)
Hong Kong action director John Woo remade his 1991 crime film Once a Thief as a made-for-TV movie for the Fox Network in 1996. While both versions showcased John Woo’s talent for creating breathtaking action as well as lighthearted comedy and romance, the 1996 made-for-TV remake also served as a backdoor TV pilot for a new series.
Ultimately, Fox passed on the John Woo TV series, but Canadian CTV Television Network ordered 22 episodes of the crime family action series in 1997. Billed as John Woo’s Once a Thief, the TV series was canceled after one season in 1998.