Call it reboot, call it a remake, call it an homage, call it whatever you want—there’s no way around the fact that Hollywood reuses a lot of ideas. This has been even more apparent in the age of superhero dominance in Hollywood, with the Spider-Man franchise being rebooted three times in just 16 years! While remakes like that are easy to spot, you may not have guessed that some of Hollywood’s most classic films are remakes as well. Here are six well-known movies that you didn’t know are remakes.

The Wizard of Oz

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There are classics and then there is The Wizard of Oz. This 1939 film changed what we thought was possible from a film and became a staple of American culture the day it was released and probably would have won Best Picture if it hadn’t gone up against another little flick you may have heard of: Gone With the Wind.

However, The Wizard of Oz wasn’t just a remake of The Wizard of Oz. It was one of many remakes: There were at least seven films made that adapted the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, which was published in 1900. This includes an animated version that came out in 1933.

12 Monkeys

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Terry Gilliam’s inventive 1995 sci-fi classic seems so original that it could not possibly be a remake. But indeed it is; however, although its source material is unique. 12 Monkeys is based on a French film known as a “photo novel,” which is a series of photos set to music. The film was called La Jetee, had a 30-minute runtime, and is a dark, post-nuclear time travel story.

Many critics and film buffs argue that Terry Gilliam was able to capture the tone and energy of the sparse source material while coaxing out some of Bruce Willis’s and Brad Pitt’s most memorable performances.


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Al Pacino (and one of the most memorable accents in film history) famously starred in Scarface, which tells the story of a drug lord rising through the ranks of the cocaine trade in Miami. The film is so brutal and of its era that it doesn’t seem like it even could have a predecessor to be a remake of.

But the story of Scarface didn’t start in Miami. There was a movie called Scarface made in 1929 about Al Capone, the real Scarface. That film was so brutal in its own era that the release was delayed while censors made significant cuts to the violence portrayed in the film. Writer Oliver Stone and director Brian De Palma originally set out to make a film faithful to the vision of the original but found the era unengaging, which prompted them to move the story to modern Miami.

A Fistful of Dollars

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Often credited as the founding film of the revitalization of the most American of film genres—the Western—A Fistful of Dollars was the first of Sergio Leone’s trilogy of cowboy dramas. The Clint Eastwood-starring movie is known as a "Spaghetti Western" because it was shot in Italy with international actors on Italian sets.

The source material, however, did not come from Italy, nor America for that matter. It actually came from across the other ocean, from Japan. It was an unofficial and unlicensed remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo. The films were so similar that Akira Kurosawa’s production company, Toho, sued the production company and was awarded 15 percent of the profits from the films.

The Departed

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This Martin Scorsese-directed crime film feels so drenched in Boston accents, settings and scenery that it is hard to imagine the story coming from anywhere different. But it did! The 2006 film is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs—and with assistance from an A-list cast that included Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, that remake would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Cape Fear

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The seventh collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, Cape Fear also did well at the Academy Awards. De Niro was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Max Cady, an unhinged ex-con, and Juliette Lewis also scored a nod Best Supporting Actress as Danielle. Cape Fear was a remake of another successful version of the film, the 1962 film of the same name.

The 1962 film had big stars attached to it as well, as the two leads were played by Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck. They returned with minor roles in Scorsese’s adaptation, and the film was one of Gregory Peck’s last.

Cover image credit: Fer Gregory /