Relax: 20 Films From the 80s That Aren’t Being Remade

Rejoice! It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to remakes. There’s a ton of 80s movies that aren’t being remade, and here’s just a handful of the ones we’re most thankful for.
By  · Published on June 16th, 2009

Over the past few months, I’ve felt like my job was merely to report which films were getting remade. And a lot of the victims come from the 1980s. After dropping news that Footloose, Karate Kid, Conan the Barbarian, Short Circuit, Flight of the Navigator, Little Shop of Horrors, Masters of the Universe, Bright Lights Big City, They Live, Red Dawn, Top Gun, The Warriors, Robocop, and about a dozen more were getting the remake treatment, I was starting to get depressed. Christ, that’s a long list.

So I know you were. In fact, you should have called me so we could listen to The Cure and eat a Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s topped with Rocky Road Ice Cream together.

But instead of being all sad and blue, I’ve decided to look on the bright side by taking a look at more than a handful of films that haven’t been slated for remakes yet. I realize that you’d be able to find news of a remake for just about anything these days, but so far these titles haven’t had serious studios looking at them (or the productions that tried have already fallen apart).

What should make you even happier to know is that I had a tough time whittling it down to just 20. It turns out there are a lot of movies left from the 1980s that haven’t been pillaged yet. Hopefully I can put a smile back on your face by reminding you that there are still a few things sacred in this world. Here they are, in no particular order:

20. Sixteen Candles

With the fixation on teenagers and teenage problems and teenage underwear, I’m almost shocked that an executive out there hasn’t pitched revamping the film for the sole purposes of getting a bunch of sexy sixteen years old all trying to sleep with other. And, of course, they’d be trying to sleep with the hot Asian exchange student who brings racing and Tokyo drifting to the campus fad collection. Then all hell breaks loose on Spring Break or something.

19. The Sword and the Sorcerer

Massive battles, an epic adventure, and a three-bladed sword? What’s not to love about this science fiction fantasy? It’s gained a serious cult following which is exactly the kind of reason that Hollywood would want to tap it for a remake. It’s not nearly well-known enough for people to get outraged, the fans that are outraged will still go see it out of curiosity, and the studio could plunder the name-recognition and general love for fantasy going around these days. The only reason they haven’t, I think, is that they heard King Richard tell Talon, “If they remake this film, it falls on you to avenge me.” And no one wants Talon coming after them.

18. Popeye

A comic property of such recognizable stature that could feature the talents of some super popular comedian du jour – it’s almost absurdly naive to believe that some exec somewhere deep in the bowels of Hollywood isn’t drooling over this right now. Still, it seems for now that we’re safe from seeing Popeye 2012 where Jim Carrey dons fake biceps and a corncob pipe in order to save the world from imminent destruction.

17. Blue Lagoon

I’m not sure what the original pitch for this film was, but it must have been something. Two attractive kids grow up on an island learning to survive on their own, racing sharks, and doing it with each other despite being totally related. Sort of. What male growing up in the 80s didn’t instantly grow up after watching Brooke Shields go through puberty on screen? Although it could be argued that the sequel was basically the same movie done all over again, there’s no earnest attempt to bring this one back – at least not outside of the soft-core porn world. Plus, I doubt studios would let a fifteen year old get all naked on screen these days. Oh damn, they’re going to do it with Miley Cyrus aren’t they? Aren’t they?!

16. Soul Man

When Robert Downey Jr kept getting praise for putting on blackface last year, all I could think about was when C. Thomas Howell was going to get his due credit. It’s enough to make you wonder if the film was remade today, if controversy would still crop up. After all, the production got into major trouble for filming at Harvard without permission! Oh, and for being really offensive to some in the African American community. So what young, up-and-coming young actor wants to throw on some blackface and go to college? Zac Efron? Chace Crawford? Anyone?

15. The Blues Brothers

Thank the Lord on High that this flick hasn’t been remade. We came really close with Blues Brothers 2000, but so far we haven’t had to endure anyone thinking they could don the black suits and glasses to go on a mission from God. Even if Ghostbusters III helps out Dan Akroyd’s career, I think he learned his lesson with 2000 – that you just can’t do it without Belushi. Hopefully no one else is foolish enough to think otherwise.

14. A Christmas Story

Is there any commercial viability to remaking a movie that plays for 24 hours straight on TNT every Christmas? Probably. It’s a really celebrated film featuring almost no known actors, a host of memorable moments, and a ton of quotable lines that some screenwriter out there is convinced he can improve upon. Plus, I’m sure there’s a studio producer out there that believes the moment he flashes a leg lamp on the screen, the audience will be won over.

13. Stand By Me

Coming of age stories are always going to be popular, especially if it’s the starting point for four careers. I thought about including The Outsiders (which also hasn’t been remade) on this list as well for that very reason. It’s a sweet story, brilliantly told through the genuine eyes of young men, and it being remade would be tantamount to The Sandlot being remade. So let’s keep our fingers crossed.

12. Das Boot

Can you imagine what would happen if Wolfgang Petersen’s fantastic film was turned into an action flick starring Matthew McConaughey? Me too, which is why I’m really thankful that this one is staying off the remake docket. Of course, the author of the book that the film was based off thought Petersen’s version was a cheap action flick and has sought to get an American studio to take another whack at it. So who knows what the future may bring.

11. Caddyshack

Yes, the hat does come with a free bowl of soup. No, this movie isn’t looking to be remade. If it was, it would probably be a shameful collusion of comedic talent coming together to try to out-ego each other. I’m not saying that the original didn’t work because of that very reason, but the egos just seem a bit bigger these days. So are the paydays. Can you imagine paying out $40 million just to bring the talent together for a blockbuster comedy hit of the summer! It’s about golf! And teen pregnancy! And candy bars in the pool! Thankfully, no one is pitching this, probably because we already have Caddyshack II to torture us.

10. Labyrinth

Don’t think it could happen? That’s what people said until we heard rumblings of that Rocky Horror Picture Show remake. I can almost guarantee that there’s a producer out there that grew up with this movie and wants to see a remake done with Jennifer Connelly playing the evil Jaretha the Goblin Queen. If you do a quick search, you’ll see that they’re remaking another film called Labyrinth, but so far this one is too treacherous a ground to walk on for studios wishing to avoid falling into the Bog of Eternal Stench.

9. Little Monsters

Yet another entry tailor-made for a remake, Little Monsters is known enough to carry water, but not famous enough for too many people to even realize what they’re watching is a remake. That’s the perfect balance. Luckily, no one has noticed that balance yet or no one cares. Either way, I’m glad that Howie Mandel’s recent success hasn’t spawned the studio think tanks into envisioning him with horns on again.

8. Beetle Juice

Not only is it a good thing that no one is interested in a remake, it’s a good thing that the sequel fell apart. Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian told the story of the Deetzes heading to the island chain to open a resort that happened to be on an old burial ground. When they start getting haunted, Beetlejuice saves the day by winning a surfing competition. I shit you not. As Kevin Smith once famously said, “Must we go tropical?” Luckily, no one even wants to return to the original, so give thanks.

7. The Princess Bride

Oh, the big one. If there was ever a movie to be happy about not being remade, it’s this. Any attempt to catch lightning in a bottle again – the blend of actors, story and direction that came together perfectly for this comedy – would undoubtedly pale in comparison to the original. Hell, any attempt to remake this movie would probably pale in comparison to 13 Going on 30. This is one of the most beloved movies of the generation, if not all time, and it would take a particularly egotistical, delusional moron to think he could bring it back. Good thing Hollywood doesn’t have any producers like that.

6. Real Genius

Is it wrong of me to love this movie simply for the moment where Knight gives a student a demonstration of gravity by slamming his books to the ground? Didn’t think so. This is one of those campy, fantastic, really average movies that fit the mold for what studios are looking for when it comes to remakes. Plus, Val Kilmer is still around to do a cameo or to, seriously, play a professor or something.

5. The Goonies

Sacred ground. If you breathed a sigh of relief that no one is talking about a Princess Bride remake, you should breath double for this one. Richard Donner and Sean Astin have both talked about doing a sequel – in fact, they’ve both talked about being passionate about doing one – but I imagine fans would love a sequel while hating the prospect of a remake. Think of it – Data’s wacky antics would all be done with an iPhone.

4. Revenge of the Nerds

In the height of realism in the 1980s, a group of nerds who is constantly picked on eventually triumphs, and a guy with a horrible overbite has sex with the hottest blonde on campus. That may or may not have been the plot to High School Musical 3, I didn’t see it, but so far there’s only been one poorly executed attempt at bringing back Lewis, Gilbert and Booger. So let’s all rejoice that McG wasn’t able to get his remake (with Adam Brody and Kristin Cavallari!) through the finish line.

3. Purple Rain

It’s no secret that Prince is an insane person. But he’s an insane person that makes incredible music and, once upon a time, made a brilliantly awesome movie that spawned one of the worst sequels of all time. All in a day’s work for the planet’s sexiest Jehovah’s Witness (sorry, Jedidiah). Maybe because it’s too insane to attempt to tackle, or maybe because studios just don’t want to see naked women jumping into lakes or dudes getting tossed into dumpsters, no one has publicly claimed to be returning to this source material. Except for Ne-Yo. So, yeah, no one.

2. Chariots of Fire

Maybe it’s a strange entry considering that the theme song is far more pop-culturally popular, but it’s a story about triumph and not running fast on Sundays. Hollywood loves that sort of thing. The original film grabbed four Academy Awards including Best Picture. If it sounds too iconic to remake, just remember that nothing is too iconic to remake. Plus, American audiences are probably totally ready again for a film that’s titled from a line in a William Blake poem.

1. Mad Max

Sure there have been some rumblings about a sequel to the cult Aussie flick, but so far there haven’t been any whispers about attempting to remake it. On the one hand, that seems odd considering how obsessed Hollywood has been with post-apocalyptic wastelands lately (like Imagine That). On the other, how do you bring back the MFP’s top pursuit man without angering fans or turning off audiences that don’t know the film?

A Final Thought

Hopefully I’ve offered a gentle reminder that there are still a ton of great 80s movies out there that aren’t being targeted for modernized ruination. Sadly, there are some out there that will ultimately come down the pipeline to boos and outrage only to get the mediocre take of the box office that the studios aimed for in the first place. Sadly, while researching this, I actually discovered that there are remakes circling around for Scanners, Porky’s and Terror Train. In fact, Terror Train may have already been remade, but I’m not sure if Train counts.

So, sure, there are a decent amount of films being remade, and it seems like we announce a new one every week but remember 1) not all of those are going to make it all the way through the production process and 2) there are still a lot of classic films that remain untouched. So celebrate! But remain cautious.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.