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The 10 best horror movie remakes of all time, ranked

Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis star in The Fly.
20th Century Studios / 20th Century Studios

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Though this has been the case for many horror movie remakes, some have defied expectations and reinvented films for the better. There are even films that have surpassed the versions that came before them.

Since the trend of cinematic remakes is here, filmmakers should take cues from these 10 horror films that lived up to the source material.

10. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Sarah Polley in "Dawn of the Dead" (2004).
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

When zombies start popping up around the world, a handful of survivors fight for their lives as they take shelter inside a shopping mall. This remake by Zack Snyder and James Gunn injects new life into the zombie apocalypse with its distinctive brand of gory, frenetic action.

George A. Romero’s original movie may have taken its time with its terror and social satire, but this newer version captures the unbridled chaos in its premise, immersing the audiences in a horrific war against the undead.

9. The Ring (2002)

Still from "The Ring."
DreamWorks Pictures / DreamWorks Pictures

Based on the Japanese film Ringu, this modern classic tells the story of a woman (Naomi Watts) who investigates a mysterious videotape that kills anyone seven days after they watch it.

Unnerving and spine-tingling, The Ring had a new generation of horror fans watch the screen through their fingers. The success of this movie also brought greater attention to Asian horror films, leading to similar remakes from American studios.

8. Let Me In (2010)

Chloe Grace Moretz knocks on a window in a scene from "Let Me In."
Overture Films / Overture Films

Based on the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, this Matt Reeves-directed film follows a 12-year-old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who befriends a little girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who turns out to be a decades-old vampire.

In a beautiful marriage of gothic horror and childhood angst, this chilling remake captures the magic of the original film while forging its own identity by exploring the darkness buried in Reagan’s America.

7. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Dracula in "Nosferatu the Vampyre."
Werner Herzog Filmproduktion / Werner Herzog Filmproduktion

Long before Robert Eggers thought of remaking Nosferatu, director Werner Herzog did so with Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) starring as the titular vampire alongside Isabelle Adjani (Possession) and Bruno Ganz (The Manchurian Candidate).

While it is somewhat more faithful to Bram Stoker’s novel, this film builds upon it by exploring the lonely and tragic nature of Dracula’s cursed character. And with its extraordinary visuals and a chilling score, Nosferatu the Vampyre truly stands the test of time.

6. Cape Fear (1991)

Robert De Niro in Cape Fear (1991).
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

Directed by Martin Scorsese, this film shows a violent rapist (Robert de Niro) who leaves prison seeking vengeance against his former lawyer (Nick Nolte) for knowingly sabotaging his defense. In this nightmarish spiral into hell, Scorsese invokes a classical cinematic style while unleashing his unique brand of dread and violence.

Combined with de Niro’s Oscar-worthy performance and Bernard Hermann’s still-effective reused score, this remake sent the 1962 original down the river by being a terrific film from a legendary director who added depth and terror to the source material.

5. The Fly (1986)

The Brundlefly in "The Fly" (1986).
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.

When audiences think of The Fly, they now likely think of the ’80s remake starring Jeff Goldblum. Director David Cronenberg‘s film captures the bizarre terror of Seth Brundle’s experiment gone wrong as it blends quirky humor with horrific tragedy.

The film’s grotesque practical effects also make the horror all the more realistic, getting under the audience’s skin with Brundle’s jaw-dropping transformation into the titular monster.

4. The Invisible Man (2020)

Elisabeth Moss in "The Invisible Man."
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

In this ingenious retelling of the 1933 monster movie of the same name, Cecilia (Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss) finds herself tormented by her abusive ex-boyfriend (Surface‘s Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who stalks her in an advanced invisibility suit.

Adapting this tale for the modern age, The Invisible Man tackles domestic violence and the trauma that lingers even after a person like Cecilia escapes from their abuser. And with its clever scares and suspenseful thrills, this remake took an iconic character and created a horror classic in its own right.

3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Matthew and Elizabeth in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978).
United Artists / United Artists

When alien plants begin sprouting up on Earth, a group of friends find themselves targeted by emotionless duplicates of the people around them in a full-scale invasion of San Francisco.

Like Cronenberg’s The Fly, this movie reinvigorates a ’50s horror classic for a new age, transforming a Cold War allegory into a cautionary tale about conformity. Such sheer hopelessness grabs audiences by the heart as the heroes get picked off one by one until the infamous final scene, ultimately implanting itself into the viewers’ minds forever.

2. It (2017)

Bill Skarsgård as the monstrous clown Pennywise in "It."
Warner Bros. Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures

Despite its flaws, the 1990 version of Stephen King’s It holds a special place in many fans’ hearts. And when considering Tim Curry’s iconic performance as Pennywise the Clown, the 2017 remake had a lot to live up to.

However, this modern interpretation usurped the original on many fronts, with Bill Skarsgård elevating the shapeshifting clown to a new level of terror. Unsurprisingly, It won over critics and audiences alike, becoming the highest-grossing horror movie of all time.

1. The Thing (1982)

Kurt Russell points a gun in "The Thing."
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

Though it is a remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter’s masterpiece is the most loyal to the novel both films adapt. The shapeshifting creature’s designs and effects alone top what was seen in the original movie.

However, the overwhelming sense of dread and paranoia that permeates the film makes this a harrowing tale of people turning against each other in the face of an unknowable and unstoppable threat.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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