13 Times Sci-Fi Movies Were Just Remakes Of Older Classics

List Rules
Vote up the movies that gave an existing story a classic sci-fi makeover.

Telling a good story is harder than it looks. For that reason, filmmakers sometimes adapt the story from a classic movie for a new one. That may be especially true in the science-fiction realm. There's a long history of films taking a familiar story and putting a fresh spin on it by transitioning it to some kind of futuristic setting.

Doing this ensures the sci-fi movie is working from a story that's already been proven effective. It also affords filmmakers a springboard from which they can launch a few of their own ideas. They can create new characters and locations, while still having that solid base. In a way, the phenomenon is similar to how the works of William Shakespeare have been adapted over the decades. Without a doubt, some of your favorite sci-fi movies have a familiar feeling when you watch them because they've taken another picture as their inspiration.

  • George Lucas's 1977 space opera Star Wars is inarguably one of the most impactful films ever made. A genuine cultural phenomenon, it continues to have strong reverberations to this day. It tells the story of farmboy Luke Skywalker who gradually transitions into a Rebel leader after receiving an SOS from a kidnapped princess. He faces down the dreaded masked villain Darth Vader in the process.

    If you've ever seen Akira Kurosawa's 1958 film The Hidden Fortress, you undoubtedly noticed the similarities to Star Wars. The peasant characters Tahei and Matashichi get caught up in someone else's war, not unlike robots R2-D2 and C-3PO. Both movies have a princess in danger - Leia in Star Wars, Yuki in The Hidden Fortress. A veteran samurai named Makabe Rokurōta plays an important part in the action, similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi. And in those cases, the veteran eventually comes face-to-face in battle with his old nemesis. The primary difference here is that Rokurōta wins his fight, whereas Obi-Wan is felled by Darth Vader. 

    Lucas was a fan of Kurosawa's film and transplanted its structure into outer space to give his own movie a timeless feel. 

  • Richard Connell's story "The Most Dangerous Game" was first adapted for the screen in 1932. The film follows Bob Rainsford, a game hunter who gets shipwrecked on an island. There, he meets the enigmatic Count Zaroff. The Count seems cordial at first, but then reveals a sinister side, forcing Rainsford and two other captives to take part in a sick life-or-death game in which he hunts them. The only way for them to survive is to turn the tables and try to foil him first. 

    "The Most Dangerous Game" has influenced various other films over the decades, with some staying very faithful to the story and others simply borrowing parts of it. One of those that just went with the general vibe is 1987's Predator. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Dutch, a soldier of fortune leading a team on a rescue mission in Guatemala. They expect human danger and are therefore stunned to discover an alien creature is in the jungle with them. Even worse, it's intent on hunting them down. (Unlike Zaroff, it can make itself invisible.) Dutch and crew piece together things they learn about the predator in order to defeat it before it wipes them all out.

    As with its inspiration, Predator plays with the question of who is the hunter and who is the prey.

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  • Forbidden Planet is one of the most significant sci-fi classics in cinematic history. It transplants William Shakespeare's The Tempest, which has been turned into a movie several times over, into outer space. The Bard's stirring story focuses on a magician named Prospero who orchestrates a violent storm so his brother will be shipwrecked on the same island where he and daughter Miranda have been exiled for more than a decade. From there, he proceeds to exact revenge against his sibling for having stolen his claim to become the Duke of Milan.

    That brings us back to Forbidden Planet. The Prospero here is Dr. Edward Morbius, and he's been stuck on planet Altair IV with his daughter Altaira for 20 years. There's no proper storm, although Morbius's subconscious gives birth to a "monster" to do his vengeful bidding. The doctor additionally attempts to prevent Altaira from romancing Commander John J. Adams, one of the men sent to the planet to investigate the outcome of a prior expedition. He's the equivalent of Ferdinand in The Tempest.

    The thing everyone remembers most about Forbidden Planet is Robby the Robot, whose function in this story is the same as the air spirit Ariel that Prospero summons. Borrowing from Shakespeare guarantees the movie has a solid plot, while the futuristic setting helps viewers see a familiar story in a new way.

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  • High Noon is about Will Kane (Gary Cooper), the marshal in a small New Mexico town. He gets word his old nemesis, criminal Frank Miller, has been sprung from prison and is coming to exact revenge. Kane tries to round up some locals to assist him in defeating Miller again, only to discover they're too afraid to take part. If he wants this job done, he's going to have to do it himself. The movie builds to a dramatic climax as the two come face-to-face at noon. Kane is all too aware he might not survive, given Miller is bringing his gang with him. 

    Director Peter Hyams borrowed that general plot for his 1981 movie Outland. To mix things up, he set the tale in space. Sean Connery is William O'Niel, the marshal of a mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons. He uncovers a conspiracy by the operation's general manager, Mark Sheppard (Peter Boyle), to feed workers a dangerous substance that increases their productivity. Sheppard eventually sends his gang to eliminate O'Niel, who manages to get the upper hand over them. Like Kane, he has a climactic confrontation with his enemy, which he manages to win through his sheer bravery.

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  • Groundhog Day had a truly one-of-a-kind plot. Or at least it was one of a kind until other filmmakers started co-opting its overall premise. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a misanthropic weatherman who gets stuck in a time loop. Forced to relive February 2 again and again and again, he grows despondent, trying repeatedly to end his own life. When that doesn't work, he begins to learn how to become a better person so he can win the love of his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), to whom he's become attracted. Only after this phase of personal growth does he break the loop.

    Edge of Tomorrow also puts its central character, William Cage (Tom Cruise), into a time loop. He's an officer who has never taken part in combat, and is therefore kind of afraid when he has to help defend Earth from an alien attack. Like Phil, he goes through multiple deaths in the course of his adventure and learns how to do what he needs to do through trial and error. Emily Blunt co-stars as the beautiful and highly skilled colleague who serves as his Rita - in fact, her name is also Rita, no sheer coincidence - inspiring him to persevere in finding a way out of the loop. 

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  • Stanley Kubrick worked for years developing A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. He died before his dream could be brought to fruition. Steven Spielberg stepped in instead, finally delivering Kubrick's vision to the world in 2001. It's a futuristic tale about a robotic boy named David (Haley Joel Osment) who is adopted by a man who works for the manufacturing company. He's programmed to be a "real boy" - to have human emotions and be in every way as non-robotic as possible. Eventually, though, David decides to flee his home, looking for a way to become authentically real.

    Spielberg and Kubrick had the shared intention of making A.I. a futuristic riff on Pinocchio. Both have protagonists who were "made by a human and raised as their children." Both have that protagonist going on an adventure-filled quest to become real. And, in each case, the boy has a helper. In Pinocchio, it's Jiminy Cricket, whereas in A.I. it's a robotic gigolo played by Jude Law. 

    Despite clear similarities, Spielberg bristled at the notion his film was nothing more than a sci-fi remake. He told the Los Angeles Times, "Pinocchio is a catalyst for the beginning of an odyssey, a journey into the future. But it’s not the movie."