15 Reboots And Revivals That Seemed Like A Bad Idea - But Turned Out Great

List Rules
Vote up the reboots and revivals that were way better than you expected.

If a movie or TV show has even the slightest bit of success, chances are it will get a reboot or a revival at some point. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, these properties have a built-in fan base. On the other, trying to do justice to a beloved property is a daunting and often futile task. Nothing can eclipse the nostalgia that fans have for the original, no matter how worthy a follow-up proves to be. 

Some properties lend themselves to remakes and revivals. Dr. Who, for example, is premised on the fact that the title character can take any identity at any point in history at his choosing. This allows new actors to play the role for isolated periods of time without the change feeling artificial. Other series are harder to rework. In some cases, this is because the story hinges on a particular actor who can’t revise their role. It’s hard to imagine Indiana Jones as anyone other than Harrison Ford. In other cases, a movie or series is so revered that rehashing it feels wrong. A remake of The Princess Bride might get some fans excited, but it would almost certainly be disappointing. 

Despite the many examples of reboots and revivals that really shouldn’t have happened, there are a few that seemed like a terrible idea but actually turned out great. Vote up the ones that were so much better than anticipated.

  • 1
    1,217 VOTES

    The 1969 movie True Grit isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but it does star John Wayne, one of the most lionized movie stars in Hollywood history. His involvement gives it a sheen of importance that you’d think would make it off-limits for anything other than an under-the-radar made-for-TV adaptation. Wayne even won an Oscar for his role as the boozed-up federal marshal Rooster Cogburn, though it was considered by many to be a “token” award based on sentimentality more than merit. 

    Remaking a classic movie that's so heavily associated with its legendary lead actor is risky, but it was even more of an optimistic leap for the Coen Brothers, whose previous attempt at reviving a beloved classic resulted in their worst-received project to date, The Ladykillers. In remaking True Grit, they opted to adhere more closely to the source material than Wayne’s version had. Charles Portis’s novel about a 14-year-old girl who hires a washed-up US marshal to hunt down the men who killed her father has plenty of darkly comedic elements and violence that didn’t make the cut in the G-rated Wayne version. As a result, the Coens’ movie is both gritty and sentimental, with Jeff Bridges making Rooster Cogburn a unique character rather than an imitation of John Wayne. It also didn’t hurt that Hailee Steinfeld, the actor cast to play teenage Mattie Ross, was 14. In contrast, Kim Darby, who played Mattie in the 1969 version, was in her early 20s. The Coens’ remake received positive reviews, many of which proclaimed that it was better than the original.

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  • 2
    1,726 VOTES

    When a movie version of the '80s TV series 21 Jump Street was announced, most of the speculation revolved around whether or not Johnny Depp would get a cameo. The show made him a star, and it was difficult to imagine a version without him. Even if he did make an appearance, movie remakes of beloved TV shows have a reputation for being, as one critic put it, “a fast lane to flopville.” Confidence was not raised by the fact that the R-rated action movie was set to be co-directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who at the time were known only as the makers of an animated family comedy, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Then there was the movie’s co-writer/star, Jonah Hill, who was known for his offbeat comedic turns in movies like Cyrus and Get Him to the Greek. All in all, it had all the markers of being another failed remake of a well-loved property, if a more colorful one.

    Against all odds, however, the movie turned out to be a hit both critically and at the box office. Starring Hill and Channing Tatum, it succeeds because it calls out the absurdity of the premise of the straight-faced show: undercover cops infiltrating high school by pretending to be students. Hill and Tatum are clearly adults, just as the actors in the original were, and their attempts to convince teenagers otherwise is a comedy treasure trove. 21 Jump Street not only demonstrates Hill’s and Tatum’s odd couple synergy, but points to the directors’ bright futures on projects such as The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In the end, it was so successful that it got a sequel, 22 Jump Street, which struck gold at the box office yet again and won over critics.

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  • 3
    1,408 VOTES
    The Office
    Photo: NBC

    When NBC announced that it would be remaking Ricky Gervais’s classic British sitcom, The Office“there was equal measure of wincing and guffawing.” Hollywood already had a track record of making disastrous American versions of beloved English sitcoms such as Fawlty TowersRed Dwarf, and The Thick of It. How NBC, home to chirpy, laugh-track comedies like Friends and 3rd Rock from the Sun, was going to successfully make a catatonically deadpan mockumentary “more American” was a mystery. Even the network seemed daunted by the odds, hedging its bets by dumping the show midseason and only giving it six episodes. They even spruced up the title, calling it (originally) The Office: An American Workplace, in a somewhat defensive attempt to distance it from its British lineage.

    Despite the torrent of skepticism it was up against, The Office remake came out on top. While the show wasn’t an instant success, it slowly became a critical and audience favorite, racking up awards and establishing itself as a mainstay on roundups of the best TV shows of all time. This was likely due to the delicate balance it struck between the original mockumentary format, dull workplace setting, and petty office rivalries, and the more Americanized tone of more romance and less cringe. Michael Scott is also much sweeter and more well-meaning than David Brent, which likely endeared him to sentimental American viewers. The debate still rages about which version of The Office is better, but the fact that it’s even a question is evidence of how successful the remake is.

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  • 4
    670 VOTES

    That '90s Show

    That '90s Show
    Photo: Netflix

    First airing in the mid-'90s, That ‘70s Show used its titular decade to create a teenage time capsule, blending pop culture, historical references, and a smoke-filled Midwest basement as its guides. Over the course of eight seasons, friends Eric, Donna, Kelso, Jackie, Fez, and Hyde experience all the tried-and-true tropes of successful sitcoms - Will they, won't they? romantic plotlines, occasional diversions into dramatics, and recurring bits that never lost steam (Fez must be from somewhere, right?). It's no wonder fans and the show's creators had the munchies for a reboot. (Sorry, That '80s Show. Perhaps you were ahead of your time.)

    In 2023, That ‘90s Show premiered on Netflix, using its titular decade to create a teenage time capsule, blending pop culture, historical… Yes, this does sound familiar. In revamping its predecessor, That ’90s Show doesn't do much by way of reinvention. The show still takes place largely in-and-around the Forman household, where Eric's parents Red and Kitty still live. As the series takes off, Eric and Donna's daughter, Leia, is poised to spend the summer with her grandparents, setting the stage for a group of archetypal teens to “hang out” downstairs. Fortunately, it works. 

    While the show is essentially a facsimile of the original (or perhaps a “fax” - it is the ‘90s, after all), critics and audiences largely agree that it’s a welcome familiarity. The old gang (now well into their 30s) make cameo appearances, but in a way that ties the two shows together, as opposed to simply being stunts. Leia and her newfound friends have chemistry, charm, and budding romantic feelings. It's a reboot that stands on its own - a blast from the past (of the past) in the present.

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    1,280 VOTES

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    Before Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2011, it was widely believed that the franchise had run its course. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the original films were such a success that they prompted a live action TV show and an animated series. While it’s no surprise that such a commercially successful commodity would make its way back into movie theaters, it was not a smooth process. A reboot was in the works at Fox in the ’80s, but it underwent decades of development hell before it would see the light of day. Tim Burton’s eventual effort, Planet of the Apes, was released in 2001 and panned by just about everyone. It made money, but the studio had no intention of making a sequel and Burton reportedly said he would rather jump out a window than sign on to do another one. That seemed to kill the franchise, but Fox wasn’t ready to let it rest. In 2010 it was announced that another film was on the way, like it or not.

    Burton’s film lowered the bar for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but in the end, it made no difference. The 2011 film would have surpassed even high expectations. By enlisting the unparalleled motion capture skills of Andy Serkis and utilizing the latest technology, Rise of the Planet of the Apes brings the apes to life in a way that none of the previous films were able to. Set in a world of medical experimentation and good intentions gone wrong, the movie rejects Burton’s “sword and sandal” genre in favor of something that resonated with contemporary audiences. The movie proved there was plenty of potential left in the franchise, and spawned equally acclaimed follow-ups, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, both of which honed in on the ape world over the human world and experimented with different genres.

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    1,279 VOTES

    Quentin Tarantino summed up the general consensus when George Miller announced he’d be rebooting his post-apocalyptic gearhead action series, Mad Max: “Mad Max? Without Mel Gibson? Forget that.” The 1979 original is beloved by fans, a dystopian thrill ride through a dusty wasteland full of brutal violence, biker gangs, and leather. It made Gibson a star, and was an audacious debut for Miller. It led to two sequels, each more unhinged and frenetic than the one before. Nearly 30 years later, the director announced that he was finally making a long-awaited “revisit” to the series. While the prospect of another Mad Max was exciting for many fans, Miller hadn’t exactly been shoring up his action movie credentials in the intervening years. Since making Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, his major releases included Babe: Pig in the CityThe Witches of Eastwick, and Happy Feet. Like Tarantino, fans of the original series were also confused by Miller’s decision to not bring back Mel Gibson. Tom Hardy was set to play his role, alongside a new character portrayed by Charlize Theron. With so many changes to the original and Miller’s propensity for delays and over-stretched budgets, Fury Road was an unknown quantity.

    When it was finally released in 2015, however, critics raved. It’s a “demented fever dream” of scrap metal barreling across a bone-dry wasteland. It has all the hallmarks of a standard blockbuster - breakneck speed, an abundance of explosions, minimal dialogue - but with minimal CGI and a world that belongs entirely to Miller. It was a smash at the box office and won six Oscars. In the end, Tarantino named it the best film of 2015.

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