5 Famous Films Which Are Remakes Of Foreign Language Originals
The world of cinema is a business and production companies are keen to build on the success of previous endeavours. Whether it is releasing Fast & Furious 44 (or whatever number we are up to now), or revamping a classic film like The Jungle Book for a new audience. There is always a way to build on a prior success. The other option open to filmmakers is to explore the world of Foreign Language Cinema. This then allows them to rework an existing foreign language film for English speaking countries. While many don’t mind watching a film with subtitles, others struggle. This means that companies will maximise audiences by remaking films in English. So we have taken a look at 5 films which are remakes of foreign language originals.
5 Films Which Are Remakes of Foreign Language Originals
The Departed (2006) – Originally Infernal Affairs (2002)
With a string of awards, including four Oscars, The Departed is one of the most popular and watched crime thrillers from the 21st century. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, to name a few, it has a powerful cast behind it. As well as this, it was directed by cinema legend Martin Scorcese. But the behind the film can be given to Scorcese, the cast or screenplay writer William Monahan. The Departed actually started life 4 years earlier in Hong Kong as a film entitled Infernal Affairs.
While Infernal Affairs received praise across Asia upon its release, its release in English speaking countries was limited. However, it did catch the eye of Plan B Productions, owned by Brad Pitt. The rights to the English speaking remake were snapped up and production began on the newly named The Departed.
While the plot of the two movies are the same, there are a few differences. The style of the two films are very different with Infernal Affairs feeling a lot grittier than its American counterpart. There is also a difference in run time between the two. Infernal Affairs runs for a standard 101 minutes (very common run-time for films of this nature), whereas The Departed clocks in at 150 minutes!
The Departed was the most lauded out of the two films internationally upon release. But it should be noted that Infernal Affairs spawned 2 direct sequels. It has also been considered by many to have been a turning point for Chinese cinema.
If you fancy giving Infernal Affairs a watch, it is a great chance to start learning Mandarin and Cantonese. As with any film, the best thing to do is to set subtitles on and follow along.
Downhill (2020) – Originally Force Majeure (2014)
There are certain films which get remade into the English language which don’t have the success of The Departed. In 2020 the co-produced French, Norwegian and Swedish black-comedy Force Majeure was remade as American comedy Downhill. The story focuses on a family on a skiing holiday as the main couple go through marital tensions. The tensions reach a pinnacle when the husband prioritises his own safety over that of his family during an avalanche.
While both films follow the same plot and are similar in many ways, Downhill was considered an audience flop. The website Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates audience reviews of films has Downhill listed with a score of 37%. Meanwhile, Force Majeure holds an impressive 94% score as well as multiple awards and nominations across the world.
One of the main reasons for this difference can simply be put down to the humour within the film and the audiences appreciation of the style. Scandinavia in particular is famous for its dark-comedy films such as In Order of Disappearance and Dead Snow. While the USA produces some of the most successful comedy films in the world, they tend to be on the traditional side of the genre. This can lead to the reason why audiences failed to enjoy or find Downhill as amusing as their European counterparts. The casting of Will Ferrell in the lead role will have also had an impact. Seeing a traditionally ‘slapstick’ comedian may have lead audiences to believe the comedy would be more outlandish than it was.
This is definitely one example of a situation where films which are remakes of a foreign language film is not the more popular. Featuring a wide range of languages, Force Majeure is a great film to watch while learning languages, or exploring new languages to learn.
Three Men and a Baby (1987) – Originally Trois hommes et un Couffin (1985)
One of the older films in this list of films which are remakes of foreign language films is the classic comedy Three Men and a Baby! This feel-good comedy starring Tom Selleck, Steve Gutenberg and Ted Danson was a staple for every home video collection in the 1990’s. But the film started a few years earlier as French comedy Trois Hommese et un Couffin (Three Men and a Cradle).
While the film follows the same plot and comedic style as the original, the American remake was rewritten to suit the American audience. While the remake was popular across the English speaking world it didn’t receive as much critical acclaim as the original. However, its popularity did lead to a sequel three years later in Three Men and a Little Lady.
It should also be noted that the American remake was not the only one for the French comedy. It has been remade seven times in total, in seven different languages!
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The Ring (2002) – Originally Ringu (1998)
Where would a list of films which are remakes be without mentioning The Ring? This psychological horror is one of the most famous remakes in recent years. Originally just titled Ringu, this terrifying horror launched a new wave of horror films for the 21st Century.
While both films were very popular upon their releases, there are some differences between the two. The original Japanese version offers a much more subtle and daunting experience while watching. On the other side, the American version provides a more ‘traditional’ horror film experience. This difference can be linked to the audience preferences for horror in the East and West.
Both films lead to an increase in Asian horror making its way across to the United States in the noughties. Films such as The Grudge, Mirrors and Dark Water are all perfect examples of Asian Horror cinema which made the trip. Due to the success of originals and remakes in English speaking countries the discussions will always be there as to which version is better. But we’re happy to say that in our opinions with these films, the remakes are just as good as the originals.
While terrifying, Ringu is an ideal film to watch while learning Japanese. That is, if you can keep your eyes on the screen long enough to read the subtitles.
Oldboy (2013) – Originally Oldboy (2003)
Before Bong Joon-ho took the world by storm with Parasite, Park Chan Wook was the Korean director in the world. His 2003 film Oldboy took the world by storm upon its release. Its mixture of beautiful cinematography, action and mystery (not to mention the twist at the end) helped see the film spread across the world. It was no surprise to see an American remake appear, it was just a shock it took 10 years.
The two films are identical in their plot and almost match scene-for-scene at points. Not to say director Spike Lee didn’t put his own twist on the modern classic. One of the most infamous sequences in the original (a fight sequence in one-take) was replicated in the American version but with varying differences. No matter the differences between the two films, they both follow the same plot of a man trying to discover the truth about himself and his past.
Yet, despite the similarities, the 2013 remake never reached the levels of popularity and accolades as the original. Rotten Tomatoes currently lists OldBoy (2013) with a score of 39% where as the original sits on a comfortable 81%. The difference could be attributed to the length of time between the two releases and the critical acclaim on the original.
Watching the original Oldboy with subtitles on is the most effective way of experiencing this Korean mystery. It also allows you to start learning and picking up parts of the Korean language while being entertained. What a perfect way to learn!
Films Which are Remakes of Foreign Language Originals & How to Get the Most Out of Watching World Cinema
Watching foreign language films with subtitles on is a great and enjoyable way to improve your language skills. From picking up dialogue and improving your listening skills, there are so many benefits. Not only do you get to be entertained by the story unfolding in-front of you, you can also discover details about a country’s culture. Activities such as this combined with a language course will give you all the tools to progress on your language learning journey. With over 20 languages to choose from and the choice of studying online or in-person in Brighton, Manchester or London, there is something for everyone. Join one of our group courses today and you will soon be watching your new favourite film without subtitles!