Have you ever heard someone say that Hollywood is running out of new ideas and that’s why they keep remaking films? Well, we don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but we do know that Hollywood recognizes when they’ve got a good story on their hands. No filmmaker is too good to remake a story that’s already grossed millions and become popular enough to warrant yet another film adaptation. Think about it. Between TV shows, films, and loose interpretations, how many times have you seen the story of Romeo and Juliet on your screen? Probably dozens, if not more.
Romeo and Juliet isn’t the only story to get this Hollywood treatment over and over again. Classics have a tendency to resurface from time to time, and these are just 17 of the most remade adaptations we’ve seen on screen.
17. Little Women
Originally a two-volume novel published in 1868, Little Women has proved to be a popular adaptation among filmmakers. The coming-of-age story follows four sisters from childhood to womanhood, and it began its film run in 1917 with a silent version. The first version with sound was released in 1933, directed by George Cukor, and again in 1949, 1978, and 1994 (that one starred big names like Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, and Christian Bale). Little Women also became a TV musical in 1958 and was remade as a series four times by BBC. The Broadway version of Little Women debuted in 2005, and various other remakes of the story have popped up throughout the years. Another film adaptation is currently in the works from director Greta Gerwig, starring Lady Bird alums Soarise Ronan and Timothée Chalamet. Clearly it’s a story that people will keep coming back to, no matter how many times it is redone.
We all know the story of Little Orphan Annie. There’s a reason that songs like “Tomorrow” and “Hard Knock Life” are so popular, and it might have to do with the fact that there’s been at least three adaptations of this film. The original film, released in 1982, was adapted from the Broadway musical — which was based on a 1924 comic strip called Little Orphan Annie. It’s set during the Great Depression and tells the story of Annie as she is adopted by a rich socialite. Since then, the original story was adapted twice, once in 1999 and again in 2014. Marvel Comics also published a comic book adaptation of the film, and Annie: A Royal Adventure was released in 1995 as a spin-off to the 1982 film. No other adaptations are currently in the works, but it seems like this story is overdue for a TV series.
15. A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is another story that we know like the back of our hands. Who hasn’t heard the term Scrooge used for anyone who is bringing down the life of a party? As we’re sure you know, the term comes from the main character of the 1843 Charles Dickens novel, Ebenezer Scrooge, who hates Christmas until he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. The original stage adaptation of the book began its run in 1964, but it is also a popular piece for community theater every winter and has been re-adapted for the stage in countless forms. In 1944, a broadcast station in New York adapted the story for live television, and various networks have developed TV movie versions since then. Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner starred in the romantic comedy, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, which is a loose adaptation of the story. Popular animated shows, such as Sesame Street and The Smurfs have done their own take on A Christmas Carol, and it remains an iconic choice for any show’s Christmas special.
Spider-Man is quite possibly the most remade superhero adaptation of all time, simply because Marvel couldn’t seem to get it right. The first live-action film based on Spider-Man was filmed in 1969 and was followed by another TV movie in 1977. Eventually, Sony picked up the rights to the films, and we got the first three big-budget films starring Tobey Maguire in 2002, 2004, and 2007. In 2010, Sony rebooted the entire franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, starring Andrew Garfield. It wasn’t until 2015 that Disney, Marvel Studios and Sony decided to incorporate Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as an Avenger. Tom Holland made his debut as Spider-Man in 2016 in Captain America: Civil War and got his own reboot as the superhero in 2017 with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Let’s hope that this subdues the Spider-Man remakes for a while.
Do you think Mary Shelley knew the monster — literally and figuratively — she was creating when she wrote Frankenstein in 1818? Probably not. Frankenstein’s monster is one of the most popular movie monsters to appear in film, in both direct adaptations of the book and spin-offs. Frankenstein was adapted as a film at least six times between 1910 and 2015, but the monster is also featured in films such as Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein. Not to mention the animated versions of Frankenstein and the mentions in popular franchises like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Hotel Transylvania. Additionally, on TV, we’ve seen depictions of Frankenstein’s monster in popular characters such as Herman Munster from The Munsters and Lurch from The Addams Family. There are even a few novels that serve as modern day Frankenstein retellings. If you love this story, there’s more than enough content to keep you satisfied basically forever.
12. Night of the Living Dead
Written and directed by George Romero, Night of the Living Dead is known as the original zombie story. The film began as an independent film with a budget of around $100,000. After its premiere in 1968, it grossed over $30 million, making it an instant classic and kick starting society’s obsession with zombies. Since then, Romero directed the next five …of the Dead films, including Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. At the same time, the co-writer of the original Night of the Living Dead, John Russo, released a film called Return of the Living Dead and four consecutive sequels. The first remake of the original film debuted in 1990, the second in 2006, and the third in 2009. In fact, this film has a public domain status — so anyone can remake it. That may be why we continue to see remakes and adaptations, both direct and indirect, popping up left and right.
Technically, the first adaptation of Dracula wasn’t even a direct one. In 1922, F.W. Murnau directed a German horror film called Nosferatu, which was set in Transylvania and featured a Dracula-like vampire named Count Orlok. Before this 1897 book was actually turned into a film, it was dramatized for the stage in 1927. In 1931, Bela Lugosi starred as Dracula in the first film adaptation, which spurred hundreds of further adaptations and spin-offs, including the 1958 Horror of Dracula, the 1970 Count Dracula and the 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of the number of times that Dracula has appeared in other films, including some of the Frankenstein spin-offs and other franchises (Count Chocula, anyone?).
10. Sherlock Holmes
You can’t think of detective work without immediately thinking of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the series of novels beginning in 1887 with A Study in Scarlet. Since the 1900s, the famous character has appeared on screen several times as well. In 1916, a silent film was adapted for Conan Doyle’s Valley of Fear, and since then, Holmes has rarely left the popular culture sphere. The books have been adapted into around a dozen films, including the 2009 Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey, Jr. We can’t forget about television, either. BBC seems to love Holmes and his sidekick James Watson, because they’ve adapted the stories for the small screen a number of times beginning in 1951 with a miniseries. In 2009, BBC began probably their most popular venture into the realm of Sherlock Holmes with their series Sherlock, created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
Everyone knows the story of Cinderella falling in love with Prince Charming at the ball and living happily ever after. Well before Disney coined the princess, she appeared in folklore and myths, including The Brothers Grimm fairy tales (where the story was much darker than any Disney version). In 1950, Disney adapted the story into an animated movie and popularized the singing mice, evil stepsisters and glass slippers. The Disney film film was succeeded by dozens of live action adaptations, including the gender-swapped film Cinderfella (1960), A Cinderella Story (2004), and Cinderella (2015). There are a number of other films and TV series inspired by the story of Cinderella or referencing the character, such as Once Upon A Time and Ever After.
8. Beauty and the Beast
Cinderella may have come first, but she isn’t the only Disney Princess to garner tons of attention. Way before the 1991 animated version, a film was released in 1946 called La Belle et La Bête, and thus started the journey to the Beauty and the Beast we know today. Two more live action versions were released in 1962 and 1976 before Disney released the animated version that we all know and love. CBS also made a Beauty and the Beast TV series in 1987. In 2011, the film adaptation of the book Beastly gave the story a modern twist, and in 2012 The CW released a new Beauty and the Beast series. These two characters have appeared in other shows, like Once Upon a Time, as well. Of course we can’t forget about the 2017 live action Beauty and the Beast remake starring Emma Watson.
7. Freaky Friday
You thought Freaky Friday was just that one movie starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis? HA. (Don’t worry, most of us did, too.) Actually, the story is based on a book by Mary Rodgers, published in 1972 and first adapted in 1976. The book has seen two more film adaptations — in 1995 and 2003 — and a musical — in 2018 — since then. The sequel novel, Summer Switch, also received the Hollywood treatment with a made-for-TV movie in 1984. There’s speculation that the entire premise Freaky Friday — about a mom and a daughter who switch bodies — is based on a book published in 1882 called Vice Versa, which is about a son and a father who switch bodies. People must really love the concept because it continues to garner attention and remakes to this day.
6. The Three Musketeers
Like just about every film on this list, The Three Musketeers was most likely made a household name from the Disney version of the film, which premiered in 1993. However, the story was being told long, long before that. The book was written in 1844 by Alexandre Dumas and Clarissa Hutton, and the first American version of the film was released in 1914, but a French production was released a decade prior in 1903. Not including animated films and others that were possibly inspired by The Three Musketeers, this story has seen around 35 adaptations from all over the world, including Mexico, Russia, and more. We’ve also had musicals, sequels, and even a Mickey Mouse spin-off in Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers.
5. King Kong
King Kong made his appearance on screen in the 1933 version of the film by the same name. As a giant gorilla who terrorizes the city, it’s understandable that the character made waves in popular culture. A sequel to King Kong was released that same year, titled Son of Kong. In 1976, a remake of the original film was released, which was also followed by a sequel called Lady Kong. The latest remake was released in 2005, but is still set in 1933 and stars Naomi Watts and Jack Black. In 2017, Kong: Skull Island rebooted the franchise again but is set 40 years later in 1973. As with most of these films, we haven’t even discussed the number of sequels and other films that feature King Kong, like King Kong vs. Godzilla set to reboot again in 2020.
4. Oliver Twist
We might not have known we loved Charles Dickens, but apparently we do. A Christmas Carol isn’t the only one of his novel to be made into countless adaptations. Oliver Twist — which follows an orphan sold into apprenticeship — made it to film for the first time in 1909. Between 1912 and 2005, there have been 13 film adaptations and one musical directly based on the events of Oliver Twist. BBC also took on the novel as a miniseries in 2007. Other films, such as Oliver Twist, Jr., Twisted, and Oliver and the Artful Dodger are also loosely based on the characters and story as well.
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
This novel by Roald Dahl is a children’s classic. Everyone knows the story of Willy Wonka and the kids who won the golden ticket to visit his chocolate factory. It’s such a classic that, so far, we’ve seen at least four adaptations of the story since 1971 when the first movie starring Gene Wilder, titled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, was released. In 2005, Johnny Depp reprised the role of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There have also been two stage adaptations of the story. The first was an opera called The Golden Ticket and the second is a musical that is still running on West End in London, called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In 2016, Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the character and the Roald Dahl estate, and rumors have swirled about a possible reboot.
2. The Great Gatsby
A story about a man who throws lavish parties hoping the woman of his dreams will show up to one of them so they can fall in love? Sounds romantic, huh? Well it must be, because since the release of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in 1925, four film adaptations have already made their way to the big screen. The first adaptation came in 1949, followed by ones in 1974, 2000, and 2013. You may know the 2013 version because it features our beau Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. There’s also a silent film version, made in 1926, and a film called G, which is loosely based on the events of The Great Gatsby.
1. Romeo & Juliet
We know that the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet often comes to mind whenever we think of this Shakespearean tragedy, but the story was first adapted long before that. Written for the stage, Romeo and Juliet has been performed for centuries. However, the first film version was released in 1908, and was adapted again in 1911, 1916, 1936, 1954, 1982, 1996, and 2000 — and that’s just in the United States alone. Hundreds of film and TV adaptations have been released across the world, and even more stories have been created based on the narrative, like the 1957 musical West Side Story. Everyone knows the story of the lovers who were willing to die for their love, and it’s a timeless plot that is added into romances all the time.