Kurt Russell in 'The Thing'

The immiment release of the intense modern-day family drama Brothers may not make you think instantly of science fiction, but Jim Sheridan's film, starring Jake Gyllenhall, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman, is a remake of Susanne Bier's original from just five years ago, and that got me to thinking about sci-fi remakes, which have mostly had the good sense to wait a longer period of time before cashing in on the original visions.

With all due respect to my friend and colleague Eugene Novikov, who compiled a list of his favorite sci-fi remakes for Cinematical last year, around the time that the cringe-inducing remake The Day the Earth Stood Still came out, my Top Ten is much better (or, at least, different, though we overlap on a couple of picks). To make things more interesting, I've included a few unofficial remakes to round out the list.

1. The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter's remake, still based on a novella by John W. Campbell Jr., cuts to the bone. The 1951 original, credited to Christian Nyby but popularly understood to be under the control of producer Howard Hawks, is visually striking and narratively propulsive, but Carpenter's version, with a precisely-written script by Bill Lancaster and featuring a superb musical score by Ennio Morricone, creates a moody, nerve-jangling atmosphere from the outset, and slowly sets out to dismantle the very idea of uber-macho men crumbling -- and occasionally persevering -- under the crushing weight of fear. Kurt Russell, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Wilford Brumley, and Donald Moffat stand out among the uniformly strong cast. With each viewing, Carpenter's remake reveals more layers, while the original remains firmly lodged in its time and place.
categories Sci-Fi