10 movies that should never be remade, ranked

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.
Warner Bros.

Remakes are quite popular these days, and it’s easy to understand why; if something worked before, it could always work again. Indeed, some stories have proven timeless, making it easier to adapt them to fit a new audience. Just look at A Star Is Born, already on its fourth adaptation. Films like West Side Story, Scarface, and most recently, Dune proved that some remakes can even surpass the original by expanding on and enriching their themes.

However, some movies are simply so iconic, so meaningful for their specific time and place that they become untouchable. No remake will ever be able to replicate their success as their legacies are too vast. These 10 movies are institutions in the cinematic medium that should never be remade.

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey as Clementine and Joel in bed together in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Image via Focus Features

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet star in Michel Gondry’s sci-fi romantic drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The plot centers on Joel Barrish and Clementine Kruczynski, a couple who undergo procedures to forget each other following a painful breakup. However, they meet each other again and unsuspectingly strike a up connection.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is among the few modern films that can truly be considered classics. Featuring a spectacular script from Charlie Kaufman, the film cleverly navigates the intricacies of love and heartache through a remarkably original approach that could only come from a singular creative mind. Eternal Sunshine is a true original, and no remake will ever match its delightfully subversive nature — so why try? Leave this one alone, I beg you.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is available to stream on Peacock.

9. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge with two of his friends in the film A Clockwork Orange.
Image via Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick’s unsettling psychological crime film A Clockwork Orange remains as incendiary today as it was when it first came out in 1971. In a career-defining performance, Michael McDowell stars as Alex DeLarge, a criminal who spends his days killing, raping, and committing acts of “ultraviolence” in a dystopian version of Great Britain. Things change when he’s apprehended and must undergo a process to reform his antisocial tendencies.

Controversial at the time of its release, A Clockwork Orange is now widely considered a classic sci-fi masterpiece and a seminal entry in 1970s cinema. Its themes of desensitization, dehumanization, and authoritarianism are still relevant today, and its confrontational tone rings true now more than ever. Many modern directors could do the material justice, but a remake of this film would not only pale in comparison to the original, but it would also lack its explosive impact on pop culture.

A Clockwork Orange is available to stream on Max.

8. The Princess Bride (1987)

Wesley protecting Buttercup from an unseen attacker in The Princess Bride
Image via 20th Century Studios

A delightful classic in the fantasy movie genre, The Princess Bride stars Cary Elwes as Westley, a sweet farmhand who’s in love with Buttercup (Robin Wright), the beautiful young woman living on the farm. The two fall in love, and he leaves to seek fortune so he can marry her. However, when he’s presumed dead, a heartbroken Buttercup agrees to marry the odious Prince Humperdinck.

The Princess Bride is the epitome of fantasy. Charming, sweeping, funny, and utterly irresistible, the film casts a spell on the audience and becomes outright addictive. Its sweet, enchanting plot is the very definition of timeless, offering something for everyone and possessing the perfect balance of romance, humor, action, and adventure. The Princess Bride is the closest thing cinema can come to perfection, and one simply cannot improve on perfection. A remake of this film is simply inconceivable.

The Princess Bride is available to stream on Disney+.

7. The Sound of Music (1965)

Julie Andrews as Maria spreading her arms in the alps in The Sound of Music.
Image via 20th Century-Studios

“The hills are alive with the sound of music.” The phrase has become synonymous with the musical genre itself, and the image of Julie Andrews running through the Alps while belting this tune is an iconic part of American cinema. Based on the 1959 stage musical, the film tells the story of the Von Trapp family and their experiences with their governess, Maria.

The Sound of Music was a box office juggernaut when it premiered in March 1965; adjusted for inflation, it hauled in a whopping $1.3 billion! Not bad for a signing nun. Beyond commercial success, The Sound of Music benefitted from a less cynical audience that was more than happy to fall under its musical spell. There’s a deliberate innocence to the film, a shameless optimism that’s necessary to enjoy and appreciate it. Modern audiences would simply not respond as enthusiastically to a remake because, while the songs might be iconic, the story might be a tad dated to work in today’s cynical world.

The Sound of Music is available to stream on Disney+.

6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched looking at someone intently in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Image via United Artists

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Miloš Forman’s subversive psychological drama, stars Jack Nicholson and the late Louise Fletcher in Oscar-winning roles. The plot follows Randle McMurphy, a man who fakes mental issues to avoid hard labor after being sentenced to prison. He arrives at a mental institution ruled by the wicked Nurse Ratched, and a battle of wills begins.

Powered by two spectacular lead performances and featuring one of cinema’s all-time best villains, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a transgressive work of New Hollywood brilliance. Nicholson and Fletcher give titanic performances, while Forman adopts a naturalistic approach to depict life inside a mental institution. The film was so striking and influential because of the specific time and place it existed in, and it captured its disruptive era with flawless and sharp precision. The result is a striking film that’s far from perfect, yet we still talk about it with high regard. Trying to replicate its lightning-in-a-bottle success would be a thankless task.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is available to stream on Netflix.

5. The Seventh Seal (1957)

Death playing chess with a medieval knight in The Seventh Seal.
Image via SF Studios

Few cinematic images are as instantly recognizable as that of a medieval knight playing chess with a man dressed in a black cloak. Ingmar Bergman’s 1953 historical fantasy film The Seventh Seal follows Antonius Block, a disillusioned knight who faces the personification of Death during the Black Death in Denmark.

If there’s a quote to summarize The Seventh Seal‘s themes, it would be this one: “Why should He hide himself in a mist of half-spoken promises and unseen miracles?” The film deals with age-old questions about faith, destiny, and the meaning of life in such an insightful, yet elusive way that it’s almost impossible to describe with mere words. The Seventh Seal is among the few films that must truly be experienced; it doesn’t seek to be understood or appreciated, but rather witnessed and absorbed. What Bergman does here is create a fable without a moral, asking questions it cannot answer and forcing audiences to confront the so-called Silence of God. No film could ever match its shrewdness, nor should they try.

The Seventh Seal is available to stream on Max.

4. All About Eve (1950)

Bill Sampson and Margo Channing embracing in All ABout Eve
Image via 20th Century Studios

“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” The mighty Bette Davis stars in the timeless role of Margo Channing in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1950 drama All About Eve. The plot concerns Channing, an acclaimed, but aging Broadway star, who forms a complicated dynamic with the ambitious Eve Harrington, an aspiring actress who inserts herself into Channing’s life.

All About Eve is an American classic. It’s among the most nominated films at the Oscars and features what is possibly one of the all-time best screenplays ever written. However, if there’s one thing that stands out in this film, it’s Davis. Arguably the best actress of classic Hollywood, Davis delivers the performance of a lifetime as the mercurial Margo Channing. Davis’ icy, yet vulnerable performance is perfect for this biting exploration of fame, legacy, and show business. Many modern actresses could do a good, and maybe even great job in the role; however, none would ever be able to match Davis in the role.

All About Eve is available to rent or purchase on Amazon and other digital vendors.

3. Citizen Kane (1941)

Charles Foster Kane givign a speech in Citizen Kane
Image via Warner Bros. Discovery

Orson Welles’ seminal triumph, Citizen Kane, is often regarded as the single greatest film of all time. Controversially based on William Randolph Hearst’s life, the film follows Charles Foster Kane’s rise, death, and polarizing legacy.

Citizen Kane has a legacy that few, if any, films can live up to. It topped the famous Sight & Sound poll for five consecutive decades and also placed No. 1 in the American Film Institute’s 1998 list of the 100 Best American Films and its 2007 update. There’s really not much else to say here. Citizen Kane‘s reputation is just too big for any film to compare. On principle, any remake would be not only unnecessary — it would be outright criminal.

Citizen Kane is available to stream on Max.

2. The Godfather Trilogy (1972-1990)

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone looking serious in The Godfather Part II.
Image via Paramount Pictures

It’s not an overstatement to call The Godfather the best trilogy in cinematic history. Francis Ford Coppola’s crime saga based on Mario Puzo’s novels has become an institution in world cinema, marking a before-and-after in the way audiences see the crime genre.

The first film directly influenced the real-life mafia — there’s even a book about it! It is quite literally impossible to state just how influential the first two movies in this trilogy are. They forever altered public perception of the Cosa Nostra, revolutionized the gangster genre for New Hollywood, and gave Marlon Brando what is arguably his most iconic role. Objectively speaking, The Godfather and its first sequel are true masterpieces that remain very present in modern pop culture. And while the third film is … disappointing, The Godfather trilogy is still a trailblazing, game-changing entry in cinema. It keeps inspiring audiences and artists, even more than 50 years since its debut. Why touch it? Let it be because its mere existence is enough.

The Godfather trilogy is available to stream on Paramount+.

1. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh embracing in Gone with the Wind.
Image via Loew’s Inc.

Did you know Gone with the Wind remains the highest-grossing film in Hollywood history? Adjusted for inflation, the 1939 classic stands at a truly ridiculous $1.8 billion domestically. To put that into perspective, Avengers: Endgame grossed $858 million. It’s impossible to describe just how big a phenomenon this film was when it premiered in 1939, to the point where I dare say no film has ever matched the euphoria it provoked among audiences.

Yes, Gone with the Wind is among the very few movies that have truly earned the descriptor “larger than life.” However, it’s also very much a product of its time — ridiculously so. Any attempt to remake this film would implode spectacularly because modern standards are at odds with its outdated and offensive views on race, stereotypes, gender dynamics, rape, and slavery. Gone with the Wind is a minefield of themes, and while we can appreciate it for what it is, hardly anyone would want to see a modern interpretation of it. It’s fine where it is, and where it belongs.

Gone with the Wind is available to stream on Max.

Editors’ Recommendations