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12 Hitchcock Remakes Ranked From Best To Worst

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For his next trick, David Fincher will be reteaming with his Gone Girl posse to make Alfred Hitchcock’s loco-thriller Strangers On A Train sing again on the big screen. Together with Ben Affleck (star) and Gillian Flynn (writer), he’ll be putting a modern spin on the Patricia Highsmith tale of a wealthy tennis-playing gadabout and the mysterious man who, during one carriage-borne conversation, promises to solve all his problems for him. Murder and sexual subversion will no doubt ensue once again, but only time will tell if the film lives up to the Hitchcock legacy. In the meantime, we’ve run the rule over those who’ve come before Fincher in revisiting the Master’s work and sorted the remakes into the good, bad and the almost-exactly-the-same.

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Director: Brian De Palma Based on Hitchcock's...* Vertigo (1958)

Much of Brian De Palma’s career has been about displaying his love for Hitchcock – see also: Body Double, Dressed To Kill, Sisters, Raising Cain – but probably his most intricate homage is Obsession, from Paul Schrader’s screenplay. You won’t find Vertigo referenced in the credits, but Obsession’s story of a man haunted by the death of his wife and years later running into her double, is really quite familiar. There are bits of Dial M For Murder and Notorious in there too, but the ending, though ambiguous, is markedly happier than Vertigo’s. Schrader hated it.

Most Hitchcocky moment: Any time the camera goes on a long prowl or circles the actors.

Rating (out of ten): 8

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Director: Gus Van Sant Based on Hitchcock's... *Psycho (1960)

By reputation one of the most absolutely pointless of pointless remakes. But in Gus Van Sant’s hands this is less a mercenary enterprise and more a cinematic experiment: can a shot-for-shot facsimile achieve the same results as before? If you’d never seen the original, would this have the same effect on you? And if not, why not? Maybe those are bogus questions, but Van Sant’s Psycho does intermittently work, particularly where Julianne Moore and Anne Heche are involved. Sadly for Vince Vaughn though, Anthony Perkins proved unmatchable.

Most Hitchcocky moment: Hitchcocky moments are the point of the whole thing, but he’d have enjoyed the bits where Van Sant went even further, like having Norman obviously jerking off behind that bathroom spyhole.

Rating (out of ten): 6

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock Based on Hitchcock's... *The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Bit of a cheat this entry, because Alfred Hitchcock of course stepped into the shoes of… well, himself, to apply a Hollywood sheen to his 1934 black and white British thriller. In place of Leslie Banks and Edna Best comes Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, a pair you’d need to be hard-hearted indeed not to find irresistible as two American fish who find themselves out of the water in the murky ponds of Marrakesh and London. The original’s monochrome tension, largely generated by a supremely creepy Peter Lorre, is sacrificed for thrills of a slightly less edgy, more Technicolored nature, and a bit where Doris Day sings that song about going to Wembley.

Most Hitchcocky Moment: Well, all of it (natch) but the reworked Albert Hall denouement, in which an assassin awaits a cymbal clash before pulling the trigger, is purest Hitchcock distilled into 12 tense, wordless minutes.

Rating (out of ten): 7

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Director: Robert Schwentke Based on Hitchcock's...* The Lady Vanishes (1938)

If you’re looking for a faithful remake of The Lady Vanishes, complete with Nazis and Angela Lansbury as the missing Mrs Froy, you’ll need the 1979 version. If you’re not looking for that here’s a high-concept, airplane-based reworking that separates Jodie Foster from her young daughter and then spends two hours unseparating them again. The original’s gossamer touch and comic moments are jettisoned in favour of an airline meal of a thriller that boasts an array of winningly shady types played by Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Scacchi and Sean Bean. But which one is behind this foul scheme? And how can there be so many secret compartments on one plane? Liam Neeson would have sorted all this out in 15 minutes.

Most Hitchcocky Moment: The initial disappearance sparks a satisfyingly Hitchcockian spiral into desperation. Is Foster’s aircraft engineer really the victim or is she just, um, plane crazy?

Rating (out of ten): 6

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Director: John Woo Based on Hitchcock's...* Notorious (1946)

An agent is teamed with a woman he’s never met before, whose father has just been convicted for spying. The woman agrees to revisit a past relationship as part of their mission to get close to the villain. Our hero isn’t too comfortable with this, but goes along with it. The villain’s amorous intentions distract him into jeopardising his plans. There is a smuggling setpiece at a racetrack. The heroine ends up drugged and our hero must rush to save her. Are we talking about Notorious or Mission: Impossible II here? Oh, it’s both.

Most Hitchocky moment: Not many, but it’s a Hitch-style romantic caper underneath the pyrotechnics and slow-mo.

Rating (out of ten): 6

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Director: D.J. Caruso Based on Hitchcock's...* Rear Window (1954)

D.J. Caruso’s teen comedy thriller made no secret of its indebtedness to Rear Window. Well, it couldn’t really, since both films involve a voyeur stuck at home (Disturbia’s on house arrest with an ankle tag, Rear Window’s with a broken leg) who becomes convinced that his neighbour is a killer. Rear Window was based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich, whose estate actually tried to sue DreamWorks for copyright infringement. The judge threw it out though, ruling that Disturbia and Rear Window were only “similar at a high, unprotectable level of generality”.

Most Hitchcocky moment: Creeping around to the neighbour’s.

Rating (out of ten): 6

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Director: Andrew Davis Based on Hitchcock's... *Dial M For Murder (1954)

Fifty years of gender politics mean Gwyneth Paltrow’s character is allowed to be less sappy than Grace Kelly, but in most respects bar the details of character and locations, A Perfect Murder hews pretty close to Dial M For Murder. It should, since it’s based on the same play by Frederick Knott. A husband on the brink of bankruptcy plans to kill his cheating wife for the life insurance, but the scheme backfires when wifey kills the hired assassin in self defence.

Most Hitchcocky moment: More in the scenes or psychological cat-and-mousery than in any stylistic flourishes.

Rating (out of ten): 5

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Director: Stephan Elliott Based on Hitchcock's...* Easy Virtue (1928)

Like Rebecca - a fairly straight adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel - you can’t really say that Easy Virtue ‘belongs’ to Hitchcock: the material is as much Noël Coward’s. So Stephan Elliott’s 2008 film is less a remake of Hitch’s 1927 silent and more what you might call ‘Cowardian’. Making it a screwball farce actually takes it some distance from Coward’s more sober play, but really it’s an English chamber piece about a toff bringing the ‘wrong sort of girl' home (an American, no less!) which makes it feel absolutely Coward anyway.

Most Hitchcocky moment: Really none. But it’s based on a melodrama... and Hitch loved a melodrama.

Rating (out of ten): 5

Director: Ron Silver
Based on Hitchcock's... Lifeboat (1944)

As an actor, Ron Silver has made lots of film 27 per cent better with his roguish charisma and his reliable on-screen villainy. As a director, he’s made Lifepod, a straight-to-TV movie that boasts a concept – “Lifeboat in space” – substantially higher than its budget. It’s 2169 and a glorified tourist cruiser, the Terrania, explodes in space, leaving eight of its complement confined to a tiny capsule and praying for rescue. It soon goes awry when someone sabotages the water supply. Unlike the Hitchcock original, there isn’t even a suspicious German to pin it on. But wait, who’s that in the corner of the pod? It’s Ron Silver. Mystery solved.

Most Hitchcocky Moment: Erm… er… it’s got a cameo from the director?

Rating (out of ten): 2

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Director: David Ondaatje Based on Hitchcock's...* The Lodger (1927)

Marie Belloc Lowndes’ murder-mystery novel The Lodger, with the feared Victorian nutjob Jack the Ripper at large within its pages, is essentially 1913’s equivalent of Manhunter. It was first adapted by Hitchcock in 1927 as one of his early, silent ones, but subsequent adaptations have sprung up in 1932, 1944 and 1953. David Ondaatje’s 2009 version updates the yarn from foggy London to sunny LA and splits it across two entwined plot lines, both duking it out to see which can be the least convincing. Hope Davis and Simon Baker’s vignette as a brittle landlady and her sinister-yet-handsome tenant just outdo jaded ‘tec Alfred Molina and his efforts to bring a serial killer to justice. Despite that strong cast, this film scored a 17 per cent approval rating on Metacritic. To put that into context, you get 16 per cent for spelling the film title correctly in the opening credits.

Most Hitchcocky Moment: About as far from Hitchcockian as it’s possible to get without spray-painting Mount Rushmore orange. Utter Hitchcack.

Rating (out of ten): 1

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Director: Jeff Bleckner Based on Hitchcock's...* Rear Window (1954)

Christopher Reeve’s “killer view” (geddit!) gets him into deep do-do when he think he’s spied a neighbour murdering their wife. There’s an emotional payoff in seeing Reeve’s art basically imitating his life – his quadriplegic character, architect Jason Kemp, mimics his own struggles to a fault (the film even opens with a lengthy rehabilitation sequence) – but thrilling this TV movie ain’t. Robert Forster, a cast member of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake in the same year, gets frequent Hitch-ing miles for his appearance here.

Most Hitchcocky Moment: When bad guy Ritchie Coster cuts Reeve’s oxygen supply. This bit is tense.

Rating (out of ten): 4

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Director: Don Sharp Based on Hitchcock's... *The 39 Steps (1935)

Of course, The 39 Steps was a John Buchan novel long before it was an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, but the debt each of the three subsequent adaptations has to Hitch is so obvious that it feels reasonable to include them here. The classic ‘wrong man’ formula has been revived in everything from Three Days Of The Condor to Enemy Of The State, but Richard Hannay, hunted yet somehow still debonair, is a character filmmakers just can’t leave behind. Witness the little-seen Kenneth More version (a colour adaptation in 1959) and, this, a ‘70s interpretation that boasts the suavest Hannay yet in Robert Powell. It’s the closest to the book in terms of fidelity but a little too stately to thrill.

Most Hitchcocky Moment: Take your pick between the biplane buzzing a frantically peddling moorland Hannay or Safety Last! Hannay clinging to the clockface of Big Ben. We think someone may have been watching North By Northwest too.

Rating (out of ten): 4