Most movies are reboots these days (or reimaginings or reinventions or however else Hollywood can spin it), to the point where it’s not just superheroes getting rebooted every time the previous one reaches their sell-by date. Soon enough, we’ll have a Citizen Kane reboot, followed by a Citizen Kane cinematic universe, exploring all the different characters and their backstories. Pretty much every movie or franchise that’s ever been popular is getting a reboot now. There are over a hundred reboots in development at any given time. Sometimes they work out well, when the creative team is committed to making the best movie they can, as was the case with Spider-Man: Homecoming, our third Spider-Man franchise in 15 years. However, sometimes it can fail miserably, and it’s merely a shameless cash-in, because Tinseltown suits are too lazy to make a new, original brand popular in its own right, so they use something someone else already made popular. Some reboots fail hard, like this year’s The Mummy starring Tom Cruise, which was supposed to be successful enough to kickstart an entire universe of movies, but was in fact not even successful enough to break even on its own. But with so many reboots saturating the market and so few originals making their way onto our screens, it can be hard to tell whether you’re watching the former or the latter. So, can you tell if these movies are reboots or originals?
The Amazing Spider-Man
Tom Holland plays Spider-Man now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he’s not the first actor to play him. The Amazing Spider-Man was the seventh highest grossing movie of the year it was out, raking in more than $700 million at the worldwide box office. Rhys Ifans played Dr. Curt Connors, also known as the classic Spidey villain The Lizard, marking the first time Marvel Comics’ Lizard character was portrayed in a movie. The movie also explored Peter Parker’s parents. But was this one the first Spider-Man movie or a reboot?
Wonder Woman has been one of this year’s biggest hits, both critically and commercially. After stealing the show in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which, in all fairness, was an easy show to steal), Gal Gadot took center stage in her own movie. Critics and audiences alike fell in love with the movie, which has smashed a bunch of box office records and still going strong. But in a world where superheroes are booted and then rebooted at the drop of a dime, is this the first movie incarnation of Wonder Woman or a reboot?
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a great movie with a strong message about scientific experimentation on animals and the dangers of evolution. It stars James Franco in the lead role alongside Andy Serkis’ brilliant and ground-breaking work with performance capture technology. Rise led to two sequels, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the latest, War for the Planet of the Apes (in theaters now), directed by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves. But was Rise of the Planet of the Apes originally a reboot or was it the dawn of the franchise?
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Warner Bros. was hoping that Guy Ritchie’s take on the legend of King Arthur would be an enormous blockbuster smash hit. Frankly, it was a little less than that. The studio had big plans for a franchise spawned from the Charlie Hunnam-led epic fantasy. There were no less than five sequels planned. It’s now projected to lose the studio $150 million, so those five sequels have probably gone out the window at this point. The King Arthur legend has been portrayed time and time again on film, but was this version a reboot of an earlier version or an original take?
Earlier this year, Dax Shephard directed, wrote, and starred in CHiPs, an action-packed buddy cop comedy where he plays a motorcycle cop named Officer Jon Baker alongside Michael Pena’s Frank “Ponch” Poncherello. The movie didn’t do well with the critics, who gave it a 16% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It didn’t do well financially either. It cost $25 million to make (and that’s not counting the marketing costs), and only made $25.5 million at the box office. That’s slim, right? So, was it an original or a reboot?
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
This year, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, an adaptation of Dav Pilkey’s brilliant children’s books, was released. It was oddly cheap to produce, considering it was a DreamWorks computer animation and it stars heavyweight A-list talent like Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, and Jordan Peele. The budget was $38 million (whereas these movies usually cost upwards of $150 million), and it’s good that it was so cheap because it’s only made $80 million at the box office. But in all the twenty years Dav Pilkey’s wonderful children’s books have been around, has there been another previous film adaptation or is this year’s DreamWorks version the first?
2011’s Fright Night is a wonderfully funny horror movie about a teenage boy who discovers his neighbor is a vampire. It boasts a heck of a cast, including the late, great Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin), David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, Dave Franco, and (for some reason) singer Lisa Loeb. There were some great people behind the scenes, too, with Steven Spielberg getting heavily involved with the storyboarding, script revisions, and editing process, and Game of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi composing the score. But is it an original movie or a reboot?
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
In 2014, Paramount Pictures released an action spy thriller movie called Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also appears in a supporting role alongside Chris Pine, who stars in the title role, and Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley. The movie was a modest success making back $135 million on a $60 million budget. It’s about a CIA analyst who uncovers a terrorist plot to ruin Barack Obama’s hard work on the US economy. Sounds thrilling, right? But was it a reboot or an original movie?
Hitman: Agent 47
Movies based on video games never work out. The same, of course, goes for this attempt at translating the wildly popular Hitman games for the big screen. In game form, it’s an intriguing, mysterious, and thrilling narrative. But on the silver screen, with Rupert Friend in the title role as Agent 47, it just comes off as – in the words of its Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus – “a sleekly hollow mélange of dull violence and product placement.” But was it a reboot?
Quentin Tarantino’s ode to the Sergio Leone spaghetti western (presented controversially through the lens of American slavery) was the biggest hit of his career when it was released back in 2012, and still is to this day. Django is an existing spaghetti western franchise starring Franco Nero in the title role, a role which he reprises briefly in Django Unchained to let Jamie Foxx’s Django know that he already knows the D is silent. Now, was Django Unchained a reboot of the Django series or simply an original movie taking influence from it?
The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys was possibly the best movie of 2016. It was certainly the funniest and the most wildly entertaining. It stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in the roles of Holland March and Jackson Healy, respectively, who are a pair of PIs embroiled in a noirish plot involving murder, kidnapping, and theft (and porn). Unfortunately, we’ll probably never see a Gosling/Crowe sequel, since the movie didn’t do so well financially, but it really, really deserves one. If you haven’t seen it, go and check it out immediately. If you have, was it a reboot?
2016’s Deadpool, which was a huge hit with a $763 million worldwide gross, breaking countless box office records for R-rated movies during its theatrical run, was the movie that finally got Deadpool right on screen. Ryan Reynolds reprised the role from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which completely fluffed the character and wasn’t faithful to the comics at all. It really didn’t do Deadpool justice. But with his own movie, in that same canon, they finally got it right. But was the standalone movie a reboot of a previous version or have we only ever had the Ryan Reynolds version?
Starring George Clooney, Tomorrowland was a misguided attempt to bring the wonders of science and nostalgia of the 1950s to a big budget Disney movie. It’s got some fun moments, but ultimately it wasn’t meant to be a franchise in today’s blockbuster market, projected to have lost Disney well over $100 million. It was based on the Disney theme park of the same name, and would’ve been more successful a few decades ago. But was it a reboot of a previous Disney theme park-based movie franchise or an original movie?
With Piranha 3D, Hollywood suits figured out an amazing untapped corner of the market: 3D boobs! So, they put together a bunch of porn stars, like Riley Steele and Gianna Michaels, along with some comedy actors to keep it light, like Adam Scott and Paul Scheer, and a bunch of has-beens to make the viewers go, “Oh, look, it’s them,” like Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames (Marsellus Wallace), Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown), and Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws. But is it a reboot or an original flick?
By all accounts, Jupiter Ascending should’ve been a huge hit. It stars two A-list actors – Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis – and it’s a big budget spectacle. It wasn’t as big a hit as Warner Bros. might have hoped, however, so we won’t be seeing a sequel any time soon. Maybe a reboot, decades from now (or a few months, given how quickly Hollywood works). The Wachowski siblings brought a Matrix-style twinge to a Star Wars-like space opera world with the movie that was quite fascinating, but it sadly failed to connect with audiences. Was it a reboot?
While it didn’t do so well because it cost a relatively large budget to produce and it’s filled with graphic violence that put some viewers off, Dredd is actually a brilliant movie. It’s based on the 2000 AD comics and it captured perfectly what they’re all about. Director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland – as well as Karl Urban’s terrific turn in the lead role – made Dredd a movie by fans for fans. But was it the first attempt at a Judge Dredd movie or an improvement on an earlier attempt?
Keanu Reeves’ striking and addictive portrayal of ex-hitman John Wick earned him the first of many sequels this year as he was geared up to take on every single assassin in the world (so, pretty high stakes for next time). It was always meant to be a franchise. After the first movie came out, the CEO of Lionsgate said, “We see John Wick as a multiple-title action franchise.” It calls back to Asian action movies, but is it an American reboot of one or a wholly original concept?
The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie was a huge hit when it came out back in 2014. Based on the ridiculously popular toys, it was computer animated and packed full of A-list stars and their voices, and audiences flocked to it. It’s since spawned spin-offs based on everything from Lego Batman to Lego Ninjago, as well as an upcoming sequel, whose title was a strain of the imagination: The Lego Movie Sequel. But was this successful franchise a reboot of earlier Lego movies or simply an original take?
The Incredible Hulk
Dr. Bruce Banner, better known as The Incredible Hulk, is now played by Mark Ruffalo in the Avengers movies (and more recently in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok), but he was once played by Fight Club’s Edward Norton. It didn’t work out too well, but the movie isn’t half bad. It also stars Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt, and it was shot dark and graded with very contrasty colors. It gives a nice cinematic effect without losing the comic booky feel. So, anyway, was The Incredible Hulk a reboot or not?
Fede Alvarez has been quietly making some of the greatest horror films of recent years. He hasn’t been showboating like James Wan, but he directed last year’s fantastic home invasion thriller Don’t Breathe, and the terrifying gem that is Evil Dead. The tagline for Evil Dead reads, “The most terrifying film you will ever experience,” and it’s not lying. It dropped the jaws of audience members back in 2013, who were horrified by the grisly images of arms severed off and human bodies shot up with nail guns. It’s great. But is it a reboot or an original movie?
Beethoven’s Big Break
This Beethoven has nothing to do with the famous composer. The composer is the far more entertaining Beethoven of the two. The movie version of Beethoven is a dog who gets into all kinds of wacky antics and misdeeds. The family who own him struggle to contend with these antics. Beethoven’s Big Break features such ‘huge’ stars as Jonathan Silverman, Jennifer Finnigan, and Moises Arias, alongside (for some weird reason) Eddie Griffin and Rhea Perlman (Carla from Cheers). But was Beethoven’s Big Break a reboot or original?
The level of British talent in St. Trinian’s, the tale of a bunch of unruly schoolgirls who pull together, is absurd. Not only did it launch the career of Gemma Arterton; it featured the acting talents of some whose careers had already been launched long ago. Are you ready? Here goes: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Russell Brand, Lena Headey (aka Cercei Lannister), Toby Jones, Stephen Fry (playing himself, of course), Lucy Punch, Jeremy Thompson, and the whole of Girls Aloud. But was it a reboot or an original piece?
The Rocketeer is an odd kind of superhero movie. It tells the story of a stunt pilot named Cliff who stumbles upon a really good jet pack in the 1930s that Howard Hughes, the FBI, and the Nazis are all trying to get their hands on. It’s a rollicking good time and it launched the directing career of Joe Johnston, who also directed Captain America: The First Avenger (another superhero movie set during World War II where the Nazis are the bad guys). This movie is touted to have reboots, sequels, or otherwise continuations every couple of years, with one slated for a 2018 release, but is it a reboot itself?
The Purge has the kind of brilliantly simplistic – albeit insane, nonsensical, and dumb – premise that must’ve been around for decades, being made and remade and remade and rebooted dozens of times over the years. Or does it? It’s a stupid but entertaining horror movie set in a world were all crime is legal for 12 hours. It’s supposed to make political sense and keep crime rates down on the other 364 days, which would not be true at all. So, anyway, was it a reboot or an original movie?
Adam Wingard, the director of the brilliant low-budget slasher movie You’re Next about countryside killers who wear animal masks, also helmed another great low-budget horror flick. Blair Witch is a found footage horror movie about a bunch of college students and some locals who guide them into the Black Hills Forest, Maryland, where they hope to figure out the legend of the Blair Witch, and where one of the characters’ sister, Heather Donahue, disappeared to years before. So, is it a reboot?