September 2017 is SYFY’s 25th anniversary, so we’re using it as an excuse to look back and celebrate the last 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that means lists! ALL THE LISTS! We’ll be doing two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. So keep checking back. Please note: our lists are not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains. What items in our lists were your favorites? Did we miss something? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments!
Like it or not, the last 25 years have been full of remakes and reboots. These terms have become dirty words for some, but they don’t always have to be. For every remake that is made for a quick cash grab, another may come along that better honors its source material, or can capitalize on the technical wizardry that we are now capable of. Sometimes an okay film can become a classic television series, and sometimes comics just need to start from scratch. So reboot your thinking and remake your mind as we jump in to this list of the 25 greatest remakes and reboots of the last 25 years!
12 Monkeys (Film)
TERRY. GILLIAM. Do we need to say more? In remaking the 1962 short film La Jetee, one of the greatest directors of all time gives us one of his best films. Gilliam’s imagination for science fiction knows no bounds, as he creates a future world that is as plausible as it is bonkers. Soon enough our hero (a wonderful Bruce Willis) is zipping around in time, and every shot and angle of his journey is bursting with imagination. Brad Pitt reveals himself to be a character actor trapped in the body of Achilles, and by the time this temporal mind-screw is over, you will want to watch it again immediately.
12 Monkeys (TV)
With time travel shenanigans as enjoyable as they are in the above entry, why not go for broke and turn the whole thing into a series? SYFY had the same idea in 2015, and while not connected to the Gilliam film, the TV adaptation is just as enjoyable in its own right. Aaron Stanford takes over hero duties from Bruce Willis, and the brilliant Emily Hampshire plays a gender swapped version of Pitt’s character. As was the case with other entries on this list (Buffy, Stargate, Westworld), the show allows us to dive deeper than ever before into an already established world, in this case, that of time travel and disease prevention. The fourth and final season will be coming in 2018 to destroy our minds for one last round.
"SWEAR TO ME!!!" As much fun as the previous Batman movies had been (mostly), it wasn’t until Christopher Nolan took the reins with this Bat origin story that we really understood Bruce Wayne. More than anything else, we understand why he chose to make a bat his symbol in the first place. He ceased to become a vigilante dressed as a bat—now he was an elemental symbol. Assisted by a exemplary cast, Nolan made us take the Dark Knight seriously again.
Same basic frakkin’ premise as the original, but with better frakkin’ effects, an incredible score, and an added bit of frakkin’ paranoia based around Cylons looking like humans. A gender swapped Starbuck, a more complicated Gaius Baltar, President Laura Roslin (I’M COMING FOR ALL OF YOU), and constant worries over who may or may not be a Cylon make this show instantly addictive. To be fair though, is it really a remake? “All of this has happened before, and it will happen again,” the show often says, so perhaps it’s just another cycle. If so, the original cycle was fun, but this remake cycle is science fiction at its best. SO SAY WE ALL.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It’s not that the original movie is bad; it’s simply that the show has the time and breathing room to expand the mythology (and fun) so much more. Aside from that, the show also gave us Willow Rosenberg, Spike, Anya, Drusilla, The Mayor, the musical episode, the silent episode, and one Mr. Rupert “Ripper” Giles. When the show premiered in 1997, having a vamp-kicking female protagonist on primetime was no small thing, and Sarah Michelle Gellar nailed (or staked) every scene she was given.
Dawn of the Dead
You can’t beat the original, and this early effort from Zack Snyder doesn’t try. Visceral, quick, scary, and brutal, this film takes no prisoners and is much more of a kinetic blood frenzy than the original. The pacing is notably faster, and though you lose the depth and spooky mall-nesting-over-time of the original, you do get a furious thrill ride that doesn’t let up, and a healthy helping of Ving Rhames too. If you like your zombie horror quick and snappy, this is a remake for you.
Geronimo! This is definitely a continuation and not a reboot, as the show’s return in 2005 stays in continuity with all that came before it. Older Doctors are referenced, some show up, and classic enemies return alongside them. What doesn’t show up are six episode arcs that could be done in two, and at times laughably bad effects. We say this with love, but between the updated effects, higher quality of acting (Peter Capaldi+Big Speech=Greatness) and an endlessly glorious score from Murray Gold, we’ll watch “New Who” over “Old Who” any day. We don’t really need to choose, though—if anything, the new episodes will make you appreciate the old ones all the more. Now on the cusp of introducing its first ever female doctor, (Jodie Whitaker) this continuation of the longest running sci-fi show in history keeps getting better. We hope it never ends. Allon-sy!
Give us Karl Urban and we’re happy. Even if he doesn’t show his full face, which he doesn’t in this Judge Dredd remake, we’re still happy. Rob Schneider is nowhere in sight and Dredd’s conflict is isolated to one futuristic tenement building full of criminals. We wanted more when it was done, which may not have been the case after the original. Lena Headey also shows up as the big bad, in case anyone wanted to see Eomer and Cersei Lannister fighting it out. Face it, you know you want to see that.
Kong: Skull Island
We didn’t think we really needed another Kong (especially after Peter Jackson’s visionary masterpiece of a remake in 2005), but we were wrong, and Kong is back! Our fourth return to Skull Island turned out to be a lot of fun, moving a larger-than-ever Kong and his cadre of monsters to the '60s, and drawing some interesting Vietnam-era parallels. John C. Reilly is the heart of the film, Samuel L. Jackson brings depth and gravitas, and Brie Larson is also on hand (to the complaint of nobody). For many, this unexpected, helicopter-smashing, grenade-sacrifice-denying treat was the surprise of the summer.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sequel, reboot, continuation ... whatever you want to call it, this is superb filmmaking. George Miller reinvents his own detachable wheel, and the result is a movie filled with some of the best car-on-car action ever put to film. Tom Hardy steps into the dusty boots of Max, but it is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa that steals the show. A triumph of design and spectacle, it is sure to give you a lovely day, oh what a lovely day.
Classic Metroid feel, new Metroid system. Taking everything that made the classic NES game great (and hilariously frustrating), Nintendo puts “Wow, I had no idea that was a woman until the end” Samus Aran into FPS mode. The puzzles are still there, the storytelling is expanded, and Samus’ story continues. Most importantly, she can still shrink down into a little ball. You can roll around the gorgeous 3D environments for hours, and we did.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Why would anybody not want this back? A classic formula given a fresh coat of paint, this streaming remake brings back everything great about the old show and adds Patton Oswalt, Felicia Day, and Jonah Ray. It’s almost impossible for the show to have any more geek cred than it does, but all that really matters is whether or not it’s still funny. Spoiler alert: it is.
As has already been covered elsewhere, the last 25 years have seen a great output of comic book films, spawning in some a new interest in comic books themselves. Great! Where to begin? Well…that can be tough. Batman, alone, has been around since 1939, and has been constantly changing. Where can you go if you have no idea what an “infinite crisis” is and are flummoxed by the term “silver age?” DC Comics’ line of Rebirth comics is an excellent jumping on point. If you’re eager to read the comics but don’t necessarily have the time to catch up on several decades of history, these books featuring the best of the DC stable will satisfy, both in artwork and storyline. Batman’s rebirth series in particular has been fantastic, proving there’s always more to discover. It also contains the origin of Kite-Man, to which we say: Hell, Yeah.
This 2002 remake of the Japanese film Ringu had everybody horrified to put video tapes in players for several years after it came out. You couldn’t take the slightest chance, because the tape could be a copy of the urban legend video from this film, showing a horrifying child that will come and kill you soon after you watch it. Naomi Watts shines as a mother protecting her clueless son after he ends up watching the damning video, and you get a bonus appearance from Brian Cox. Don’t watch the tape, but do see this film.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Another property that we didn’t think merited a revisit, this prequel surpassed any and all expectations. The filmmaking throughout is fantastic, but it is Andy Serkis that makes this prequel the gem that it is. Having honed his motion capture craftsmanship with Gollum and Kong, Serkis gives the ape Caesar a true heart and soul. You’re not looking at pixels; you’re looking at a living being. The academy needs a new category for the groundbreaking work he is doing.
Much like Batman Begins, this film was the first that really made us identify with our friendly neighborhood you-know-who, as this mixture of superheroes crossed with Freaks and Geeks proved utterly irresistible. Fresh off of his Civil War airport romp, Peter Parker tries to understand his fairly new superpowers, deal with a wonderful villain in the form of Michael Keaton, and survive high school itself. The scene of Peter and Vulture (Keaton) in the car is a highlight, as is the moment Spidey has to psyche himself up to escape a crashed roof that Vulture dropped on top of him. Captain America does high school PSAs, Aunt May is Marisa Tomei, and Spidey finally takes his deserved position in the MCU. It's a homecoming in the finest sense.
What began as a fun film (with a great David Arnold score) soon became a television phenomenon. Starting with Stargate SG-1 and then moving on to several other shows on both TV and the web, this tale of a mystical gateway that can send you across the universe really needed more than just one film to show the potential of its premise. A new set of characters go adventuring in Abydos, Atlantis, and beyond. SG-1 alone ran for 10 seasons, and though the series was grounded for a while, a new web series called Stargate: Origins was recently announced. It would appear that the Stargate has been uncovered again, and we could not be happier.
Star Trek (2009)
Finally, a Trek film that looked like it had an actual budget behind it! With the franchise having been gone from our screens since the Romulan/Tom Hardy/Data’s other brother romp of Star Trek: Nemesis, JJ Abrams brought the Enterprise back to our screens in 2009 in truly spectacular fashion. It looked great, it sounded great, and a time travel mishap plot let us explore younger versions of classic characters. Chris Pine chomped his apple during the Kobayashi Maru, and he became Jim Kirk before our very eyes. Simon Pegg is a different but hilarious Scotty, and, well, Karl Urban is perfection as Bones. It’s scary how perfect he is. Toss in an extended cameo from the legendary Leonard Nimoy, and we were all back on board the Trek train.
Loosely based on the 1985 comedy with Michael J. Fox, this MTV cornerstone is nearly done with its sixth and final season. Tossing the silly comedy (and offensive t-shirts) of the film aside, the TV show goes all in for darkness and drama. You don’t think you’ll take it seriously, but you do. It uses a similar style as Buffy the Vampire Slayer did—that being that high school is a horror. With its mythology and gallery of creatures always expanding, we’re excited to see how the series wraps up.
Transformers: Beast Wars
Before the Bay-hem versions hit our movie screens, this continuation of the Transformers story hit televisions in 1996, and was the first time our robotic heroes were aided by (very early) computer animation. In this iteration the mechanized descendants of the original Transformers can turn into animals, birds, fish, and if it’s a really good episode, dinosaurs. The action and animation were fun at the time, and are still a trippy retro blast to watch today. A not completely goofy approach to the story helps as well, with no Transformers peeing or taking on garish racial stereotypes.
So, you enjoyed the new Spider-Man movie, and feel like reading some Spidey comics? Great! This comic series that ran from 2000 to 2011 is a marvelous jumping on point. Similar to what DC is currently doing with Rebirth, (see above) the “ultimate” versions of many of Marvel’s most popular characters provided readers a way to get involved without getting lost in avalanches of continuity. All the major Spidey players are here, as well as the occasional appearance of Nick Fury, and the first introduction of Peter Parker’s successor, Miles Morales. Writer and artist Brian Michael Bendis never disappoints, and this excellent run of Spidey goodness is no exception.
A remake of the 1997 Spanish film Open Your Eyes, this 2001 remake by Cameron Crowe can almost be seen as a funhouse mirror for star Tom Cruise’s career. It perverts his image, puts it under massive stress, and finally tosses him off of a building. Cameron Diaz goes into bonkers overdrive, and Kurt Russell makes magic with the very little he is given. It is a jagged, hypnotic fever dream of a film, and the soundtrack (especially a track from the Monkees) puts it over the top.
“Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” While watching this show, very often, yes. A television reboot of the 1973 film where another of Michael Crichton’s fictitious theme parks break down, this gorgeous and mind bending reinvention came blaring onto HBO late last year with one of the best pilots seen in ages, matched with an equally strong first season. A mixture of sci-fi and western that makes us feel horrible about how we play Grand Theft Auto, this show about a western theme part full of guest-pleasing automata features extraordinary performances from Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, and Anthony Hopkins. The second season cannot possibly come soon enough.
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
A reimagined remake of the turn-based strategy game from 1994 that became a cult classic, this equally addictive game from 2012 once again has the player defending the earth from invasion. As a commander of XCOM (Extraterrestrial Combat Unit), it’s up to you to defeat the outrageously superior enemy force. The game takes everything players loved about the original, and gives it an innovative update that tweaks its formula, but always stays true to it. More than anything else, this game has the best thing any video game can have: replayability. This is turn-based tactics at its best.
X-Men: First Class
In the aftermath of the third X-Men movie, it couldn’t have been easy to figure out what to do next. Turns out the powers that be decided to more or less start over. Recasting every character, (aside from a hilarious High Jackman cameo) the film managed to snag Jennifer Lawrence before her career exploded, and Michael Fassbender proves to be so good as Magneto that you almost, ALMOST, don’t think about Ian McKellen. It’s a snazzy reminder of why we loved the X-films in the first place, and even though continuity took a dive off a cliff from this point on, this movie definitely got the mutants back on track with style.
Those were OUR choices. What are yours? Keep in mind these lists are a celebration of sci-fi and fantasy in film, TV, and comics that have been a big deal since 1992. Let us know in the comments which reboots and remakes of the last 25 years you’d put on your list? And be sure to check out the other 25 Greatest Lists here.