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15 international horror movies that are better than their American remakes


15 international horror movies that are better than their American remakes

Patrik Rydmark, Johan Charles, Mikael Erhardsson, and Kåre Hedebrant in Let the Right One In

The international horror films on this list deal with themes of revenge, grief, and anguish. These movies explore the terrors of technology, cellphones, or the internet, as modern life takes on a hellish shape. The best horror movies feature characters caught up in otherworldly, inescapable nightmares that often represent the oppression, isolation, and sorrow of the human condition. Evil becomes an existential terror in the original films. Meanwhile, jump scares and cheap thrills show up in the American remakes.

Most of the international titles on the list have a distinctive style, rending gore and horror with striking detail and emotional, moody visuals. The remakes are often clunky and overlit compared to the shadowy, introspective art design of the original works.

Stacker compiled data on 15 great international horror films that were remade into lesser American versions. To qualify, the original had to have been made outside of the United States and have a higher IMDb user rating than its American-made counterpart. Many films on the list feature horrors that won’t go away. Similarly, ghosts and curses also stay alive in sequels and never-ending remakes.

Read on for scary movies you’re sure to want to see.

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‘Martyrs’ (2008)

Mylène Jampanoï in a scene from “Martyrs”

– Director: Pascal Laugier
– IMDb user rating: 7
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 99 minutes
– Remade as “Martyrs” (2015)
— IMDb user rating: 4

The first “Martyrs,” an artsy torture drama, premiered to both controversy and critical respect for what was seen as a philosophical take on horrifying violence. The film follows two young women caught up in a cult bent on taking victims to extremes of pain in the hope of gaining spiritual insight into the afterlife. The movie is famously hard to watch due to its unflinching violence. While the first film came across as exploitative but serious, the American remake was a box-office flop. It was criticized as a banal copy that failed to make any thematic points as it followed a similar plotline.

Pioneer LDC

‘Ju-on: The Grudge’ (2002)

Megumi Okina in “Ju-on: The Grudge”

– Director: Takashi Shimizu
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 48
– Runtime: 92 minutes
– Remade as “The Grudge” (2004)
— IMDb user rating: 5.9

The ghost story “Ju-on: The Grudge” is part of the popular cult Japanese Ju-On franchise that centers on vengeful, paranormal horror. The film modernizes a haunted house premise, revealing a site of betrayal and murder that continues to curse the living. The remake, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Bill Pullman, fails to recreate the same eerie style as the original. Though the remake is set in Tokyo, and an American family relocates to a cursed house, it doesn’t capture the dark, psychological rage of the earlier “Ju-on: The Grudge,” instead making grief and horror seem trite.

Filmfonds Wien

‘Funny Games’ (1997)

Stefan Clapczynski and Arno Frisch in “Funny Games”

– Director: Michael Haneke
– IMDb user rating: 7.5
– Metascore: 69
– Runtime: 108 minutes
– Remade as “Funny Games” (2007)
— IMDb user rating: 6.5

Michael Haneke directs the original German “Funny Games” and the English-language remake filmed over a decade later. Both films follow nearly identical plots and shot compositions. The story follows two strangers who happen upon families at their rural vacation homes and put them through various sadistic horrors that revel in cruelty and anguish. The point is to force the audience to face their complicity in violence, especially as one of the bad guys breaks the fourth wall, comments on film conventions, and winks at the audience. While the original was respected for its thematic agenda, the remake, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as the tortured parents, struck critics for exploiting the violence it claims to critique.


‘Let the Right One In’ (2008)

Patrik Rydmark, Johan Charles, Mikael Erhardsson, and Kåre Hedebrant in Let the Right One In

– Director: Tomas Alfredson
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 114 minutes
– Remade as “Let Me In” (2010)
— IMDb user rating: 7.1

The Swedish horror film “Let the Right One In” has a near-perfect 98% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While the American remake is also well-reviewed, it’s not quite as starkly haunting as the first film’s vampire story set among children. There’s a tender overcast to the grisly, macabre tale of a bullied 12-year-old and the child murderess who befriends and saves him in this novel adaptation. Chloë Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee play the same duo in the similarly chilling remake. A television series based on the Swedish novel premiered in 2022 on Showtime.

Seda Spettacoli

‘Suspiria’ (1977)

Jessica Harper and Barbara Magnolfi in “Suspiria”

– Director: Dario Argento
– IMDb user rating: 7.3
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 92 minutes
– Remade as “Suspiria” (2018)
— IMDb user rating: 6.7

Dario Argento’s original “Suspiria” is a masterwork of cinematic horror known for striking color compositions and gorgeous cinematography as it portrays a ballet school filled with stylish baroque gore. While the recent remake, starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson, aims for a similar style flooded with color and flourish, it doesn’t live up to the chaotic grandeur of the original that captured a sense of repression. The remake would likely appeal more to audiences unfamiliar with the dazzling horrors of the original.

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Daiei Eiga

‘Pulse’ (2001)

Kumiko Asô, Masatoshi Matsuo, and Kurume Arisaka in “Pulse”

– Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
– IMDb user rating: 6.5
– Metascore: 70
– Runtime: 119 minutes
– Remade as “Pulse” (2006)
— IMDb user rating: 4.7

“Pulse” elevates the horror of its premise, haunted computers, and the connected ghosts that are terrorizing college kids. This Japanese horror movie proceeds with a chilling, creepy style toward an ominous apocalypse. While the original had a disturbing emotional core, the American remake proceeds without any thematic anchor, instead trying to make the internet seem like a scary entity. Kristen Bell and Ian Somerhalder lead the cast in a poorly reviewed, cliche-ridden romp.

British Lion Film Corporation

‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Gerry Cowper in a scene from “The Wicker Man”

– Director: Robin Hardy
– IMDb user rating: 7.5
– Metascore: 87
– Runtime: 88 minutes
– Remade as “The Wicker Man” (2006)
— IMDb user rating: 3.7

The original British film “The Wicker Man” is a chilling, twisty horror flick about a Christian cop summoned to a Scottish isle to investigate a missing child—things go quickly from weird to worse as he dallies with the locals, shocked by their pagan ways. Nicholas Cage stars in the remake written and directed by Neil LaBute, known for cruel psychological art films. Still, critics panned their collaboration, which earned several Golden Raspberry nominations. Cage’s performance became the subject of popular memes due to its absurd hysteria.

Entertainment Farm (EF)

‘Premonition’ (2004)

Hiroshi Mikami in a scene from “Yogen”

– Director: Norio Tsuruta
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 95 minutes
– Remade as “Premonition” (2007)
— IMDb user rating: 5.9

The 2004 Japanese “Premonition” is an eerie meditation on time and fate featuring an evil newspaper that reports deaths and accidents before they occur. When two parents investigate their child’s reported death in the mysterious newspaper, they find there are severe costs to trying to change outcomes. Sandra Bullock stars in the 2007 American film with the same title and a similar premise. Instead of a supernatural newspaper, the police inform a wife and mom that her husband died in a car accident. Each morning she finds herself on a different day in the timeline surrounding his death and tries to prevent it in a film that comes across as confused and silly.

Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co.

‘Dark Water’ (2002)

Rio Kanno in “Dark Water”

– Director: Hideo Nakata
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 101 minutes
– Remade as “Dark Water” (2005)
— IMDb user rating: 5.6

The first “Dark Water” seeps with lyrical horror in its exploration of grief and isolation. A single mother moves with her young daughter into a dingy apartment with a ceiling leak that grows more ominous by the day. A moody sorrow mixes with terror as the two seem pursued by a child ghost. The remake stars Jennifer Connelly as the single mom. Though it has a melancholy visual design and stand-out performances from Pete Postlethwaite and John C. Reilly, it feels like a rote copy of the more haunting original.

GMM Pictures Co.

‘Shutter’ (2004)

Ananda Everingham and Achita Sikamana in “Shutter”

– Directors: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
– IMDb user rating: 7
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 97 minutes
– Remade as “Shutter” (2008)
— IMDb user rating: 5.2

“Shutter,” a Thai film about the supernatural terrors of photography, is shot with devastating beauty that displays the haunting power of the medium. Stark images of the everyday world take on an eerie horror as ghostly images show up in a photographer’s world after a terrible accident. Joshua Jackson stars as the photographer in the remake, and while it has a similar premise, the ghosts don’t have the same scary, otherworldly quality, and the film looks generic.

Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion GmbH

‘Goodnight Mommy’ (2014)

Susanne Wuest in “Goodnight Mommy”

– Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 99 minutes
– Remade as “Goodnight Mommy” (2022)
— IMDb user rating: 5.6

The Austrian original offers visceral dread as 9-year-old twin brothers terrorize their mother, whose face is bandaged after reconstructive surgery. As the children are confident she is not their real mom, horror plays out at an isolated country home where they hold her captive. The eerie, twisted thrills in the original offer psychological horror around identity and trust in mother-child bonds. Naomi Watts stars in the remake—one that detours from the earlier film both in plot and mood, diluting the tension and terror.

B.O.M. Film Productions Co.

‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ (2003)

A scene from “A Tale of Two Sisters”

– Director: Jee-woon Kim
– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Metascore: 65
– Runtime: 114 minutes
– Remade as “The Uninvited” (2009)
— IMDb user rating: 6.3

This Korean horror tale is set in a country manor that should be an ideal home for two sisters but turns into a haunted nightmare as they realize how and why they lost their mother. This fierce ghost story teems with underlying tension, horror, and a sense of rage and grief. While the American remake uses a similar set, it doesn’t proceed with the same palpable dread.

Kadokawa Daiei Pictures

‘One Missed Call’ (2003)

Ko Shibasaki and Shin’ichi Tsutsumi in “One Missed Call”

– Director: Takashi Miike
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: 54
– Runtime: 112 minutes
– Remade as “One Missed Call” (2008)
— IMDb user rating: 4

While the original Japanese horror film, adapted from a novel, received mediocre reviews of a 44% positive Rotten Tomatoes rating, it was recognized as stylish and atmospheric despite what was considered a clichéd and overdone premise. The original and the remake center on the idea of evil cellphones that receive messages from your future, self-recording your death, and relay the imminent date and time. The remake starring Shannyn Sossamon and Ed Burns comes across as maudlin, silly, and ultimately boring. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a rare total roasting by every critic who weighed in, while popular audiences also vastly prefer the original for having fun with a familiar formula.

CJ Entertainment

‘Into the Mirror’ (2003)

“Geoul sokeuro” movie poster

– Director: Sung-ho Kim
– IMDb user rating: 6.4
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 113 minutes
– Remade as “Mirrors” (2008)
— IMDb user rating: 6.1

Korea’s “Into the Mirror” has striking visuals as it follows a security guard investigating horrific deaths in a futuristic shopping mall still under construction. Reflective surfaces and mirror images capture a dour mood that’s both vividly gorgeous and chillingly terrifying. Kiefer Sutherland stars with Amy Smart in the dismal remake that translates the postmodern themes of the original through hackneyed horror tropes about the evil lurking in mirrors. The sequel, “Mirrors 2,” starring Nick Stahl, was released in 2010.

La Fabrique de Films

‘Inside’ (2007)

Nathalie Roussel and Alysson Paradis in “Inside”

– Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: data not available
– Runtime: 82 minutes
– Remade as “Inside” (2016)
— IMDb user rating: 4.7

“Inside” is considered a major film of New French Extremity horror, a genre with brutal and visceral depictions of violence that feel over-the-top and inescapable. The movie takes place on Christmas Eve as a pregnant woman is terrorized by an intruder while the summoned police succumb as victims. An extreme scene of violence, drenched in more blood than would seem possible, involves a particularly barbaric cesarean. While the first “Inside” was made in searing style, the American remake dilutes the horror of the original, changes the ending, and eliminates the most extreme scenes in a way that saps all the tension.

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