On Nov. 21, 2012, a movie titled “Red Dawn” was released into movie theaters. On Aug. 10, 1984, another movie with the title “Red Dawn” was released into movie theaters. Both movies are about a small group of American freedom fighters, called the Wolverines, fighting back against an invading foreign army. Here, we compare the Cold War-era sorta-classic to the sorta-new (“Red Dawn” was filmed in 2009), revamped version that you probably won't see. (Spoilers ahead, if you care.)
|"Red Dawn" (1984)||"Red Dawn" (2012)||Advantage|
|The oppressing forces are from the Soviet Union.||The oppressing forces are from North Korea.||1984|
|Takes place in Calumet, Colo., which is nowhere near an ocean and makes no sense as a military target.||Takes place in Spokane, Wash., which is near the Pacific Ocean and makes sense as a military target.||2012|
|Was a statement on the ongoing tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.||Is a statement on the ongoing tension between the American movie-going public and film studios that produce bad remakes.||1984|
|China is an American ally.||China was the original villain, until someone realized that Chinese citizens buy movie tickets and North Korean citizens do not.||1984|
|After “Red Dawn” was filmed, C. Thomas Howell, who played Robert, went on to star in “Soul Man.”||After “Red Dawn” was filmed, Josh Hutcherson, who played Robert, went on to star in “The Hunger Games.”||2012|
|Harry Dean Stanton, who plays the father of Jed (Patrick Swayze) and Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen), screams, “Avenge me!,” before eventually being executed.||Brett Cullen, who plays the father of Jed (Chris Hemsworth) and Matt Eckert (Josh Peck), does not scream, “Avenge me!,” before eventually being executed.||1984|
|Robert is excited to shoot his first deer, then shares a bonding moment with Jed and Matt after drinking the blood of his first kill.||Robert is hesitant to shoot a deer (even though he just shot three human beings) and then is made fun of by Jed and Matt after being tricked into drinking the deer’s blood.||1984|
|The leader of the invading forces is a Cuban national who sympathizes with the Wolverines.||The leader of the invading forces is a North Korean national who has no character traits whatsoever.||1984|
|After every Wolverine attack, civilians from the town are lined up and executed as a grim retribution.||After a Wolverine attack, one civilian from the town was almost executed.||1984|
|The remaining U.S. military is seen mounting many attacks against the oppressors.||The remaining U.S. military either doesn’t care or is incapacitated.||1984|
|A member of the Wolverines, Daryl, is discovered with a tracking device and is executed as a traitor.||A member of the Wolverines, Daryl, is discovered with a tracking device and is just kind of left behind and forgotten about.||1984|
|Seventy-five percent of the Wolverines die or are presumed dead.||Twenty-five percent of the Wolverines die or are presumed dead.||1984|
|Robert wears a "Star Wars" hat throughout the film.||There are no "Star Wars" references.||1984|
|Notable for being the first movie to ever garner a PG-13 rating.||Notable for no reason whatsoever.||1984|
|Helped launch the careers of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey.||Quite possibly saved the careers of Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson by not being released until after they were established stars.||Even|
|Is a decent enough movie.||Is not a decent enough movie.||1984|
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
One of the most prominent works of its time and genre, this 1932 crime film loosely based on the life of Al Capone is a primary representation of cinema from the era of the Depression, Prohibition and the height of organized crime in Chicago. Brian De Palma’s 1983 remake, which changed the period and location, was a classic in its own right. It’s as much of its time -- with its cocaine-fueled plot and incorporation of current events -- as Howard Hawks’ film was of its own.
This classic monster movie features an iconic giant ape that could do damage in any time period. In 1933, however, the Depression era provided a number of ingredients suited to the film’s plot, including a desperate unemployed woman and adventurers looking to make it rich with unbelievable attractions, which are hard to imagine translating to other decades. That’s probably why Peter Jackson’s 2005 version went for the same setting (though his remake didn’t exude all the era-defining characteristics of the original, most notably the subtexts of race and xenophobia). Earlier, the 1976 remake went for an updated setting, tying the expedition to the interests of an oil company. While the film has its problems, the change in year is surprisingly one of the things that works.
Most of Frank Capra’s films are era-defining (though he did remake two of his own movies down the road), yet this 1936 comedy, based on a short story by Clarence Budington Kelland, is probably his most time-stamped work with its relevance to the Depression and response to the New Deal. Somehow, Adam Sandler ended up in a 2002 remake that had no relevance to anything, lacking both substantial context and subtext for a story of a small-town yokel who inherits a huge fortune.
So many science fiction films of the 1950s were very much of and for their time, featuring themes informed by the Cold War and the nuclear age. In 1951, just six years after the first atomic weapons were dropped on Japan, and as hydrogen bombs and nuclear energy were still being developed, this film arrived with a warning from a space alien about man’s dangerous dabblings in atomic power. The 2008 remake appropriately focused on humanity’s damage to the environment as its self-inflicted threat, but this wasn’t as much of a time-defining issue as the fear of atomic apocalypse was 60 years ago.
By the time of its release in 1956, McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare were in decline. But this science-fiction horror film about aliens invading via clones will always be tied to the notion that “pod people” refer to Communists. Never mind that author Jack Finney, who wrote the 1955 source novel, nor the filmmakers, intended either to deliver an anti-Communist or an anti-McCarthyism message. The film has been remade three times. In 1978, it reflected the paranoia of the post-Watergate period and dealt with the rising self-help craze. In 1993, AIDS could be seen as a source for subtext. And the recent 2007 version made very little effort to find contemporary relevance.
The 1962 original, based on a 1959 novel, is about Communists using mind control to manipulate a Korean War hero. It’s one of the most significant thrillers of the Cold War era, though its greatest relevance to the period wasn’t immediate. In fact, some think the film might have influenced the assassinations of JFK and others that followed later in the decade. A 2004 remake was acclaimed for its surprisingly fitting update involving the Gulf War, the military industrial complex and the idea of puppet politicians, but it’s not hardly era-defining.
Not only was this 1967 drama groundbreaking in its treatment of interracial relationships, the film arrived on the heels of Loving v. Virginia and the Supreme Court ruling that it was illegal to restrict race-based marriages in the United States. Nearly forty years later, a remake with the racial roles reversed was not as substantially relevant, but its comedy did nonetheless mine from the fact that social acceptance of interracial couples isn’t at 100 percent.
Released in 1971 and based on a novel from the same year, this blaxploitation action detective film is one of the primary examples of the genre and has remained one of its biggest hits. Also, it’s era-defining soundtrack is one of the most famous of all time. Technically, the 2000 film of the same name is a combination sequel/spin-off/remake that has very little representational significance to its setting or time of release.
Clearly the 1975 original, based on the Ira Levin novel, is a satire for the women’s movement of the time. Slightly akin to the Body Snatchers films, here we have a town in which all the wives are being replaced by domestic lookalike robots in order to keep feminist influences at bay. A 2004 remake, may seem to have greater relevance now that we’ve seen the popularity of series like “Desperate Housewives” and “The Real Housewives of...,” but at the time it didn’t have much significance to the era.
While the 1984 original wasn’t a response to any real cultural move to ban music and dancing from U.S. communities, the film did represent a contemporary clash of values and the rise of influence of MTV on American youth. Mostly, though, it’s a product of a period when soundtracks could rule the record charts. The plot came off as even more antiquated in the 2011 remake, and doesn’t have much relevance of any kind to the present era.