Back to the Well: On the Most Often Remade Movies

This month TCM will be devoting several days to screening multiple versions of films that have been remade once or more. As luck would have it, I was already working on this related post about what stories Hollywood has remade the most, making me seem much more on the ball than I actually am. I was also prompted to the task by a Google search to see if anyone had actually done this before. All of the posts I found were seriously b.s., apparently created by people who had no access to the internet and/or had never watched movies. I found the general level of research desultory, the frames of reference shallow, and an overall tendency to ignore silent film, live theatre and radio.

I don’t pretend to be scientific or all-inclusive here, but I guarantee this is more thorough than any similar survey you’ll find on the internet. It will undoubtedly get added to over time. I’m also not fussy about including television and other media in addition to films. And I’ve restricted it to English language versions.

For the sake of sanity we have left out Shakespeare, comic book franchises, Sherlock Holmes and fairy tales. Those may merit their own posts here in the future. If I create any such posts, I’ll add them here and link back.

Interestingly, almost all of the films mentioned below are adaptations of works of literature…with the corollary that most of them were written before the age of cinema and began to be adapted for the new art form the instant it was born. The first adaptations of some of these tales dates to the turn of the century or before. (Whereas certain better known oft-remade stories like A Star is Born or King Kong date from decades later.) At any rate there is something both satisfying and reassuring about seeing so many classic books represented.

In many cases, I’ve done in-depth posts about the various versions of the story in question; just follow the links to read ’em. Lastly, I’ll be enhancing this post with detail as time goes on. I wanted to get it up in time for the TCM screenings.

A Christmas Carol — No surprising, eh? Here are around 40 versions; no doubt there are others. In addition, here are other often-adapted Dickens works: Oliver Twist at least 10 versions (1922, 1933, 1948, 1968, 1982, 1985, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2007), Great Expectations 6 versions (1917, 1934, 1946, 1974, 2011, 2012); A Tale of Two Cities : five (1911,1917, 1935, 1958, 1980) , David Copperfield (1935, 1969, 1999, 2000)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Here are close to 30 versions. Some other works by Robert Louis Stevenson that have frequently been remade: Treasure Island. At least 8: (see my post here). also put radio version , and directors and stars. Kidnapped — five: 1938, 1948, 1960, 1971, 1995

Peter Pan J.M. Barrie’s original1904 play, then musicals 1924, 1950, 1954 (with Mary Martin), another 20 stage musicals. and movies 1924 (the Betty Bronson one), 1953, 2003, tv shows 1955, 1976 , 2014, and lots and lots of sequels and fan art thinks like Spielberg’s Hook.

Little Women — stage versions and thirteen films 1917, 1918, 1933, 1949, 1950, 1958 (2x), 1970 1978, 1994, 2017, 2018, 2019

The Three Musketeers — Around a dozen versions. I’ve heard the claim that it is the most remade story, but compared with A Christmas Carol and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I don’t think so. However when you throw in the sequels/related Dumas tales The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo, it begins to add up: The Man in the Iron Mask , six versions, 1929, 1939, 1952, 1977, 1989, 1998, at least four of The Count of Monte Cristo (1922, 1934, 1975, 2002) 

Tarzan — A dozen incarnations which I wrote about here.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (12): Tom Sawyer (six: 1917, 1930, 1938, 1973, 1995, 2014) /Huckleberry Finn (six: 1920, 1931, 1939, 1960, 1974, 1993); Another frequently remade Mark Twain classic: The Prince and the Pauper — Seven: 1920, 1937, 1962, 1975, 1977, 1996, 2007

DraculaHere are ten, at least. There are undoubtedly more, and then consider all the sequels.

Frankenstein — Ten: 1910, 1931, 1957, 1973, 1984, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2015 (others, plus plays etc)

The Last of the Mohicans — Ten versions we wrote about here. 

The Phantom of the Opera — Here are nine versions.

Brewster’s Millions — Oddly, there are very few comedies that keep getting remade, and even odder, this is the most frequent one, with around nine adaptations, not all for the screen, which I wrote about here.

Robin Hood — Eight: 1922, 1938, 1952, 1973, 1991, 1993, 1910, 1918

Les Miserables — eight: 1934, 1935, 1952, 1958, 1978, 1998, 2012, 2018 , plus stage. Another Victor Hugo classic: The Hunchback of Notre Dame — six: 1923, 1939, 1956, 1982, 1996, 1997

Jane Eyre — eight: 1934, 1943, 1970, 1983, 1996, 1997, 2006, 2011

Vanity Fair Thackeray’s classic satirical novel, starting with the play Becky Sharpe and at least eight films, in 1915, 1932, 1935, 1967, 1987, 1998, 2004, 2018

The Virginianeight versions in various forms, which we wrote about here.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin — At least seven versions, which we wrote about here.

The Island of Dr. Moreau — seven: 1911, 1921, 1932, 1959, 1972, 1977, 1996. H.G. Wells is practically his own subgenre. I’ve written about War of the Worlds here, The Invisible Man here, Food of the Gods here, and the ’32 version of Moreau here.

Anna Karenina — seven: 1927, 1935, 1948, 1985, 1997, 2000, 2012

Quo Vadis: play, (six: 1901, 1913, 1924, 1951, 1985, 2001)

Zorro — six plus: 1920, 1940, 1957, 1975, 1990, 1998

The Bat — Blogged about the various (six) versions here.

3 Godfathers — six : 1916, 1919, 1921, 1930, 1936, 1948 (wrote about a couple of the versions here).

King Solomon’s Mines: (six) 1937, 1950, 1979, 1985, 1986, 2004

Moby Dick — five: 1926, 1930, 1956, 1998, 2011 (Thoughts on Melville here).

The Sea Wolf — five: 1930, 1941, 1958, 1993, 2009 (Thoughts on Jack London here)

The Spoilers — five: 1914, 1923, 1930, 1942, 1955,

Pride and Prejudice (1940, 1980, 1995, 2005) / Sense and Sensibility (1950, 1971, 1981, 1995, 2008)

The Great Gatsby — Five screen versions and one stage version, which we wrote about here.

Tom Brown’s School Days — Five: 1916, 1940, 1951, 1971, 2005

A Star is Born — Four or five versions, depending on if you count What Price Hollywood? Wrote about them here.

The Lost World: 1925, 1960, 1992, 2001

The Squaw Man — just the play (1905) and 3 screen versions all by Cecil B. DeMille: 1914, 1918, 1931. The fact that no one else has touched it since seems superstitious almost .

The Thief of Baghdad — four: 1924, 1940, 1961, 1978

King Kong (3+) 1933, 1976, 2005 we wrote about them here 

Svengali/ Trilby — 1931, 1964, 1983