Looking for a great idea for your next script? You can attempt to come up with that rare genius concept that, somehow, after 100 years of cinema, nobody has thought of yet. OR you can take cinema history and make it work for you.

One of the best ways to come up with a kick-ass movie concept is to find something that did well at least 20 years ago (an adequate amount of time for everyone except cinema geeks to have forgotten about it), and reinvent it.

I’m not talking about remakes here. No no no. Not only are those unoriginal. They’re also costly. You actually have to have the rights to the movie to remake it. Instead, you take an old movie concept and you change one or two of the key variables, inventing a totally new movie!

You guys remember Taken, right? Guy goes to save his kidnapped daughter? That movie was a reinvention of the Arnold Swarzenegger movie, Commando. The classic film, Rear Window? It’s been reinvented a number of times. For example, in 2007, with the film Disturbia. They changed the age of the hero (from a man in his 30s to a teenager) and the reason he was stuck in his house (he had an ankle monitor instead of being in a wheelchair).

Now, not every movie was meant to be reinvented. The Eddie Murphy movie, Coming to America, is too goofy to be made today. E.T. was so specific to the 80s, a current version wouldn’t work. Auteur-driven movies, like Pulp Fiction, also lack reinvention DNA.

But there are lots of movies that are perfect for reinvention. Jordan Peele (Get Out) reinvented Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner simply by changing the genre to horror. Dan Gilroy reinvented Taxi Driver by placing his hero in a late night news van instead of a cab (Nightcawler).

But there is no perfect formula for reinvention. You simply look at an old movie and start asking “What if” questions. What if I changed the genre? What if I changed the age of the hero? What if I added a supernatural twist? What if I moved it from the city to the country? What if I told the story from a different character’s perspective? The amount of questions you can ask is endless. Just keep going until you find something cool.

To get you started, here are 10 movies ready to be reinvented for modern audiences. I’m going to rank them from weakest to strongest. Care to guess the number 1 suggestion? It has been the movie Hollywood has been trying to reinvent for over two decades now. And nobody’s figured it out. Will you?!

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10 – The Stepford Wives – I like horror that lives just off the main strip. Get Out is a perfect example of that. It’s nontraditional horror. As far as I’m concerned, suburbia is an underutilized element in horror. Suburbs can be terrifying. And it seems like we’re living in a new age where a suburb involved in a horrific conspiracy can make a huge statement about society. And scare the hell out of us in the meantime.

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9 – The Wicker Man – Dude goes to an island to look for a missing person. Bad shit happens. The marketing is already gift-wrapped for you. Not sure you’d be able to get away with the musical element. But there are plenty of other variables to play with here.

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8 – Con Air – Mark my words. At some point, the Jerry Bruckheimer high concept craze will come back. What was so great about Con Air, though, is that the concept was less about the plot than it was about the characters. That’s where the potential for this reinvention comes from. A large group of dangerous characters in a situation where they could do some major damage.

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7 – The Warriors – Why nobody’s tried to reinvent this movie is beyond me. You have people marked for death trying to get across a gang-ridden city. It’s got GSU up the wazoo. I don’t think you could be as goofy as they were (mimes on roller skates). But who says you can’t make it a straight thriller?

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6 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club – It baffles me these two movies haven’t been reinvented. They’re both pretty light on the concept side, so there’s room to play with the idea. But a movie that centers on a popular high schooler doing something crazy seems like box office gold to me. The Breakfast Club is a little tougher, since it’s been referenced so much. You’ll probably need to think outside the box some. But not only would this kill if executed well, but it would be cheap to shoot! So if you came up with a great concept, you could fund it yourself.

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5 – Stand by Me – There’s room for a movie about kids on a grounded adventure that’s heavy on character development. Of course, since this is a reinvention, who says they have to be kids? It’s up to you!

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4 – The Devil’s Advocate – I love these high-concept two-handers they don’t do anymore. I feel like The Devil’s Advocate is ripe for a “Get Out” like makeover.

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3 – The Apartment – I don’t think you can reinvent When Harry Met Sally because there’s no concept to reinvent. But something like The Apartment could work. A love story along the lines of When Harry Met Sally, but with a hook to keep the story focused and fun. It seems like with all these apps and changes in the way we do real estate (Air BnB?) that there’s something to play with here. But, again, that’s the top-of-my-head idea. A good writer digs deep and finds that creative option that truly breathes new life into the premise.

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2 – High Noon – You guys have heard me talk about this one before. I’m dying for a modern-day reimagining of this idea. The mayor of Chicago finds out that the criminal whose life he destroyed got out of prison on a techicality and arrives in the city at noon. Word on the street is that he’s already paid off members of his staff to kill him. He has to decide whether to flee or stay. Or, you know, your own reimagining. This concept probably has the single best structure for a movie.

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1 – The Goonies – Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 Goonies-like specs have sold in Hollywood since the original film came out. And yet… no one’s been able to crack the reinvention. There’s a reason for that. The things that made that movie so great are very specific. A group of quirky kids on an adventure. They’re looking for a treasure. The treasure is hidden in an elaborate labyrinth beneath the town. If you write a story too close to that, it looks like you’re just ripping off The Goonies. How do you REINVENT the concept? Whoever figures that out will be rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Offer up your reinvented loglines of the above movies. Upvote your favorites. Also, let me know what movies you think should be reinvented!

If you’ve got a logline you want feedback on, I rate, give analysis, and rewrite loglines for $25. $75 for a pack of five. I don’t sugarcoat. I give you the real deal on whether you should write the script or not. Contact me at Carsonreeves1@gmail.com with the subject line “LOGLINE” for a consult!

  • James Michael

    Maybe not The Princess Bride – but that genre needs to be revamped. My favorite genre of all time is Fantasy/Adventure and whenever I try and find a new fantasy film to watch I always get mad because there just aren’t that many good ones – outside of the franchises that I’ve already seen a million times. Films like Willow for example had the right idea but never quite got there.

    So again, a The Princess Bride, self reflective, comedy/fantasy/adventure aimed at all ages and updated for todays market. Sounds simple enough. So… if someone can get on that already that would be sweet…

    thanks in advance

  • That’ll Be The Day

    “Dan Gilroy reinvented Taxi Driver by placing his hero in a late night news van instead of a cab (Nightcawler).”

    Excellent example, as Taxi Driver is Paul Schrader’s reinvention of The Searchers. Think about it: A psychologically scarred, racist, loner war veteran tries to save a woman, who may in fact not want to be saved.

    • Scott Crawford

      Star Wars took inspiration from Lord of the Rings which took inspiration from Wagner’s Ring Cycle which was based on old Norse mythology.

      Nothing. New. Under. Sun.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Here’s the part I hate:
      Schrader got the idea because he once drove a cab.

  • https://twitter.com/bfgbrimelow NEIL “BFG” BRIMELOW

    Ha, my teacher and mentor was one of the writers of “Coming To America,” and the studio tracked him down to his self-professed “dirt farm” in MS last year to write the sequel/reboot/whatever. So he, and his partner are now writing the script, which is interesting as they’re both “old school” “has been” writers who’s lifetime B.O. hovers around a Billion bucks.

    Although I try my best to create stories that are original, new and unique (as much as it is possible), with the horror screenplay I just completed, “Swipe Left to Live,” I decided to take a very simple concept, essentially a more modern version of “Saw,” and made a fast-paced clever script with a tinge of mystery, that gets in, and gets out in 88 pages.

    I let one of my normal, non-nerd, non-horror fan friends read it, and she blew threw it in 30 minutes and was angry that it was over and wanted more. So, to me that’s a great sign.

    Good thing the sequel has already been written. :)
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  • Shore Patrol

    Movie ripe for reinvention: The Last Detail by Robert Towne (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070290/)

    Original Logline: Two Navy lifers are ordered to bring a young sailor to prison for a minor offense, but decide to show him one last good time along the way. As their bond grows, so does their guilt surrounding the mission.

    Reinvented Logline: Two Old West bounty hunters capture a young bandit, and must transport him back across dangerous terrain to collect on the reward. As their bond grows, etc., etc., etc.

  • -n8-

    The loft was a reinterpretation of the apartment as a crime/mystery/thriller.

    Never saw it.

    Dont think i missed much.

    • carsonreeves1

      I saw the American remake of The Loft. It was a movie that would’ve done well 20 years ago. It was actually quite stylistic and its non-linear storytelling gave it an unpredictable quality. But it just didn’t fit nicely into any current Hollywood marketing paradigm. If this movie had come out on the heels of a Fatal Attraction, it would’ve made 100 million bucks. These days it’s just another Netflix and Chill flick.

  • carsonreeves1

    Landis has written so many screenplays I’d be surprised if even HE could find it for you.

  • ripleyy

    ‘Till the day I die, I’ll always promote the criminally underrated, underappreciated, and surprisingly excellent “Detention” (by Joseph Kahn), which is a reinvented “Breakfast Club” idea. It’s “Scream meets The Breakfast Club” and it’s incredible how well it works.

    Also, these are great ideas. What about modern-day films, though? Could Inception be reinvented, for example?

  • Malibo Jackk

    Have already written 2 of these.

  • Connor Smith

    The timing of this article is kinda funny in a way, what with David Ayer being kicked off the reboot of Scarface after his take was too dark and Matt Reeves shelving Affleck’s script for The Batman. Both are remakes and reinventions of a well known property.

    To a more indie extent, you can say Detachmeny is a reworking of Stand and Deliver or Dangerous Minds but you make the story end unhappily as much as you can.

  • Scott Crawford

    Commando has, in my opinion, one of the all time great SET UPS of any movie. An ex-special forces guy has to kill the president he helped put into power or his daughter will die. He pretends to go along, gets on the plane, kills his guard, escapes… now he has ten hours to find his daughter before the plane lands and they realise they’ve been tricked.

    And, of course, what makes it work is that simple, clear but effective goal: get his daughter back. That story could be retold (with new elements, of course) a dozen times. It doesn’t even require much acting from the lead so any old wrestling star could be in it. It’s not like John Wick where the motivations (as I see it) are more complex, spiritual, so you NEED someone with more acting experience.

    CON AIR… I tried doing a remake of that. I mean, not an ACTUAL remake but I felt there were other stories you could do along that line (there were, I think, more than a few straight to DVD rip offs mainly revolving around trains). Problem is, while Con Air is far from perfect, it still covered the subject quite thoroughly so my efforts stalled.

    The DIE HARD formula us still popular, at least I quite like reading old unproduced Die Hard specs from the 90s. And if written a few myself, but it DOES need some changes. Too many low-budget rip offs. But when the effort is put in, still fun.