Some of the best classic comedies are timeless, but they’re all products of the eras in which they were made. Sometimes, this can mean that a comedy becomes dated, though the best of the genre transcends the trappings of their own times. Still, great comedic concepts can often benefit from being reinterpreted in new contexts, so here are our picks of some classic comedies that deserve remakes.
Surely we can’t be saying this 1980 airline farce could be adapted to today’s world, but we are. And don’t call us Shirley. The entire system of airline travel has changed so much in the more than 40 years that have passed since this movie was made, especially on the ground, that the whole thing could be moved to an airport.
Perhaps it could even become a musical comedy called The TSA Follies. That’s a bit ironic since Airplane! was a spoof, in part, of the 1970s disaster film Airport. It all comes full circle, like Leslie Nielsen taking off multiple pairs of sunglasses.
The Great Dictator
Given that this Charlie Chaplin classic is set in pre-World War II Europe and that it specifically pokes a finger in the eye of Hitler, it might seem like this movie is too rooted in a particular historical moment to get a remake. But the fact is that fascism is once again on the rise in our world and once again deserves some hearty mockery.
The concept of a member of an oppressed people group being played by the same actor as the leader of a group of oppressors could easily be translated into today’s political climate and reworked to similarly hilarious and culturally relevant effect.
The Odd Couple
This classic adaptation of Neil Simon’s award-winning play starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau has been adapted multiple times, but mostly for television. It only garnered one sequel movie 30 years later, 1998’s The Odd Couple II, also written by Simon.
While the format of two grossly mismatched people (a slob and a neat freak) has been explored quite a bit, the story could be reworked by switching the character roles, changing the setting, or even shifting the characters’ race or gender.
Simon himself wrote the awkwardly titled The Female Odd Couple in the ’80s, so perhaps that concept could be revisited written by a woman and moving the story into a contemporary setting.
It’s been remade before, but this timeless Jimmy Stewart film about a man and his invisible rabbit pal has still always been situated in the stigma of mental illness and the concept of an insane asylum.
It would be interesting to return to this idea in a film that would pose the same questions about who’s seeing reality and who’s seeing an illusion.
In a contemporary setting, Elwood P. Dowd or a character like him could be dealt with differently since we have evolved understandings of mental health, but some of the same kinds of judgment and systems of authority.
Some Like It Hot
In 1959, this comedy about two men hiding from the mob by posing as members of a women’s jazz group helped topple the oppressive Hayes code and, somewhat surprisingly, lift some of the stigma around queer representation in film.
In an age where gender and gender roles are seen in a different light, but are nonetheless still a point of cultural contention, it would be interesting to see some inversion or sideways retelling of this story that could make it relevant to today’s world.
We’re not sure exactly what the angle would be, but while playing men posing as women for laughs would be rather insensitive, there could certainly be a lot of comedy found nonetheless in the subversion of gender norms.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
In this classic tale of two competing con men, Steve Martin and Michael Caine deliver performances so legendary that the film has been adapted as a stage musical.
But it would be fun to see a new take on this concept with contemporary comic actors and a less sexist setup. After all, two men competing to see which of them can get the same woman into bed first is quite a bit cringe-worthy as a premise.
But the broader idea of watching these two goofballs go to insane lengths to try to swindle someone who might just have the upper hand on them is fertile comedy soil. We just want at least one of the characters the scammers play to be called Dr. Emile Shoaffhausen.
His Girl Friday
This lovingly madcap Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell film frequently appears on lists of the best comedy movies ever made. It would be fun to take the film’s warring newspaper reporters into today’s era, giving them both in-person and online rapid-fire dialogue exchanges.
It could be reworked as two young women writing for rival college newspapers or incorporating contemporary cultural issues in some clever way.
We’d love to see something like this from a fresh, young director and a writer with a talent for dialogue. Still, this film was defined by Howard Hawks’ instruction to his actors to run with the material, so it could easily lend itself to the kind of improvisational comedy often seen today.
In fact, since the original film helped push comedies in that direction, it would be quite fitting.
The Muppet Movie
Hear us out. The Muppets have continued to have cultural relevance for decades, and their cinematic adventures have attracted big talent. In an age of prequels, sequels, and retcons, it would be fun to see them revisit their origin tale from 1979 and reimagine how they might have all met and what adventures they might have gone on while seeking success in showbiz.
At the same time, the film could poke fun at the ways in which franchises and their characters are reimagined in today’s cinematic landscape.
Meta-pop culture commentary has always been a comfortable realm for the Muppets and this would allow them to even skewer their own beginnings.
Plus, with the excellent musical work Brett McKenzie did on their most recent movie outings, it would be fun to see brand new musical numbers created as sequels to or reimaginings of the original classic songs.