Audiences love a good remake, and Hollywood is happy to oblige. Just this week, a new version of the 1990s teen romantic comedy She’s All That will be premiering on Netflix. If you grew up in the ’90s you’re probably familiar with the film’s iconic scene, the ultimate makeover reveal. Thanks to this meme-able moment, She’s All That has become cemented in history as a classic teen rom-com.
The new version, now titled He’s All That, switches up the genders. This time, it’s the girl (Addison Rae) who’s the popular one. She’s an influencer who suffers the ultimate humiliation of being dumped by her boyfriend on her own live stream. To restore her reputation, she makes a bet that she can make over her school’s geeky artist boy (Tanner Buchanan) and turn him into a prom king. The plot is pretty much follows the original, with the modern twist of a critique of influencer culture and its effect on society. A few familiar faces from the original film do pop up, as well as what looks like an epic dance number for no apparent reason.
Since remakes have become so popular, we’ve come up with some other popular teen movies that are due for one, and imagined what a modern take on them might look like.
Now a cult classic, Heathers was the antidote to the upbeat John Hughes teen comedies of the 1980s. The dark satire, starring Wynona Ryder and Christian Slater, followed a clique of horrid high-school girls, all aptly named Heather. After outsiders Veronica (Ryder) and J.D. (Slater) accidentally kill the head Heather, they set off a chain of events that result in multiple violent catastrophes. Despite the film’s nihilistic point of view, Heathers is hilarious and has added a variety of colorful vernacular to our everyday language.
An updated version of Heathers would hit very differently in a world where school shootings and violence are all too common. But it could work as a black comedy if the satire were updated to feel relevant. In 2018, an updated version of the series was set to premiere on Paramount Network, but was cancelled due to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. However, a stage-musical version of Heathers was released in 2010, and has since become quite popular (Riverdale even did an episode in which the characters performed numbers from the musical). A film version of the musical would be fun to watch, especially since the musical is a little more lighthearted than its film counterpart (the songs are hilarious albeit a bit dark).
Whether or not the musical could be updated to take place today is still up for debate (and, if done, would have to be very carefully done), but a film version of the musical properly set in the 1980s could be a smash.
Where to Stream it: Amazon Prime, Hulu
Quite a few of us have forgotten to remember this cheese-fest based on a book by cheese-fest master Nicholas Sparks. Released prior to the author’s most infamous book-to-screen cheese-fest, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember was the precursor to other sick-lit adaptations like The Fault in Our Stars, Starring Mandy Moore and Shane West, A Walk to Remember followed the romance of the local minister’s daughter, Jamie (Moore) and bad boy Landon (West). Their courtship blooms as Landon begins to admire Jamie’s beauty and ability to sing. Despite her father’s protestations, the two continue to date despite the fact that Jamie has leukemia.
Despite how sappy it is, A Walk to Remember has moments when that sweetness is just enough. A modern retelling could reverse the roles (“good” boy and “bad” girl romances are still not as commonly told) or, to add even more of a twist, have the leads be of the same sex (and perhaps the minister does not approve). The original novel actually takes place in the 1950s, and as The Notebook proved, time-specific romances are still just as popular as modern ones.
Where to Stream it: Apple TV, Amazon (for rent)
Based on the popular YA series The Saga of Darren Shan, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant was an example of a book-to-film adaptation gone wrong. The film version is based on the first book in the series, in which teenager Darren Shan joins the world of vampires and ends up becoming a half-vampire (it makes more sense in context). The film, despite featuring some stellar actors, is overstuffed and only follows the book very, very loosely.
Considering the popularity of The Saga of Darren Shan, the series deserves another shot at being adapted for the screen. Except this time it should aim for smaller ones. Due to its rather complex plot and intricate details, each book in the series would benefit from being told over the course of 10 to 13 episodes. Like the successful Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events (which also made up for the failures of the film version) it could cover two to three books per season. Cirque du Freak should be given that same chance to shine and attract a new audience. And speaking of poor book-to-film adaptations, let’s all thank the TV Gods that the Percy Jackson books might finally get the proper treatment in the new series currently in development for Disney+.
Where to Stream it: Apple TV, Amazon (for rent)
Yet another early teen romance from the early 2000s, Crazy/Beautiful also tends to be forgotten, which is a shame. Starring Kristen Dunst and Jay Hernandez, Crazy/Beautiful follows the romance between Nicole (Dunst), a wild child whose father is a congressman, and Carlos (Hernandez), a Mexican-American student who, despite coming from a poorer background, works hard and achieves straight As. As in most teen films, fate brings them together, and Nicole’s pesky father gets involved, claiming that Carlos is the reason Nicole is a wreck (he isn’t). As their complex courtship plays out it highlights issues of race and class in a compelling way.
Crazy/Beautiful could easily be updated for the Roaring 20s Part II, and could even feature another gender swap (hey, it’s the easiest way to flip the script). What would be even more interesting is focusing on how Carlos may be impacted by immigration (is he a Dreamer? Are one of his parents dealing with immigration problems?) as well as how their relationship may be different in a “woke” world. While there’s little doubt that Nicole’s father would still be racist (we still have those, unfortunately), it would be interesting to see him lash out at Carlos through a series of micro-aggressions a la The White Lotus. The themes in Crazy/Beautiful are still as prevalent as ever, which is why it’s ripe for a remake.
Where to Stream it: Apple TV, Hoopla
Keeping with the filmography of Kirsten Dunst, there’s also the Shakespeare-inspired comedy Get Over It. The late ’90s and early 2000s had a slew of films based on Shakespeare: 10 Things I Hate About You (arguably the best remake), O, even The Lion King (an interpretation of Hamlet). Get Over It is based on A Midsummer’s Night Dream and features a surprising cast, from Martin Short to Sisqo (the crooner behind the enduring summer classic “Thong Song”). The film follows Berke (Ben Foster), a popular senior who has the quintessential high-school relationship with Alison (Melissa Sagemiller). His world falls apart when Alison dumps him for Striker (Shane West), the leader of a boy band. When Alison and Striker are cast as leads in the school play, a modern musical version of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Berke enlists the help of his friend’s younger sister, Kelly (Kristen Dunst), a talented singer/songwriter who also happens to be in love with him. From there, hilarity ensues. As in the original play, lovers become confused and everything turns into chaos.
A Midsummer’s Night Dream, due to its eccentric nature, can be interpreted in many different ways (and many theatrical productions have done that), so Get Over It could easily be updated for 2021. Mixing up the characters’ initial genders and even who they fall in love with would make for a more interesting version. How about a love triangle between three boys or three girls? Also, considering the success of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, viewers enjoy the play-within-a-play concept (maybe they could even get Olivia Rodrigo to write some heartbreak songs for it!). Let’s give A Midsummer’s Night Dream the modern update it deserves.
Where to Stream it: YouTube, Amazon (for rent)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a John Hughes masterpiece, so remaking it now could be considered blasphemy. For those poor souls unfamiliar with the original, creative free-spirit Ferris (Matthew Broderick in his prime) wakes up one glorious day and decides to play hooky from school. Using one elaborate ruse after another to trick his parents and the school administration into thinking he’s sick, he embarks on an epic adventure through Chicago with his uptight best friend and hot girlfriend in tow.
How would this scheme work with updated technology, though? The prevalence of cell phones presents a whole different set of challenges. How might Ferris use social media to his advantage (he’d definitely be an influencer)? Or, more likely, how could it be used against him by his adversaries, including his bitter sister and the school principal determined to bust him? Would the “Save Ferris” campaign become a GoFundMe page? This is also one that could use a gender swap. A female or even non-binary Ferris would be interesting. After all, why should boys get to have all the fun?
Where to Stream It: Paramount Plus, Netflix
If we’re going to keep remaking films in which the characters swap genders, let’s start with this oddball and undeniably problematic film, also directed by John Hughes. In case you haven’t seen it lately, Weird Science is the story of two horny, nerdy teenage boys (Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith) who decide that instead of respecting women and working on themselves to get actual girlfriends, they’ll just build their dream woman instead. This hot version of Frankenstein’s monster, called Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), is not only gorgeous and wild, but also intelligent, kind, and has magical powers. These boys are one step away from declaring themselves incels, and Weird Science definitely ventures into men’s rights territory, but it was a product of its time. Now it feels horribly dated and, for lack of a better term, weird. It does have a few redeeming features, though, including a young Robert Downey Jr. in a small role and a catchy theme song by Oingo Boingo.
However, a gender swapped version of Weird Science could be a great satire. It might be fun to see what dreamboat a pair of tech-savvy girls could create (Channing Tatum? Liam Hemsworth? Everyone’s bae, Michael B. Jordan? A member of BTS?) and what he would act like. The joke of Weird Science is that these guys don’t know what to do with a real woman once they conjure her. It would be a really funny twist if the guy in the new version turned out to be an egotistical jerk. Or a total himbo, a la Chris Hemsworth’s character in Ghostbusters. Or worse, a mansplainer? On the flip side, what if he came out like Ted Lasso, just a good, wholesome, non-toxic, supportive guy? It would also be interesting to see how the girls decide to use their creation. The possibilities are endless, so let’s see what happens when you try to create the perfect man.
Where to Stream It: Cinemax Go, DirecTV, Apple TV, Amazon
How exactly Never Been Kissed got made in the first place remains a mystery that may never be solved. While the film has held onto its iconic rom-con status, watching it in 2021 will leave you muttering “oh no” over and over again. In the film, Josie (Drew Barrymore) is a 25-year-old copy editor who, after a humiliating experience with a boy in high school, has, like the title says, never been kissed. For reasons never explained, her boss (John C. Reilly) decides that she will go undercover at a local high school to see what the kids are into, which is bizarre because a.) it’s probably not even legal and b.) are people that concerned with what local high school kids are up to? No matter how hard she tries, Josie just can’t get in with the popular girls, but she does manage to befriend a cool nerd and develop a crush on one of her teachers. Her brother (David Arquette), also pretends to be a student (he’s also in his 20s), to help make her look cool.
Despite how problematic it is (we’ll get into that in a minute), Never Been Kissed does have some sweet moments. Josie reminds all of us that popularity doesn’t really matter in the long run and to be yourself and chase your goals and rainbows and all that. But the fact that her teacher crush gets angry when he finds out she is of age and he can actually date her, is disturbing (yeah, it’s also about the lying, but he’s definitely disappointed). What’s even more worrisome is her brother’s behavior. He literally dates a 16-year-old gymnast and sees no problem with this (nor do most of the other characters).
Never Been Kissed is dying for a satirical update in the same spirit as the 21 Jump Street films. The brilliance of that concept lies in the fact that most of the characters are fully aware the guys posing as high school students aren’t legit, and this is pointed out frequently. It would also be interesting to see Josie deals with social media and viral trends. Would she be able to figure out how Tik Tok works? How would she handle her mishaps being live streamed? And while we’re at it, can we have characters point out how gross her brother is? Or maybe just cut out that storyline completely.
Where to Stream It: Starz, Apple TV
Honorable Mention: Sky High
Sky High, which I consider one of Disney’s best live-action movies of the 2000s, simply hasn’t received the love it deserves. Written by the creators of Kim Possible (also brilliant in its own right), Sky High follows Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) the son of two superheroes who attends a school designed to train superheroes along with his best friend, Layla (Danielle Panabaker, who would go on to be part of another superhero project—The CW’s The Flash). Stronghold experiences the everyday struggles of a high schooler—how to handle his newfound powers, battling his nemesis, trying to get with the girl he likes who may be a super villain, helping his friends who are “sidekicks” You know, all the classics. Sky High ends on a note just begging for a sequel, yet there’s been no word of a continuation, a remake, a musical version, a comic book, or even an animated series. Disney seems to pretend that this film is still locked in the vault! I want to see the next generation of Sky High students take on the world.
Where to Stream it: Disney Plus, Apple TV