Top 5 Hollywood Movies Based on Foreign Films

There's a sort ogreish pride that we sometimes get over the fact that we come from the land of Hollywood. To a certain extent, we should be proud - cinema may have been born in France, but there's no arguing that it spent a healthy dose of its formative years in sunny California. American cinema had had a gargantuan influence on the world of film at large, there's no question about that. But, that doesn't that it's the only influence worth studying. And, furthermore, it doesn't mean that American film hasn't been equally influenced by films from around the world.

We did a little bit of research here at Open Air Cinema, and we found out that some of our favorite films to project on the inflatable screen are actually adapted from the best that world cinema has to offer. Below is our list of Hollywood films based on foreign pictures. Next time you host an outdoor cinema event, make a night out of it. Watch the original and the remake back-to-back for a bit of culture and fun compare/contrast. Maybe make snacks based around the film's country of origin - what do they eat at the movies in Japan, anyway? One of these films, a little bit of planning, and an inflatable screen can add up to a pretty fun experience of cinema under the stars.

12 Monkeys

(Terry Gilliam, 1995)

Based on La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)

While Terry Gilliam has always veered toward the darker edge of storytelling, he's never made a film so literally dark as 12 Monkeys. While Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen had their grey and black moments, it seems as though Gilliam placed a dirty dishwater filter over this twisted bit of sci-fi about a convict sent back from a future ravaged by disease in hopes of saving humanity. The whole world appears to be made of rusty metal, blanketed by cancerous-looking blobs of snow. It's a type of mise-en-scene that does the film's doomy tone justice. If that weren't enough, the cast does fine work, particularly Brad Pitt as the charismatically unhinged Jeffrey Goines.

The Departed

(Martin Scorsese, 2006)

Based on Infernal Affairs (Andrew Lau & Alan Mak, 2002)

Martin Scorsese is pretty reliable when it comes to getting an excellent performance out of frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio. But in The Departed, the director's Irish-Americanized version of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs, we not only get a blistering performance from DiCaprio as an undercover cop, but we also get an unnerving yet magnetic performance from Jack Nicholson a the mob boss who smells a rat in his organization. The entire supporting ensemble brings a great deal of personality and zazz to a film that might otherwise be a lot of boring stakeout montages. Plus, Scorsese' quick style of directing allows him to juggle multiple sections of this complex narrative - all the double and triple crosses - all at once without making things confusing.

The Magnificent Seven

(John Sturges, 1960)

Based on Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)

Cowboys and samurai may come from opposite ends of the earth, but many of the principles that we associate with the mythic cowboy - honor, duty, grit - are the same ideals that the samurai strove for in the days of feudal Japan. It's no wonder that John Sturges saw in Seven Samurai an opportunity for a great western, replete with action and drama as a ragtag group of gunfighters team up to defend a small village. This remake takes all the right things from its original inspiration - an amazing ensemble cast, a healthy dose of gunfighting (in place of katana duels), and the American debut of the now-classic assembling-the-team-for-a-mission narrative.

The Birdcage

(Mike Nichols, 1996)

Based on La Cage Aux Folles (Edouard Molinaro, 1978)

The celebrated comedy duo of Mike Nichols (director, The Graduate) and Elaine May (writer, Heaven Can Wait) team up once more to direct this hilarious farce about a flamboyantly gay couple about to meet their extremely conservative future in-laws - which sounds just as timely today as it was in 1996. Based on the celebrated French musical, this film loses the show tunes, but maintains all the zing. This is largely thanks to May's deft writing, which stays true where needed and strays in all the right places from the film's hypotext. A big contributing factor as well is the perfect casting, which includes no less than Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest, Gene Hackman, and Hank Azaria in a role that is just enough slapstick to be endearing.

Scent of a Woman

(Martin Brest, 1992)

Based on Profumo di Donna (Dino Risi, 1974)

Scent of a Woman remains easily one of Al Pacino' most well-remembered (and poorly-imitated) acting roles - and his counterpart in 1974' Profumo di Donna is not bad for a laugh, either. This coming-of-age comedy about a young man in prep school with a moral dilemma and an blind, cranky vet at the end of his days remains a classic. In part this is because of the fantastic dialogue between Pacino and Chris O'Donnell, expertly delivered by the two actors and expertly scripted by celebrated writer Bo Goldman. But Brest's direction takes what could have been an old, tired plot and breathes a new, zesty life into it. He knows which moments should be intimate and where the camera should in turn be standoffish. Scent of a Woman could have suffered the pitfalls of its genre, but remains an unlikely classic. Of course, any time you do an outdoor movie, you're doing more than watching. You're having an experience. So, go for broke. Make the inflatable screen the thing that always heralds a good time. Call your friends. Lay out the snack trays. Silence your phones. Take the time to truly enjoy your cinema under the stars.

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