The past decade, one that’s mercifully coming to a close, has felt like a blur at times. Maybe we can chalk some of that up to pop culture, because a lot of the movies and TV shows we’ve been entertaining ourselves with have been rehashes of old, existing franchises. And some of those have been better than others.
The 2010s continued the 21st century’s reputation as the Reboot Era, because a lot of old intellectual properties (ones that studios really hoped audiences were nostalgic for) got taken out of the basement for a spit-shine and a do-over. A lot of the time, this was a bad idea (see: Power Rangers, The Dark Universe, the Charlie’s Angels movie and 2011 TV series). But, in a few instances, rebooting actually brought out the best in an old IP.
A quick note about what counts as a reboot before we begin: A reboot is not just a remake. There has to be some sort of franchise element, because the idea is that the movie or show is starting over, not just repeating the original. On that note, there must also be a retconning aspect to the reboot, meaning it changes or transforms the original work. Sequels, even much-delayed or loose sequels like Mad Max: Fury Road, don’t count. Finally, we’re going to rule out any adaptations, because otherwise this list would likely be dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe or other comic book franchises. Spider-Man: Homecoming wasn’t a reboot of the Amazing Spider-Man series so much as it was another stab at the comic source material. Same with Into the Spider-Verse and Riverdale, which both would have graced this list otherwise.
Planet of the Apes (2011)
One of the first successful reboots of the decade started the story of humanity’s downfall, which in retrospect, feels right. The three Planet of the Apes movies—Rise, Dawn, and War—didn’t offer much in terms of memorable human characters, but Andy Serkis’s Caesar is much more than an incredible special effect. As the series progresses, we see Caesar evolve and lose his innocence. We’re rooting for him and against ourselves. If the original film’s twist ending was an all-time shocker (it was Earth all along!), the rebooted series is a gradual, painful look at the inevitable.
21 Jump Street (2012)
Technically, you could argue that the Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum-led Jump Street movies were a sequel to the original TV show, but the OG undercover team’s cameo is a top-notch meta-joke, rather than canon. 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street gleefully hang lampshades on every narrative cliche, turning tropes into comedic euphoria. If directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller could make a reboot of a niche TV show this good, then, heck, they could probably make a good movie out of Legos (and they did).
Evil Dead (2013)
The folks behind Evil Dead have seemingly decided to continue the horror franchise via the original story in the Bruce Campbell-led Ash Versus the Evil Dead show on Starz. While that show is a horrifying hoot, it’s a bit of a shame that the 2013 reboot didn’t spawn more Evil Dead stories starring Jane Levy’s Mia. This female-focused Evil Dead was perhaps too unflinchingly graphic in ways where the ‘80s original could skirt by on a more DIY charm, but being too upsetting isn’t really a bad thing in this genre.
Teen Titans Go! (2013)
We’re breaking the “no adaptations” rule because Teen Titans Go! is a direct reboot of Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans series, down to the voice cast and the character designs. There will forever be superhero fans of a certain age who are angry at Teen Titans Go! and its zany, consequence-free comedy because they blame it for knocking the original, more traditional Teen Titans off the air. Sure, Teen Titans Go! never aspired to some of the narrative heights of its predecessor, but the original cartoon never had all the heroes dunk on a deeply insecure Robin for being an orphan, or spend an entire episode explaining how mortgages work. Teen Titans Go! is dark, dada humor disguised in a cute superhero package.
Should Fargo count as a reboot? Noah Hawley’s anthology series—which boasts the Cohen Brothers as executive producers—really just takes the loosest premise and general aesthetic from the Cohens’ 1996 crime-comedy classic. There are people, usually in the South Dakota area, who are involved in some sort of crime and are in way over their heads. That’s been more than enough of a launching point for three seasons of critically acclaimed intrigue in the highest regions of the midwest.
Godzilla has been rebooted a dozen times, in part because many of the Japanese films from Toho Studios don’t share continuity with a lot of the earlier ones. Legendary’s Godzilla series continues this trend, kicking off a kaiju-sized shared universe for the King of the Monsters, and rebooting King Kong too. The old “man in a suit” special effects from the movies are far more charming and more convincing than most people assume (except for a couple of the really cheap stinkers in the ‘70s), but it’s still a thrill to watch Godzilla level buildings and kick monster ass with all the modern filmmaking techniques Hollywood has to offer. (An honorable mention should go to Shin Godzilla, Toho’s darkly comedic reinvention of Godzilla as a bureaucracy-buster).
The 2016 Ghostbusters reboot will, sadly, be forever associated with a misogynistic backlash and less-than-expected box office gross, meaning the plans for the next movie involve bringing back the surviving members of the original male team rather than Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. In a just world, we’d be calling all four of them the next time there’s something weird in the neighborhood, especially McKinnon, who delivered an all-time brilliant eccentric performance. And, not to make this about the guys, but Chris Hemsworth’s role as a “hot idiot” is spiritually rewarding (and may have paved the way for Thor: Ragnarok’s soft reboot of a funny God of Thunder).
The 1973 Westworld movie was sci-fi author Michael Crichton’s directorial debut, and while it’s got a fun hook (robot cowboys attack) and some cool performances (Yul Brynner’s black-clad gunslinger), it’s not all that deep. The same can’t be said for HBO’s series, which is perhaps deep to a fault. Even if the show’s maze can get a little exhausting, Westworld captivated audiences in a way that few other shows could, as pretty much everybody had a theory about who was or was not a host, and what it all means.
One Day at a Time (2017)
Perhaps more than any other reboot on this list, Netflix’s One Day at a Time makes the case for why a reboot can be a good thing. The show took the broad premise of the original CBS series from the ‘70s and ‘80s—a sitcom about a “non-traditional” family that touched on important issues of the day—and updated it for the modern era. One Day at a Time follows a Cuban-American family, exploring issues of racism, sexuality, immigration, and mental health with heart and warm humor. That One Day at a Time became the first show to get canceled by Netflix and then saved by a traditional broadcast network says something about the chord it struck with audiences eager to see this family on screen.
Halloween earns its place on this list of reboots by doing away with all the Halloween sequels and their reveal that the ultimate “Final Girl” Laurie Strode and the masked killer Michael Myers were related. Quibble with the ruling if you want, but 2018’s Halloween allowed one of the most iconic killers in horror history a mostly fresh slate to unleash old-school terror—and it let Judy Greer be the badass we always knew she could be when allowed to do more than just be the worried mom.
As the decade comes to a close, Kyle McGovern presents a ranking of the films that defined a tumultuous time for the Academy.
Originally Appeared on GQ