What’s The Difference Between A Movie Remake and Reboot?

In today’s risk-averse movie studio system, movie product is almost exclusively derived from pre-existing material, including movies and TV shows. There are two key terms used; remake and reboot. Sometimes they are used interchangeably, but they are quite distinct.

Learn the difference between reboot and remake.


A remake honors its source material and does its best to pay homage to it. A remake could mean a modernization in visual or cinematic style, social relevance, dialogue or theme. It can add a director’s unique vision to a project or it could mean a cultural repurpose to appeal to a mass Western audience.

The goal is to make a previously successful movie or TV show even better and capitalize on its previous success. The most extreme example of a remake is the 1998 version of Psycho starring Vince Vaughn. It was a shot for shot remake of the 1960 original. Other remakes include “Three Men and A Baby”, “The Ring” and “Cape Fear”.

Remakes tend to be more common among films than TV shows. They usually refer to a single piece of material rather than a franchise or a series. TV shows like “Shameless” and “Rake” (remade for American audiences) and “The Killing” remade from its Danish source material, “Forbrydelsen” are generally classed as remakes.

Examples of movie remakes are “Total Recall” (original produced in 1990. remake in 2012) and “Godzilla” (original made in 1954 and remade in 2013). Arguably, “Godzilla” may overlap into reboot territory.


A reboot indicates a complete overhaul of the source material; a reimagining, reconceptualisation into a franchise. The new material may be vastly different from the original material that only the title remains. A reboot may maintain some or all of the character names, plot elements, themes, setting and story lines, but a reboot is basically starting from scratch.

Reboots generally strip down the material to their core elements and rebuilding from there. They can be produced from either a single entity, a franchise or material from another medium such as comic books, games and novels.

Typical examples of reboots include  as Planet of the Apes (original made in 1968 and reboots produced in 2011 and 2013) and superhero movies such as Spiderman and Batman.

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