An image from the film, Living in Bondage, of two men looking at something offscreen.

An image from the film, 'Living in Bondage.'

Photo courtesy Netflix.

A Definitive Ranking of 5 Old Nollywood Film Remakes

It’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away, and as Nollywood directors revisit old movies, some are doing so with more flair than others.

The turn of the decade has brought with it renewed interest in what many now call the golden age of Nollywood – referring to the movies from the ‘90s and 2000s that effectively created the foundation of the Nigerian movie industry. Accounts like Nolly Babes and Yung Nollywood began growing in popularity for sharing stills and memes from Nollywood classics, like Girls Cot, Beyonceand Rihanna and more. These memes enjoyed international success as even people unfamiliar with Nollywood found them amusing. Eventually, they took on a life of their own as they fueled fashion trends and Y2K/old Nollywood nostalgia party trends in Nigeria and across the diaspora. With this nostalgia for old Nollywood at its peak, the time has been right to release remakes and reboots of these classics.

The trend started with Living In Bondage: Breaking Free, the sequel to the 1992 classic Living in Bondage, the first time a Nollywood classic got renewed attention and was released to significant fanfare. Since then, we’ve seen the release of several other sequels, remakes and reboots–all to varying degrees of success and acclaim.

Here, we rank the remakes and reboots in order of how much they improved on the original concept.

5.'Nneka The Pretty Serpent'

The Nneka The Pretty Serpent reboot is an attempt to create a fantasy thriller blockbuster that falls flat in execution–with one review even calling it “boring and not fun at all.” Starring Idia Aisien in her debut role, the movie follows the titular character, Nneka Agu, on a mission to avenge her parent’s death after seemingly being given powers by the Queen of the Coast.

The several plot twists in the movie fail to rope the viewer in, and simply leaves them confused, rather than emotionally invested. It attempts to be a lot more complicated than the 1994 original, in which a woman desperate for a baby meets a river goddess and receives a child who grows up to be the titular character and goes on to wreak havoc with supernatural powers. While one can appreciate the attempt to be a complex story, the result leaves much to be desired from the acting, cinematography and overall story.

4.'Glamour Girls'

By 2022, when Glamour Girls was released, the novelty of rebooting or releasing a sequel to a Nollywood classic wasn’t what it used to be. Many felt that just the reboots and new sequels weren’t necessarily adding much, and weren’t entertaining as standalone pieces of entertainment. Glamour Girls, the reboot, did very little to fight against this. Upon its release, Glamour Girls was criticized for its “incoherent plot.” The original Glamour Girls was a rich exploration of the underground life of sex work–albeit with the intention of being a didactic story that aimed to convince those watching why this is a path to avoid. The re-telling was glossy with no real substance to add to the canon of Glamour Girls or the reality of sex work. While the reboot was blessed with some fascinating talents, including the likes of Nse Ikpe Etim and Joselyn Dumas, who turn out some great performances, it doesn’t leave the viewer feeling much of anything, especially when placed alongside the original.

3.'Aki and Paw Paw'

When it was announced that Nollywood’s most iconic duo Aki and Paw Paw were getting the reboot treatment, many were excited and even more were curious to see how it would go. While the story got a modern revamp – Aki and Paw Paw become social media famous in a modern world and have to deal with the pitfalls of that – it failed to crack into the pop culture zeitgeist.

Reviewers noted that the “movie failed to explicitly explore the reality of the characters” and wasn't funny. It made up for this, however, with a tremendous showing at the box office where it drew in ₦136,379,049, and established itself as the third highest-grossing Nigerian movie of all time. This isn’t shocking as Aki and Paw Paw’s status as comedy kings is enough to draw in most of their die-hard fans. However, when you place the movie against others featuring the iconic duo, the 2021 film doesn’t pack half the punch, and it lacks the classic meme material of the others, too.

2.'Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story'

In 1995, Amaka Igwe, who would go on to be remembered as one of Nigeria’s most influential filmmakers, released her first feature-length film, Rattlesnake. The film is often hailed as Nollywood’s first action movie, with its numerous shooting and fighting sequences. It details the life of Ahanna, who loses his father and has to take care of his siblings, and how he descends into crime to do so.

In 2021, Play Network released a remake of the classic. Ramsey Nouah’s directorial debut stars Stan Nze as the titular character who witnesses a lynching, and is told by his father that only the poor experience public lynching. After his father dies and he has little luck in finding employment, Ahanna goes to Lagos and, following a series of events, forms a group called the Armadas that carries out successful heists. While the film is packed with a significant amount of cliches–especially for its recruiting scene – most of it is well done, and where the movie does struggle with story and the occasional acting performance, it makes up for it by being an extremely fun experience with impressive cinematography.

1.'Living In Bondage'

Perhaps it is too early to say that rebooting old Nollywood movies peaked with Living In Bondage: Breaking Free, which was released in 2019, but all signs point to that being the case. Living In Bondage 2 follows the highly ambitious Nnamdi Nworie, the secret son of Andy Okeke – the central character of the original Living in Bondage – with his second wife, Ego.

After catching the attention of Richard Williams, Nworie soon goes down the same dark path of ambition, sacrifice, and blood money that his father had. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes Living In Bondage 2 work the way it does. Perhaps it’s how the movie takes already established facts in the original and makes them bigger; perhaps it's the novelty of a sequel to a Nollywood classic. It all just comes together to create a film that has already been inducted into the Nollywood canon, and has been hailed by critics as a “modern classic.”