One of the Biggest Box Office Bombs of All Time is a Cult Western Remake Nobody Asked For

One of the Biggest Box Office Bombs of All Time is a Cult Western Remake Nobody Asked For
Image credit: Touchstone Pictures

John Lee Hancock's 2004 remake of The Alamo was a disaster on every level.


  • John Wayne portrayed Davy Crockett the way Americans want to see him.
  • There was no demand for a more authentic remake.
  • The remake was doomed from the outset.

In American history, the battle of the Alamo was a relatively minor one. It was also a massive defeat for the Texas Army and its legendary hero, Davy Crockett. But, let's face it, Hollywood in the 1960s was more concerned with telling a good story than authentically portraying the events.

Perhaps things were better that way. I mean, did anyone ask for a more historically accurate version of the John Wayne classic? No. And that should have told us all we needed to know.

John Wayne was the reason for The Alamo's success in 1960

When it comes to Westerns, John Wayne is arguably the best there ever was. He displayed a rugged swagger that today we might dismiss as arrogance. At the time, it was what movie audiences wanted from their screen heroes.

Despite what people may think of some of his views today, John Wyne was cool back then. He was the man that young boys wanted to be. And his characters typically had the ability, bravery, and devil-may-care attitude to take on any enemy and win. Like Davy Crockett in The Alamo, he never made it to the end of the movie. But he died a hero's death.

But the end result and the location were about as close as the movie came to telling what really happened.

Did anybody care that it wasn't accurate?

Not really. The Alamo was never meant to be seen as part of the history curriculum in school. Like pretty much every other Western of the time, it was an action movie; a chance for fans to lose themselves in the excitement of the battle between good and evil.

In reality, the line between good and evil was less clear. The Texas Army had committed its own share of atrocities, and it's hard to argue that the Mexicans' violent motivations were any more vicious.

But blockbuster movies at that time were still black and white (at least when it came to plot). The truth wasn't in demand. Anyone who sat down to watch The Alamo wanted to see John Wayne being classic John Wayne. And that's what they got.

The 2004 remake was never going to work

The remake was flawed from the start. In 1960, John Wayne was the man when it came to action heroes in movies. He brought his trademark style to the role of Davy Crockett, playing the Creek warrior as the myth had created him.

44 years later, the rebooted version was deliberately made to be more historically authentic. Billy Bob Thornton's Davy Crockett was to be more human, more real, more aware that he was not the man he had been portrayed.

The exact details of Davy Crockett's death are disputed. But no accounts of the time have him dying in an explosion. But while John Wayne's Crockett went out with a bang, Billy Bob Thornton's Crockett died on his knees. Defeated and bound, he understood the irony of his situation. He had bought into his own hype and been swept away on a sea of stardom. With nothing left to lose, he mockingly offered terms of surrender - as was expected of him. In the end, however, all he could do was scream in defiance and frustration as the troops were ordered to kill him.

No wonder the movie was such a flop. Earning only $25.8 million at the box office against a budget of $107 million, it was widely panned and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 29%.

Billy Bob Thornton is a fine actor. But trying to take on such a big role in a movie that was so unlikely to capture the public's imagination was a decision doomed to failure. In the end, the movie, like the true story of the Alamo, is best left to history.