It's a cheap truism to say that Hollywood has run out of new ideas; after all, critics have been saying it for decades. Still, Hollywood also has a decades-long history of borrowing ideas from an unlikely source: French-language movies. This week's 'Dinner for Schmucks,' based on the very funny 1998 French farce 'The Dinner Game' ('Le dîner de cons'), is only the latest example of a trend that stretches back more than 70 years and includes dozens of remakes.

It's curious why this should be so. It's not like there's a significant foreign-language film audience in America that will go see these remakes based on their fondness for the originals. Besides, French cinema is very different from Hollywood cinema; it's so much more nonchalant about depicting casual infidelity, casual philosophizing, and casual smoking. Still, a good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from.

Then again, that's also true of a bad idea. Below, we've listed five of the best French-to-English film adaptations, five of the worst, and five more that were noteworthy. Which (if any) of these lists does 'Dinner for Schmucks' belong on? Come back to this post after you've seen it and let us know.

It's a cheap truism to say that Hollywood has run out of new ideas; after all, critics have been saying it for decades. Still, Hollywood also has a decades-long history of borrowing ideas from an unlikely source: French-language movies. This week's 'Dinner for Schmucks,' based on the very funny 1998 French farce 'The Dinner Game' ('Le dîner de cons'), is only the latest example of a trend that stretches back more than 70 years and includes dozens of remakes.

It's curious why this should be so. It's not like there's a significant foreign-language film audience in America that will go see these remakes based on their fondness for the originals. Besides, French cinema is very different from Hollywood cinema; it's so much more nonchalant about depicting casual infidelity, casual philosophizing, and casual smoking. Still, a good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from.

Then again, that's also true of a bad idea. Below, we've listed five of the best French-to-English film adaptations, five of the worst, and five more that were noteworthy. Which (if any) of these lists does 'Dinner for Schmucks' belong on? Come back to this post after you've seen it and let us know.

BEST

'The Birdcage' (1996). Francis Veber, who wrote 'The Dinner Game,' has probably had more of his movies remade by Hollywood (at least nine of them) than any other French filmmaker. His most adaptable work was surely 1978's 'La cage aux folles,' which Veber and two others adapted for the screen from a play by Jean Poiret, a movie which in turn spawned two sequels, a Broadway musical, and this thoroughly Americanized remake. The durable premise -- a gay couple tries to act straight so as not to alienate the conservative parents of their son's fiancée -- worked perfectly well when transplanted to a Miami Beach drag club, with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane at their best as the groom's parents and Gene Hackman nearly stealing the movie as the bride's father. Razor-sharp writing and directing from Elaine May and Mike Nichols, respectively, keep the original's satirical points intact without shortchanging any of the characters of their humanity.


'Down and Out in Beverly Hills' (1986). Paul Mazursky's update of Jean Renoir's 1932 farce 'Boudu Saved From Drowning' fires on all cylinders and spares no one. A Reagan-era comedy of class and manners, it's about a suicidal homeless man (Nick Nolte) who's taken in by a wealthy family (headed by unhappily married Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler) and proceeds to seduce and charm everyone in the household, only to be seduced himself by his luxurious new lifestyle.


'Sorcerer' (1977). William Friedkin's adaptation of Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic 1953 nailbiter 'The Wages of Fear' wasn't a hit in theaters (probably because of the misleading title), but it remains an underrated gem. Like the original, this suspenseful, hallucinatory thriller is a death-could-come-at-any-moment tale of men hired to haul nitro over bumpy terrain in rickety trucks.


•'Twelve Monkeys' (1995). Bruce Willis is a time-traveler from a post-apocalyptic future who, in the present day, must figure out how to forestall the catastrophe, or at least learn enough to help keep the surviving humans of the future alive. The original version, Chris Marker's 1962 short film 'La jetée,' is a beautiful, dreamlike tale told almost entirely via still photographs, but Terry Gilliam's version is hauntingly beautiful in its own way, a eulogy for humanity in anticipation of our own self-destruction.


'Unfaithful' (2002). A very French movie about infidelity, successfully transplanted to the posh suburbs north of New York City, Adrian Lyne's adaptation of Claude Chabrol's thriller 'La femme infidele' (1969) features Diane Lane in a career-best performance as a cheating wife (her lover is token Frenchman Olivier Martinez) and Richard Gere as the husband whose jealousy has unexpected, horrific consequences. Worth watching just for the scene, after her first secret tryst, where Lane rides the train home, as a universe of conflicting emotions plays across her face.


WORST

'And God Created Woman' (1987). Roger Vadim's 1956 original made a worldwide sex symbol out of the wanton Brigitte Bardot. Vadim's own tepid, barely seen remake did no such wonders for Rebecca De Mornay, as a femme fatale who ensnares both hapless lug Vincent Spano and creepy oldtimer Frank Langella with her unsubtle charms.

'Breathless' (1983). Richard Gere has probably starred in more French-to-English remakes than anyone (at least four), but this is one he should have skipped. It's an interesting idea to switch the nationalities in Jean-Luc Godard's landmark 1960 lovers-on-the-lam tale (here, it's the American, Gere, who's the outlaw and the French visitor, starlet Valerie Kaprisky, who loves and betrays him), but in practice, it doesn't work. Gere and Kaprisky don't have the chemistry of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, and Jim McBride's film simply lacks the verve and freshness of Godard's groundbreaking classic.


•'Point of No Return' (1993). Luc Besson's 1990 'La Femme Nikita' seemed like a reverse transplant at the time, a French movie (about a punk waif made over into a chic assassin) that looked like a Hollywood action picture. There's no reason it shouldn't have worked in reverse (indeed, it did, later, on the long-running Peta Wilson USA cable channel series 'La Femme Nikita'), but even though John Badham's film was a virtual shot-for-shot remake of Besson's, it lacked the cool flair of the original, and wee, polished Bridget Fonda was miscast as an imposing killer in a role originally played by leggy, feral Anne Parillaud. We'll see if the next remake - this fall's CW series starring Maggie Q as Nikita - can get it right.

'Taxi' (2004). There's a reason Jimmy Fallon is hosting a late-night talk show instead of starring in movies: flops like this one, a remake of a not nearly as goofy Luc Besson crime comedy from 1998. Fallon plays a trouble-prone cop who partners with a lead-footed cabbie (Queen Latifah), and the result is every bit as awful as you'd imagine.


•'The Toy' (1982). 'The Birdcage' aside, most remakes of Francis Veber films have been pretty awful, but even on a list that includes 'Father's Day,' 'Three Fugitives,' and 'The Man With One Red Shoe,' this one (based on 1976's 'Le Jouet') is the undisputed worst. Jackie Gleason is a tycoon who pretty much buys Richard Pryor as a slave and playmate for his spoiled, friendless little boy. It's as offensive and cringeworthy as it sounds; why such comedy giants as Pryor and Gleason thought they could make it work is a mystery.

NOTEWORTHY

•'Algiers' (1938). French import Charles Boyer earned an Oscar nomination for his role as a gangster hiding out in the Casbah, and fellow European transplant Hedy Lamarr became a Hollywood star in the lead female role. The film was a remake of Julien Duvivier's popular French film 'Pepe Le Moko,' made just the year before, with Jean Gabin in the lead.


'Diabolique' (1996). Clouzot's classic Hitchcockian tale of infidelity and murder was a shocker in 1955. The Sharon Stone remake was a little less so, though it did retain some French flavor with the casting of Isabelle Adjani. Problem was that the later version took the famous twist ending of the original and added a couple more twist endings. No, M. Night Shyamalan was not involved.


'Fanny' (1961). The saga of a Marseilles family, 'Fanny' was adapted from a Broadway musical, which in turn came from a trilogy of Marcel Pagnol films: 'Marius' (1931), 'Fanny' (1933), and 'Cesar' (1936). Joshua Logan's Hollywood version was shot on location in Marseilles and earned five Oscar nominations, including one for star Boyer as Cesar, the philosophical tavern owner and family patriarch.

•'Three Men and a Baby' (1987). Critics weren't kind to this faithful remake of 1985's French smash 'Three Men and a Cradle,' but the comedy was an enormous hit, one of the most popular French-to-English remakes in a decade that was chock full of them. Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg are the swinging bachelor roommates who find themselves up to their elbows in poopy diapers after the result of one of Danson's flings lands in a basket on their doorstep. It spawned a sequel (1990's 'Three Men and a Little Lady') and enough goodwill that, 20 years later, there's talk of another sequel, one that would see the three dads walking the now-grown daughter down the aisle.


•'True Lies' (1994). Secret agent Arnold Schwarzenegger and unwitting wife Jamie Lee Curtis save their floundering marriage when they realize that the couple that spies together stays together. James Cameron lifted most of the plot from Claude Zidi's 1991 action comedy 'La Totale!', starring Thierry Lhermitte as the undercover husband (as in 'The Dinner Game,' he's playing a man too smart for his own good). Of course, Cameron and Schwarzengger's version is much bigger, noisier, and flashier; it's also all but stolen by supporting players Tom Arnold (as Schwarzenegger's partner) and Bill Paxton, as the used-car salesman pretending to be a spy in order to romance Curtis.


•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.