Movie Doppelgangers: The Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time – Part I

10 Sep

It only takes one glance at your local cinema’s timetable to realise that Hollywood isn’t the most original place in the world.  Do I want to see the superhero movie, the alien/vampire/zombie/robot/alien vampire zombie robot film, the Jennifer Aniston rom-com, or the one where Tom Cruise plays a hero and we have to try to pretend he’s not a crazy Scientologist?

Sometimes, however, even Hollywood goes too far.  Sometimes two movies come out at the same time and with the same premise, so that you can’t help wondering whether executives are looking over each other’s shoulders and copying their exam answers.

For example, this year it was possible to have this exchange:

Boy: “Do you want to see that new movie about the White House getting attacked?”

Girl: “Sure!  I love Channing Tatum!”

Boy: “You mean Gerard Butler?”

Girl: “No, Tatum.”

Boy: “You’re thinking of the wrong movie.  I’m talking about the one where the White House gets attacked.”

Girl: “Yeah, and the President gets held hostage.”

Boy: “Right, but it doesn’t have Channing Tatum in it.”

Girl: “Sure it does, and Jamie Foxx is president.”

Boy: “What? Aaron Eckhart is president.”

Girl: “No he’s not.  It’s Jamie Foxx.”

Boy: “Are you thinking about Morgan Freeman, cos that’s racist.  He’s in the movie, but he’s not the president.”

Girl: “I’m positive it’s Jamie Foxx.  You know, ‘The White House Has Fallen’.  A failed presidential guard is stuck on the inside, has to save the day.”

Boy: “Right, an ex-presidential guard is stuck on the inside and has to save the day.  Is it called ‘White House Has Fallen’ though?  Isn’t it ‘Olympus’ something?”

Girl: “Yes!  ‘Olympus is Down’!  That’s it.”

Boy: “No, it’s ‘Olympus Has Fallen!”

Girl: “That’s it, that’s the one.  It’s called ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ and it stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx.”

Boy: “No it DOESN’T!!!  It has Eckhart and Butler!  Eckhart and BUTLER! AND BUTLER SAVES ECKHART FROM THE KOREANS!!!”

Girl: “The Koreans?  What?”

Boy: “Let’s just go watch Wolverine.”

Yes, within three months Hollywood released Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, two movies about the White House being attacked, the President of the USA being held hostage, and a failed presidential guard on the inside the only possibility of saving the day.  And both plots, according to most reviews, are equally ludicrous.  No surprises there.

It’s not the first time Hollywood has managed to release essentially the same movie twice at the same time.  Here is part I of Hesaidwhatnow?’s list of the Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time.

The Illusionist v The Prestige

"My crystal ball tells me there will be another movie just like this!"

“My crystal ball tells me there will be another movie just like this!”

"Wolverine's a pussy!" "Shut up Batman!"

“Batman’s a pussy!” “Shut up Wolverine!”

The Illusionist   The Prestige
1 September 2006 Release Date 20 October 2006
7.6/10 IMDb Score 8.4/10
68/100 Meta Critic Score 66/100
74/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 76/100
$16 million Budget $40 million
$39.8 million Box Office Gross (US) $53 million
$87.9 million Box Office Gross (World) $109.7 million

No, it’s not an illusion.  In 2006, Hollywood pulled the magic trick of releasing two period dramas about magicians within a fortnight of each other.  The similarities are numerous: both films are based on books (the Illusionist on Steven Millhauser’s short story ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’; the Prestige on the award winning novel of the same name by Christopher Priest); both films are set in Europe in the late 1800s; and both juxtapose the wonder of magic with a darker underside of dangerous rivalries, on stage and for love.  The main differences?  Whilst the Prestige focusses on the rivalry between two competing magicians, the Illusionist focusses on a magician’s quest to take his true love and escape from the evil clutches of her betrothed, Crown Prince Leopold.  Also, the Prestige delves somewhat in the mystical, whereas the Illusionist stays strictly on the seemingly mystical.

Unlike many movies on this list, this pair of films are both very good, with critics and audiences alike reacting positively to both movies.  The cast of the Illusionist is excellent: Edward Norton as the protagonist, Jessica Biel as his love interest, Rufus Sewell as the evil Crown Prince, and Paul Giamitti as the chief of the Vienna police.  However the cast of The Prestige is even better.  Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play the rivals, with Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine,  Piper Parabo, and David Bowie playing significant roles.  Plus The Prestige is slightly more entertaining throughout, and importantly for a movie about magicians, has the better ‘reveal’.

Winner: The Prestige

Dante’s Peak v Volcano

"I can't believe a volcano is about to erupt in a small town in Washington state."

“I can’t believe a volcano is about to erupt in a small town in Washington state.”

"At least it's slightly more plausible than a volcano erupting in Los Angeles."

“At least it’s slightly more plausible than a volcano erupting in Los Angeles.”

Dante’s Peak   Volcano
7 February 1997 Release Date 27 April 1997
5.7/10 IMDb Score 5.3/10
43/100 Meta Critic Score 55/100
27/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 44/100
$116 million Budget $90 million
$67.2 million Box Office Gross (US) $47.5 million
$178.2 million Box Office Gross (World) $122.8 million

What we have here are two disaster movies released within a few months of each other about a volcano erupting, threatening the lives of local citizens. Can the experienced but troubled protagonist (Pierce Brosnan, whose girlfriend and fellow volcano expert who four years earlier was killed by, yep, a volcano; and Tommy Lee Jones) convince the local authorities that tragedy is looming?  Can they protect their love interests (Linda Hamilton and Anne Heche) and at least one child from the volcano threatening to erupt?  And can they do so to positive reviews by critics and viewers?  Sadly, they could not, with both movies’ reviews and box office grossings ranging somewhere between ‘ordinary’ and ‘destroyed by liquid hot magma’.

Winner: The volcanoes.

Deep Impact v Armageddon

I'd be hugging someone with gratitude too if I found out that they gave the Aerosmith song to the other meteor movie.

I’d be hugging someone with gratitude too if I found out that they gave the Aerosmith song to the other meteor movie.

"Armageddon that asteroid, that's a promise.  And a pun!"

“Armageddon that asteroid, that’s a promise. And a pun!”

Deep Impact   Armageddon
8 May 1998 Release Date 1 July 1998
6.0/10 IMDb Score 6.5/10
40/100 Meta Critic Score 42/100
47/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 40/100
$75 million Budget $140 million
$140.5 million Box Office Gross (US) $201.6 million
$321.0 million Box Office Gross (World) $553.7 million

Speaking of disaster movies, once Hollywood were done watching volcanoes ravage the planet, they decided to think bigger.  So it is that two movies about giant space rocks on a path of destruction hurtled through the atmosphere and into our cinemas – within two months of each other.

In Deep Impact, a comet on course to flatten Earth is discovered and the US and Russia secretly plan to send a spacecraft to intercept it and detonate it with nuclear weapons.  However, there are problems, and the world remains in danger, forcing the US and Russia to inform the world of its impending doom.  In Armageddon, an asteroid on course to flatten Earth is discovered and the US secretly plans to send a spacecraft to intercept it and detonate it with nuclear weapons.  However, there are problems, and the world remains in danger, forcing the US to inform the world of its impending doom.

The main differences?  Um… one’s a comet and one’s an asteroid?  One could cause an “Extinction Level Event” and one could cause an “Extinction Event”?  One has Steven Tyler screeching “I don’t wanna miss a thing” whilst Ben Affleck walks animal crackers over his real life daughter’s half naked body, whilst the other doesn’t (thank god)?

Actually, the main difference is that Armageddon is typical Michael Bay over-the-top-ness, whereas Deep Impact is (apparently) slightly more grounded in scientific theory.  That and, despite poor critical acclaim, Armageddon made an asteroid sized amount of money in the box office whereas Deep Impact only earned a comet sized fortune.

Winner: Armageddon I guess.  And animal crackers.

Drop Zone v Terminal Velocity

A movie about skydiving villains happened...

Yep.  A movie about skydiving villains actually happened…

...twice.

…twice.

Drop Zone   Terminal Velocity
9 September 1994 Release Date 23 September 1994
5.4/10 IMDb Score 5.3/10
N/A Meta Critic Score N/A
35/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 14/100
$45 million Budget $50 million
$28.7 million Box Office Gross (US) $16.5 million
N/A Box Office Gross (World) N/A

1994 was the first time I remember being gobsmacked that two movies with virtually identical premises could come out at the same time.  If, as a thirteen year old, I can think, “Wait – there’s two movies about skydiving coming out?  Is that a typo?” then surely Hollywood should have been able to stop and realise that perhaps doubling up on such a ridiculous concept wasn’t such a good idea.  If only.

The plots?  In Drop Zone, US Marshal Wesley Snipes loses a brother to a terrorist attack on a plane, although he suspects it was an elaborate plot.  It turns out he is correct – the ‘terrorists’, led by the always well presented Gary Busey, were after the computer hacking genius Snipes was escorting, and parachuted to safety, planning to use the computer wiz to help them with their plausible criminal plan: parachuting onto the DEA building in Washington DC, hacking into their mainframe, stealing information on undercover agents and auctioning them off to bad guys.  Snipes must then learn skydiving from a sexy love interest to stop Busey.

Terminal Velocity has Charlie Sheen as a maverick skydiving instructor.  When a sexy love interest goes up with him for her first dive, she falls out of the plane and seemingly dies, although Sheen suspects it was an elaborate plot.  It turns out he is correct – the woman was a Russian spy who wanted to fake her own death so as to recover a shipment of gold.  In what is one of the greatest single lines of a plot summary of all time, Sheen then has to use “all of his skydiving skills to outwit the villains and stay alive”.  And his mother thought he was wasting his time being a skydiving instructor.

These two films are awful.  Both were duds at the box office and were laughed at by critics, although the reviews for Terminal Velocity were particularly scathing.

Winner: Drop Zone.  Whilst both films failed to open their parachutes, Drop Zone hit the earth with slightly less of a thud.  Although in Terminal Velocity’s defence, it did have Charlie Sheen deliver an immortal line: “I’m not just a walking penis – I’m a flying penis!”   Yowsers.

No Strings Attached v Friends With Benefits

"Hey Natalie, you know how I said that love scene was for a movie?  Well you've been Punk'd!!!"

“Hey Natalie, you know how I said that love scene was for a movie? Well…Punk’d!!!”

I'm trying really hard not to make a dirty joke about their hand gestures.

I’m trying really hard not to make a dirty joke about their hand gestures.

No Strings Attached   Friends with Benefits
21 January 2011 Release Date 22 July 2011
6.1/10 IMDb Score 6.6/10
50/100 Meta Critic Score 63/100
49/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 70/100
$25 million Budget $35 million
$70.7 million Box Office Gross (US) $55.8 million
$147.8 million Box Office Gross (World) $149.5 million

No Strings Attached is a comedy about two attractive friends (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman) deciding to have a physical relationship without any emotional commitment.  Trouble is, they start developing feelings for each other.  Friends With Benefits is a comedy about two attractive friends (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) deciding to have a physical relationship without any emotional commitment.  Trouble is, they start developing feelings for each other.

Both of these films have the same plot, both star male leads who probably shouldn’t be in movies, and both earned roughly $150 million worldwide.  However Friends With Benefits had more support from critics and is generally considered the superior film.  Still, the only thing worse than trying to have a physical relationship with a platonic friend is to make two movies about it and release them at the same time.

Winner: Friends With Benefits.  Loser: anyone trying to convince someone that they should try being friends with benefits.

That’s five pairs of movies with the same premise released at the same time.  But there are plenty more.  Check back into Hesaidwhatnow? for Part II of Movie Doppelgangers: The Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time.

2 Responses to “Movie Doppelgangers: The Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time – Part I”

  1. Toby Peiterson September 10, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    Best article yet! It is amazing how this happens and I can’t believe there are more! Gotta say though, Armageddon is a classic and you can’t bad mouth that movie!
    “Harry, it’s my job to do this”
    “No, your job now is to take care of my little girl”
    Classic!

  2. wordsfromacloud March 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    A movie that has a ‘period mixtape’ has to be a comedy success!

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