Every year, there seem to be unintended themes emerging from movie releases. It’s almost as if the studios called each other to coordinate projects like friends in high school planning to wear matching outfits on a Friday. Sometimes this effect is unintentional, like when an emerging movie star manages to have multiple films comes out the same year (see Melissa McCarthy below); other times, it’s a result of executives switching studios and developing similar projects (like the infamous Disney and DreamWorks 1998 double-header grudge match of A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Armageddon vs. Deep Impact).
This year is no different, producing a slew of movie doppelgangers. For the sake of creativity, I left the painfully obvious off. Still, who can forget offerings like Olympus Has Fallen up against White House Down as well as This Is the End paired with The World’s End? And, if you really hate yourself, you can watch a terrible trippleganger of A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Whether it’s similar themes, the same actor in noticeably similar roles, or parallel stand-out moments in two films, this list of 13 movie pairings can provide a nice selection of companion pieces for your viewing pleasure.
1. Homefront and Mud
Though they came out months apart, and one of these was a respected award-bait film while the other was a piece of action escapism, Mud and Homefront covered similar ground. Both take place in the South. Both feature a hero trying to protect a child from an uber-sleazy villain. However, the doppelganger nature of these films becomes most apparent in the climactic scene involving a home invasion shoot-out.
2. Gravity and All Is Lost
This was the year for award film isolation. The location of these movies are about as different as you can get and still be near the same planet. However, both feature a (mostly) lone protagonist fighting against terrible odds in extreme environments. They also have very similar resolutions, not just in tone but in location. Of course, All Is Lost could also easily cross paths with Captain Phillips.
3. Identity Thief and The Heat
After Melissa McCarthy became a break-out success in 2011’s Bridesmaids, she has been on Hollywood’s funnywoman radar. It’s no surprise that studios started developing projects with her playing foul-mouthed characters similar to that role. Even though she’s a criminal with bad hair in Identity Thief and a cop with bad hair in The Heat, the characters are clear doppelgangers.
4. Inside Llewyn Davis and Frances Ha
One theme this awards season is the wandering bohemian. Noah Baumbach’s story of an inspiring (yet not terribly talented) dancer shares a lot of connective tissue with the Coen Brothers’ tale of a folk singer who can’t catch a break. Not only do both films show the struggles of being an artist in New York City, Frances Ha features black-and-white cinematography that is a different style but still similar to the desaturated look of Inside Llewyn Davis.
5. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Jack the Giant Slayer
Not only was 2013 the year of fairytales, it was also the year of not-very-good fairytales. Here are two films that take children stories and give them unnecessary CGI updates. Other 2013 releases that share similar elements include Oz the Great and Powerful and Beautiful Creatures.
6. 42 and 12 Years a Slave
Sure, the obvious comparison one might have with 12 Years a Slave would be Lee Daniels’ The Butler, but why should we conform to expectations? Both of these films depict distant but related historical touchstones in the lives of African Americans, though admittedly seen in radically different contexts.
Both feature white men helping out (Harrison Ford in 42 and Benedict Cumberbatch in 12 Years a Slave). Both have a number in the title. However, the real connective tissue between these films is the comically racist performance of Paul Dano in 12 Years a Slave and the comically racist performance of Alan Tudyk in 42. Did anyone else wonder if these characters were somehow related?
7. Rush and Turbo
Race cars were the big thing in cinemas this year. Well, at least for the filmmakers, if not the general audiences. Both films featured the need for speed with a protagonist as a professional racer. Both films also gave it the old college try to popularize a sport not well represented in American cinema (Formula 1 for Rush and IndyCar for Turbo). Also, both featured a superhero in the lead role with Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor) in Rush and Ryan Reynolds (aka Green Lantern and Deadpool) in Turbo.
8. Fast & Furious 6 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation
The connection between these two movies is pretty simple: sweaty Dwayne Johnson and high octane action. Sure, we could throw Snitch into the ring here, too, but no one cared about that movie.
9. The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street
The charming charlatan character of Jay Gatsby is a far cry from the shyster penny stock pusher of Jordan Belfort. However, both were wealthy playboys that threw outlandish parties. Both films feature lots of jiggles and plenty of drinking. Also, both films feature a corrupt protagonist whose downfall is at least partially caused by his inability to handle romantic relationships.
10. Delivery Man and Philomena
Just as 2013 was the year of fairytales and wandering bohemians, it was also the year of searching for your children. In Delivery Man, Vince Vaughn is getting in touch with some of the 533 children he sired through sperm donations. In Philomena, Judi Dench is trying to find her son that was taken from her in an Irish nunnery. Though wildly different in tone and delivery, both of these films feature a parent trying to connect with his or her offspring with unintended results.
11. Paranoia and Closed Circuit
The similarities between these two movies go beyond the fact that they weren’t terribly good or well received. Paranoia features corporate espionage in a world when your every action can be tracked. Closed Circuit features a barrister trying to solve a crime in a city where every inch can be seen by a camera.
12. Jobs and The Internship
A look behind tech giants was a theme this year, too. The Internship took a whimsical (and unfunny) look at the Google intern program. Jobs pulled back the veil to the inception of Apple computers as a TV-movie-style biopic of Steve Jobs. In the end, it was also clear that audiences liked the technology being referenced in these films much more than the films themselves
13. The Lone Ranger and Saving Mr. Banks
Finally, here’s the biggest stretch, because these movies have very little in common.
In fact, the films are not wholly doppelgangers, but a key scene in each connects them. The Lone Ranger features a climactic moment at the site of the connection point of the Transcontinental Railroad. Though the “Western” scenes in Saving Mr. Banks exist as flashbacks to PL Travers’ early life growing up in Australia, it features a strikingly similar moment at railroad stop. More over, actress Ruth Wilson stars in both movies and appears in almost the same exact outfit in each scene.