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Top 10 Times Twilight Zone Was Ripped off

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
You might be surprised by just how many times The Twilight Zone did it first. From shows like “The Good Place” to films like “Us,” the impact of Rod Serling’s creation can be heavily felt. Considering that the series aired all the way back in 1958, it makes sense that so many modern artists have looked to it for inspiration. WatchMojo ranks the times The Twilight Zone did it first. Are there any other movies or shows that remind you of The Twilight Zone? Let us know in the comments!

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It is a dimension of Déjà vu. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Times The Twilight Zone Did It First.

For this list, we’re taking a look at ideas that were explored in the original “Twilight Zone” series long before they were popularized in modern movies and shows. Since twist endings play a key role in “The Twilight Zone,” be prepared for the following spoilers.

#10: “Child’s Play” (1988)
“Living Doll”

Before Chucky became the silver screen’s definitive killer doll, there was Talky Tina. Brought to life by voice acting legend June Foray, Tina looks like an innocent wind-up doll, but she has some choice words for family patriarch Erich Streator. Convinced that his step-daughter’s doll is out to get him, Erich tries to destroy Tina, but this toy doesn’t play nice with those she doesn’t like. Although the episode’s plot mirrors “Child’s Play,” there are a few notable differences. Hosting the soul of a serial killer, Chucky is the epitome of evil. In “Living Doll,” however, we’re left to wonder who the true antagonist was: the abusive husband and step-father or the doll who wanted to make little Christie happy by any means necessary?

#9: “What Women Want” (2000)
“A Penny for Your Thoughts”

You wouldn’t expect a Nancy Meyers romantic comedy starring Mel Gibson to draw comparison to a “Twilight Zone” episode, but these two stories are eerily similar. In “What Women Want,” Gibson plays a macho womanizer who gets in touch with his feminine side after an accident enables him to hear the opposite sex’s thoughts. While the protagonist in “A Penny for Your Thoughts” lacks Gibson’s confidence, he also gains the ability to read minds. His gift isn’t restricted to just females, though, opening up his mind to even more dirty secrets. In each story, the male lead ultimately loses his powers, but walks away from the experience with a wiser outlook and a girlfriend. Coincidentally, both love interests have the name Helen in common.

#8: “Midnight in Paris” (2011)
“A Stop at Willoughby”

In this Woody Allen comedy, Owen Wilson plays a contemporary screenwriter who feels as if he was born in the wrong decade. When the clock strikes midnight, Wilson’s character is inexplicably transported back to 1920 Paris, brushing shoulders with Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, and the Fitzgeralds. The film really tapped into the zeitgeist of 2011, exploring society’s ever-growing fascination with nostalgia. Years before Allen took a trip back to the 1920s, Rod Serling transported audiences back to 1888. “A Stop at Willoughby” follows a man who takes a train ride to a peaceful place untarnished by time. While both tales touch upon the comfort we all find in nostalgia, they also demonstrate why we shouldn’t try to escape the future by retreating to the past.

#7: “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
“The Hitch-Hiker”

At the height of his career, M. Night Shyamalan was hailed as a modern Rod Serling, capping off each of his movies with a twist. The parallels actually might’ve been closer than we initially realized. (xref) In “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim,” someone from the 19th century suddenly finds himself in the present day, not unlike the ending of “The Village.” “The Six Sense” is also reminiscent of a classic “Twilight Zone” episode entitled “The Hitch-Hiker.” Tell us if this sounds familiar. A young woman driving from New York to LA repeatedly passes by a mysterious hitchhiker who appears to be stalking her. In the end, it’s revealed that our protagonist was a ghost the entire time and the hitchhiker was the embodiment of death.

#6: “Poltergeist” (1982)
“Little Girl Lost”

Steven Spielberg not only directed a segment of 1983’s “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” but also two episodes of Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery.” We wouldn’t be surprised if Spielberg drew inspiration from Serling while co-writing and co-producing “Poltergeist.” This supernatural horror film revolves around the Freeling family, who lose youngest daughter Carol Anne when she crosses over into another dimension. A bedroom closet acts as a portal to this other world, calling a classic “Twilight Zone” episode to mind. In “Little Girl Lost,” six-year-old Bettina Miller stumbles into the fourth dimension, which is accessible through the wall behind her bed. Interestingly, the writer of this episode, Richard Matheson, also wrote the 1971 television movie “Duel,” which marked Spielberg’s feature directorial debut.

#5: “The Good Place” (2016-)
“A Nice Place to Visit”

Hell isn’t necessarily all fire and brimstone. In the episode “A Nice Place to Visit,” lowlife Rocky believes he’s died and gone to heaven when he’s treated to everything he’s ever wanted. Rocky eventually grows tired of this routine, feeling that he might fit in better at the other place. Rocky soon discovers that his guardian angel is a devil in disguise, revealing that he’s in the other place. Mr. Pip has to spell it out for the oblivious Rocky, but Eleanor Shellstrop pieces the truth together for herself. Where “The Twilight Zone” delivered this twist within 25 minutes, however, “The Good Place” managed to keep its audience in the dark for the entire first season before pulling the rug out from under.

#4: “Final Destination” (2000)
“Twenty Two”

Discussing the original “Final Destination,” actor Seann William Scott stated that the film was “as dark and eerie as any ‘Twilight Zone.’” We can’t help but wonder if Scott’s ever seen the episode “Twenty Two,” as it shares a great deal in common with the 2000 horror movie. Alex Browning and Liz Powell both experience visions that seem all too real, suggesting death is just around the corner. As details from their dreams come into fruition, Alex and Liz each decide not to board a plane that’s about to take off. Their premonitions turn out to be correct, as both planes explode in midair. Where Liz dodges her date with death, though, Alex finds that death isn’t so easy to cheat.

#3: “The Truman Show” (1998)
“A World of Difference”

Truman Burbank is a seemingly ordinary guy who slowly realizes his world is nothing but a reality series. Writer Andrew Niccol’s screenplay was inspired by an episode of the 1985 “Twilight Zone” revival entitled “Special Service,” which also centers on a man who’s unknowingly the star of a 24-hour TV show. The idea can be traced back even further to the original “Twilight Zone.” In “A World of Difference,” businessman Arthur Curtis is mystified when his office winds up on a soundstage. He’s told that his real name is Gerald Raigan and Arthur is a character he’s playing in a movie. Torn between reality and fiction, our protagonist ultimately accepts the role of Arthur, saying good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight to his other life.

#2: “Us” (2019)
“Mirror Image”

It’s like we’re seeing double! The same year Jordan Peele launched his reboot of “The Twilight Zone,” he also wrote, produced, and directed a film that owes a lot to Rod Serling. Peele has made it no secret that “Us” was largely inspired by the episode “Mirror Image,” which tells the story of a woman who encounters somebody who looks exactly like her at a bus station. Growing increasingly paranoid, she fears that the doppelgänger is going to take her place. The Wilson family endures an identical dilemma in “Us,” as they come face to face with their own evil counterparts. Although “Us” has a style and tone that makes it unique, the film’s legacy will always be tethered to “The Twilight Zone.”

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Clockstoppers” (2002)
“A Kind of a Stopwatch”

“Stranger than Fiction” (2006)
“A World of His Own”

“Eureka” (2006-12)
“Valley of the Shadow”

“Liar Liar” (1997)
“The Whole Truth”

#1: “The Simpsons” (1989-)
Various Episodes

“Treehouse of Horror” is a Halloween tradition for “The Simpsons,” but did you know some of the most iconic segments are “Twilight Zone” parodies? We already mentioned a few storylines “The Simpsons” satirized, like evil dolls, time-controlling stopwatches, and wall portals. The cookbook twist from “To Serve Man” is hilariously spoofed in the first Halloween episode. In another episode that uses “Night Gallery” as a framing device, a gremlin goes from tormenting William Shatner on a plane to haunting Bart on a bus. Over the years, Bart has been given the godlike powers of Anthony Fremont from “It’s a Good Life” while Lisa has created a miniature society reminiscent of “The Little People.” As “South Park” would say, “The Twilight Zone” did it!

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