Top 20 Copycat Movies

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Top 20 Copycat Movies

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Callum Janes
Wait, haven't we seen this before? For this list, we'll be looking at films that had eerily similar plots and concepts that were released to cinemas within a year of each other. Our countdown includes “The Illusionist” (2006) & “The Prestige” (2006), “Red Eye” (2005) & “Flightplan” (2005), “Antz” (1998) & “A Bug's Life” (1998), and more!
Transcript

Top 20 Obvious Copycat Movies


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Obvious Copycat Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at films that had eerily similar plots and concepts that were released to cinemas within a year of each other.

Which of these twin films do you think are the most egregious copycats? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!

#20: “The Illusionist” (2006) & “The Prestige” (2006)

2006 saw the release of two movies about stage magicians in late nineteenth century Europe, arriving in theaters just a few months apart. Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” was about an obsessive rivalry between magicians in London, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. In contrast, Neil Burger’s “The Illusionist” follows a magician (played by Edward Norton) who uses his skills to be with his forbidden love interest. Despite these plots being quite different, the overall subject and setting, as well as the marketing and time of release, invited inevitable comparisons. The most memorable was “The Prestige”, but it was “The Illusionist” that first set the stage.

#19: “Mirror Mirror” (2012) & “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012)

The stories of the Brothers Grimm have been adapted many, many times. But it still seems like an incredible coincidence that two movies about Snow White came out within two months of each other in 2012. Both follow Snow White as she evades and overthrows her evil stepmother, with Lily Collins portraying the princess in “Mirror Mirror” and Kristen Stewart in “Snow White and the Huntsman”. The main difference is how the main character goes about it, with the latter taking a far bloodier route. Both films received middling reviews, but the less humorous, grittier story ended up doing better at the Box Office and receiving a prequel/sequel.

#18: “The Descent” (2005) & “The Cave” (2005)

When it comes to film, money isn’t everything. That’s what the makers of “The Cave” found out after they released one month after Neil Marshall’s “The Descent.” The two films follow a group of cave-divers who encounter some not too friendly creatures underground. The significant differences come with their budgets and cast choices. “The Cave” had a budget of $30 million while UK’s “The Descent” had only £3.5 million with an all-female main cast. However, audiences received the UK’s version better, and it made a tidy profit. On the other hand, the American film recouped only a few million over its budget. While the similarities could’ve been coincidental, the success couldn’t be replicated.

#17: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009) & “Observe and Report” (2009)

Seth Rogan admitted to these films being “similar” but argued they were different. It’s hard not to notice the glaring similarities, though. Both 2009 films are about a mall security guard who takes his job a little too seriously, trying to impress the girl he likes. While the two features did feature famous comedians, Paul Blart became the more famous of the two. The significant deviation between them comes from their humor. “Paul Blart” is more slapstick, while “Observe and Report” has a lot more violent and dark punchlines. If it makes you laugh, why not just enjoy both!

#16: “Mission to Mars” (2000) & “Red Planet” (2000)

These film twins followed astronauts adventuring to Mars, where their missions went awry! That could’ve made them similar enough, but both also had production problems! “Mission to Mars”, which was released first, had a director quit before principal photography due to budget constraints. During the filming of “Red Planet”, Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore reportedly fought on set. The movies also happened to share generally unfavorable reviews, primarily focusing on lackluster writing. What contrasts the two? “Mission to Mars” made $11 million more than its budget at cinemas. “Red Planet '' tanked at the box office, earning only $33.5 million against a budget of $80 million.

#15: “Dante’s Peak” (1997) & “Volcano” (1997)

They say bad things come in threes, but when it comes to disasters on screen, they seem to come in twos. Pierce Brosnan plays a volcanologist in “Dante’s Peak,” trying to save an American town from a volcano. “Volcano” stars Tommy Lee Jones trying to do the same, but in Los Angeles. The films were released within just a few months of each other. While critics were less impressed with “Dante’s Peak”, they weren’t exactly besotted with “Volcano” either. Geologists called the former the more accurate movie. It also edged again in terms of Box Office success.

#14: “Red Eye” (2005) & “Flightplan” (2005)

In both these high-altitude thrillers, a heroine on an overnight flight pits wits and fists against a criminal holding a loved one hostage. From this initial premise, the stories diverge in pretty different directions. “Flightplan” focuses on a mother’s search for her missing daughter, whereas “Red Eye” follows a hotel manager’s efforts to escape a terrorist and protect her father. But both kick off with the death of a family member - Jodie Foster’s character’s husband in “Flightplan,” and Rachel McAdams’ character’s grandmother in “Red Eye.” And both also feature a villain who is not what he first seems.

#13: “Rough Night” (2017) & “Girls Trip” (2017)

“Rough Night” and “Girls Trip” start with similar setups: some lifelong friends reunite to party it up, resulting in a journey of outrageous shenanigans and self-discovery. The main character of both is an ambitious public figure who falls out with her bestie. But “Rough Night” takes a sudden turn when one of the girls jumps on a stripper and accidentally kills him . . . He turns out to be a wanted criminal, so it’s all okay . . . or something. It’s basically “Very Bad Things,” but with great hair and no consequences. Like that movie, “Rough Night” received mixed reviews, while “Girls Trip” was a success both critically and financially.

#12: “Chasing Liberty” (2004) & “First Daughter” (2004)

In these romantic comedies, the President's teenage daughter rebels against overprotective secret service agents, and falls for a man who's actually an undercover secret service agent. That’s a pretty specific premise for two movies to share. “Chasing Liberty” has Mandy Moore’s character run off skinny-dipping and bungee jumping on a Eurotrip, while “First Daughter” follows Katie Holmes’ goody-two-shoes counterpart at college in California. But both share similar resolutions, when the girls discover the true identities of the leading men, get mad for a while, and then - well, you can pretty much guess the rest.

#11: “The Legend of Hercules” (2014) & “Hercules” (2014)

Hercules has been around for eons. So you’d think we could space out our adaptations a little. But in 2014, Hollywood released two movies about the muscle-bound Greco-Roman hero. While they strike different tones, with “Hercules” the more solemn of the two, both sword-and-sandal epics pare down the supernatural elements, and portray a Hercules who has yet to discover his true power. Both also pit Hercules against a warmongering ruler, and feature a scene in which he draws on superhuman strength to break free of chains. Maybe writing a unique script should have been one of Hercules’ Twelve Labours.

#10: “The Truman Show” (1998) & “EdTV” (1999)

It can take the wind out of your sails when someone does your idea before you. It’s even worse when their attempt is better than yours! And that’s precisely what happened to “EdTV.” While Universal was aware of “The Truman Show” during pre-production, they didn’t think people would be interested in Jim Carrey acting in a drama. The main difference between these two is that while Jim Carrey’s character, Truman, doesn’t know he’s being filmed, Matthew McConaughey’s character, Ed, agrees to it! While it does have some witty comedy behind it, it’s nowhere near as impactful as “The Truman Show.” As a result, it came off as a weird parody and bombed at the box office.

#9: “Tombstone” (1993) & “Wyatt Earp” (1994)

Originally, Kevin Costner was attached to “Tombstone,” but left to make his own Wyatt Earp movie with “Star Wars” scribe Lawrence Kasdan. His replacement, Kurt Russell, had no little hand in shaping “Tombstone” into a tight, action-packed Western, while Costner and Kasdan’s film became a grandiose, three hour biopic focusing on the legendary lawman’s life from childhood on. During production, their rivalry occasionally became bitter. “Tombstone” had monopolized period clothing, forcing “Wyatt Earp” to import costumes from Europe, while Costner used his influence to limit “Tombstone’s” distribution. Nonetheless, “Tombstone” emerged from the dust triumphant with critics and at the box office, thanks in part to Val Kilmer’s scene-stealing performance as Doc Holliday.

#8: “No Strings Attached” (2011) & “Friends with Benefits” (2011)

Both these romantic comedies follow friends who decide to have casual sex, pledge not to fall in love, but (surprise) catch feelings by the end. While “No Strings Attached” starred Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, “Friends with Benefits” is led by Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Both films initially shared the title “Friends with Benefits”, until Paramount changed theirs to “No Strings Attached”! There are slight variances in the plot, but they play out pretty much the same. On top of that, they both cashed in around $149.5 million at the box office. Talk about seeing double!

#7: “Deep Impact” (1998) & “Armageddon” (1998)

Do you remember the “end of the world” craze back in the 90s? Everyone was freaking out about the turn of the millennium, and studios thought to capitalize. 1998’s “Deep Impact,” released in May, and “Armageddon,” released in June, were both vying for some of that space-meteor apocalypse hype. But it turns out Disney, Touchstone’s parent company, might have played dirty when it comes to the concept. “Deep Impact” screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin claimed that a Disney executive plagiarised his idea during a lunch meeting. While “Armageddon” did better at the box office, “Deep Impact” received slightly better reviews and was seen as more “scientifically accurate.”

#6: “K-9” (1989) & “Turner & Hooch” (1989)

A detective partners up with a troublesome dog, and they bond after an initial clash of personalities. Released just three months apart, these buddy-cop action comedies share the same premise, and some similar sequences . . . including the dog downing booze, seducing a lady friend, and some one-sided shouting matches. The plots strike out in different directions, as Belushi’s loose-cannon detective pursues a drug bust with German Shepherd police dog Jerry Lee, and Tom Hanks’ fastidious character tracks down the criminals who murdered Hooch’s owner. But both climaxes feature classic taking the bullet moments, wherein the canines earn their moniker of man’s best friend.

#5: "A Quiet Place" (2018) & "The Silence" (2019)

Both of these movies are set in a world where monsters hunt based on sound. Production for the films happened around the same time, but John Krasinki’s 2018 film far outshone what others deemed its copycat. Released on Netflix, 2019’s “The Silence” was actually based on a 2015 novel of the same name. But it was hard to overlook the similarities. It didn’t help that one of “The Silence”’s writers was Shane Van Dyke, who had penned several scripts for “The Asylum” - a studio known for its not-so-subtle rip-offs. While the two movies have differences in plot, the shared premise was enough to make comparisons inevitable.

#4: "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" (2015) & "Spectre" (2015)

Sure, the James Bond and Mission Impossible franchises might both be about spies. But the overarching plots for these films were uncannily similar! In both, the director of a government intelligence service shuts down the protagonist’s espionage department. The agent goes rogue to chase down a shadowy criminal organization through Austria, Morocco, and London! Producers actually had the release of “Rogue Nation” pushed back a few months so they wouldn’t compete, and giving it that space was definitely a good idea. Both films would inevitably be compared, but the franchises are well enough established for fans to differentiate.

#3: “Antz” (1998) & “A Bug’s Life” (1998)

The similarities between these films was no coincidence! While they certainly have their differences, both DreamWorks’ “Antz” and Disney’s “A Bug’s Life” are about ant colonies that fight back against oppressive overseers. And there’s a reason for that. DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg had left Disney on bad terms, but kept in touch with former colleagues. One of those was director John Lasseter, who was surprised to see DreamWorks announce an eerily similar film to his during development. While they differed in their comedic tones and details, no one can argue against the resemblance.


#2: “Madagascar” (2005) & “The Wild” (2006)

A lion and his animal buddies escape New York’s Central Park Zoo and travel by ship to Africa, where they struggle to adapt to the wild. This is the setup for both DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” and Disney’s “The Wild,” made during the height of their rivalry. The catalyst in both computer animated, fish-out-of-water comedies is a zoo animal who longs to experience Mother Nature. “Madagascar” beat “The Wild” to cinemas, and was a hit with both moviegoers and most critics. It may be a coincidence, but “The Wild” focused on the relationship between father and cub and prominently featured an active volcano . . . all elements that would find their way into “Madagascar 2.”

#1: “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013) & “White House Down” (2013)

Described as “Die Hard” in the White House, these action thrillers came out within mere months of each other. Both are about terrorists taking over the White House and a lone hero who saves the day. In “Olympus Has Fallen,” Mike Banning’s a disgraced Secret Service agent who redeems himself when he rescues the President from North Korean terrorists. In “White House Down,” John Cale is a police officer thought too reckless for the Secret Service, who proves his worth when a paramilitary group captures the President. You say tomato, we say tomato. Both received mediocre reviews, but the lower budget “Olympus Has Fallen” reaped higher returns, and even managed to churn out a sequel.
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For the honorable mentions, it could have also included Despicable Me and Megamind, Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice and Captain America Civil War, and Happy Feet and Surf's Up.
Some of these similarities might simply be a coincidence.