The Horrible Phenomenon of Twin Movies


There’s an odd phenomenon in movies, something that happens far more often than probable to chalk it up to pure coincidence. It’s been referred to as “Twin Films”, and you have without question noticed it before. Simply put, a Twin Film is a movie that has an extremely similar plot to another movie that is released at or around the same time. These movies are both put out by major studios, and often one of them is a blockbuster movie that pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars.

These aren’t to be confused with Mockbuster movies; mockbuster’s are direct to DVD movies that ride on the coattails of major studio releases. Mockbusters have similar names to the bigger movies, meant to trick people into buying what they thought was the blockbuster movie they really wanted to see. Basically, mockbusters are meant to fool grandparents into getting their grandkids movies that they’ll hate.

Poor Gramma

She tries so hard.

Anyway, Twin Films have been happening for decades. I often like one of them more than the other, and it’s not always the more popular movie. This also happens in television, but for today I’m  just going to talk about movies. So here’s a list of some notable Twin Movies, and some thoughts I have about them.

1986 – Top Gun / Iron Eagle 1

OK, back in 1986, I loved them both. I admit this. But Iron Eagle just didn’t age very well, at all, and has gone unviewed for over a decade now.

1986/1987 – Platoon / Full Metal Jacket (and possibly 1987’s Hamburger Hill) 2

These are both great films, then and now. I think FMJ held up a little better over the years, but that could just be the ‘Kubrick Effect’… ok that’s not really a term, but I like it and I’m going to start using it.

Anyway, you could also make the argument that the 1987 movie Hamburger Hill could be included with Platoon and FMJ as another Twin Film. It’s also a great movie, but a bit different than the other two, because it keeps a much tighter focus on a single storyline and event. I would include it in the mix, but that’s debatable, with no right or wrong answer.

1989 – The Abyss / Leviathan 3

Simply put, Abyss is amazing, Leviathan is not. I felt that then, I feel it now, I’ll feel it forever.

 1989 – Turner & Hooch / K-9 4

Really, both of these kinda suck. But I mention them because this is the first time I really took note of the fact that twin movies were kind of “a thing” that happens. Do yourself a favor though and don’t watch either of them.

 1993/1994 – Tombstone / Wyatt Earp 5

Tombstone is the obvious winner here. Wyatt Earp was arguably the first in a string of Kevin Costner stinkers (Waterworld came soon after, followed by The Postman) that he still probably has nightmares about.

1995 – Braveheart / Rob Roy 6

I love them both, but for different reasons. Rob Roy is just a better built movie, but Braveheart is the more enjoyable film. You won’t be upset watching either of these, you’ll have more fun watching Braveheart but you’ll feel more smug saying you watched Rob Roy.

1995 – Johnny Mnemonic / Strange Days 7

While these two are similar at first appearance, I find them to be very different in overall ideas. Johnny Mnememeomicabic is classic cyberpunk adventure, and is a real blast to watch. Even with Neo’s  Keanu’s wooden acting. Strange Days on the other hand is a look at how technology could become addictive, and how addiction can screw up your life and not let you move forward. Sadly, Strange Days doesn’t hold up very well, because it’s set at a very specific point in time, the Y2K era, and it most definitely got the level of technology , and the state of society, completely wrong for Y2K.

1997 – Dante’s Peak / Volcano 8

Volcano blows. It just does. There’s nothing about this movie that should have been OK’d by studio execs. Dante’s Peak isn’t much better, but it gets the win here.

 1998 – Armageddon / Deep Impact 9

Armageddon may have won the box office numbers between these two movies, but it also cost twice as much to make, and was the far worse movie. Yes, it can be fun to watch in parts, but it’s so monumentally stupid that I get angry every time I see it. Deep Impact is the winner here.

A fun side note about Deep Impact is that it was the highest grossing movie in the U.S. directed by a woman, a distinction it held for a full decade. It was stripped of this title by the Twilight movie in 2008… I weep for humanity.

1998 – A Bug’s Life / Antz 10

Both were pretty good, actually, and hold up well today. Really can’t go wrong seeing either one.

1998… again/1999 – The Truman Show / EdTV 11

Apparently in the late ‘90’s, studio execs just got monumentally lazy, because here’s another pair of movies from that time.

Both are fun movies, and it’s actually kind of arguable just how similar they are. EdTV is set in a much more realistic manner, with a normal guy just being filmed all day, every day. Truman though is a much more complex, sci-fi, dystopian take on how far reality TV could go. I like them both, but the nerd in me prefers Truman. Also, Truman had Natascha McElhone in it, who was a celebrity crush of mine at the time, so it wins there too.

2000 – Mission to Mars / Red Planet 12

Both aren’t very good, but I can re-watch Red Planet on TNT late at night and be OK with my life choices, where as M2M I just can’t handle another viewing without thinking I may have made some mistakes along the way to adulthood.

 2006 – The Prestige / The Illusionist 13

I love The Prestige. I mean, just love it. And David Bowie as Tesla was divine casting, they could not have done any better for that role. The Illusionist is also very good, though it never quite captured me the same way Prestige did. That said, I haven’t seen either of these movies in many years, so it may be time to re-watch both. In fact, it looks like I just figured out my Friday night plans.

 2013 – White House Down / Olympus Has Fallen 14

Why did they make these? No really, whyyyyyyyyyy? Both steaming piles.

And finally, here are some other select Twin Films of note that I haven’t seen one, or both, of the pair. I present these though without comments.

1995 – Babe / Gordy

1995/1995 – Showgirls / Striptease

2006 – Capote / Infamous

2009/2010 – The Road / Book of Eli

2012 – Snow White and the Huntsman / Mirror, Mirror

2013 – After Earth / Oblivion

Anyway, there are actually a ton more of these. Really, they happen practically every single year, often more than once a year. But most of them just simply slip under my radar.

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