In yesterday’s list we broke down Hollywood’s Twin Film Phenomenon. It refers to films that not only similar in story and plot (and look and feel) but also in terms of the release date as well.
Most twin films are released within a year or two of one another, and a lot of that has to do with the hyper-competition that exists on the studio level in Hollywood. So, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, when a movie is announced, writers, directors, and actors hear about them. That can lead to similar premises and plots.
In the first list, we touched on 10 films but there were so many more relevant and recent examples that it made sense to do a second list. And with a topic about similar premises, it only made sense to make another list in that regard!
10. Deep Impact (1998) vs. Armageddon (1998)
1998 was the year of asteroids causing the end of the world. Disaster films Deep Impact and Armageddon were both released in the summer of that year, and one ended up taking the world by storm thanks to a better, more successful movie and also confirmation that Aerosmith was so afraid of losing relevancy that they’d sing almost anything.
The song “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” from the soundtrack of Armageddon, was Aerosmith’s first number one single despite having been a band for decades. With the millennium fast approaching, disaster films were all the rage from 1997 until 1998.
For example, Doomsday Rock (1997), Asteroid (1997), Judgment Day (1999) and Tycus (1998) were all released basically within a year of one another. Despite that, though, the two films here have surprisingly similar plots, just with different feels.
Deep Impact also had a crew — or two — that ended up going to the comet in an attempt to destroy it with nuclear weapons. When that fails and splits the rock in two, one of the rocks hits and causes a mega-tsunami, which wipes out the East Coast of the United States.
The second rock is destroyed in a suicide mission by the surviving astronauts from the first explosion. That’s similar to how Armageddon ends, although it felt like a much bigger film simply due to the song and the A-list cast (Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler).
Both films were financially successful, with Deep Impact bringing in over $350 million worldwide and Armageddon bringing $550 million dollars. Critics, however, preferred Deep Impact, stating that it was not only a better film but more scientifically accurate as well.
9. Antz (1998) vs. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Antz and A Bug’s Life are perhaps the first and best example of the rivalry that both Dreamworks Animation and Pixar Animation had starting in the mid-90’s and lasting up until the end of the 00’s. If by rivalry you mean that Dreamworks basically just copied everything that Pixar did for that decade plus.
Antz actually came out before A Bug’s Life, becoming the second computer-generated feature film after Toy’s Story. And while it was pretty obvious after this film that Dreamworks was copying Pixar, it may have stemmed from the public feud created by the “parallel production” of Antz and A Bug’s Life.
The main issue was that one of the head’s of Dreamworks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, left Disney to start his own thing with Steven Spielberg. Katzenberg had a falling out with Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Thanks to his time at Disney, Katzenberg gained insider knowledge of several Disney/Pixar ideas.
Antz was the result of a script called Army Ants that pitched to Disney in 1988 but ell through the cracks.
Because of the similar storylines between both movies — each center on a young male drone ant with oddball tendencies, who struggles to win a princess’ hand and ends up saving society — the leaders of Pixar (John Lasseter and Steve Jobs) thought that Katzenberg had stolen the idea outright.
Katzenberg had remained friends with Lasseter after leaving Disney and often called in to talk ideas. After Lasseter called Katzenberg to confirm the Antz storyline, this led to a ton of release date drama. Antz was released to theatres first despite the fact that A Bug’s Life started production before it.
The feud and the box-office and critical reception can best be summed up by PopMatters journalist J.C. Maçek III, who compared the two films. “The feud deepened with both teams making accusations and excuses and a release date war ensued.,” he wrote. “While Antz beat A Bug’s Life to the big screen by two months, the latter film significantly outgrossed its predecessor. Rip-off or not, Antz‘s critical response has proven to be almost exactly as positive as what A Bug’s Life has enjoyed.”
8. Turner & Hooch (1989) vs. K-9 (1989)
Detectives and canine partners were popular in the late 80’s. Turner & Hooch, which stars Tom Hanks, was a decent hit in 1989 but really ended up taking off thanks to home viewing — after Hanks won back to back Oscars for Best Actor in the mid-90’s.
The film was such a success that there was a television pilot created for it titled “Poochinkski” in 1990 — that wasn’t picked up.
K-9 on the other hand was so poorly received that its star Jim Belushi struggled after that. K-9 also ended up as a television pilot — named K-9000 — although that show involved a lot more science fiction than the movie ever did.
The two films are different, though. The dog in K-9 is assigned to Belushi’s character, whereas Hooch was the only witness to a murder — its owner. Tom Hanks’ character holds onto the hopes that the dog will remember who killed its owner.
Because Hooch dies at the end, though, there wasn’t room for a sequel… Or was there? At the end of the movie, Hanks opens a closet door to find Hooch’s — adorable — son causing mayhem.
7. Braveheart (1995) vs. Rob Roy (1995)
1995 was the year of Scottish Independence films. Between Braveheart, Rob Roy and another film titled The Bruce (filmed in 1995 and released in 1996), people just couldn’t get enough of Scottish history and if you’ve ever seen Braveheart it’s really not hard to see why.
That film was amazing and while it took numerous historical liberties, it was still a great way for the world to actually A) Care about Scottish Independence and B) Side with those in Scotland who want(ed) independence.
Braveheart was the story of Sir William Wallace a well-traveled and learned farmer who took on the full might of the English army after one of their noblemen killed his wife. As history shows, his attempts to gain Scottish independence fail and he is captured and disemboweled in front of a fervent crowd while he shouts FREEDOM!
It’s one of the most iconic scenes in film history but also, not true. Rob Roy actually takes place in the 18th century (as opposed to Braveheart’s 13th century) and deals with an “unscrupulous nobleman” in the Scottish Highlands.
When it come’s to historical accuracy, Rob Roy is much more faithful.
6. Babe (1995) vs. Gordy (1995)
In addition to Scottish Independence films the world also went crazy for talking pigs in 1995 (it was a weird year). Somehow, Babe ended up being nominated for seven Academy Awards including the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Visual Effects — its sole win.
While Babe completely overshadowed Gordy, both were comedy-drama films, they had different plots. Babe was about a pig that wanted to be a sheep-dog and is a lot more similar to Charlotte’s Web than Gordy.
In both films, the pigs speak. Only, in Gordy, people can understand him. Gordy is a film about a pig attempting to reunite with his family that was taken to a slaughterhouse at the beginning of the movie.
5. Showgirls (1995) vs. Striptease (1996)
Sadly positioned as Burt Reynolds “comeback” vehicle, Striptease was the better of the two stripper-related films that came out in the mid-90’s. And while that’s not saying much — Showgirls is widely considered one of the worst movies ever made — it’s really almost a detriment to the film.
People still showed up to watch Showgirls in the theater as it’s so bad that it becomes good. Striptease had some good casting behind it, with Demi Moore and the aforementioned Burt Reynolds whose star had faded a lot by 1995 — who was reportedly in the need for some money as his divorce to Loni Anderson had cost him a fortune.
The stripper in this movie was Demi Moore, who was near the peak of his prime in 1995 — after a string of hits including Ghost through the 80’s and early 90’s. Compare that to Showgirls which starred Elizabeth Berkley, mostly known for her role as the goody-goody on Saved by the Bell and who desperately wanted to break into Hollywood.
She also aimed to be taken seriously as an actress. That backfired. The film was considered raunchy at best and hilariously bad at worst. It’s really one of the few examples of a single role really damning someone’s career before it really even began.
It’s really too bad. She did go “all-out” in the movie and really committed to it. It just wasn’t very good. Either way, these films put a stop to the Hollywood stripper movie movement until Magic Mike was released 20 years later.
4. Prefontaine (1997) vs. Without Limits (1998)
Steve Prefontaine was the reason running took hold in the 70’s. He held many records in track and field — over seven different distance track records at one point. He died in a car accident at the age of 24, after crashing into a rock wall while drunk.
However, the films surrounding his life were both gigantic commercial flops. Prefontaine, which starred Jared Leto and cost $8 million dollars to produce, grossed just over a half a million dollars. Without Limits, which starred Billy Crudup, cost over $25 million to produce and made just over seven-hundred thousand dollars.
If it’s any consolation, Without Limits was the more critically-hailed film, with an almost 80 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — compared to 59 per cent for Prefontaine. The reality is that there’s just not enough meat on the bone of the life of a 24-year-old runner to make two movies, period.
Because the stories are pretty much identical, that probably hurt both films. Especially the much more expensive Without Limits, that was probably confused with Prefontaine —as it was being released on home video at the time and thus had similar commercials running on television.
Either way, this is one of the precautionary tales surrounding Twin Films and is probably why we don’t see as many as we used to.
3. Rookie of the Year (1993) vs. Little Big League (1994)
Both Rookie of the Year and Little Big League are about 12-year-old boys that become involved in Major League Baseball in some way but besides that — and the fact that they show real baseball teams and stadiums — they’re very different films.
Rookie of the Year follows a prepubescent boy who breaks his arm and then finds out that his tendons healed so tightly that he can throw a 110 mile per hour fastball and gets recruited by the Chicago Cubs. Little Big League is about a prepubescent boy who ends up owning the Minnesota Twins.
Perhaps because of the differences in markets — and despite the Twins winning the World Series’ in 1987 and 1991 — Rookie of the Year grossed almost $57 million against the $12 million that Little Big League made.
However, Little Big League came out around the same time as The Lion King and Forrest Gump. Rookie of the Year is considered a classic to many 80’s/90’s kids as well, because it was the personification of every 12-year-old’s dream of playing for their favorite professional sports team.
2. Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) vs. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
When The Fast in the Furious came out back in 2001, it was thought to be basically a poor man’s version of 2000’s Gone in 60 Seconds. It had the smaller budget ($38 million to $90 million, respectively), a B-list cast in Paul Walker and Vin Diesel (compared to Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie) and made less money ($200 million vs. $240 million).
So, it’s surprising that almost 20 years later The Fast and the Furious is the one that ended up becoming the billion-dollar behemoth that we all know and bemoan today. Despite the fact that the movies are about cars and theft, they’re actually pretty different.
Both focus on family but in 60 it’s about literal family. Nicholas Cage’s character has one night to steal 50 cars or his brother (Giovanni Ribisi) gets killed. In The Fast and The Furious, it’s about a group of truck hijackers that consider themselves family because they steal DVD players together.
Either way, both are essentially just car porn. The Fast and the Furious focuses more on street racing and Japanese cars, whereas Gone in 60 Seconds is a muscle car movie — the list of 50 cars that need stealin’ are mostly amazing muscle cars and some European imports.
Because of the production quality, it is the better film, even if some of the dialogue is terrible (the scene where Angelina Jolie and Nicholas Cage have sex while he talks about car parts sticks out as awkward.
1. Tombstone (1993) vs. Wyatt Earp (1994)
One of the better 1-2 punches on this list, both Tombstone and Wyatt Earp are part of the Western renaissance of the 90′. It was amazing and somehow involved a ton of Kevin Costner — with Dances With Wolves being part of that genre. Wyatt Earp may be an okay film (with a 42 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes).
But really, going up against a classic film like Tombstone, it didn’t stand a chance. Both films obviously focused on Wyatt Earp and his role in the shootout at O.K. Corral.
Tombstone has a 72 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes, but that’s pure nonsense. It’s one of the best films ever made and a lot of that has to do with Val Kilmer and his portrayal of Doc Holliday.
Dennis Quaid’s version stood no chance when compared to Kilmer’s amazingly cool and badass character. Even when he was coughing to death from tuberculosis, he managed to take out Johnny Ringo in one of the coolest scenes in film history.
Like many films on these lists, if two films have similar budgets, the first of the two to come out typically ends up getting a huge advantage — as no one wants to finish second, in anything.
Perhaps because of that, or the fact that it just wasn’t that great of a movie, Wyatt Earp was a pretty big bomb at the box office. Released six months after Tombstone, it was the less successful of the two films, taking in $25 million on a $63 million budget, compared to Tombstone’s $56 million domestic gross on a $25 million budget.