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They are showdowns that didn’t need to happen — rival studios staring each other down, refusing to blink.
In 1998, Earth-snuffing asteroids got blown up in the nick of time by nuclear warheads, not once but twice, in Armageddon and Deep Impact. That same year, animated insects skittered onto movie screens in Antz and A Bug’s Life — and just a year earlier, dueling lava flows erupted in Dante’s Peak and Volcano.
And in 2013, Jesse Eisenberg starred in The Double, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy, each as a man tormented by his doppelganger (and wouldn’t you know that Enemy was based on a novel called…wait for it… The Double.)
Hollywood is not a big town. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, and movies that cost millions of dollars require many people and many months of development. Yet they still ended up in ’87/’88 with four body-switching comedies: George Burns turned 18 Again!; fathers Judge Reinhold and Dudley Moore each switched places with sons in Vice Versa and Like Father Like Son, respectively; and in Big, an amusement park wish turned a little boy into Tom Hanks.
This is not, from a business standpoint, smart. One film will inevitably come out on top (only Big attracted substantial crowds in that mid-’80s body-switching smackdown) and arguably nobody emerges unscathed.
Here’s a (far-from-definitive) list of 50 conceptual twins that went head-to-head for no discernible reason.
Golden age identi-films
PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive and Everett Collection, Inc./Alamy
The Scarlet Empress and The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934) — dueling Catherines Garbo and Dietrich
Jezebel and Gone With The Wind (1938/39) – antebellum hellions
Young Mr. Lincoln and Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1939/40) — Abes-in-training
Oscar Wilde and The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) – where the Wilde things were
Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe (1964) – atomic bombs away
Harlow and Harlow (1965) – blonde bombshell bio-pics
Yours, Mine & Ours and With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) — widowed parents marry and combine families
Bloody Mama and The Grissom Gang (1970/71) — Ma Barker, meet Ma Barker
Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) – the greatest story ever told to music
Corvette Summer and Stingray (1978) — drove my Chevy to the levee
The Warriors and The Wanderers (1979) – teen NYC gangs
The Howling, Wolfen and An American Werewolf in London (1981) — Owoooo!
Weird Science, Real Genius and My Science Project (1985) – teen geek comedies
Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) – teen time travel
Turner & Hooch and K-9 (1989) — police officers and their pooches
The Abyss and Leviathan (1989) — underwater horror
Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont (1988/89) – based on the same epistolary novel
Twice told tales in the ’90s
Robin Hood and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991) – Sherwood forestry competition
1492: Conquest of Paradise and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) – 500th anniversaries don’t come often
Tombstone and Wyatt Earp (1994) – gunfight at the same OK Corral
Priscilla Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Love Julie Newmar (1994/95) — drag queen road trips
Babe and Gordy (1995) — talking, live-action piglets
Powder and Phenomenon (1995/96) – Extra-Sensory Perception at work?
Striptease and Showgirls (1995/96) – dirty (pole) dancing
Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet (1997) – in-a-Dalai-Lama-da-vida
Volcano and Dante’s Peak (1997) — eruptive dysfunction
Armageddon and Deep Impact (1998) – great balls of fire
Antz and A Bug’s Life (1998) — animated insects
The Truman Show and EDtv (1998/99) – reality TV, but for real
The Matrix, eXistenz and The Thirteenth Floor (1999) — reality as computer simulation
Doubling down for the new millennium
Red Planet and Mission to Mars (2000) – dueling Martian chronicles
Chasing Liberty and First Daughter (2004) – teen White House romances
Capote and Infamous (2005/06) — Truman Capote bio-pics
The Prestige and The Illusionist (2006) — 19th Century magician tricksters
Happy Feet and Surf’s Up (2006/07) — animated penguins
27 Dresses and Made of Honor (2008) — bridesmaid romances
Observe and Report and Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) — overweight mall-cop comedies
Despicable Me and Megamind (2010) — animated supervillains
Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached (2011) — flings gone right
Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) — live-action Snow Whites
Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer (2012) – aged Abes
The Double and Enemy (2013) — a man tormented by his own doppelganger
Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down (2013) – terrorism at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Collection Christophel and PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy
After Earth and Oblivion (2013) – apocalypse soon
This Is the End, The World’s End and Rapture-Palooza (2013) — apocalypses for laughs
Marguerite and Florence Foster Jenkins (2015/16) – cluelessly terrible opera singers
Barry and Southside With You (2016) — young Barack Obama
Rough Night and Girls Trip (2017) — girlfriends carousing
RBG and On the Basis of Sex (2018) — Ruth Bader Ginsburg origin stories
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) — multiple multiverses
Marvel Studios and A24