At this point, it’s hard to come up with a wholly original idea. In the era of endless franchises and live-action remakes, it takes a second to remember that live-action movies unattached to large cinematic universes still come out sometimes. Unfortunately, even the most original projects are still influenced by other pieces of art. It makes sense that so many anime programs and animated movies have sparked new ideas for so many directors.
There’s nothing wrong with a screenwriter or director taking cues from great animated stories. We see a lot of modern directors emulate Steven Spielberg, so it makes sense that ground breaking animated storytellers like Chuck Jones and Satoshi Kon also influence later generations of filmmakers. In a few of the movies on this list, shots in the live-action movie are ripped right out of certain animated features. Some movies seem to rip-off plots of animated stories that came before them while others just borrow certain world building or character details.
Remember, if a movie is on this list that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means certain aspects of it feel similar to animated features. It’s time to learn about 15 Live-Action Movies That Ripped Off Cartoons!
15. Requiem for a Dream & Perfect Blue
Requiem for a Dream is a dark, gritty look at how drug use impacts various peoples lives. Darren Aronofsky’s film is chock-full of shots that give the audience a peek at how lonely and desperate some of the main characters feel. One of the film’s most iconic sequences is lifted entirely from Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue.
While the two stories have radically different plots, they both follow characters who are losing their grip on reality. Marion Silver, played wonderfully by Jennifer Connelly in Requiem, and Mima Kirigoe, from Perfect Blue, both feel increasingly powerless as the movies progress. Both Silver and Kirigoe escape to their bathtub for a temporary respite from the madness swirling around in their lives.
Not only do Aronofsky’s shots in the bathroom seem identical to Kon’s, but he also features a moment where Silver screams under the water just like Kirigoe does in her bathtub. It’s a touching moment that beautifully displays the character’s anguish without ever explicitly telling us how powerless she feels.
14. Looper & Akira
Rian Johnson, the director of The Last Jedi, is no stranger to science fiction. His 2012 film Looper follows a criminal syndicate that sends their victims in the past to be taken out by special hit-men called “loopers.” It’s a slick, action-packed movie that looks at what would happen if someone is asked to kill their older self.
Underneath the movie’s simple premise is a story about a man trying to stop the end of the world. Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis, travels back in time to kill Cid, a kid who will one day become the Rainmaker, a powerful psychic being capable of destroying the world.
Cid, and the way his powers are displayed, is very similar to Tetsuo in Akira. Both are young kids that struggle to control their powers and the protagonist is forced to make varying sacrifices to stop them from destroying the world.
13. Pacific Rim & Neon Genesis Evangelion
At this point, Guillermo Del Toro has already proven that he is the master of monsters, but with Pacific Rim, Toro has shown that he knows how to handle giant mech suits as well. There are a lot of anime that include big robots like Gundam or Code Geass, but Pacific Rim seems to have been most inspired by Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Both franchises follow characters who use their minds to pilot giant mech suits to fight off invading monsters. The main character in both is a young man who has feelings for his a fellow pilot who is a bit more reserved. Beyond that, Pacific Rim has its own plot and also leans heavily on movie franchises like Godzilla as it explores the anatomy of different kaiju beasts.
12. Inception & Paprika
Few films divided audiences quite like Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Released in 2010, the movie follows a group of individuals who are tasked with invading someone’s mind in order to steal corporate information and implement an idea in his head. The central premise in both Inception and Satoshi Kon’s Paprika rely on the idea of technology that allows individuals to engage with other people’s dreams.
In addition to the film’s loose exploration of the power of dreams, numerous visuals seem pulled right out of Paprika. The mirror like quality of the dream world’s borders, the elevator sequences and disorienting shots in a long hallway are all elements in both movies.
11. Man of Steel & Birdy the Mighty
One of the biggest complaints hurled at Man of Steel had to do with how much destruction the movie included. After the relatively slow Superman Returns came out, fans wanted something with a bit more action. Director Zack Snyder overcompensated and turned the dial up to 11, showing both Smallville and Metropolis getting ripped to shreds during the fight between Superman and Zod’s forces.
If you look at the fights side-by-side, it’s pretty clear Snyder took quite a few beats from Masami Yuki’s Birdy the Mighty. Zod’s agressive behavior is incredibly similar to Nataru’s behavior as he tries to take down Birdy. There’s nothing wrong with destruction, but Snyder’s love of big, explosive set pieces has resulted in a repetitive format for how DC likes to end their movies.
10. Fifth Element & Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal is a 1981 anthology film that adapted various stories from the Heavy Metal magazine. Just like the magazine, the animated film features a lot of nudity, sexually explicit material, and graphic violence. One of the stories in the movie focuses on a taxi driver who is pulled into a crazy, threatening scenario by a red-headed woman. A power-hungry maniac is searching for an orb that will give him the means to enact his destructive dreams.
Does that sound familiar? Well, it should; it’s essentially the same plot as The Fifth Element. Bruce Willis is a taxi driver who gets pulled into a crazy world by Milla Jovovich, a red head who is scantily clothed throughout the movie. One of the biggest differences is the fact that Gary Oldman, Fifth Element’s core antagonist, is searching for a series of stones instead of a singular power orb.
9. Avatar & Pocahontas
Avatar follows an outsider slowly integrating himself into a native community and falling in love with one of the women in the tribe. In Avatar, Jake Sully falls in love with Neytiri while in Pocahontas John Smith falls for Pocahontas. Not only are their names laughably similar, but both Jake and John are treated with similar trepidation when they first meet the native people before slowly being accepted and falling in love with their respective companions.
While Jake and John may develop relationships with the people, their fellow soldiers/co-workers still view the natives as savages and plan an attack to steal their resources. At the end, Jake and John abandon their old life to defend their new loved one and their families.
8. Van Helsing & Vampire Hunter D
Abraham Van Helsing has been around ever since Bram Stoker’s original Dracula in 1897. Originally, the character was depicted as a professor who gets called into help with sticky situations or mysterious illnesses. Nearly 100 years later in 1983, Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano introduced a darker version of the character who was closer to a vampire hunter than a professor. Vampire Hunter D follows D, a lone vampire hunter as he traverses a post-nuclear wasteland
When Hugh Jackman took on the role in 2004’s Van Helsing, he played Gabriel Van Helsing, not Abraham. It doesn’t really make a difference but it allows for the character to be depicted as more of an action star without long-time fans of the character complaining.
This version of Van Helsing shares a lot in common with D, even down to his signature look. D is half-vampire and Gabriel turns into a werewolf to take down Dracula, so no matter how hard humans may try, both Van Helsing and Vampire Hunter show us that key to being a successful monster hunter is being a monster.
7. Little Man & Looney Tunes
In 2004, The Wayans brothers had everything going for them. The first three Scary Movies were hits and White Chicks was a commercial success. Thinking they could do no wrong, Keenen, Marlon, and Shawn Wayans came together to create Little Man, a movie about a convict who is so short he can impersonate a baby. Marlon Wayans plays Calvin, the signature little man, as he tries to pass himself off as a baby in order to rob a wealthy couple. The movie may have done well in theaters, but it was panned by audiences.
In fact, the movie won the 2006 Golden Raspberry award for worst remake/rip-off for the classic 1954 episode of Loony Tunes, “Baby Buggy Bunny.” In “Buggy Bunny,” Finster successfully robs the Last National Bank, but has to pretend to be a baby in order to get it back after dropping it down a rabbit hole.
What’s funny is the fact that the cartoon made for children features a darker, more realistic ending. In the show, Buggy ends up going to jail for his crimes, but at the end of Little Man, Calvin becomes close friends with the man he was plotting to rob.
6. Lord of the Rings
Obviously Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films are based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, but the director also took a lot of inspiration from Ralph Baskshi’s 1978 animated adaptation. In fact, some moments in Jackson’s films are ripped straight from the animated movie and were never even included in the books.
There are a few shots that hardcore fans will notice are clearly influenced by Baskshi’s wonderful eye, but the biggest scene that is copied from the animated movie features the Nazgul attacking the beds at the Prancing Pony Inn.
The Nazgul are tricked into thinking the Hobbits are still in their beds, but it’s actually just a few pillows left to look like bodies. In the the book version of Fellowship, it is mentioned that the beds are smashed, but it is the townsfolk, not the Nazgul, who make the aggressive move.
5. Baby Geniuses & Rugrats
Babies sure are mysterious – with their crying and poopy diapers. But in Baby Geniuses and Rugrats, babies are more than meets the eye. As the rest of the world goes on with their daily lives, the babies secretly communicate with one another and go on adventures. In their simple imaginations, even the most mundane of tasks can become a fun way to spend a day.
In Baby Geniuses, there is a company called Babyco that has designed a way to develop intelligent children. Here, the babies are trained and pushed along to develop their intelligence and motor skills. Even though the babies in Rugrats don’t need to go to school to develop their secret intelligence, both groups have languages that are forgotten when the kids hit a certain age.
4. Black Swan & Perfect Blue
Darren Aronofsky’s love of Stoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue can also be seen outside Requiem for a Dream. Black Swan is not a remake of Perfect Blue but it explores similar themes and follows a protagonist spiraling out of control due to the pressures of the entertainment industry.
Natalie Portman’s Nina Sayers and Perfect Blue‘s Mima both lose their grip on what is real and what is in their mind. Reality’s blurred lines intensify up until both film’s final moments as the stakes for the characters immediately become clear. A significant aspect of both films is the examination of what the core characters are willing to give up in order to achieve their goals. Additionally, they both use similar visuals to display the character’s loneliness and dazed focus.
3. Small Soldiers & Toy Story
A lot of the films on this list are just influenced by certain animated projects, but Small Soldiers feels like a complete rip-off of Toy Story. Released a full three years after Toy Story, Small Soldiers also opens on a child receiving a new, army-based toy and immediately thinking of his old toys as inferior. We see nameless soldiers go on a recon mission and spy on humans in order to report back to their homes over a two-way radio. Hell, the neighbor in both movies is a punk kid who has no problem experimenting on his toys.
Later on, the toys finally overcome their differences and band together to achieve some sweet revenge on the boy. There’s an epic chase scene that features toys riding RC cars to catch up with a moving fan and both movies end with the toys that started the film as rivals recognizing how similar they are and becoming best friends.
2. The Matrix & Ghost in the Shell
Excluding the slick fashion, there are so many facets of The Matrix that seem pulled right out of Mamoru Oshii’s 1996 classic, Ghost in the Shell. Both stories follow a futuristic world dripping with cyberpunk aesthetics. The action scenes in both movies are heavily influenced by old kung-fu films and the protagonists are both dealing with deeply personal philosophical dilemmas. Both Neo and Major Motoko Kusanagi are pulled out of their comfortable viewpoint of the world and forced to recognize that they don’t have as much control over their lives as they thought.
Their plots aren’t the same, but a lot of the world feels the same. Green code is used repeatedly throughout both films and characters are plugged into a neural network through jacks located on the back of their necks.
1. Inception & Duck Tales
Look, Inception is a great, thought-provoking movie, but clearly Christopher Nolan’s film isn’t as wholly original as we may have thought. The entire heist aspect of the movie is eerily similar to the 2002 Scrooge McDuck comic “Dream of a Lifetime”.
As Scrooge McDuck is sleeping, the evil Beagle Boys try invading his dream with a machine they stole from Gyro Gearloose, the scientist of the Duck Tales corner of Disney’s Universe. The Beagle Boys try to invade McDuck’s mind in order to steal the combination to his infamous gold vault, but they have to be careful to make sure McDuck doesn’t notice their presence. That central conceit and the visual representation of characters falling when they exit dreams were later used in Inception.
While the comic may have come out eight years before Inception, Nolan originally pitched the idea to WB in 2001 and the comic wasn’t published until the next year.
Did you catch the similarities between these live-action and animations? Are there any that we missed? Sound off in the comments!
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