There are a lot of movies out there and only so much brain power to devote to all of ’em. Besides which, sometimes films that come out within a few years of each other are really, really similar – either because there’s just something in the air that makes more than one producer think “yes, now is the time for a comedy about a hapless cop teamed up with a disobedient dog” – or because Hollywood can be a really small town, and people talk, and sometimes decide the best way to compete with another person’s movie is to release more or less the same one, just a little bit better or sooner. And then, on top of that, a few coincidences are just… strange.
At any rate, here they are: 52 Movies (or 26 pairs of movies, more accurately) You Keep Getting Mixed Up With Each Other.
26. Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and White House Down (2013)
Both have: Evil men taking over the White House, gunning down the Secret Service and endangering the President and his child… and only one wannabe Secret Service agent can stop them!
But: Down’s John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a police officer interviewing for the job, while Olympus’ Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a former agent reassigned after his mistake cost the First Lady her life. Down faces a military coup, Olympus a North Korean seizure of the House that also involves detonating all America’s nuclear missiles in their silos and reuniting Korea… somehow.
Which is worth remembering? Olympus. Both films are pretty bonkers, but Olympus commits in a way Down doesn’t, with (as seen above) a much crazier plot, more ridiculous violence and a really specific backstory for the hero.
25. Victor/Victoria (1982) and Tootsie (1982)
Both have: Stars who got Oscar nominations for playing actors who used cross-dressing to escape unemployment, and gender-bending comedy that feels a bit clunky in the 2010s.
But: As a woman playing a male female impersonator, Julie Andrews has a much more complex and challenging job than Dustin Hoffman’s drag role as Tootsie. V/V is also a remake of a classic German 1930s musical comedy.
Which is worth remembering? Victor/Victoria was the better movie in 1982 and by today’s standards it’s not even close, though Tootsie is better at making you feel superior to the characters after a hard day at work.
24. Friends With Benefits (2011) and No Strings Attached (2011)
Both have: A couple who want to maintain a good friendship while having casual sex (look, it’s right there in the title), until one of them, and then eventually the other, decides that what they really want is a relationship, because Hollywood doesn’t know how to do romcoms without the rom.
But: FWB has Justin Timberlake and Mina Kunis, Strings has Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.
Which is worth remembering? Ehhhh, FWB, probably, but don’t run out to see either. If you’re looking for a film that handles non-traditional relationships, a mainstream Hollywood pic just isn’t the way to go.
23. Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984)
Both have: Uproarious, joyous dance numbers, two-beat titles that start and end with the same sound, and protagonists who want to bring the joy of dance to an existence that threatens to smother it.
But: Footloose is about liberating, or “loosing,” a whole town that’s banned dancing, Flashdance is about a woman who finds love through an exotic style of dance that involves almost flashing people.
Which is worth remembering? Footloose, no question. At best, Flashdance is an artifact of a time when nobody asked too many questions about dating your boss after he follows you to your night job and watches you do a semi-striptease there.
22. Legend (1985) and Labyrinth (1986)
Both have: An innocent heroine who says something really stupid in a moment of childishness, and a lord of a dark fantasy kingdom who takes her at her word, threatening both justice throughout the realms and her sexual innocence.
But: Tim Curry’s incarnation of evil is truly scary with only a hint of sexuality, while David Bowie’s Goblin King is just raw sexual magnetism with a hint of otherworldliness… just like regular David Bowie. Plus, Labyrinth has a fanciful, almost unsolvable maze.
21. Platoon (1986) and Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Both have: Harrowing, supremely foul-mouthed portrayals of the horrors of the Vietnam War, filtered through the stylized vision of an auteur director, featuring a memorable sadistic sergeant.
But: Oliver Stone’s Platoon is semi-autobiographical and puts the viewer right in a platoon. Stanley Kubrick’s FMJ spends most of its running time with a journalist who observes the war but doesn’t quite live it.
Which is worth remembering? Platoon is more satisfying overall. But if you only have time to see half of one, the first 45 minutes of Full Metal Jacket are unforgettable, as control-freak Kubrick directs R. Lee Ermey as the control-freak Sergeant Hartman. (Side note: because they’re both war movies and sound similar, Platoon can also be mixed up with the WWII-era Patton.)
20. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and Throw Momma from the Train (1987)
Both have: A classic odd couple played by two famous comedians, with a sour, put-upon straight man and a well-meaning, lonely, overweight shlub who gets on his nerves but, in time, becomes his friend. Also, train travel.
But: While Planes, Trains and Automobiles is all about an increasingly desperate quest to make it home for the holidays with any means of transport available, Throw Momma from the Train is a pair of elaborate murder plots hatched by two guys who aren’t quite as conscienceless as they want to be.
Which is worth remembering? Planes. Throw Momma was an interesting and worthy experiment, but Planes has John Candy’s best performance and a great one by Steve Martin, whereas Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito struggle a bit with their material.
19. K-9 (1989) and Turner and Hooch (1989)
Both have: A policeman who must adopt a wildly disobedient dog who tests his patience to the limit but gradually wins his heart. It shakes our cop to the core when the dog takes a bullet in the line of duty, but the ending is a happy one for dog-lovers.
But: Spoiler warning: the German shepherd Jerry Lee in K-9 pulls a “Disney Death,” provoking his owner to mourn him before realizing he’ll recover, while bulldog Hooch actually does die from his wound, but “reincarnates” when one of his puppies grows up to act just like him.
Which is worth remembering? Turner and Hooch. Tom Hanks is a better comedian than most, especially when he plays aggravation, and it may be scientifically provable that French mastiffs are the funniest-looking dogs ever.
18. Casino (1995) and Heat (1995)
Both have: A magnetic Robert De Niro lead performance as a career criminal with an ultimately nomadic lifestyle and a fragile romantic relationship, and direction from one of the all-time-great crime movie directors. Release dates were less than a month apart.
But: Well, Casino is the one with the casino in it (De Niro plays a handicapper who works for the mob) and Heat is the one that’s as much about the policeman tracking down the rogue thief De Niro and the special bond between them.
Which is worth remembering? Heat, which has better chemistry and a stronger ending. Both are mid-list, though, compared to another pair of crime films whose alliteration sometimes leads to slip-of-the-tongue confusion: Goodfellas and The Godfather.
17. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and Steel Magnolias (1989)
Both have: Long, winding stories (and metaphorical titles) that triple-underline the friendships of its many female characters (years before anyone in Hollywood discussed “the Bechdel test”), a Southern setting, an abusive husband, and cruel, fatal disease.
But: Fried Green Tomatoes, much of it set in the 1940s, puts emphasis on the death of that abusive husband and the resulting trial, with the reminisces of elderly Ninny giving Evelyn Couch some confidence in her own unhappy marriage. Steel Magnolias, set in the present, emphasizes Shelby’s life with diabetes.
16. Showgirls (1995) and Striptease (1996)
Both have: Somehow both trashy and pretentious stories about how humiliating and exploitative it is for women to take off their clothes for money, featuring many scenes in which actresses take off their clothes for (admittedly, much more) money. Also, an impressive number of thoroughly deserved Golden Raspberry Awards, which are sort of the anti-Oscars, awarded to the worst rather than the best.
But: Nomi of Showgirls at least has the sort of checkered past you’d expect from someone who hitchhikes to Las Vegas to strip for a living, and ultimately reveals a violent streak. Erin of Striptease is a former FBI agent. And as the titles imply, Nomi is a showgirl and Erin a private stripper.
Which is worth remembering? Showgirls. It racked up a record thirteen Razzie nominations, and this is one of those times where seeing something amazingly bad is better than seeing something merely very, very bad.
15. Sneakers (1992) and Hackers (1995)
Both have: Titles that mean basically the same thing and sort of rhyme, and plots involving a big cast of heroes sitting around and breaking into computer systems to bring down a vast conspiracy.
But: Robert Redford’s team of “sneakers” is trying to stop an attempt to break down the world economy, but Hackers is going after corporations and the laws that often protect them. It’s essentially on the side of the anarchists.
Which is worth remembering? Hackers. Even without a young Angelina Jolie scorching up the screen as the gifted coder the hero has to compete with to impress, Hackers would still be the film that captured, better than any other, what it was like to be a hacker when the Internet was young, and the ethos that still informs some “hacktivism” today (for better and for worse).
14. Tombstone (1993) and Wyatt Earp (1994)
Both have: Stories about the life of real-life Western lawman Wyatt Earp, whose retirement in the town of Tombstone was cut short by the same breed of outlaws he’d spent his career shooting dead.
But: Wyatt Earp covers Earp’s whole life, while Tombstone zeroes in on his last days and their aftermath.
Which is worth remembering? Tombstone. Earp has more ambition and accuracy, but is ultimately weighed down by a three-hour running time and too much bland exposition. It’s worth comparing the two with another two films that will probably be easily confused in years to come: Ashton Kutcher’s 2013 Jobs (a full-fledged biopic like Wyatt Earp) and Michael Fassbender and Aaron Sorkin’s 2015 Steve Jobs, which was likewise tighter, more enjoyable and generally far less accurate.
13. Volcano (1997) and Dante’s Peak (1997)
Both have: A volcanic eruption that few volcanologists are able to see coming, that takes a city full of cardboard characters by surprise. Innocent young children are especially imperiled. One character makes a rescue that ultimately proves fatal.
But: Dante’s Peak is named for a fictional city and does its best to keep its science grounded and believable, while Volcano is set in Los Angeles and shows famous landmarks getting destroyed by something called “lava bombs.”
12. Antz (1998) and A Bug’s Life (1998)
Both have: A misfit ant within an oppressed and unimaginative colony, who ultimately finds both romance and wider acceptance as he allies with other bug species and saves that colony from threats within and without. The movie helped a young animation studio establish itself.
But: A Bug’s Life‘s Flik is the kind of open-minded dreamer that you’ve seen in many kid’s movies, whereas Antz‘s Z (whose name gives the movie its odd spelling) is Woody Allen doing his usual neurotic routine, a coward who struggles to be brave.
Which is worth remembering? Antz. While still offering a satisfying happy ending, Antz portrays a totalitarian society that maps a lot more closely to actual ant behavior than the benign working-joe vision of A Bug’s Life. Allen is a genuinely unlikely hero instead of the typical hero-who-just-has-to-realize-he’s-a-hero that A Bug’s Life has. Antz is just a more distinct movie, whereas much of A Bug’s Life now feels like a rough draft of later, better Pixar films.
11. Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998)
Both have: A giant space object that threatens to destroy all life on Earth, unless a team of astronauts can blow it the hell up in time, which involves some of them making the ultimate sacrifice.
But: Deep Impact has far more scientific accuracy (and uses actual astronaut characters), a megatsunami caused by one “deep impact” and some engrossing evacuation politics. Armageddon has a bunch of miners who are given the job instead of astronauts and has an all-or-nothing story: life on Earth will be completely safe or totally destroyed.
Which is worth remembering? Armageddon. Yes, it’s dumber, but it’s also a lot more fun, the dialogue is much sharper, and it’s hard to imagine a more Bruce Willis role than a working-class guy who gets to save the world, or a more Michael Bay movie than one where one gigantic explosion is what’s needed to save the day.
10. The Truman Show (1998) and EDtv (1999)
Both have: A scripted story satirizing product-placement-funded reality TV, with huge crowds gobbling up video of one fairly ordinary but goofy dude’s life (played by an actor trying to transition from comedy to drama). He finally escapes the program, ruining its shareholder value, because all human beings have a right to privacy.
But: Ed of EDtv is aware that he’s on television from the first scene and uses that savvy to put pressure on his producers to end his contract, whereas Truman (“true man,” get it?) gradually wakes up to that “reality” and rebels against it in more drastic ways.
Which is worth remembering? The Truman Show. No film, except maybe Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, puts the full range of Jim Carrey’s talents on better display, and his attempts to escape the set are more upsetting and therefore, in the end, more rewarding.
9. Remember the Titans (2000) and Clash of the Titans (2010/1981)
Both have: A title with the word “Titans” in it, and some clashing that people may need to be told to remember.
But: One is a Denzel Washington biopic about Herman Boone and the racism he faced coaching the desegregated high school football team the Titans, as well as several of the players. In either version of Clash of the Titans, Perseus (one son of Zeus) kills the Medusa and the Kraken. See also the sequel to the remake, Wrath of the Titans, in which Perseus has to save his father from the race of Titans that spawned the gods.
Which is worth remembering? They’re clearly apples and oranges, but Remember has a story worth learning and some actual acting, whereas Clash is a pretty loose retelling of myths you could better learn from a children’s storybook, and Wrath is a shameless sequel-grab.
8. 28 Days (2000) and 28 Days Later (2002)
Both have: “28 Days” in the title and a disease that makes people into monsters, doing things a healthy person would never consider.
More importantly: The proximity of the release dates and the word “Later” in the title might lead one to believe Later is a sequel. That would be a rather unfortunate misunderstanding.
But: One is a rom-com about a period of time spent in rehab and the challenge of remaining sober afterward. The other is the film that brought zombie horror back into fashion, picking up four weeks after a highly contagious rage-inducing virus has spread through Great Britain, reducing some people to mindless killing machines and unleashing the predator in others.
Which is worth remembering? This is even more of an apples-versus-oranges choice, but 28 Days is a pretty shallow take on a difficult subject that deserves better, whereas 28 Days Later is a favorite among zombie fans.
7. Titan A.E. (2000) and Treasure Planet (2002)
Both have: A young male hero on a space treasure hunt with a gang of misfits. He is the only one there who can read the map. Already having lost his real father, he is betrayed by his surrogate father. Heartening grunge soundtrack. Traditional animation at a time when it was going out of style. Oh, and humans running around after their native Earth has been destroyed.
But: Titan A.E. is about finding a hypothetical new home for humans (the “A.E.” stands for “After Earth”) whereas Treasure Planet is a variation on Treasure Island.
Which is worth remembering? Titan A.E.. Its reviews weren’t as good as Treasure Planet‘s and neither film is as good as it promises to be, but the dialogue has the flashes of wit you’d expect when Joss Whedon and Ben Edlund contributed to the screenplay (though not the basic story).
6. Open Season (2006) and Over the Hedge (2006)
Both have: Computer-animated tales of a motley crew of animals learning to forage for food both in the wild and in human garbage, outflanking rival predatory animals and the hapless humans who try to kill them. They are mostly herbivores and prey species, including a female skunk and a male squirrel.
But: Open Season centers on Boog, a bear who escapes the zoo into a wider world and learns self-reliance alongside his dimwitted deer buddy, whereas in Over the Hedge, the bear is a villain whom RJ the raccoon has to pay his debt of food to, or else.
5. The Illusionist (2006) and The Prestige (2006)
Both have: Victorian-era magic, a love triangle marked by bitter jealousy and rivalry – and a plot wherein even life and death are not what they seem.
But: Illusionist is far more about the romance, with a magician risking everything to save his lady love from her violent royal fiance, while in Prestige, what matters most is the professional rivalry between two magicians, with sexual competition only a dimension of their hatred for each other.
4. No Country for Old Men (2007) and There Will Be Blood (2007)
Both have: Award-winning, bleak tales of men living by their wits and sometimes dying when outclassed by others in the pursuit of money.
But: Each movie’s title may be more appropriate for the other film: there’s considerably more blood spilled in No Country and it’s Blood that takes more of an unsparing look at the nation and aging. Blood is the story of an oilman whose obsessive competitive streak slowly drowns his few virtues over the decades; No Country is about a man who lifts a hefty sum of money from a crime scene, putting himself into the crosshairs of a relentless bounty hunter.
3. Avatar (2009) and The Last Airbender (2010)
Both have: Nature-loving messiahs with abilities that straddle worlds, and allow the forces of peace and justice to repel an invasion from one of those worlds.
More importantly: The second film is based on the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, generally called Avatar for short.
But: Avatar-the-movie is about a handicapped soldier given a new holographic body to live among the Na’vi, a race of aliens sitting on a natural resource that humans want. He turns native. Airbender-the-movie is about someone with the power to manipulate all four classical elements, whereas most “benders” can just handle one.
Which is worth remembering? Avatar has an eye-rollingly predictable plot but occasionally breathtaking visual spectacle, whereas The Last Airbender is a turgid mess that should have finished M. Night Shyamalan’s disappointing career. However, the TV series, while aimed at kids, is far better than either.
2. Rise of the Guardians (2012) and Legends of the Guardians (2012)
Both have: Edgy, ambitious, action-adventure for kids, with similar animation, wildly original protagonists and dark forces who do most of their work at night.
More importantly: The word “Guardians” is, like “Titans,” a fairly generic handle for a group of protagonists, and doesn’t even have Greek mythology or actual football history to justify its use. See also The Guardian and Guardians of the Galaxy.
But: While Legends (subtitled The Owls of Ga’Hoole) deals with legendary owl warriors, Rise has a super-team of slightly altered holiday figures like the rough-and-tumble Easter Bunny, the mystical Sandman and a sword-wielding, Russian-accented Santa Claus.
Which is worth remembering? Rise. Its story doesn’t consistently live up to the awesomeness of its character concepts, but those concepts are just about awesome enough to carry it through its rough patches. Owls fighting other owls and bats are pretty boss too, but that idea runs a little thin when stretched over 107 minutes.
1. This Is the End (2013) and The World’s End (2013)
Both have: A bunch of schlubs whose party plans are cut short by an apocalypse in a black comedy.
More importantly: The titles were originally even more similar, but Seth Rogen changed his The End of the World to This Is The End at Simon Pegg’s request.
But: In This Is, the heroes are Seth Rogen and many other well-known actors, playing exaggerated versions of themselves, and the apocalypse they face is a version of the Rapture. World’s features Simon Pegg trying to lead his middle-aged bar buddies on a pub crawl they failed to finish in their early twenties, only to discover an alien android invasion with dizzying implications for humanity.
Which is worth remembering? It’s another close race, but World’s, the last film in Pegg’s “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy,” has an extremely satisfying resolution for its lead character.
Any other pair of movies that you can’t decide between? Let us know in the comments!
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