Dopplegangers have been used in motion pictures almost from the very beginning. Oftentimes, they’ve been used successfully, in a variety of genres. Director Alfred Hitchcock thrillingly utilized the concept in Vertigo, as did Christopher Nolan in The Prestige and David Lynch in Lost Highway. The Kevin Kline presidential satire Dave employed the idea to comedic effect, as did the Spike Jonze/Nicolas Cage comedy Adaptation. Sam Rockwell helped give it a sci-fi twist in Duncan Jones’ Moon. These are just a few examples of dopplegangers done right.
And then there are the lousy dopplegangers. Frequently used as villains, the bad ones tend to come off as cheap gimmicks rather than legitimate storytelling devices. They sometimes make us laugh when they aren’t supposed to, or they inspire us to roll our eyes in disbelief. They have the power to wreck whatever story they’re in by their failure to be menacing or convincing. Below are our picks for the worst doppleganger villains in cinematic history. If you don’t agree with us, hey, we didn’t write this list. It was someone who just looked like us!
Here are the Worst Doppleganger Villains In Movies, Ranked.
15. Evil Bill and Evil Ted – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is an ’80s classic. Its 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, has a fair number of fans, although most people agree that it’s not as good as the original. Some of the jokes are recycled, while others are weirdly out of place. (Mocking Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal in a movie aimed primarily at teens? Okay...) Joss Ackland plays De Nomolos, an opponent of the futuristic Utopian society that sprang up as a result of Bill and Ted. He sends two robots that look like our heroes back in time to prevent them from winning the battle of the bands that allowed them to shape the world’s destiny.
The idea of Bill and Ted robots — referred to as Evil Bill and Evil Ted — is probably the least successful element of Bogus Journey. It’s too silly, even for a movie that embraces silliness. But they aren’t the only bad dopplegangers here! The guys build two cheap-looking robotic dopplegangers of their own, which they use to defeat the villains. Excellent Adventure earned big laughs by having its dim-witted but lovable characters interact with some of history’s most notable figures. Having them take on robotic versions of themselves simply doesn’t yield as much comedy gold.
14. Constantine – Muppets Most Wanted
In Muppets Most Wanted, a Kermit the Frog doppleganger named Constantine escapes from a Siberian gulag and resumes his criminal activity. The real Kermit, meanwhile, is mistaken for Constantine and incarcerated in that same gulag. (It’s run by Tina Fey, so you know the place can’t be all bad.) One of the jokes of the movie is that, Animal aside, the other Muppets don’t quite pick up on the fact that this is a bogus Kermit. Not even the thick accent gives him away. In the end, our hero triumphs over his lookalike with the help of his friends, who have finally figured out the switcheroo.
To be fair, Muppets Most Wanted is not at all a bad movie. It’s certainly a little weird, but also fairly funny. We’re picking Constantine for this list because, other good qualities aside, the film’s execution of an Evil Kermit is sorely lacking. Maybe the idea could have worked in a different context, but the whole thought of either character being locked up in a Siberian gulag seems pretty kid-unfriendly. A more down-to-earth plot might have made the doppleganger concept more effective. Here, it just feels out-of-place.
13. Latif Yahia – The Devil’s Double
The Devil’s Double is a 2011 film starring Dominic Cooper as Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier hired to be the body double for Uday Hussein, son of noted dictator Saddam Hussein. The ruse is designed to protect him from assassination attempts. Latif gets plastic surgery to more closely resemble Uday. Once all healed up, he gains access to a lavish lifestyle that includes designer clothes, fancy cars, beautiful women, and all the drugs a hedonistic person can consume. The downside is that Uday is an unstable thug with a penchant for violence, which means having to replicate his personality as well as his appearance. Latif slowly stops being himself and starts becoming the person he is supposed to be portraying.
Cooper received generally good reviews for his work, but The Devil’s Double as a whole didn’t find much favor with film critics, as evidenced by its “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. More than a few felt that the movie’s portrait of debauchery becomes tiresome after a while, and audiences certainly weren’t convinced to see it. The total worldwide box office haul was just under $5 million.
12. Rex – The Adventures of Pluto Nash
Eddie Murphy has made his fair share of duds over the course of his career, Holy Man and Meet Dave among them. His most high-profile flop, though, has to be The Adventures of Pluto Nash. In this sci-fi comedy, he plays the title character, a nightclub owner who refuses to sell his establishment to ruthless developer Rex Crater. After Crater responds by blowing the club to smithereens, Pluto sets out to find the man and perhaps exact a little revenge. The story’s big reveal is that Rex is a clone of Pluto.
At the end, Pluto and Rex fight, leaving their various cohorts confused as to which one is which, and therefore unable to help in any capacity. That idea might have worked, had something similar not been done so many times before in other movies, most notably Sam Raimi’s Darkman. Then, of course, there’s the whole thing with The Adventures of Pluto Nash not being very funny. The plot is filled with half-baked jokes to begin with, leading this doppleganger battle to feel like a desperate attempt to wring laughs from sub-par material.
11. Gabriel Yulaw – The One
Jet Li stars in The One, a sci-fi action flick that’s a little different from anything else he’s ever done. The story is set in the near future, where a technological breakthrough allows people to move back and forth between parallel universes. Li plays Gabriel Yulaw, a former agent with the “Multi-Verse Authorities,” the organization that polices this movement. He has decided to break all the rules, moving through the various universes and murdering all the other versions of himself in order to become “the One” — the only existing version of himself, which supposedly leads to omnipotence. The only person who can stop him is Gabe Law (also played by Li), a cop in the L.A. Sheriff’s Department who, as another “alternate,” is also on Yulaw’s hit list.
The One has an interesting premise, but the way that premise is carried out is less than satisfying. Li’s considerable martial arts skills are obscured by the overdone visual effects and the fact that The Matrix (released two years earlier) achieves a similar kind of trippy atmosphere much more adeptly. The supposed highlight is a scene in which Yulaw and Law duke it out. What should be cool instead looks rather silly, as it’s clear Li is sparring with a body double. Choppy editing only enhances the problem, making Yulaw an unconvincing villain.
10. Jack Harper 52 – Oblivion
In Oblivion, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), also known as “Tech-49,” is one of the last remaining people on a war-decimated Earth. His job is to provide security and to mine the last remaining natural resources that are left. Things get a little cuckoo-nutty when he discovers a downed spacecraft containing the mystery woman who has been invading his dreams.
None of that really matters. Oblivion is a beautiful-looking movie with a completely underdeveloped story that’s often hard to follow. What you need to know is that, at one point, Jack seemingly enters some sort of bizarro world (or something — we’re still trying to figure this movie out) and discovers another downed ship being repaired by “Jack Harper 52,” a hostile mirror image of himself. The two Jacks engage in an all-out slug-fest that leaves the audience unsure which Jack is which. Watching Tom Cruise beat himself up could be fun, if only the sequence made sense or was longer than just a minute or two.
9. King Louis XVI – The Man in the Iron Mask
The Man in the Iron Mask is based on the classic story by Alexandre Dumas, which in turn is based on a true story. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Philippe, the twin brother of King Louis XVI (also played by the actor). He has been imprisoned by his royal sibling, forced to wear a piece of iron head-gear to prevent anyone from ever discovering his identity. Louis also doesn’t want his brother potentially challenging him for the throne. Thankfully for Philippe, he’s got the Three Musketeers on his side to help defeat his tyrannical twin.
There’s no doubt that Leonardo DiCaprio is a great actor, but he’s miscast here. The movie was made right after he became an A-list superstar with Titanic, and the baby-faced look he still had at the time renders him unconvincing as the ruthless King Louis. People are supposed to fear him, yet he comes off like an overgrown child that any reasonably mature adult could put over their knee and give a good spanking to. Add to that the overall dull take on Dumas’ tale, and you’ve got a recipe for failure. Fortunately, DiCaprio’s career survived.
8. Evil Holly – Doppleganger
After winning America’s heart as Gertie in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Drew Barrymore went on to star in some interesting, if flawed pictures like Firestarter and Irreconcilable Differences. A heavy-duty drug addiction derailed her acting career when she was a teenager, but by the early 1990s, she was ready to make a comeback. The problem was that no one wanted to hire her for big movies. This meant re-establishing her credentials via a series of low-budget thrillers in which she played sexpot roles. There was the jailbait drama Poison Ivy, followed by Doppleganger (also known as The Evil Within).
She plays Holly, a sexy young woman who moves to L.A. after seemingly killing her mother. She rents a room from an infatuated writer (George Newbern), who notices that an “evil Holly” is hanging around a lot. He suspects that she has a twin sister, but a phone-sex operator informs him that evil Holly is really a supernatural being that has taken her form. Doppleganger is a weird, confusing movie that seems to pull ideas for absurd plot twists out of a hat. Evil Holly may be nasty, but the story she finds herself in earns more unintentional giggles than chills.
7. Twins – The Matrix Reloaded/The Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix was the epitome of cool in 1999. Its trippy visuals, philosophical ideals, and mind-bending story were fresh and new. The film made a bombshell impression for that very reason. Two subsequent sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, worked overtime to demolish that cool factor. Whereas the original had it naturally, the follow-ups were actively trying to be cool. Never a wise idea to attempt something like that.
If nothing else, they gave us some terrible dopplegangers to mock. We’re talking, of course, about the pasty-white-from-head-to-toe, dreadlocked, sunglasses-wearing dudes played by Neil and Adrian Rayment. The monochromatic look of the Merovingian’s henchmen was supposed to be rad but, if we’re being honest, they looked more like a really lame early-’90s alt-rock band than anything. No wonder these lame-o characters got their butts kicked by Morpheus. No matter how badass the movie tried to make them seem, the Twins were completely non-threatening.
6. Venom – Spider-Man 3
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 is almost universally considered the weakest entry in the original Spidey trilogy. There are many reasons for this, including cramming too many villains into the story, trying to juggle too many plot threads, and, of course, that bizarre scene in which Peter Parker gets all weird and emo. We still don’t quite know what that’s about. Ask any comic book fan, though, and they’ll probably tell you that the single most disappointing element of the film is the portrayal of Venom.
This villain, a doppleganger in being kind of a reverse-image Spider-Man, is beloved for his look and his fierceness. Fans were excited to see him finally pop up in one of the web-slinger’s movies. Then they got a look at him. The big screen Venom took way too long to finally appear in the picture; it wasn’t until the third act that he really showed his face. Worse, actor Topher Grace was about as misguided a choice to portray the character (and his human alter ego) as you could get. He simply isn’t menacing enough to be believable as one of Marvel’s greatest villains. Perhaps Raimi thought casting against type would work. It didn’t.
5. The Torch – Replicant
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays two roles in the 2001 action thriller Replicant. The first is serial killer Edward “the Torch” Garrotte, a psycho who got his name from a love of killing women and setting their corpses on fire. The second is “Replicant,” Garrotte’s genetic clone, created by a top secret government agency to help track the madman down and bring him to justice, using his memories as clues. The movie finds these two repeatedly encountering one another in a bar, a parking garage, and a hospital boiler room.
Deranged serial killers are often compelling characters in cinema, but not here. Replicant feels the need to “explain” the Torch, providing a cliched backstory about the dysfunctional mother who abused him and then burned their house down. Psychos lose their impact when movies try to make us feel sympathy for them. Scenes of the Torch and the Replicant fighting, meanwhile, are goofy, thanks to the unwise decision to have their punches and kicks exactly mirror each other. (Because one’s a clone, so they think the same way, get it?) JCVD certainly has the martial arts moves, but having him fight himself only makes a dumb movie even dumber.
4. Laure – Femme Fatale
Brian De Palma is the master of psycho-sexual thrillers, having made the classic Dressed to Kill, as well as Body Double and Obsession. His 2002 picture Femme Fatale is in a class by itself, though. And not a good class. Even those of us who have seen the film have trouble accurately explaining what it’s about or what happens.
Here’s what we know for sure. Rebecca Romijn plays Laure Ash, a thief plotting a major diamond heist. After ripping off her co-conspirators, she makes her way to Paris, where she runs into her dead ringer, a woman named Lily. Lily proceeds to commit suicide in front of Laure, who then steals her identity.
What follows are a lot of twists and turns that are exceedingly difficult to follow. They culminate with a twist ending in which we learn that most of the story’s events have been a dream. Lily did not, in fact, commit suicide because Laure stopped her. Femme Fatale leaves you confused for most of its running time, then sends you away infuriated because you don’t know what any of it is supposed to mean. This is not one of De Palma’s finer projects, making Laure an irritating doppleganger.
3. Young CGI Schwarzenegger – Terminator Genisys
There are many things that are bad about Terminator Genisys: the muddled story, the flat action sequences, the lame callbacks to previous Terminator installments, Jai Courtney’s performance. We’ll stop there. The movie tries so hard to please the fans, without displaying any visible knowledge of what those fans actually want or expect. No wonder it died a quick death at the box office and put the franchise on an indefinite hold.
Undoubtedly, the very lowest point is an action sequence in which the good, older-looking Terminator battles an evil Terminator who looks like the original 1984 model. The idea of having Arnold Schwarzenegger fight himself must have made the filmmakers cackle with delight. That scene doesn’t play anywhere near as cool as it sounds, though. CGI used to create the younger Arnold isn’t entirely convincing, especially since he’s weirdly expressionless and his movements seem improbably exaggerated. In fact, the faux Arnie is creepy in all the wrong ways, which serves to take the viewer right out of the movie. Terminator Genisys thinks it’s being dope when, in reality, it’s just being dopey.
2. Terry – The Initiation
“Slasher” movies were all the rage in the early- to mid-1980s. The success of Halloween and Friday the 13th created a sensation. It felt like a brand new slasher flick hit theaters every single week. Because of this glut, some of them slipped through the cracks, either because they were terrible or because there was simply too much competition for the same audience. The Initiation, released in 1984, is one such film. Daphne Zuniga plays Kelly Fairchild, a sorority pledge suffering from recurring disturbing nightmares. Her sorority sisters convince her to break into her father’s department store for some hijinks. Inside, they discover a psycho killer who starts picking them and their boyfriends off one by one.
The terrible doppleganger here is Kelly’s twin sister Terry. As the plot nears its conclusion, the story leads viewers to believe that it is Kelly who is murdering everyone. Only in the final minutes do we find out that it’s actually Terry. The revelation comes as a surprise to Kelly, who had no knowledge of a twin. (Terry, we learn, had been ferreted away to an institution as a child.) It’s an even bigger surprise for the audience, given that the plot twist literally comes out of nowhere. The Initiation‘s big reveal feels like a huge cheat.
1. Evil Superman – Superman III
Superman and Superman II were both popular, critically acclaimed movies that helped set the stage for the current cinematic superhero craze. Eager to keep a good thing going, Warner Bros. Pictures wasted no time in putting together a third Man of Steel adventure. Superman III, released in 1983, showed distinct signs of a lack of inspiration, though. Richard Pryor was pointlessly inserted to beef up the unnecessary comedy angle. Somehow, that’s only the second biggest mistake in the film.
The first is undoubtedly “Evil Superman.” Partway through, Superman and Clark Kent split apart. Clark is still a wholesome good guy, but Supes, on the other hand, has turned into an immoral creep. The two have a ridiculous battle in a junk yard that ends when Clark gets fed up and whoops his other persona. The sequence is supposed to represent the effects of some Kryptonite that Superman has been exposed to, which causes his behavior to completely change. No disrespect to Christopher Reeve, who was wonderful throughout the series, but this evil version of the character is nothing more than a dumb contrivance. We’re pretty sure Superman is never meant to induce unintentional laughter.
Which of these bad doppleganger villains is your favorite (or least favorite)? Are there any others we didn’t include? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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