When Movies Come In Pairs: Examples of Hollywood Deja Vu

For as long as I can remember there has been a strange phenomenon going on in Hollywood that I’ve never completely understood. I’m sure you too have experienced that twinge of deja vu when a movie hits theatres, and it reminds you of another similar flick that you saw only a few months ago. Now I’m not talking about trends or blatant rip-offs here, I’m talking about something a little more mysterious and puzzling: situations where it was seemingly impossible for one movie to be an attempt at capitalizing on the success of the other, because they both would have been in production at the exact same time.

Call it synergy, call it corporate espionage, or just mere coincidence… hey, I don’t have the answers, but I do have a collection of uncanny examples from years past. These are some of the “coincidental clones” that I could think of, most of them released less than a year apart. Can you think of any others?

1998 was the year Hollywood became obsessed with a catastrophic asteroid collision after scientists found a real asteroid that would pass within 30,000 miles of Earth in 2028.

Also in 1998, Dreamworks and Pixar had their first head to head battle. Pixar won handily, assuming you’re judging by box office numbers.

In 2003/2004, they both decided to move from animated insects to animated fish. Coincidence? I wonder.

Back in 1989, audiences were captivated by two heart-warming tales of hardened police officers and their reluctant canine counterparts. I always liked K9 best, but Tom Hanks was the bigger draw in Turner & Hooch.

The 80’s were awash with “body swap” stories, but these both happened to involve a father and son trading places with hilarious results (and were released mere months apart).

Admittedly, the similarities here are a bit more pre-meditated since both movies shared some of the same writers, but cute robot adventures just seemed to be on everyone’s minds between 86 and 87.

Remarkably similar concepts, except that one is aware he is on TV while the other is not. In some ways these movies were prophetic of the reality TV boom that would follow only a year or two later.

How is it that two different studios came to the conclusion that the world needed a movie about volcanoes… at the exact same time? (They were both wrong.)

Although Alexander Bulkley’s take on the zodiac serial killer story beat David Fincher’s Zodiac to market by almost a year, it failed to steal the spotlight.

Similarly, David Michael Latt’s retelling of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was severely overshadowed by the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise version, even though it was in production first.

Douglas McGrath’s Truman Capote biopic Infamous didn’t even have the advantage of being released first in this case. Pretty tough to convince people you have something new to offer when the other Capote biopic landed its lead actor an Oscar.

Vastly different movies, and yet, how do you explain two major movies about turn of the century magicians being released in the same year?

I suppose it only makes sense that once someone had the balls to greenlight a 9/11 movie, another studio would try and elbow in on the action too.

The shared premise between The Signal and Stephen King’s novel Cell appear to be coincidental, but Eli Roth may want to consider waiting on the feature film adaptation of Cell.

  • Lafe

    Mystery Men (1999) & The Specials (2000)
    Sky High (2005) & Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006)

  • Now we can add ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Megamind’ to the list.

  • george

    Top Gun (1986), Iron Eagle (1986)

    Twister (1996), Tornado! (1996)

    Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), The Last American Virgin (1982)

    I’ve been noticing this since I was a kid. Has to be something more to this than mere coincidence?

  • T

    Drop Zone and Terminal Velocity

    Turistas and A Perfect Getaway

    Virus and Ghost Ship

    Triangle and Timecrimes

  • Jenniflower

    ‘Over the Hedge’ and ‘Open Season’

    Both released 2006, both films about talking woodland/forest animals!

  • Jenniflower

    Oh and this year, ‘no strings attached’ and ‘friends with benefits’

    sounds like they are going to be two very similar films.

  • Nathan Rose

    Hey I have been saying this commen theme thing for years now. I just wanted to add to the list…

    Skyline and Battle of LA about alien take over focus on alien aircrafts which I beilieve are spin offs of district 13.

    A-team and Losers brought back similair groups of older comic book and tv show gun for hire type charecters.

    R.E.D and Expendables groups of old movie stars who are mercinaries.

    The killers and Day & knight about a couple in love who happen to be undercover mercinaries.

    The Day the Earth stood still and War of the worlds both on the end of the world and the takeover by hositile alien races or possible even knowing with Nicholas cage.

    I know there are tons more I just forgot them tho and I guess my reason for this coincidence is because a movie company will come up with a general ideal and then tell multiple writers to come up with an story.

  • So many examples of this it’s ridiculous. Would love to find out why this happens one day. Here’s my pairing:

    Braveheart / William Wallace

  • Jamal

    You forgot Matrix & Equilibrium

  • Allie

    Snow White and the Huntsman (June 2012)
    Mirror Mirror (March 2012)

  • ButtonMan88

    Robin Hood (Patrick Bergin)and Prince Of Thieves – 1991
    Rob Roy (Liam Neeson) and Braveheart – 1995

  • Kelley

    I noticed these first two when I was a kid and ever since then I have noticed that movies often come out in pairs. I never understood why no one seems to notice. Many I have noticed were already mentioned.

    Babe (1995)
    Gordy (1995)

    Garden State (2004)
    Elizabethtown (2005)

    The following are not identical but are movies with similar themes/cinematic appearance:

    10000 BC (2008)
    Homo Erectus (2007)

    Inglorious Bastards (2009)
    Valkyrie (2008)

    The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
    Inception (2010)

  • I found this on a search for, “Why do movies come in pairs?”, which is common enough for Google to autocomplete on the ‘p’.

    I have long noticed this and feel exactly the same way as the other respondents. It annoys the piss out of me that Hollywood does this tacitly. There is no way this is coincidence.

    My best guess would be risk management. When a studio decides to do a movie that isn’t a sequel or based on some other venture, it’s always more of a gamble. So if they either collude with some other studio to produce a similar product, or simply model their product after something already in production, this may significantly limit risk because in the worst case people might confuse the bad movie (theirs) with the good one.

    However, I have never heard a studio executive explain this, in all my years of watching actors and directors and execs talk about the industry on TV. I suspect they don’t want to draw attention to the practice, as it may adversely affect attendance to twin movies.

    We really need a name for this, because if people use something to describe it, the phenomenon may become more well-known. How about calling a twin movie a “twoovie”?

    Twoovie: TOOH-vee, noun. A movie produced by a major motion picture studio which is not a sequel, prequel, or reboot of a previous film, but is released within several months of a different movie of strikingly similar topic or theme. As this involves value judgment, some twoovies may be more obvious or agreed-upon than others. The two movies with similar theme and release date can be called “mutual twoovies”, and either one can be said to be “a twoovie of” the other. Intentional movie clones (such as porno versions or low-budget copycats) do not count.

    * “Mission to Mars and Red Planet are mutual twoovies.”
    * “Antz is an obvious twoovie of A Bug’s Life.”
    * “Is it possible that The Abyss, Deep Star Six, and Leviathan are actually threevies?”

  • Andrew007

    It’s happening. Again.

    White House Down https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AXbiCdmXgw
    Olympus Has Fallen

  • Agreeornot

    Friends with benefits / No strings attached ; Olympus has fallen / White House down.. The list goes on

  • Theron

    Every Adam Sandler movie gave me deja vu about how terribly unfunny he is.

  • Tenzin Chagzoetsang

    you could add the following which were all released in the same year:
    1) Mall Cop and Observe and Report,
    2) Snow White and The Huntsman and MIrror Mirror
    3) White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen

  • BKAllmighty

    The War of the Worlds (not the Tom Cruise one) was made by The Asylum. All they basically ever do is rip off Hollywood movies. Not sure if I would really count that one.

  • will crow

    tombstone and wyatt earp, and braveheart and rob roy, how about dead poet’s society and emperor’s club?