America is in need of inspiration, and two separate movies will present us with the same solution: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The upcoming documentary “RBG” and the Felicity Jones-starring biopic “On the Basis of Sex” are the latest additions to a long history of twin films — the phenomenon in which conceptually similar projects are released around the same time.
Just in the past year, both “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour” were about the same inspiring evacuation in World War II, while “Rough Night” and “Girls Trip” depicted college friends’ rowdy reunions. If you include TV, the anthology series “Trust,” about the 1973 kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, begins Sunday, just a few months after “All the Money in the World” took on the same subject. And there are three Sharon Tate movies in the works.
Sometimes the similarities are sheer coincidence — recent animated flicks “Sherlock Gnomes” (out this weekend) and “Gnome Alone” (only released overseas so far) were not a response to any lack of garden gnome representation on screen. But at other times, such as with the Vietnam War-focused “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now,” the movies align with a social movement.
From White House thrillers to musicals about Jesus, here are some of the more quirky pairings of twin films.
“Jezebel” (March 1938) and “Gone With the Wind” (December 1939)
Legend has it that Bette Davis, who plays Julie Marsden in “Jezebel,” was offered the lead role after she failed to land the part of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” Although the timeline is iffy — Vivien Leigh wasn’t cast until late 1938 — it’s easy to see how the story came to be. Both films centered on headstrong Southern belles involved in messy love affairs during the Civil War, and each won their lead and supporting actresses Academy Awards.
“Harlow” (May 1965) and “Harlow” (June 1965)
Both biopics centered on the life of the American actress and 1930s sex symbol Jean Harlow, who died at 26 of complications from kidney failure. The black-and-white Magna version of Harlow’s life, starring Carol Lynley, received much less attention than the Carroll Baker-starring counterpart from Paramount, which came out five weeks later. Marilyn Monroe was originally cast as Harlow for Fox, but the project was sold to Paramount after the actress’s death in 1962.
Other twin-film biopics include 2005’s “Capote,” in which Philip Seymour Hoffman played Truman Capote a year before Toby Jones did in “Infamous.” Jared Leto portrayed long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine in 1997’s “Prefontaine” the year before Billy Crudup did in “Without Limits.”
“Yours, Mine and Ours” (April 1968) and “With Six You Get Eggroll” (August 1968)
These movies explored the blended family premise a year before “The Brady Bunch” premiered. “Yours, Mine and Ours,” starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, drew from the real-life story of Helen and Frank Beardsley, a couple famous for parenting 20 children after their marriage in 1961.
As the title suggests, the family in “With Six You Get Eggroll” is much smaller — it’s Doris Day, Brian Keith, her three sons and his daughter. Though less successful than its predecessor, the movie includes just as many shenanigans and also ends happily. When a family this big goes out for Chinese food, they get bonus egg rolls. Hurrah!
“Godspell” (March 1973) and “Jesus Christ Superstar” (August 1973)
Before there was NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live,” coming April 1, there was Norman Jewison’s 1973 version. The movie, based on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera, looks back at Jesus’ final days from the perspective of his betrayer, Judas. In “Godspell,” adapted from the off-Broadway musical, a bunch of modern-day New Yorkers decide to become disciples of Jesus and form an acting troupe that performs parables from the Gospel of Matthew. So much music! So much Jesus!
“Gremlins” (June 1984) and “Ghoulies” (March 1985)
Hollywood couldn’t get enough of the creepy crawlies in the mid-1980s. In “Gremlins,” a kid receives a koala-looking creature as a pet and is instructed to never expose it to bright light, water or feed it after midnight. He does all three, obviously, and the pet spawns a bunch of terrifying monsters. The main character in “Ghoulies” similarly unleashes a host of fiendish creatures after he performs a ceremony from one of his father’s books on black magic. We might as well throw in “Critters,” as the 1986 movie follows a rural Kansas family attacked by dangerous, fuzzy aliens who crash their spaceship on Earth.
“Back to the Future” (July 1985) and “Peggy Sue Got Married” (October 1986)
Whereas Marty McFly is flung back to the 1950s and tasked with making sure the younger versions of his parents fall in love — how else will he exist in the future? — Peggy Sue, facing marital trouble with her high school sweetheart, wakes up in 1960 and gets to relive her youth. The latter is like “Back to the Future,” but Marty’s mom is the protagonist.
“K-9” (April 1989) and “Turner & Hooch” (July 1989)
Dogs are apparently also a man’s best crime-fighting partner. The aptly named “K-9,” the first in what became a three-part series, centers on a cop (Jim Belushi) who is assigned a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Jerry Lee while working to bust a drug lord.
“Turner & Hooch” finds Tom Hanks as an officer who inherits his friend’s dog, Hooch, after the owner is murdered. Both men need time to warm up to their canine partners but ultimately end up grateful.
“Rookie of the Year” (July 1993) and “Little Big League” (June 1994)
Two 12-year-old boys end up working with major league baseball teams: Henry, of “Rookie of the Year,” becomes such a powerful pitcher after a broken arm heals strangely that he is signed by the Chicago Cubs. Billy, of “Little Big League,” inherits control of the Minnesota Twins after his grandfather, the team’s owner, dies. These movies were made in the good ol’ days, back when tweens weren’t glued to Logan Paul videos on their smartphones.
“Antz” (September 1998) and “A Bug’s Life” (November 1998)
We got over our evil critters phase after the ’80s and entered a late-’90s period of benevolent ants. Z, the neurotic main character of “Antz,” works to save his colony from a scheming totalitarian. Flik, the misfit protagonist of “A Bug’s Life,” defends his colony against evil grasshoppers. Both projects are strange to watch in the #MeToo era — Woody Allen voices Z, while “A Bug’s Life” was directed by John Lasseter and stars Kevin Spacey as one of the grasshoppers.
“Deep Impact” (May 1998) and “Armageddon” (July 1998)
Foreign objects are hurtling through space toward our planet, and the only way to save everyone is for a team of Americans to blow the darn things up. In Mimi Leder’s “Deep Impact,” journalist Tea Leoni discovers that the government is hiding the crisis, which forces President Morgan Freeman to announce that astronaut Robert Duvall and company will attempt to blow the comet up. In “Armageddon,” NASA puts together a group of men to drill a hole into an asteroid and set off a nuclear bomb.
“Chasing Liberty” (January 2004) and “First Daughter” (September 2004)
We would never disrespect Will Friedle by failing to mention his 1998 TV movie “My Date With the President’s Daughter,” but this pair focused on the actual daughters’ adventures instead. Both Mandy Moore’s character in “Chasing Liberty” and Katie Holmes’s in “First Daughter” want to experience the world sans Secret Service, Moore in Europe and Holmes on a college campus. But their president fathers disapprove, instead assigning undercover agents to tag along. The daughters inevitably discover the agents’ real identities, but not before falling in love with them.
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (January 2009) and “Observe and Report” (April 2009)
Determined mall security guards were apparently the garden gnomes of 2009. Kevin James’s Paul Blart is more memorable than Seth Rogen’s Ronnie Barnhardt, probably because the film spawned a sequel after ranking No. 1 at the box office in its opening weekend, while Rogen lost to “Hannah Montana: The Movie.”
These movies are so similar that no one can keep them straight. Both include one-half of the Ashton Kutcher-Mila Kunis power couple, with Natalie Portman starring opposite Kutcher and Justin Timberlake opposite Kunis. Both involve two close friends deciding to keep their relationship purely sexual but ending up with feelings for each other anyway. And both just happen to feature 2018 Oscar nominees: Greta Gerwig (along with Mindy Kaling) is Portman’s roommate, while Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson play Timberlake’s father and friend, respectively.
“Olympus Has Fallen” (March 2013) and “White House Down” (June 2013)
Gerard Butler in “Olympus Has Fallen” is a disgraced Secret Service agent who once protected President Aaron Eckhart, and Channing Tatum in “White House Down” is a Capitol police officer who is denied his dream gig of protecting President Jamie Foxx. Both men fight evil forces threatening the president in our nation’s capital and become the inspiring heroes no one thought they could be.