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The Best Doubles, Doppelgangers, And Identical Twins In Movie History

September 30, 2020 556 votes 74 voters 2.2k views21 items

List RulesVote up the most memorable dual performances.

Actors who have played two roles in one movie include some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Nicolas Cage, Eddie Murphy, and Cate Blanchett are just three examples of major stars who have portrayed identical twins, doppelgangers, or doubles onscreen. Actors love to do this kind of thing, because it offers a real challenge, especially if the story requires them to act opposite themselves.

The effect has been around for a long time. Technology allowed it as far back as the '20s, but the camera had to remain static. Modern tech allows for camera movement, which opens up greater opportunities for what can be done. Actors can move around or even physically interact with themselves. Of course, the performances are what truly sell the illusion. When you have someone who fundamentally understands what to do with the scenario, magic can happen.

Below is a selection of the best performances in double-role movies. The rules are simple: The actors can only have played two characters, both of whom are vital to the plot, and they have to deliver high-quality work. Your vote will determine which one rises to the top.

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  • Sam Rockwell stars in Moon as Sam Bell, a lonely astronaut in space who is mining gas for a company back on Earth. After a mishap in his lunar vehicle, he returns to the space station and is surprised to discover someone else there: a clone of himself. Although technically the same person, one Sam is a little older than the other. Their perspectives are often varied as a result. Nevertheless, the two work together once they realize the company is up to something suspicious.

    Because there are virtually no other actors in Moon, Rockwell has to act opposite himself. He's so good that the trick proves seamless, and the story pulls you in. Just as impressively, he ensures we can always distinguish Sam I from Sam II from personality alone.

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  • The Parent Trap and its remake hold a rather unique position in movies. Both are generally considered to be good, and both hold a special place in the hearts of viewers from their respective generations. The story involves identical twins, raised separately, who meet at summer camp and devise a plan to get their divorced parents back together. 

    The original came out in 1961 and was a big hit, thanks to the strong work from Hayley Mills as Sharon and Susan. It touched a nerve with kids whose own parents were divorced. Lindsay Lohan played Hallie and Annie in the 1998 remake. Young audiences were likely unfamiliar with the original, but nonetheless took a shine to the updated version with the same passion that '60s kids did to the earlier iteration. In both cases, the strong, charismatic work from the actresses was a crucial element of success. Mills and Lohan both made the girls' desire for familial harmony relatable.

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  • Christian Bale holds a unique place on this list, in that you don't know he's playing two characters in The Prestige until near the end. The whole movie is about a magician named Alfred Borden who gets into a game of perpetual one-upmanship with another magician, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman). Much of their rivalry revolves around a trick called "The Transported Man" that, as its name suggests, allows Borden to be magically - and impossibly - moved from one side of the stage to the other instantaneously.

    The film's twist finale reveals that Borden has accomplished this by having his twin brother Freddy assist him; the two switch back and forth between being Alfred, and being Alfred's (heavily disguised) assistant, Bernard Fallon. The Prestige dives into the concept of misdirection in magic. It's how magicians distract the audience, allowing them to miss little details that would otherwise reveal how the trick works. Bale (and writer/director Christopher Nolan) engages in some misdirection of his own in the film, giving first-time viewers a genuine shock at the end.

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  • 4

    Michael Fassbender In 'Alien: Covenant'

    Alien: Covenant got a mixed reception from fans of the series, but most everybody agreed about how good Michael Fassbender is in two roles. He reprises the character of David, the synthetic android he originated in Prometheus. He also plays Walter One, a newer android. The two meet up in a dazzling sequence that illustrates how different the androids are in their outlooks, despite being similar models.

    Writing for IndieWire, David Ehrlich put it best: "The scenes where Fassbender squares off against himself are a conversation between an id and its super-ego, an artist and his self-portrait." Walter is, as a later model, essentially derived from David. The actor illustrates how, despite a generally similar appearance, the androids have been shaped very differently by the outcomes of the assignments they've been given. Rarely is it so haunting to watch a star perform opposite himself.

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