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

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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  • Lots of great actors pop up in the Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar! but Tilda Swinton gets what might be the most show-stopping role. She plays twin sisters Thora and Thessaly Thacker. The twins even share a common occupation: gossip columnist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they don't exactly get along.

    The strained relationship between Thora and Thessaly is meant to replicate the notorious feud between legendary Hollywood gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. These are showy roles, and Swinton knows just how to mine humor from them. She nails that old-timey ego gossip columnists used to have - the kind where they shamelessly wielded immense power because they knew all the dirty secrets of the biggest stars.

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  • How great is Brigitte Helm in her two roles in Fritz Lang's Metropolis? Let's put it this way - the 1927 sci-fi picture wouldn't be considered an all-time classic nine decades later if she was anything less than remarkable. 

    She initially plays Maria, a young teacher with an idealistic view that life could be better for impoverished workers. When the son of authoritarian leader Joh Fredersen falls for her, the master of Metropolis insists that a robot he's created be given her likeness in an effort to stifle any potential rebellion. Helm has an unlikely task playing both a human and a machine. She gives Maria a palpable sense of compassion, and makes the robot eerie. The whole film works because she's great in both parts.

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  • Lupita Nyong'o gives two of the best performances in modern horror in Jordan Peele's Us. On one hand, she's Adelaide, a woman whose family is tormented by a quartet of doppelgangers. The actress is also Red, the leader of those doppelgangers. Through the story, we learn that everyone on land has a subterranean double who is forced to eat rabbits and generally live a miserable life.

    Us details what happens when Red comes to the surface to exact a little revenge upon Adelaide for making a switcheroo when they were both children. Nyong'o effectively dramatizes Adelaide's horror upon being confronted by her double, but she truly excels as Red. With a vacant-yet-intense stare and a disturbingly demonic voice, she creates a menacing antagonist for the ages. Witnessing the actress as she terrorizes herself is chilling.

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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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