110 voters

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

September 30, 2020 825 votes 110 voters 3.6k 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.

  • 5

    Tom Hardy In 'Legend'

    The first time we got a movie about notorious British gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray, it starred Gary and Martin Kemp, members of the pop band Spandau Ballet. Unlike The Krays, the 2015 crime drama Legend only uses one actor to play the twin siblings. That actor is the mega-talented Tom Hardy.

    Watching the film, you can tell he clearly relishes the chance to portray two characters, especially since their personalities are so diverse. Ronnie attempts to project an air of sophistication, whereas Reggie is a full-fledged psychopath prone to outbursts of violence. The movie tracks their rise through London's underworld. Casting Hardy in both roles could have come off as a stunt, yet his work is so intense as both Krays that it totally works. He creates a twisted sibling dynamic all by himself.

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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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  • Jeremy Irons plays twin brothers in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, both of them creepy, although in different ways. Elliot and Beverly Mantle are gynecologists with few, if any, professional boundaries. Elliot takes advantage of his position to romance some of his female clients. When he grows bored with them, he passes them on to Beverly. Since they're identical, the women don't know they've been with two different men. 

    Dead Ringers is widely considered to showcase some of Irons's finest work. He turns Elliot into a smooth, suave, and, honestly, kind of sleazy guy. Beverly, on the other hand, is quieter and more reserved, yet no less sketchy. The actor is so authentic in both roles that the story becomes deeply unnerving, especially once Beverly goes off the deep end after falling in love and having his relationship with Elliot deteriorate.

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  • 8

    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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