The Best Doubles, Doppelgangers, And Identical Twins In Movie History
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.
- 1200 VOTESPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
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.
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.
- 3182 VOTESPhoto: Sony Pictures Classics
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.
- 4145 VOTES
Tom Hardy In 'Legend'Photo: StudioCanal
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.
- 5146 VOTESPhoto: Universal Pictures
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.
- 6119 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
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.