15 Movies That Are Basically Two Movies In One

Voting Rules
Vote up the movies that give you even more than you bargained for.

A good movie will give you a strong story. Some good movies give you two strong stories for the price of one. It's part of the nature of storytelling that plots occasionally evolve. They start as one kind of movie, then add a plot event that sends things off in a whole new direction. Sometimes that comes through a time jump, other times because the key element that truly kicks the story into gear arrives partway through, rather than at the beginning. 

The following titles are all, for better or worse, essentially two movies in one. They provide viewers with a “set-up” story, then spin it off into a complementary second story. In most cases, they could even theoretically have been released as separate short films instead of as features, because there's a minor sense of closure in those first halves. But they are features, and the two-in-one concept works well in every case, delivering an experience audience members can't stop thinking about afterward. 

Photo: Full Metal Jacket / Warner Bros.

  • Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket is definitely a story about how soldiers are prepped for war and what they actually experience on the front lines. The first part of the movie introduces viewers to wisecracking Marine recruit JT “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine). He's in basic training under the tutelage of no-nonsense drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). Also in the unit is overweight soldier Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio), whom Hartman relentlessly abuses. The bullying gets so bad that Lawrence has a nervous breakdown, fatally shooting Hartman before turning the gun on himself.

    At this point, the story jumps ahead a couple of years. Joker is now a sergeant working for the Stars and Stripes newspaper. After his base is attacked, he's sent into battle. Full Metal Jacket is a more conventional, if still harrowing, war movie at this point, with scenes where Joker tracks down a sniper and sees colleagues die under attack. The split serves to emphasize how basic training prepares him for combat, in ways that are both intentional and unintentional. He can only survive out there by relying on the experience he got from Hartman and, to an extent, Lawrence. 

    41 votes

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  • From Dusk Till Dawn starts off as a crime movie. Seth (George Clooney) and Richie (Quentin Tarantino) are bank-robbing siblings who have just pulled off a major heist that left several cops dead. They consequently make a run for the Mexican border. Knowing they're going to be heavily pursued, the brothers decide they need to find a covert way into the country. They therefore kidnap a preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his daughter (Juliette Lewis), whose RV will be a perfect hiding spot. The plan works, as they manage to get across the border and away from American jurisdiction. To celebrate, the brothers force their hostages to accompany them to a seedy bar for drinks and revelry.

    This is the precise point where From Dusk Till Dawn morphs into a horror movie. The bar, it turns out, is completely populated by vampires. And those vampires do not like these intruders. Blood and gore abruptly become copious as the vampires attack, and the humans fight back in an effort to save themselves. Some make it, some don't. Evolving a crime drama into a horror flick gives this Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration an effective “out of the frying pan, into the fire” kind of tension. Just when Seth and Richie think they're home free, their problems are just beginning. 

    31 votes

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  • The Place Beyond the Pines is actually like three movies in one, although the first two take place during the same time period. Ryan Gosling is Luke Glanton, a stunt motorcycle rider in a traveling carnival. He learns that his ex-girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes) gave birth to his child, a fact he was unaware of. To provide for the boy, he begins robbing banks. Eventually, Luke is shot by trigger-happy cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), causing him to fall out a window to his death. At this point, the focus shifts to Avery, who feels guilty for falsely claiming Luke shot first. He attempts to assuage his guilt by working with the district attorney to bust the fellow cops who want to skim some of the money Luke stole. 

    From there, the movie jumps ahead 15 years, focusing on all new characters. Jason (Dane DeHaan) is the now-adolescent son of Luke and Romina. He befriends A.J. (Emory Cohen), the teenage son of Avery. Neither knows about the connection between their fathers, at least at first. Jason eventually finds out, then goes seeking revenge against his friend's dad. A plan to kill Avery is left unfulfilled, although both are changed by the confrontation. The Place Beyond the Pines uses its dual story to look at how events from the past can impact later generations. Or, as Shakespeare put it, “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.”

    14 votes

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  • 4
    20 VOTES

    Bone Tomahawk

    Bone Tomahawk starts off like a traditional Western. Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) is trying to solve some problems in his town. A local stable boy has been killed. Then three people are kidnapped by a tribe known as the “Troglodytes.” He heads up a charge to save them and to bring those responsible to justice. This requires making a lengthy trek out to where the tribe is said to dwell. You could almost see John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in this “showdown between good vs. evil” plot, the likes of which have fueled many a Western. 

    The Troglodytes are not a typical tribe, though, and Bone Tomahawk turns into a horror movie in its second half. Hunt discovers they are actually a band of cannibals who have zero intention of bowing down to the law. What follows is a series of ultra-violent scenes in which people are scalped, cut open, eaten, and so on. Hunt, meanwhile, formulates a plan to unknowingly give them opium so he and his men can gain an advantage. Marrying a Western and a cannibal-themed horror flick gives both those genres a fresh feel.

    20 votes

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  • 5
    17 VOTES


    Barbarian begins with Tess (Georgina Campbell) arriving at an Airbnb she's rented, only to discover that it's double-booked, and a guy named Keith (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying there. He invites her in to sort out the situation, but she's reluctant because he's a stranger who could theoretically attempt to assault her. Eventually, and with great hesitancy, she goes in. Keith seems to be okay, and the two even form kind of a bond. Then Tess discovers a hidden door in the basement. Keith goes in, screams for help, and she rushes in after him. It's all a very Hitchcockian-type thriller in which we don't know if Keith is good or bad, or whether that door is a trap he created or something else.

    In a gutsy move, Barbarian temporarily pauses Tess's story arc there, switching to a completely different character and going full-tilt horror. AJ (Justin Long) is an actor caught in a professional scandal. To get away from Hollywood, he returns to Detroit to check in on the Airbnb he owns - yes, the very same one. He, too, discovers that door and the shocking secret behind it, which is that an abducted woman has been living in its underground tunnels for years. Now that she has him and Tess, “Mother” expects them to act as their children, leading to an absolutely disturbing scene involving a baby bottle. Tess and AJ have to find a way to escape, if one even exists. Barbarian's audacious storytelling choice earned the movie rave reviews and turned it into a sleeper hit.

    17 votes
  • 6
    20 VOTES

    Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof is two movies in one, contained in a whole other movie that's two movies in one. That is to say, it's half of Grindhouse, the “double feature” QT made with friend and fellow director Robert Rodriguez. A group of young women get together to celebrate one member's birthday. They do so at a bar in Austin, TX. There are drinks and revelry, then a chance encounter with “Stuntman Mike” (Kurt Russell). He shows off his special stunt car, which is rigged to completely protect the driver in a crash. It does not, however, protect the passenger, as one woman learns the hard way when Stuntman Mike offers her a ride, then intentionally slams on the brakes, causing her to fatally hit her head on the dashboard. After that, he mows down her friends.

    Knowing that the character is a crazed killer ensures that the second part of Death Proof opens on a harrowing note. A different group of women, all of whom work in the movie business, are on a film shoot in Tennessee. They, too, meet Stuntman Mike. He stalks them, with the intention of doing something similar to what he did to the first group. Two are stuntwomen, which comes in handy during an extended chase. The movie ends with the women overpowering Stuntman Mike, savagely beating him to death so he can't hurt anyone else ever again. Tarantino's intention here is to use the first section to make us hate the character, then give us the catharsis of seeing him pay for his sins in the second. 

    20 votes