Many films are inspired by others that came before, but movies that have the same plot that come out at the same time may seem a bit ridiculous. Often, production companies will have similar properties on their hands, so both hurry to get their respective film out first and end up releasing them around the same time. Other times, smaller production companies will try to piggyback off the success of a large film by making one as similar as possible. Sometimes, it's just plain coincidence or sheer laziness on Hollywood's part. Whatever the case, we end up with two weirdly similar movies.
With copycat movies, it seems like one always nails it and the other completely misses the mark. The lesser of the two seems to leave things unexplained or have gaping plot holes that the other film did not. Here are some examples of the rather common phenomenon of twin films and how each of these nearly identical movies differ from one another.
A Bug's Life And Antz
How They Are Similar: Both movies revolve around an ant colony under some form of oppression, with a protagonist who just wants to be himself and not conform to societal norms. This one's a serious head-scratcher. How could two competing studios put out movies about computer generated insects a month apart? The irony is, given Pixar's sterling reputation, your immediate thought is probably that Antz was a total knock-off of A Bug's Life. In reality, Antz came out a month earlier. Even with that knowledge it still feels like Antz is a total ripoff of A Bug's Life.
How They Are Different: The oppressive force in Antz comes from a military leader within the ant society, and thus the allegory explores how a civilization can become corrupted from within. The villains in A Bug's Life are the grasshoppers who use their strength to demand food from the ant colony.
Volcano And Dante's Peak
How They Are Similar: In both films, the protagonist is ignored when he urges authorities to take the threat of volcanic activity seriously. They are both vindicated as people burn to death. Also in both films, people run away from lava; obviously, not all succeed.
How They Are Different: Pierce Brosnan is the star of Dante's Peak; lava is the star of Volcano. Furthermore, Dante's Peak takes place in small town Washington, while Volcano is set in Los Angeles. The latter is more of a traditional disaster movie about large scale civil response to disastrous events, whereas Dante's Peak is about James Bond finding love again while dodging liquid hot mag-ma.
Deep Impact And Armageddon
How They Are Similar: Asteroids are barrelling towards Earth, which will kill millions. Crews are sent to the comets in both movies to plant nuclear bombs. Both movies include video calls from the respective comets with decent reception from loved ones who are going to sacrifice themselves to save the world. Humanity is saved from extinction.
How They Are Different: The crew sent to the comet in Armageddon is a team of oil drillers, because it's easier to teach oil drillers how to become astronauts than it is to teach astronauts how to drill holes. #Science. Deep Impact is more about humanity's reaction to such an event, and the exclusionary policies that would have to be enforced to save the best of the best from extinction. Scientists said Deep Impact was more scientifically accurate.
The Prestige And The Illusionist
How They Are Similar: Both films are about illusions (not to be confused with tricks) and those who perform them known as illusionists. Romance plays a role in both films, though more centrally in The Illusionist, and both are naturally mysterious thrillers.
How They Are Different: The Prestige is more about the competing careers of two illusionists, Angier and Borden. There are elements of science in the film which features David Bowie as Nikola Tesla and a machine of his invention that duplicates objects. Angier uses said machine to to perform an illusion that Borden does without, a mystery which eats at Angier. The Illusionist is primarily a love story in which an Austrian magician must fool society into thinking him a spirit so he can escape with his presumed dead lady love.