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.
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.
How They Are Similar: Like every romantic comedy ever made, the male and female protagonist of both films end up together. Sorry - spoilers. In these films, the relationships of the leads begin with casual sex, but ultimately end with mutual love.
How They Are Different: The ending of Friends with Benefits is more appropriately cheesy, culminating with a flash mob in Grand Central Station orchestrated by Timberlake to win over Mila Kunis. No Strings Attached has more solemnity, and almost feels realistic at times.
How They Are Similar: For starters, both are profoundly unrealistic. The White House is overrun by hostiles with access to nuclear weapons being the ultimate goal of the terrorists, but they are thwarted by a special agent, a one man army who is willing to die for this country and even more willing to kill for it.
How They Are Different: Aaron Eckhart plays the president in Olympus Has Fallen and is less capable of fighting and shooting than Jamie Foxx, who plays the president in White House Down. The terrorists in the former are Korean and want to unleash nuclear hell on the U.S. in its entirety, while the mercenaries in White House Down are former federal agents led by a man whose son was lost in combat, thus his efforts to launch a nuclear strike on Iran.
How They Are Similar: Historical lawman Wyatt Earp is the main character of both movies, having famously participated in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which is also the climax of both films.
How They Are Different: Tombstone is as much about Earp's posse as it is about Earp himself, with Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday arguably being as integral to the story. The main difference is that Tombstone is slightly more accurate, as it depicts both sides of Earp's past as an outlaw first before he became a man of the law.
Bonus: Bill Paxton was in Tombstone, and Bill Pullman was in Wyatt Earp, two actors who are commonly conflated due to their similar names and their contemporaneous success, as alluded to in this American Dad! clip. Starring in opposing movies about the same historical figure likely did not help their dilemma.