Thirty-three Little Known Rip Offs

Some movies bear a subtle yet undeniable fingerprint of an uncredited inspiration. That's a polite (and legally safe) way of suggesting the filmmaker ripped his idea off from some poor sucker. Mind you many films are similar to earlier ones, that is inevitable, and parallel thinking is not impossible. But if you even have to wonder if something is stolen, it is already, and at very least, a bad sign you're watching a hackneyed idea at work.

Here are some less-noted but circumstantial cases of theft (needless to say, I will disregard the comically blatant cases of hackdom and save Avatar and the Turkish Superman knock-off for another list). Let the indignant outrage and incredulous comments ensue.
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Reservoir Dogs (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant. (99 mins.)
“ No list of cinematic larceny is complete without Quentin Tarantino. His debut film features several shot-for-shot recreations from the Hong Kong action flick City on Fire. The Asian original's utter obscurity in the States was likely a huge factor in evading detection, but several cinema buffs sniffed this one down a few years later. ” - Tin_ear
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite what the Principal thinks of that. (103 mins.)
Director: John Hughes
“ I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Ferris Bueller and Risky Business. Both films incorporate: a father's trashed sports car as major plot elements, aloof and conveniently absent parents away from home, over-the-top (and illegal) teenage hijinks and attempted cover-ups, a reptilian adult foil who breaks into his house, and most notably, two of the most famous lipsync scenes in history. Even the generic middle-class, Chicago suburbs are identical. (Presumably taking place at exactly the same time of year when there isn't baking heat or five feet of snow in Chicago, no less.) One specific commonality is negligible. Four, not so much. Maybe not a straight rip off, but highly suspect regardless. ” - Tin_ear
Inception (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A thief, who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology, is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO. (148 mins.)
“ Inception has so many similarities with 1984's Dreamscape, Christopher Nolan had to at least partially subconsciously plagiarized it. Still can't admit Nolan is unoriginal?... Both films star a man with unique mental abilities caught up in a web of intrigue, centered around the technology that enables people to enter and manipulate the dreams of unconscious VIPs. (Some advanced experts do not need even the equipment, we learn.) The protagonist in Dreamscape is a troubled lout with nothing to lose. This is a farcry from Inception's unscrupulous rogue willing to make any deal. Dreamscape's hero also falls victim to blackmailers who would exploit his skill for selfish interests, and a non-threatening female who aids the hero in his subconscious breaking and entering, mostly because the story needs at least one female character. Both are guided by college professor paternal-figures.

Both stories come complete with a recurring 'boogeyman' representing one's psychologial complexes which pop-up at appropriate moments in the plot to complicate the mission. Dreamscape incorporates a dead father theme as the central part of the climactic battle, as does Inception. There is naturally an implied sense of a blurring of reality at the close of Dreamscape, just to leave the audience questioning the nature of reality, and what is 'real.' So too Inception with its spinning top gag. And both feature trains prominently. Sound familiar? The two plots diverge slightly and the rules of the 'dreamscapes' are not exactly the same, but how Nolan has avoided over-litigious laywers as of yet is baffling. Maybe he entered their dreams...well, you know the rest. ” - Tin_ear
The Terminator (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A seemingly indestructible humanoid cyborg is sent from 2029 to 1984 to assassinate a waitress, whose unborn son will lead humanity in a war against the machines, while a soldier from that war is sent to protect her at all costs. (107 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
“ It is little known that an out-of-court settlement awarded writer Harlan Ellison partial writing credit for The Terminator some years ago. The story in question was originally adapted for the TV series The Outer Limits in the mid-Sixties. Regardless, James Camerson belittled him as a 'parasite,' though Cameron had admitted he had ripped off the award-winning sci-fi author, and he had made millions (and a career) off Ellison's creative legacy. And being honest, nobody has ever confused Cameron for a top-notch screenwriter, anyway. Legal proof James Cameron is both a plagiarist and kind of a dick. ” - Tin_ear
Tootsie (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Michael Dorsey, an unsuccessful actor, disguises himself as a woman in order to get a role on a trashy hospital soap. (116 mins.)
Director: Sydney Pollack
“ I dare one to see Tootsie and not immeadiately begin to imagine Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis playing in an all-girl band next to Marilyn Monroe. Even the randy & clueless male suitor characters, complicated best-friend romances, and the 'I wish they had this smock in my size' jokes are nearly identical. The plot is different, but not that different. The man-cross-dressing-out-of-convenience plot, I suspect is even older than Some Like It Hot, a decades-old shtick that needs to die already. ” - Tin_ear
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same. (153 mins.)
“ Equal parts The Dirty Dozen, The Last Metro, and of course the original Inglorious Bastards (which itself is a bad Dirty Dozen rip off, and starred Fred Williamson as an imitation version of Jim Brown), Tarantino's 'homage' is accompanied by a soundtrack of QT's favorite pilfered movie theme songs just in case you didn't notice he was in a borrowing mood. If you ask him, he'd probably tell you he's just being postmodern. He may even be correct, but it's still not original nor very dignified. ” - Tin_ear
Gladiator (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family murdered by an emperor's corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (155 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
“ 'When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.' - That is what appears on the IMDb blurb on Gladiator's page. In the end Maximus finds dignity in a stoic death. He is a legendary badass in the coliseum.

Now compare that to Ben-Hur's blurb: 'When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.' In the end Ben Hur finds peace in Jesus's stoic acceptance of death. He (Ben-Hur) is a legendary badass in the chariot race.

Now I'll admit the Spartucus blurb is not worded in a similiar fashion, but he is a wronged man, enslaved, fighting against Rome for his freedom, and naturally, seeks vengeance. And he too finds dignity in his stoic death. He is a badass in the arena, and legendary on the battlefield.

Yeah, those plots don't sound anything alike, do they? Somehow the screenwriters and Ridley Scott got away with basically ripping off two Hollywood classics and got rewarded with an Oscar. ” - Tin_ear
Mr. Arkadin (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An American adventurer investigates the past of mysterious tycoon Arkadin...placing himself in grave danger. (93 mins.)
Director: Orson Welles
“ The film's plot is supposedly based on three radio broadcasts written by Orson Welles. But the film Mr Arkadin itself, and the radio broadcast the film is largely inspired by, 'The Man of Mystery,' bears an incredible resemblance to an earlier novel by Eric Ambler called A Coffin for Dimitrios and the 1944 film adaptation of Ambler's work called The Mask of Dimitrios. The similiarities are so numerous, it is simpler to name the points where The Mask of Dimitrios and Mr Arkadin diverge. The major disparity lies in the climax and a few characters. Though in fairness, the fact the cast of characters and locale does not overlap exactly is likely a matter of artistic licence or plausible deniability. And Welles even starred in an early adaptation of one of Ambler's novels "Journey into Fear" in '43, so it's obvious he at least knew of Ambler's work. ” - Tin_ear
Obsession (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A wealthy New Orleans businessman becomes obsessed with a young woman who resembles his wife. (98 mins.)
Director: Brian De Palma
“ Everyone but Gus Van Sant has the right to roll his eyes at Brian De Palma for this one. Though screenwriter Paul Schrader unofficially credits Vertigo as an inspiration, that hardly absolves him or Brian De Palma for copying the venerated Hitchcock film without a screenwriting nod for Vertigo's writer or Boileau-Narcejac, the novel's two co-authors. Whether they got royalties is also probably doubtful. Swapping a Spanish mission in San Fran for a New Orleans river boat, these two films are nearly identical except Obsession contains an incestuous subplot and an alternate criminal motive. It is a remake in virtually every aspect. If you know anything about Schrader's early career, this revelation isn't particularly shocking; as a director he'd later essentially remake The Searchers (as Hardcore) and Pickpocket (as American Gigolo), and offically remake Cat People. Though, I actually prefer this creepy, tightly-wound, Southern-fried rehash, go figure. ” - Tin_ear
Jurassic Park (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok. (127 mins.)
“ It might not technically be a rip off (in a legally enforceable definition), considering acclaimed author Michael Crichton actually wrote both the screenplay for Jurassic Park and the film it closely parallels, Westworld, but it's the same damn movie. Switch T-Rex for Yul Brynner in a stetson, 'Newman' from Seinfeld with a computer glitch, and replace Sam Neil for Richard Benjamin, you have Westworld. It doesn't take a Harvard educated, best-selling novelist to spot the laughably similar, recycled plot. ” - Tin_ear
Stardust Memories (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
While attending a retrospective of his work, a filmmaker recalls his life and his loves: the inspirations for his films. (89 mins.)
Director: Woody Allen
“ It doesn't take much effort to observe Woody Allen has borrowed from Federico Fellini's 8 1/2. Regardless whether you call it an 'homage' or simple laziness, the plots are the same: successful, ennui-afflicted filmmaker re-examines his life, loves, and career amid surreal set pieces. Both even share the same b&w photography, confessional-like narrative, romantic failures, mid-life crisis plot, warm ending, and tragic/comedy tone. Even some of the camera pans look like they mirror Fellini's film. Though supposedly autobiographical, these two movies cover nearly identical ground. Suggesting either Woody had run out of new ideas, or that every director has presumably the same predictable plights and neuroses. As if Alex in Wonderland wasn't enough pointless introspection on the subject of filmmaking. ” - Tin_ear
Brazil (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A bureaucrat, in a retro-future world, tries to correct an administrative error, and becomes an enemy of the state. (132 mins.)
Director: Terry Gilliam
“ If you are a literate person or cinephile watching Brazil, the de-humanizing dystopian-buearucracy-gone-awry plot should seem very familiar. Equal parts Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, The Trial, and Fahrenheit 451 (and Metropolis, Alphaville, THX 1138, A Clockwork Orange, Logan's Run and let's just include every futuristic movie made prior to 1985 while we're at it), Brazil has always appeared to me as nothing but an offbeat reinterpretation of a lot of tired genre cliches, a glossy prop with the downbeat ending to signal this is a 'serious' film. The film would like us to believe it's a biting satire, but it mostly falls flat. The saturation of certain popular genres (or cliches) permeate so deeply that it is now possible to unconsciously plagiarize works based solely through generic stereotypes. An empty collection of emotions, archetypes, and stock plot points worthy of Big Brother's Fiction Department. ” - Tin_ear
Natural Born Killers (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Two victims of traumatized childhoods become lovers and psychopathic serial murderers irresponsibly glorified by the mass media. (118 mins.)
Director: Oliver Stone
“ This movie undeniably draws its plot from Bonnie and Clyde. So what? Quentin Tarantino got away with basically refilming a Hong Kong cop flick scene-for-scene to make Reservoir Dogs. And Inglourious Baterds is a pale pastiche of better films. Big deal, right?

But this movie also appears to owe a debt to Terrence Mallick's Badlands. The damaged girl is 'mentored' by a drifting, amoral yet intriguing creep. The male protagonist in one way or another instigates the death of the girl's family. Sensationalist, random murder spree ensues. And prison awaits. Both movies are steeped in the issues of notoriety, the media driven appeal of the romantic criminal myth, and inherent human nature. One could disregard the coincidences as just that, that is, unless I told you Quentin Tarantino wrote the original screenplay to Natural Born Killers. ” - Tin_ear
Moonraker (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
James Bond investigates the mid-air theft of a space shuttle, and discovers a plot to commit global genocide. (126 mins.)
Director: Lewis Gilbert
“ Amid the Star Wars inspired space-epic craze in the late Seventies and early Eighties, many filmmakers jumped on the bandwagon. Most of those films like Flash Gordon and Galaxy of Terror are notable only as novelties. One such dud, financially successful but still a dud, was Moonraker. Recycling many previous Bond cliches, it's most noteworthy for lazily lifting the plot of its predecessor, The Spy Who Loved Me, merely transposing the action from under the sea to outer space. The 'master race' plots mirror each other, necessitating the hijacking of atomic subs in the first, and space shuttles in the latter. The very final scene is identical to The Spy Who Loved Me's ending, as if it mattered, because virtually every Bond film ends the same. Not to mention the filmmakers were so lazy they didn't even bother to replace Jaws as the 'designated henchman.' Yet again, this movie raises the question of the validity of the accusation of self-plagiarization -- but that seems to be missing the point. ” - Tin_ear
Cry of the Werewolf (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
A young woman raised by gypsies hides a deadly secret which she will do anything to protect. (63 mins.)
Director: Henry Levin
“ You probably didn't know this film was a rip off of Cat probably didn't even know this film existed, but take my word for it. Val Lewton wrote the original source material and later produced the film verison of Cat People, a B picture, but a renowned B movie which to this day has a healthy-sized cult of devotees. Cry of the Werewolf, on the other hand, is a blatant imitation made two years afterward, which merely replaces the Serbian feline shapeshifter of the former with a Gypsy were-woman in the latter, slightly modifying the script where necessary. The ambiant growls and elusive shadows which epitomized the sexually-repressed heroine of Cat People is rather mundanely replaced by a trained, domesticated wolf (or more likely, just a husky), which I can assure you, is not particularly effective. ” - Tin_ear
Denis Leary: No Cure for Cancer (1993 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Ticked off comic Denis Leary talks honestly about subjects ranging from smoking, red meat, drugs, his family, rehab, and yes, cancer. (62 mins.)
Director: Ted Demme
“ Denis Leary denies the similarites to Bill Hicks's act altogether, although some of the source material Leary borrows from is even availiable in video and audio clips around the internet. Bizarrely, IMDb once credited Hicks ex post facto as a co-writer as of just a few years ago but recently amended it. In this case it was short-lived and posthumous credit, Hicks never discovered much acclaim in his life, unlike Leary. He died, ironically, of cancer. ” - Tin_ear
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee, and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader. (121 mins.)
Director: George Lucas
“ To start, the narrative and some other elements draw from an old Akira Kurosawa picture named The Hidden Fortress. (The doomed princess body-double from The Phantom Menace should look familar.) That in itself is not outright theft, but the climax, the scene where Luke Skywalker's X-Wing blows up the Death Star, is so similar to the WWII English bomber pic The Dam Busters' penultimate scene, that even Lucas himself admits he copied much of the dialogue and refilmed the scene nearly shot-for-shot from that old war movie. Most notably, Lucas borrowed heavily from the Frank Herbert novel Dune. Such iconic trademarks of the series as the 'Jedi mind trick,' 'desert planet' Tatooine, 'spice' trading, the very concept of a genetic pseudo-spiritual-telepathic 'force,' patrilineal space knights (Jedis), ten-story man eating worms, among others, are all pilfered. And that point is not even disputed by either Dune's writer or Lucas. Little R2 is really nothing but a derivation of Silent Running's sidekick drones. Lucas borrowed and combined different aspects from other films so cleverly it's hard to recognize for a casual moviegoer, but it is a pastiche. There are plenty of sites online which explain what he recycled in further detail, knock yourself out fanboys. ” - Tin_ear
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The Bride wakens from a four-year coma. The child she carried in her womb is gone. Now she must wreak vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her - a team she was once part of. (111 mins.)
“ I know what you're going to say, 'everyone knows Quentin Tarantino ripped off the manga/film Lady Snowblood to make Kill Bill.' However the Tarantino film bears a stronger resemblance to another uncredited inspiration altogether. Francois Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black actually predates Lady Snowblood by several years, and the American source novel predates the Japanese manga by thirty years. Granted, Jeanne Moreau doesn't wield a kitana in the Truffaut thriller or spout any snappy one-liners, but there are more than enough parallels between the two films to assume the worse. Tarantino's imitation even goes as far as to feature the murder of a parent in near proximity to their own child in their own house, echoing the most prominent death scene in The Bride Wore Black. As if a revenge story about a bride seeking revenge for her dead husband killed on her wedding day wasn't clear enough plagiarism he apparently had the gall to lift individual scenes.

Anyone who denies the parallels is just being willfully ignorant. ” - Tin_ear
Citizen Kane (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance. (119 mins.)
Director: Orson Welles
“ Oversized personality is remembered in flashbacks, maligned after his death by all but his lone true friend, a meek bespectacled underling, the only man who understands his boss's complex, lonely life. Know the movie? The film opens after the larger than life personality has died, and traces the ruthless tycoon from his bucolic childhood, joyless adolescence, up to his tragic downfall. He cultivates an empire from his self-education, leaves his wife after she discovers his love for a younger woman, drives his wife to attempt suicide, dabbles disastrously in vaguely fascist politics, steamrolling anyone who stands in the path of his hubris or desires... A parable proclaiming disloyalty as the greatest sin...The culmination ending on the heart-broken, dying man's own bed, uttering the two-syllable name of the true key to his happiness, forever lost...Figure it out yet?

Yup, it's The Power and the Glory from 1933, written by Preston Sturges and starring a young Spencer Tracy. And you thought Mr. Arkadin's provenance was merely suspicious. Though, 'Sally' hardly has the same ring as 'Rosebud.' ” - Tin_ear
The Shining (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future. (146 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ While haunted house stories are a common horror cliche, it should be noted Ingmar Bergman wrote and directed a very similar movie called Hour of the Wolf in 1968 that features many of the same hallmarks as The Shining. Failed, gloomy,and bitter artist isolates himself and wife & child in remote wilderness to focus on his work only to be interrupted by demonic hallucinations or poltergeists who turn him against his docile spouse. In this case Stephen King's tale of cabin fever is a stand in for Bergman's literal cabin. The moody artist is taunted and humiliated sexually by these 'visions' who play on his repressed past, insecurites and passions, all while his sanity wanes and familial relationships sour beyond repair. One protagonist has a crippling bout of writer's block, another simply can't sleep, but both minor and disparate annoyances manifest themselves as forebodings of a larger mental collapse. Both also feature homicidal tendencies toward prepubescent boys, and feature an antagonistic and repulsive elderly woman. The artists both die in the wilderness, not surprisingly, having disappeared into their own morbid fantasies/nightmares long before. The blurred reality, whether apparitions or internal hallucinations, are similar in manner and motivation. The parallels suggest that either King/Kubrick were copying and pasting Bergman, or the genre is just that hopelessly predictable. (It also clearly owes a massive debt, among others, to the '73 novel Burnt Offerings, I'll leave it at that.) ” - Tin_ear
Angel on My Shoulder (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
The Devil arranges for a deceased gangster to return to Earth as a well-respected judge to make up for his previous life. (100 mins.)
Director: Archie Mayo
“ The basic concept of returning from death in a 'borrowed' body is an ancient idea, but the first non-religious or horror film I know to use it was Here Comes Mr. Jordan from 1941 based on a play called Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall. Segall would later re-write his own story and pass it off as Angel on My Shoulder a few years later with minimal alterations. True, in the remake the protagonist openly defies his destiny instead of following it, and in the latter film his guide is Satan and not an angelic middle-manager, but the plotlines match up in tone, structure, and internal logic. Both endings reinforce the concept of love and self-actualization. In the end nobody can really change their destiny but they can influence the living. Not to mention, Claude Rains plays basically the same role in both films. AoMS's plot would basically later be repeated by the Spawn comic book, go figure.

For those of you counting, Segall's original play has inspired: 3 official film adaptations (the most recent incarnation inexplicably required six writers to rewrite a script that had already won two Oscars for screenwriting), 1 unoffical remake (2 if you count A Matter of Life and Death), 1 official sequel, another unofficial remake, 1 tv series, at least 1 foreign film version, and likely countless others. ” - Tin_ear
Harry Brown (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
An elderly ex-serviceman and widower looks to avenge his best friend's murder by doling out his own form of justice. (103 mins.)
Director: Daniel Barber
“ The few who have seen it or can remember it would bother to disagree this is a cinematic theft of The Death Wish series. Harry Brown is nothing if not an Anglified Paul Kersey. The dead wife/comatose family member, the aged vet 'summoned to avenge the brutal murder of his old friend at the hands of gang bangers in a low-rent neighborhood' schtick, vigilantes impelled by a flawed police force, the nosy detective who dies helping the vigilante battle the sordid criminal element, the overwhelmed and embarrassed police who force decide to simply let the vigilante-codger loose, the lingering final scene, etc. are all recycled. The two respective characters even both possess a vaguely similar, ten-letter, three-syllable name, but that probably is just a coincidence. Though, as some have pointed out, the revenge genre is so full of cliches it's hard to avoid repeating at least some of them. ” - Tin_ear
To Have and Have Not (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
During World War II, American expatriate Harry Morgan helps transport a French Resistance leader and his beautiful wife to Martinique while romancing a sensuous lounge singer. (100 mins.)
Director: Howard Hawks
“ IMDb lists five writers for To Have and Have Not, two of them are the greatest authors of the Twentieth Century. And yet the script is essentially a made-to-order remake of Casablanca. Roughly (I can't stress that enough) adapted from an Ernest Hemingway novel by script doctor William Faulkner, the film is a near facsimile to its 1942 predecessor. Vichy colony, European couple who need to be smuggled to safety, Humphrey Bogart as the cynical, reluctant, Yankee who saves the day, dumb sidekick who follows him faithfully, etc, etc. Notably, there features a bar/nightclub that serves as the hub of the action, which features a piano player as a secondary character. There is even a scene in which Bogart's character refuses to help fleeing rebels, and immediately after these rebels are gunned down by the police in the nightclub, very similar to the Peter Lorre scene in Casablanca. There are some differences, but the parallel is clearly obvious, either the filmmakers were lazy or the producers wanted to cash in on Casablanca's success. Take your pick. I was half expecting to hear Hoagy Carmichael breakout in 'La Marseillaise.' ” - Tin_ear
Santa Sangre (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A former circus artist escapes from a mental hospital to rejoin his armless mother - the leader of a strange religious cult -, and is forced to enact brutal murders in her name as he becomes "her arms". (123 mins.)
“ I suppose the 'avant-guarde' label enables one to blatantly rip off the premise of one of the most iconic horror films ever made. There's plenty of weird exposition to distract you, but this is at its core a surrealist retelling of Psycho, from the blatanly obvious Oedipal theme down to the twist ending. People have written that the writers were merely drawing from the same Freudian concepts as Hitchcock so often did, which actually highlights the specific commonality of the two plots. Considering the sheer breadth of Freudian themes available and variations possible it is even less persuasive as a justification. Defenders will say the plot is also based on a real life Mexican serial killer, however the film actually resembles that particular case quite little. Judging from the second-rate score and the fact that the director apparently had no option but to cast half his family in lead roles, it isn't a stretch to assume he also couldn't afford to hire a professional screenwriter to write him an original script. I can't accept that a man this intelligent could be this oblivious to a hallmark horror film. Parallel thinking, I think not. ” - Tin_ear
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (115 mins.)
“ Most people have obviously never heard of Secret of the Incas, a 1954 film starring Charlton Heston. The similarites in Heston's treasure hunter Harry Steele to Harrison Ford's professor Indiana Jones are undeniable, from the signature fedora & leather jacket to his Webley revolver. Both make narrow escapes by plane, both feature looters being chased by angry Peruvian locals, ancient maps, and relics of national/religious significance and cultural identity. And while Steele is more of a slimeball, he ultimately develops into the character we know as Indiana Jones by the end of the film, returning the ancient item to the indigenous people as a sign of his moral goodness. In practical sense however, they both basically have the same m.o., a rather unscientific approach toward obtaining their artifacts -- looting.

In Lucas' most outrageous plunder, lifted almost verbatim from SotI, Indiana Jones infiltrates an archaeological dig using his lover/sidekick as a lure to distract the head archaeologist, and uses a beam of light to covertly locate the golden artifact, and then just as abruptly is thwarted, exactly like Steele. Lucas is so unoriginal and blatantly lazy, he's practically begging to be caught. ” - Tin_ear
Match Point (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
At a turning point in his life, a former tennis pro falls for an actress who happens to be dating his friend and soon-to-be brother-in-law. (124 mins.)
Director: Woody Allen
“ Critics and Woody Allen fans inevitably spotted the similarity between 2005's Match Point and 1989's Crime and Misdemeanors. The main difference lies in Match Point's focus on luck vs. C & M's overarching themes of of personal and divine justice. MP is a straightforward thriller and less philosophical. Its murderer is more calculating and with seemingly no deeper sense of self-reproachment or religious implications. Which begs the question, can one film the same idea twice if you intend it to be read two distinct ways? One could say 'yes,' but wasn't that literally the point of Allen's previous film, Melinda and Melinda? At some point it just appears you're out of new stories if you have to mine your own back catalogue. Both films can be reduced to the absence of any tangible justice in the universe other than what is inside ourselves, fear or guilt. Other than a few slight deviations, the primary plots are virtually the same. Both murderers appear comfortable with their place in the universe or their justifications anyway, a clear intentional reversal of the message of Crime and Punishment and An American Tragedy, works which Allen likely draws his theme from.

MP was later nominated for a Oscar for Original Screenplay, as was C & M. Insinuating that Oscar voters either have a desperate need to appease Mr. Allen, don't know what 'original' means, or have the memory of a goldfish. (I'd point out that MP is set in London and C & M is set in New York, but Allen in fact intended to shoot Match Point in New York state before financial forces compelled him to relocate and hire a mostly British cast. So even that difference is explainable.) ” - Tin_ear
The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Dr. Orlof, a former prison doctor, abducts beautiful women from nightclubs and tries to use their skin to repair his daughter's fire-scarred face... (90 mins.)
Director: Jesús Franco
“ Two years after Georges Franju's minimalist masterpiece Eyes Without a Face was released to acclaim, and genuine outrage, came this copycat from Jesus Franco. True to its English language title, the Spanish movie mostly received the treatment it deserved, a few smirks and a few eye rolls. The film is little more than a micro-budget attempt to recreate that earlier Franju film in the most lurid and lurking manner possible. This would inaugurate the era of shameless horror thievery, in which low-rent carbon copies of recent popular properties would be churned out as quickly as possible to capitalize (the more indistinguishable the better), and would practically destroy the horror genre in the Eighties. ” - Tin_ear
Outland (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
In the distant future, a police marshal stationed at a remote mining colony on the Jupiter moon of Io uncovers a drug-smuggling conspiracy, and gets no help from the populace when he later finds himself marked for murder. (112 mins.)
Director: Peter Hyams
“ I missed it but pretty much every other critic and movie-nerd on earth called Peter Hyams's bluff, this story is borrowed from High Noon. Wikipedia even lists it as a remake by accident or out of simple practicality. Regardless, it's still not as big a cinematic crime as his 2001 sequel. ” - Tin_ear
Nosferatu (1922)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife. (94 mins.)
Director: F.W. Murnau
“ Proof that even great films can be created by scheming, money obsessed, intellectual-property-thieving Krauts. As everyone involved in the production is long dead and the film has entered public domain decades ago, I think we can give them a break though. The story is simple, the director F.W. Murnau wanted to make a Dracula movie but couldn't get the rights from Bram Stoker's next of kin, so just changed the name of the title-bearing blood fiend & a few plot-points, and proceeded to make what is considered the ultimate and most timeless vampire flick ever. The Brits then honored the memory of their countryman (ironically an Irishman) with the forgettable Hammer series. ” - Tin_ear
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
An almost accidental romance is kindled between a German woman in her mid-sixties and a Moroccan migrant worker around twenty-five years younger. They abruptly decide to marry, appalling everyone around them. (93 mins.)
“ It seems unfair to call this film a knock off of Douglas Sirk's 1955 All That Heaven Allows, but when you fail to credit the writer of the story you modeled your 'homage' after that is arguably theft. A fine line made the more difficult because Werner Fassbinder's movie is not an ironic but a straight-faced, social message picture about racial tension and class. Regardless of Fassbinder's carelessness to give credit where credit is due, his film will proves the better effort in large part because he had better things to do than giggle behind his audience's back. Fassbinder was a provocateur above all, he didn't shrink from the occasional shocked visage. ” - Tin_ear
Drive (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor. (100 mins.)
“ This one especially annoys me because it is the epitome of the creative void that is modern genre filmmaking regardless whether the idea was even intentionally stolen. Honestly, even if you've never seen The Driver, this film's characters, plot, themes, and other cliches should still seem very, very familiar to you. It really isn't surprising that the director, Nic Refn, has stated that he was inspired by the 1978 obscure heist film, Driver, least because his 2011 hit has nearly exactly the same title. And if it wasn't suspicious enough, so do both lead roles/professional getaway drivers, both identified only as 'The Driver.' The two, laconic, pretty-boy protagonists also lack friends, family, a change of clothing, or any skills or hobbies other than cars. Their techniques and mannerisms the (five-minute rule and open car-door) are so specifically identical it is absurd, and even the two films begin the same: a three-man, nighttime L.A. police chase, and subsequent car ditching. Later both forced to test their mettle as wheelman to their would-be employers. Naturally both are compelled against their wills or better judgement to do one more heist. And naturally both care less about the money as the principle of the thing -- and naturally both are better off ultimately being denied the attaché case of loot they reluctantly killed to get. They both getaway, in admittedly downbeat endings. At this point I don't need to mention they both wear aviators, do I?

Refn's 'Driver' notably possesses a sex-drive and a day job, and the police are notably absent from Refn's film (the original's psychotic detective replaced with an equally remorseless mobster), but other than that the films are so uncannily similar they could have just as easily called it a remake. This 2011 movie was based on a novel I have not read, so I'm not entirely sure if the script was crafted to emulate the Seventies car-chase genre, or if the John Sallis book was an intentional novelization of the 1978 Walter Hill movie, because that is certainly what it looks like. ” - Tin_ear
The Man Without a Face (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Chuck wants to leave home, but can't make the grade for boarding school. Then he finds out the disfigured recluse living nearby, is an ex-teacher. (115 mins.)
Director: Mel Gibson
“ This, like The Shining example above, gets a bit complicated. Originally based upon a book, Mel Gibson's directorial debut looks a lot like the 1959 film (so obscure as to not even be listed on Wikipedia) Face of Fire, which was based on a 1898 novella by Stephen Crane. While it is equally likely the author of the The Man Without a Face read the Crane book it is also very plausible she saw the '59 movie and unconsciously borrowed the kindly-doctor-and-disfigured-patient plot and main themes of compassion and inner beauty; after all, this is another case where you could call it a remake and nobody would known the difference. The only major conflict in plot or structure, aside from the two primary protagonists characters being merged into a single one in the Man Without a Face, is that the book version of Man Without a Face is supposedly much darker and controversial than any of the three others. Mel Gibson decided to dispense with the sexual implications altogether, rendering all the more the appearance of an uncredited re-imagining.

Interestingly enough, the Crane book and novel would essentially tell the Elephant Man story decades before biographers got a crack at it, Crane borrowing much inspiration from the John Merrick case. ” - Tin_ear
Shock Corridor (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Bent on winning a Pulitzer Prize, a journalist commits himself to a mental institution to solve a strange and unclear murder. (101 mins.)
Director: Samuel Fuller
“ Although this '63 film predates the '64 film version of Shock Treatment, it is indebted to the 1961 novel of the same name by Winifred Van Atta. Understandably many may mistake Shock Treatment for ripping off Sam Fuller's shocker. The two films cover strikingly similar territory, a desperate man feigning mental disturbance to gain access to an insane asylum and unlock the truth behind a murder mystery, the punitive use of electro-shock therapy, and induced catatonia as major plot devices. The novel features a bi-polar coquette, Fuller's film a band of outright nymphos. The two plots notably feature nefarious hospital staff as primary villains and the standard collection of mental patients, though that last factor is largely inescapable. Fuller's film is more of a social satire, and the two plots diverge near the climax, yet both feature the same twist as two sane characters crack up under the pressure succumbing to mental illness. While derivative and low-brow, the Sam Fuller copycat film is the superior piece. ” - Tin_ear