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Doppelganger Films

From ‘American Flyers’ and ‘Quicksilver’ to ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ and ‘The Bible’, a look at pairs of movies sharing the same subject

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First, expansionistic aliens invaded Earth in Independence Day. Next month, cranky ETs return when Mars Attacks! Which just shows that in Hollywood good ideas often come in pairs. Unfortunately, so do bad ones (remember 1992’s competing Columbus epics?). Here are other cinematic couplets from the recent and distant past.

GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT and CROSSFIRE
Shared idea: Anti-anti-Semitism.
What’s the difference? In Agreement, a journalist (Gregory Peck) exposes bigotry through a series of magazine articles; in Crossfire, a detective (Robert Young) exposes bigotry by catching a Jew-hating murderer.
Which is better? Crossfire is still a gritty noir; Agreement substitutes political piety for drama.

THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD and THE BIBLE
Shared idea: The good book as all-star spectacle.
What’s the difference? Greatest focuses on the New Testament; Bible highlights the Book of Genesis.
Which is better? Greatest is overlong but visually elegant; Bible is hardly a page-turner.

TO SIR, WITH LOVE and UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE
Shared idea: Novice teacher in tough city school.
What’s the difference? To Sir stars Sidney Poitier as a miracle worker in a Brit institution; Up‘s Sandy Dennis battles more realistic chaos.
Which is better? Up is an engrossing inner-city portrait as opposed to mod sentimentality.

AMERICAN FLYERS and QUICKSILVER
Shared idea: Better living through bicycling.
What’s the difference? In Flyers, a dying man and his brother (Kevin Costner and David Grant) reconcile during a race; in Quicksilver, an out-of-work stock trader (Kevin Bacon) finds salvation as a messenger.
Which is better? Flyers — only because pat tearjerkers are preferable to yuppie drivel.

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