The plot: In a distant future, a ravaged, trash-strewn Earth has been abandoned by its most elite residents, who enjoy lives of pampered privilege on a gigantic, tricked-out space station. But there’s life on the blue planet yet — as they’ll discover when one brave, soulful, robotically enhanced ground-dweller fights his way onto the floating paradise.
Sounds a lot like… Wall-E (2008)
Too close for comfort? Pretty bad — but not quite as blatant as Oblivion, which echoed that basic premise, then added EVE-like drones and a Wall-E-esque glorified janitor as its protagonist.
The plot: Mercenary humans arrive in a beautiful, untouched rainforest, hoping to strip it of its resources. One of the men infiltrates the forest’s native population after his life is saved by a beautiful, female inhabitant. He gradually falls in love with her — all the while keeping his people’s true purpose a secret — but eventually switches sides and helps to save the forest in an epic battle. Magic trees, scary bulldozers, and a female mentor figure’s poignant death also play a role.
Sounds a lot like… FernGully (1992)
Too close for comfort? Sure, there’s plenty of Dances with Wolves DNA in James Cameron’s blockbuster — but it’s about one talking bat away from straight-up FernGully adaptation.
After Earth (2013)
The plot: It’s the 31st century, and a cataclysmic event has forced humanity to abandon Earth for a literal new world. Our hero is a teenage boy with daddy issues who must survive in a hostile, alien environment filled with vicious enemies while fighting to make his way home despite a damaged spaceship.
Sounds a lot like… Titan A.E. (2000)
Too close for comfort? They share more than a basic premise — both were also critical and commercial failures, though reviewers were kinder to the first post-Earth tale than the second. Maybe they’ll be received better in the year 3000.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
The plot: Proud superhero finds himself at the mercy of a tech genius with no innate superpowers whom the hero once humiliated. Turns out the techie has been the real supervillain all along, and it was the hero’s rejection that catalyzed his slide into darkness. Good thing the hero’s ladyfriend and his super suit-wearing best pal are still around to help save the day. (P.S. After saving the world together, hero and ladyfriend’s relationship issues are a thing of the past.)
Sounds a lot like… The Incredibles (2004)
Too close for comfort? At least the aging franchise nicked ideas from one of the best superhero movies ever made — though Pepper Potts is no Mrs. Incredible.
The Matrix (1999)
The plot: In a dystopian cyperpunk future, people and machines are intertwined via a massive electronic network, which plugs directly into human brains. There are mysterious hackers; there are chase scenes through clueless city crowds; there are credit sequences dominated by green ”digital rain” on a black background.
Sounds a lot like… Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Too close for comfort? It’s no secret that the Wachowskis were influenced by this Japanese manga-turned-anime; reportedly, they pitched their future blockbuster as a live-action Ghost in the Shell. That said, the two do diverge in a few big ways; most notably, the folks in Ghost know their ”matrix” exists and opt in on purpose.
Pacific Rim (2013)
The plot: There’s only one thing that can destroy the enormous beasts attacking humanity — enormous robots, created by an international paramilitary squadron and piloted by pretty young things who link up with the ‘bots through a neural interface. The story follows two of those pilots, an emotionally damaged guy and a bob-wearing loner girl, who must work together to stop the onslaught.
Sounds a lot like… Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-96 anime series)
Too close for comfort? Arguably, they’re similar because they’re both riffs on the same genre: Japanese mecha (machines) vs. kaiju (monsters) franchises. Still, that hasn’t stopped indignant Evangelion fans from crying ”plagiarism.”
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
The plot: A sentient object who looks and sounds like a human child is convinced that the Blue Fairy will turn him into a real boy if he can prove himself worthy. At one point, he becomes entangled with a wicked man who forces him to perform before crowds of humans; he only just escapes certain death. Later, a leap into the ocean will change his ”life” forever.
Sounds a lot like… Pinocchio (1940)
Too close for comfort? It’s no accident; David, A.I.‘s soulful android, sets off on his quest precisely because his ”mother” read him the story of Pinocchio. Too bad the nose thing didn’t make the cut.
The plot: An overprotective father is horrified to find that his only child has been kidnapped. He sets off on an epic journey to find the kid, encountering terrifying killers and other obstacles along the way. Spoiler alert: In the end, they’re reunited.
Sounds a lot like… Finding Nemo (2003)
Too close for comfort? Nice try, Liam Neeson; we all know you’re just a clownfish at heart.