15 Great ‘Double Features’ That Are Worth Your Time
A double feature can be defined as two different films with similar theme, style, substance or ideas. It can consist of two twin movies from one director like The Wrestler and Black Swan or Goodfellas and Casino, where the same themes are executed with the same style—fleshing out one intriguing subject. They can be two extremely similar films like Fearless and Ip Man or Schindler’s List and The Piano Player —for the cynic: a disgusting rip-off, for the enthusiastic fan: a happy coincidence.
They can even be unofficial remakes of a film like A History of Violence and Wu xia or Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars—setting the same story and plot in a vastly different surrounding, making a wonderfully interesting endurance test on said story, and posing the question: how many genres can it go through without feeling boringly uninspired?
You can even expand your viewing pleasure and go for broke with a triple feature like Avatar, Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves. Or how about The Room, Troll 2 and Rikki-Oh?
Some obvious features (Magnolia and Short Cuts, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line) got left out due to me being diverse, trying to bring in as many different directors as possible.
15. Dazed and Confused and Car Wash
Dazed and Confused
School is out in 1976 and we get to follow a whole ensemble cast of teens, as they get both drunk and high during an awesome night out in which this film takes place. We get to follow jocks, geeks, stoners, bullies, and douchebags accompanied by one fantastic Matthew McConaughey.
All the nasty stupidity of juvenile assholes are in full display, the director Richard Linklater doesn’t shy away from any of it, it’s super realistic. Being a teenager sucks for sure, but what this film does is that it shows us that despite it being a time for acting mean, selfish, moronic and crude, it is actually quite beautiful.
This is the ultimate hangout movie with fantastic characters and a great soundtrack – one sixth of the film’s budget went on securing rights for the songs.
This other feature (not only taking place during ‘76 but also actually made in ’76) gives us ten hours of hang out time during a sunny day in a car wash.
Characters are introduced left and right, some funny, some dramatic and always with a fresh sound. We have a newly converted Muslim, a prostitute, a crazy professor, a taxi driver, a money hungry – money grabbing – phony preacher, a mega afro with an alter-ego called the fly, a native American and so the list goes on. The energy is fantastically cheerful most of the time without getting boringly repetitive, this is due to some of the colorful characters bringing in a much needed emotional core, adding flavor to the film.
Just to drop some names – Debut film of Bill Duke, Written by Joel Schumacher, director of Batman & Robin (probably the coolest piece of film trivia in all of cinema). It also has two wonderful cameos by Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Pryor is hysterical, but sadly, Carlin is not.
What They Have in Common:
These are two unbelievably hip pieces of film that one can re-visit anytime when in need of a group of friends – you’re part of the gang.
14. Bronson and Chopper
Michael Peterson a.k.a. Charles Bronson (Tom Hardy) made a name for himself as Britain’s most violent prisoner and got to spend thirty years in solitary confinement despite never having killed anyone. The film is directed with grit and confidence, being very similar in style to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, there is no shortage of ultra violence and classical/electrical music.
Hardy went the method acting route on this one, packing on thirty-five pounds in just about five weeks to play the character of Bronson. Shaved head, twirled mustache, and a shit eating grin, Bronson presents himself with bravura and style, a true entertainer born to perform.
The director Nicholas Winding Refn describes the film as being told through four different layers. There is the real world, The world that Charlie wants us to see him in, Charlie’s Narration and Charlie on stage. He also explains the film as being a metaphor for somebody becoming an artist.
Andrew Dominik’s debut feature Chopper features a star making performance by Eric Bana as Australia’s most infamous author convict: Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read. It is based on the best-selling autobiography that Read wrote in prison whilst being locked up for murder.
Chopper is not a sentimental man, nor is he a hard man; he is a man who seems unable of caring about anything. A sociopath with a sense of humour and nothing more. He cares about himself, being rather manipulative in his steering of outcomes, but just watch out for those sudden acts of rage.
What They Have in Common:
They are two very similar characters. Big, strong, outspoken, darkly humorous and unpredictable in their childlike madness. The performances differ in that Bana gives a more strange and bizarre one whilst Hardy is more formal and controlled. They are both laugh out loud funny despite the different directions. Refn puts on a show with his performer, Bronson, whereas Dominik only observes his performer, Chopper.
13. Battle Royale and The Hunger Games
Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale is a movie so soaked in violent poetry, shameless entertainment and controversial ideas that you can’t do anything but cry at the perfection of its craft. The new millennium has begun and the economy of Japan has declined like never before. The kids are not going to school and an act by the government is put into practice. A school class is selected at random and gets send to a remote island where they are set to kill each other.
You are now in for a ride filled with violence, friendship, tender moments, insanely implausible plot points and then some more violence. It is poetic and inventive, maddening and raw. Schools are (in the pursuit of proper education) showing lord of the flies when they should be showing Battle Royale.
The Hunger Games
Instead of Japanese Extreme, we are now dealing with teenage sci-fi/fantasy and thanks to The Hunger Games, we can at last forget about the frowning Bella and her glittering boy toy Edward, But outdating Twilight isn’t much of a challenge now is it?
The poetry of Battle Royale has been replaced with a more straightforward and plausible story and the telling of said story is impressively handled to say the least. The strength lies within the film’s approach to storytelling but it weakens due to poor execution of action scenes. Close up and shakycam will get the job done, the job of making my head hurt. This is not a problem in the sequel, which in turn is a much better film.
What They Have in Common:
Take a moment to Google “Battle Royale vs. The Hunger Games similarities” and you shall find that the latter are more or less a complete rip-off of the former.
Battle Royale is great and beautiful. The Hunger Games is well made and essential to the termination of Twilight within pop-culture. Both good films and a recommended back-to-back viewing.
Prefer one to the other, sure, but sad fact is that many will choose one to hate and one to love while neither is required, necessary or even rational.
12. The Wizard of Oz and Wild at Heart
The Wizard of Oz
1939 turned out to be a Cinematic super year, spouting titles like Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz (the latter two were both directed by Victor Fleming).
In this feature, we see Judy Garland star as Dorothy, living in a boring, sepia-toned Kansas. A storm hits the fan and Dorothy travels through a sudden tornado, landing in the magical kingdom of Oz, a world filled with colors and imagination. She is here matched up with a scarecrow, a tin man and a cowardly lion. On their merry adventure of singing and dancing, they bump into witches, munchkins, a wizard, a pair of slippers and more.
This is both a classic and a masterpiece stuffed with unforgettable songs, immortal lines, great dances and some clear-cut moral guidelines for all kids to follow.
Wild at Heart
Nicolas Cage plays Sailor Ripley, a wild man to say the least, next to him, we have his, just about as crazy, girlfriend: Lula Fortune, played by Laura Dern. Lula’s mother Marietta, a character Diane Ladd received an Oscar nomination for, is repelled by the sheer notion that her daughter would have anything to do with wildman Ripley, so she sets a bounty on his head.
Here we embark down the yellow brick road, encountering one strange character after another. Isabella Rossellini has a monobrow, Willem Dafoe has got more visible gum than teeth, Twin Peaks actors fly’s all over the place and Nic Cage rock’s an amazingly wonderful Elvis impersonation.
What They Have in Common:
Wild at Heart is David Lynch’s twist on the child friendly original from 39. It is more or less what The Wizard of Oz would look like had it been directed by David Lynch, director of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.
The Wizard of Oz was nominated for a best picture Oscar. Wild at Heart won the Palme d’Or. Go and see them. Already done so? See them again.
11. Akira and Ghost in the Shell
1988 is probable the best year for animated features, featuring films such as My Friend Totoro, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Grave of the Fireflies, The Land Before Time, and Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira.
A Japanese animéusing 24 frames a second giving the images a graceful flow at the same time being filled with an insanely detailed background. The genre could be called a techno-pop-punk-animé-action-sci-fi-thriller and Akira is making its mark as one of (if not the) best one.
In the tradition of Brian De Palma’s masterpiece Carrie, Akira tells the tale of a confused, frustrated juvenile being given great powers with terrible outcomes.
It’s primarily about two characters: Kaneda and Tetsuo. Kaneda is a biker and gang leader, his friend Tetsuo, who is part of the gang, obtain destructive powers who pulls him into this great, gory Tokyo adventure where Kaneda sets out to save him.
For many people being a teenager isn’t easy, especially not for those always in the back and never in the front. All Tetsuo ever wanted was just a little piece of the spotlight. Eventually, he takes more than just a little piece.
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell is another entry into the genre, intellectually heavier than Akira also less entertaining and harder to follow, even though it is in many ways a better film.
The story takes place in the future (2029) a world of hackers, cyborgs and artificial intelligence. A female cop goes after a “baddie” known as “the puppet master”. Other than that, the plot is in no need to be explained; it’s quite convoluted and as recently stated hard to follow.
Ghost in the Shell gives us the usual philosophical ponderings concerning artificial intelligence. Is there something called a soul? What does it mean to be human? However common this might seem, director Mamoru Oshii presents these questions with unusual stylistic flair and grace.
What They Have in Common:
These two films are visual masterpieces and had it not been for them we would never had seen The Wachowskis bringing their ideas to full fruition. One film merged in their heads as they saw films like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Ninja Scroll and forgetting about the two sequels – this double feature laid the groundwork for one of the greatest films of all time. The Matrix.