5. Disturbia (2007) / Rear Window (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most revered directors in film history. There have been countless homages and parodies of his work, from the shower stabbing in “Psycho” to running away from a red plane in “North by Northwest”. However, there is a big difference between a homage and a flat out rip-off, and “Disturbia” definitely falls into the latter category, as it is basically a 2000’s teen version of “Rear Window”.
In “Disturbia”, a troubled teenager is under house arrest with an ankle monitor that will alert if he leaves his house unlawfully. With nothing better to do, he observes the activity happening on his street and suspects that his one of his neighbours is a serial killer. In “Rear Window”, a professional photographer is housebound due to a broken leg, so he starts spying on the other tenants that live in his apartment building, leading him to suspect that one of his neighbours may have committed murder.
Both films have a protagonist that sees something they should not have seen and who want to help, but they physically cannot leave their home due to extenuating circumstances. “Disturbia” clearly borrowed quite a bit from “Rear Window”, so much so that the holders of the rights to “Rear Window” tried to sue the makers of “Disturbia” for plagiarism, although the case was dismissed.
4. Shark Tale (2004) / Finding Nemo (2003)
The ocean is full of fascinating creatures, from fish, octopuses, lobsters, sharks, and every other sea creature that exists. Humans cannot help but wonder what it would be like to be one of these creatures and what their lives are like. As with all things of interest, Hollywood has made movies about this piece of the world.
It seemed like the specific interest in sea creatures peaked in the mid-2000s when Pixar released “Finding Nemo”, which made a huge splash at the box office in 2003. People simply could not get enough of it, making it one of the most successful animated films ever made.
And then in 2004, DreamWorks released “Shark Tale”, another animated family film about sea creatures. While both films were made concurrently, “Finding Nemo” well and truly beat “Shark Tale” to the punch, and the latter film’s take on how fish live was washed up by the time it was released.
Both films have subplots about sharks that do not eat fish, although “Shark Tale” makes far more use of it than “Finding Nemo” does. Most importantly, “Finding Nemo” is still far more popular than “Shark Tale”, popular enough to have a sequel, “Finding Dory”, made 13 years after the first film, whereas“Shark Tale” was critically panned and did not get a sequel.
It has to be said that both films look fantastic, as they really utilise the benefits of CGI. Despite the fact that “Shark Tale” was a parody of mafia films, which is very different from the tale of a search for a missing son in “Finding Nemo”, the fact that an animated children’s films about sea creatures came out a year after another identically-themed film is very fishy indeed.
3. The Hunger Games (2012) / Battle Royale (2000)
The Hunger Games novels and films are big business at the moment, making millions upon millions of dollars. The story of a dystopian future where teenagers from different districts of the nation of Panem are forced to kill one another until there is only one survivor, who is named the victor, as part of a televised death match set upon them by society, has captivated audiences from around the world. The show’s purpose is to punish the people of Panem for a past rebellion against the Capitol and to scare the people into not starting another uprising.
Not to burst the bubble of any hardcore fans of the Hunger Games trilogy, but this story had already been told. The Japanese film “Battle Royale” is set in a dystopian future where the government forces a group of teenagers from the same high school to battle against one another until there is a winner, in order to control them and prevent a revolution.
“Battle Royale” was released in 2000, whereas the first Hunger Games film was released in 2012, more than a decade later. At the same time, it is surprising that Hollywood did not remake “Battle Royale” at some point in the 2000s, considering how remake-happy Hollywood studios are known to be.
It should also be noted that both “The Hunger Games” and “Battle Royale” also heavily resemble the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film “The Running Man”. Although the characters in “The Running Man” are muscled men rather than vulnerable teenagers, the basic concept is the same.
2. Avatar (2009) / Dances with Wolves (1990)
James Cameron is one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood history, with big hits including first two Terminator films, “Aliens”, “The Abyss”, “True Lies”, and “Titanic”. These are some of the most famous and profitable movies ever made, and a lot of money clearly went into making these films.
However, when Cameron made “Avatar” in 2009, 12 years after his previous blockbuster “Titanic”, his storytelling capabilities had clearly diminished, as many critics and moviegoers pointed out how similar it was to Kevin Costner’s 1990 western “Dances with Wolves”.
Despite the 300 year gap between the settings of these films, with “Dances with Wolves” being set in the wild American frontier in 1863 and “Avatar” being set on the lush jungle planet of Pandora in 2154, the major plot points of both films are very much the same.
A disillusioned soldier has bad legs that prevent them from participating in combat, so they are assigned to travel into unchartered territory alone to talk with the natives in order to further the colonialists’ expansion onto their land. The soldiers bond with the natives, learn their way of life, fall in love with a woman from that group, and then join the natives to fight back against the evil colonialists.
Ever since its release in 2009, “Avatar” has received plenty of criticism for being so similar to “Dances with Wolves”, as well as the animated films “Pocahontas” and “FernGully: The Last Rainforest”. This plagiarism is so well known that a South Park episode featured a film that is obviously a parody of “Avatar” called “Dances with Smurfs”, where the blue Smurf creatures from the children’s cartoon of the same name are being driven away from their homes. “Avatar” is just as well known for its unoriginal story as it is for its commercial success and amazing special effects.
1. The Fast and the Furious (2001) / Point Break (1991)
The Fast and The Furious franchise is pretty entertaining overall, and is more about car chases and explosions than an actual plot – so much so that the first film stole its plot from “Point Break”, an action film about surfers made 10 years before “The Fast and the Furious”. It’s not just a few similarities here and there – it is beat for beat the same story! It’s flat out plagiarism!
In both films, a group of masked adrenaline seekers who practice a niche sport perform heists. A young, hotshot officer of the law is assigned to go undercover and infiltrate a group of people who partake in the aforementioned sport. The officer becomes friends with the group, especially the group’s tough but charismatic and loyal leader, and falls in love with a girl in the group.
The officer is convinced a rival group is behind the robberies, but when they are apprehended for the crime, it turns out they are innocent. The officer learns that it’s the group he’s joined that are performing the robberies, and now he has to choose between doing his job and his loyalty to the group. He chooses the former, although he lets the leader escape.
Essentially, if you replace surfing with auto racing, it’s the exact same film, and why the makers of “Point Break” never sued the makers of “The Fast And The Furious” is a mystery. It is unfortunate that “The Fast And The Furious” is far more famous now than “Point Break” – and to rub salt in the wound, the latter film had a horrible remake!