6. Robocop (1987)
Alright, stop me if you know what movie I’m talking about. After a tragic mishap, a man is declared medically dead, but thanks to the suspicious business practices of a super-rich cybernetics conglomerate, he is brought back to life by a team of scientists as a half man, half machine hybrid.
The only problem is, he soon starts having visions of his past life, and before long, he decides to go rogue to learn his true identity and put the kibosh on some unscrupulous businessmen and random no-good thugs – all while avoiding corporate police squads who attempt to apprehend him with fellow robotic creations.
Yeah, I know, an easy question – everybody knows that’s the premise for Jean Claude Lord’s low-budget Canadian sci-fi-horror-action classic The Vindicator, which, as fate would have it, came out a full year before Paul Verhoeven’s much-beloved, gore-soaked social satire. Bonus chin-scratching fare: the titular Vindicator not only moves just like the more famous Robocop and sports his trademark visor, his human face/metal helmet hybrid makeup looks astonishingly similar to that of Alex Murphy!
7. Heathers (1989)
The dark teen comedy Heathers no doubt features a daring plot; two antisocial rebels decide to disrupt the high school hierarchy by murdering all the popular jocks and cheerleaders one by one, all under the guise of elaborate suicides.
As it turns out, that particular premise was already the focal point of a movie – 1976’s Massacre at Central High, to be exact, which featured Robert Carradine (he, ironically enough, of later Revenge of the Nerds fame) playing a mysterious new student who decides to free the oppressed underclassmen body by systematically dispatching all the school’s bullies.
Heathers director Michael Lehmann didn’t even bother changing the ending: before Christian Slater tried to blow up his school with homemade dynamite, the titular massacrer of Massacre at Central High tried the very same detention-worthy trick 12 years prior.
8. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
This might just be the most famous example of a cult classic being accused of copying another cult classic out there. Quentin Tarantino’s breakout crime caper hit certainly shares many similarities with Ringo Lam’s fairly obscure 1987 heist-gone-awry flick City on Fire.
But it’s not just that the two movies shared the same basic premise (that being, plots about undercover cops infiltrating organized crime rackets.) Indeed, the two flicks have so many mirroring elements that it seems preposterous to think Tarantino didn’t model his film after the Hong Kong cops-and-robbers drama.
Not only are the actual heist and getaway scenes near duplicates, Reservoir Dogs even incorporates some of the same dialogue from City on Fire. Furthermore, the interaction between Mr. Orange and Mr. White in the latter film feels very similar to the relationship between Chow and Fu in the earlier flick – and of course, it’s just mere coincidence that both films end with Mexican standoffs, right?
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project was far from the first “found footage” flick, but it certainly popularized the concept (which, oddly enough, took another decade to become standard Hollywood fare.)
The only catch is that – a year earlier – another no-budget, faux documentary horror flick about kids running around in the woods being chased by something had already made the theatrical rounds – 1998’s The Last Broadcast, which replaced the never-seen demonic hag with a poor man’s Sasquatch.
Both films more or less had the same premise, and considering virtually identical filming equipment and filming locations were used, at times, scenes from the two films basically become interchangeable. Alas, in terms of pace and structure, BOTH movies owe more than a bit of gratitude to 1989’s UFO Abduction – a practically zero-budget found footage pioneer so compelling, even today some extraterrestrial enthusiasts are convinced the movie features a REAL alien encounter!
10. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Joss Whedon’s deconstructionist horror spoof is one of the most popular genre flicks of the 2010s. Critics and filmgoers alike lauded the movie’s brilliant concept: as it turns out, all of the tried-and-true horror tropes we see in movie after movie are actually fed from the same ritualistic (yet oddly bureaucratic) underground wellspring of nightmares.
However, that may not exactly be as groundbreaking as it seems, seeing as how a film from 1988 already floated up the same idea. Long, long before Sigourney Weaver and her whiteboard of unfathomable horrors made fright flick history, Anthony Hickox’s Waxwork featured David Warner, a Lurch stand-in and a dwarf operating a similar transdimensional crossover monster freeway, only instead of their front being the eponymous cabin in the woods, they use a creepy wax museum as their base of operations.
Werewolves, vampires, zombies, evil plant monsters, hell, even the Marquis de Sade gets in on the action at one point; in many ways, not only did Waxwork deliver the same concept as Whedon’s more famous movie nearly half a century earlier, it might have even given us more monster bang for our bucks!
Author Bio: James Swift (@UNJournalism) is an Atlanta-based writer and reporter whose work has been published by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, Youth Today, the Center for Public Integrity, the Marietta Daily Journal, AOL, Thought Catalog, The Roswell and Alpharetta Neighbor, The North Fulton Business Journal and the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. His multimedia project “Rural America: After the Recession” received acclaim from both the Community Action Partnership and the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families, and in 2013, he wrote the foreword for Jan Banning’s “Down and Out in the South.”