The twin movie was a curse that dominated the ‘90s. It happened before and has certainly happened since, but during that decade, when one studio announced an idea for a film that sounded commercially viable, it was common for a rival studio to scramble to create something similar. Other times, similarly themed flicks were released a year or so apart by pure coincidence. Either way, one of the films usually got screwed over in the process.
In terms of declaring “winners,” my decision was based on culture significance and profitably. No matter if these films are good or not (many aren’t), they were discussed plenty when they were released, and the release of one typically meant critical and/or commercial harm to the other. It’s not about which film is better. It’s about which film did better.
Kevin Costner became attached to Tombstone after reading Kevin Jarre’s script. But when he and Jarre disagreed about the film, Costner went off and made Wyatt Earp with his old pal, Lawrence Kasdan. Ironically, Jarre was fired while filming Tombstone after clashing with the cast and studio. The result: despite production woes, Tombstone is a fine film (Val Kilmer, if nothing else, is astounding in it), while Wyatt Earp is a bit of a slog. Winner: Tombstone
Two films where an innocent man gets roped into investigating a crime, with skydiving as a bitchin’ backdrop. Both films flopped hard but remain so bad they’re good. Drop Zone has a whacked Gary Busey, but Terminal Velocity has Christopher McDonald as a bleached blonde baddie. Winner: Terminal Velocity
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) |
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Long titles, road trips, cabaret drag queens – To Wong Foo was America’s answer to Australia’s vastly superior Queen of the Desert. This isn’t even a competition here, it’s just so amusing that a film like To Wong Foo ever became a thing. Winner: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
So here’s the thing, in terms of box office, Striptease was a massive hit, and Showgirls was a bomb. But I ask: when was the last time someone mentioned watching Striptease for any reason, even if it was to hate-watch? Winner: Showgirls
Dante’s Peak is the “intelligent” volcano movie, and Volcano is the disaster volcano movie. Both did okay at the box office (surprisingly, Dante’s Peak cost $26 million more to make than Volcano), but neither are really talked about today. Toss a coin with this one. Winner: Volcano
Two biopics about famed runner, Steve Prefontaine. Prefontaine was directed by a successful documentarian (Steve James, who was fresh off Hoop Dreams), starred Jared Leto, but bombed at the box office. Without Limits was directed by an Oscar winner (Robert Towne), produced by Tom Cruise, and released by a major studio. And still, the film absolutely tanked. Well intentioned as both films may be, it’s hard to declare either a favorite. Winner: Prefontaine
Deep Impact was a kick-off-the-summer release, Armageddon was a Fourth of July flick. Deep Impact is a dramatic disaster movie, Armageddon is disaster porn. When their respective budgets are measured against their respective gains, both films did about the same financially. In terms of wow factor, nothing in either film tops Deep Impact’s final set piece. But in terms of lasting relevance, Armageddon wins out here Winner: Armageddon
This is one of those pairings that defines a cursed twin movie. The Truman Show was a massive hit, and by the time EDtv came out less than a year later, people were over the gimmick of a regular fella being monitored by the public all day. Winner: The Truman Show
This is a tricky pair, one that I’ve discussed extensively on this site. Saving Private Ryan will always win the popular vote, due to its realistic battle sequences, conventional narrative, and marketability. But The Thin Red Line is the best war film ever made. Winner: Saving Private Ryan. It will always be the better-known film, even if it isn’t the better made film.
Antz was released in early October and made a fair amount of money, but A Bug’s Life’s prime Thanksgiving release allowed it to make a killing. Plus, despite Antz having an impressive and random cast (Woody Allen, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Anne Bancroft), A Bug’s Life is inarguably the better film. Winner: A Bug’s Life
In August of 1999, a movie about a little kid who sees dead people became a cultural phenomenon. A month after its release, another movie about a kid who sees dead people came out, and hardly anyone noticed. Stir of Echoes is a fine film, and writer/director David Koepp’s DVD director’s commentary for the film is one of the best I’ve ever heard. But this pair is the epitome of a cursed twin movie. Winner: The Sixth Sense
Two end-of-the-millennium, devil-on-Earth flicks co-starring Gabriel Byrne. What’s not to like?! A lot, evidently, as both of these movies are pretty bad. End of Days was more commercially successful, but it’s hard to recall anything memorable about either film. Winner: End of Days
It was the studio race to the Mars. Touchstone had the Brian De Palma-directed, PG-rated, Mission to Mars, while Village Roadshow had the less commercial friendly Red Planet. Perhaps what these films remain best known for is how they underwhelmed critics and audiences. Winner: Mission to Mars
Here are two movies about a group of spelunkers who descend into a cave and are picked off by deadly creatures who inhabit it. The Cave was a $30 million studio movie and The Descent was a $3.5 million indie. One is masterful modern horror film, the other is a dud from the get. Winner: The Descent
Capote was such an influential, Oscar-winning hit, that by the time Infamous came out a year later, the public was Capote’d out. There’s a lot about Infamous I appreciate, but it was certainly the cursed twin movie here. Winner: Capote
Flight 93 was a made-for-TV film that was quietly released in January and didn’t really make an impact. United 93 remains one of the best, most fearless films so far this century. Winner: United 93, but I give the A&E network credit for trying.
The Illusionist was a tiny indie by a relatively unknown director, and The Prestige was a studio hit by a wildly popular director. Shame there wasn’t enough magic to go around here. Winner: The Prestige
The Girl is about Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones) and his tumultuous relationship with Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) while making The Birds and Marnie. It was made by BBC and HBO and was released to little fanfare. Hitchcock is about Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) making Psycho with his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren). The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight, to little fanfare. Neither are very good, but Miller remains the highlight of both. Winner: The Girl
Mirror Mirror was a gentler retelling of Snow White, while The Huntsman was an action adventure reiteration. They have the exact same score on Rotten Tomatoes and even though The Huntsman’s budget was more than double Mirror Mirror’s, both made the same amount percent wise. I suppose The Huntsman’s ability to spawn a semi-successful sequel pushes it over the edge. Winner: Snow White and the Huntsman
These films aren’t about the same event, but they both contain pirates who take control of a ship, and refuse to leave until they get what they want. This twin is a bit of a shame as A Hijacking is actually a very good film. It was just so out shadowed by the superb Captain Phillips. Winner: Captain Phillips
Terrorists take over the White House, and it’s up to one really buff white guy to save the President and save the world! Critically, I suppose White House Down is the “better” movie. But it cost double what Olympus did and made significantly less (based on budget-to-box office dollars). Plus, if I’m going to see a movie with a logline as bonkers as these flicks, I’d rather go with the more balls-to-the-wall of the two. Winner: Olympus Has Fallen
Jobs was the tiny indie, Steve Jobs was the studio powerhouse. Steve Jobs had Boyle, Sorkin, Fassbender; Jobs had Kutcher. And while Steve Jobs is by far the better film, it actually made mess money (percentage wise) than Jobs. It didn’t help that Steve Jobs got absolutely screwed by Universal in its distribution. A cautionary tale on what to avoid when releasing a film. Winner: Steve Jobs