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Dueling Movie Releases

Movies | By Matthew for The Top 13 on April 7, 2010

Given the entertainment industry's ever-increasing insistence on over-saturating the market with its products over the past 20 years, it's no surprise that Hollywood has encountered repeated instances of movies focused on similar – and often identical – subjects in a close timespan, as producers have tried to ensure they strike while the iron is hot. In many cases, particularly with lower profile films, the competing flicks have cannibalized each other's audiences. In others, a clear-cut victor has emerged. Here are our Top 13 Dueling Movie Releases, taking into account the similarity of the films, the timing of the releases, and the intensity of the battle.

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Dante's Peak vs. Volcano

1

Dante's Peak vs. Volcano

1997

This mammoth battle of natural disasters pitted against each other two big budget action thrillers based on the premise of a catastrophic volcanic eruption in modern day America. In terms of commercial success, neither film's domestic box office take covered its budget, making them more like hemorrhages than eruptions. As for the quality of the films, the creatively titled Volcano, starring Tommy Lee Jones, is a CGI-heavy summer popcorn flick about an eruption in Los Angeles. Released a bit earlier in the year, Dante's Peak stars Pierce Brosnan and is generally considered to be a better film and more scientifically accurate than its competitor.

Capote vs. Infamous

2

Capote vs. Infamous

2005 & 2006

Biopics are always risky propositions, but the release of two biopics within a year about the writer Truman Capote represented a serious case of unfortunate timing. Both films boast stellar casts and respected directors. But they were filmed at the same time, resulting in the producers of Infamous delaying its release by nearly a year. While Capote features an Academy Award winning performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the titular role, Infamous offers an equally brilliant Toby Jones as the eccentric author. Unfortunately, by the time of its release, moviegoers had already made their choice, and Infamous slipped quietly out of theaters. While we prefer Capote, both films are worth watching.

Tombstone vs. Wyatt Earp

3

Tombstone vs. Wyatt Earp

1993 & 1994

Thanks to Clint Eastwood's award winning blockbuster Unforgiven, the Western once again became a viable genre in the 1990s (with the shootout at the O.K. Corral the story to tell). The first offering on the subject was Tombstone, which stars Kurt Russell as Earp and features a highly quotable performance by Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. Six months later, we got the three-hour Kevin Costner vanity project Wyatt Earp, which tanked with critics and at the box office. While it's still worth checking out Wyatt Earp to see Dennis Quaid's considerably more grizzled take on Doc Holliday, Tombstone is the better and more enduring film.

Madagascar vs. The Wild

4

Madagascar vs. The Wild

2005 & 2006

Within a single year, DreamWorks and Walt Disney each released computer-generated animated films about the misadventure of zoo animals in the big city. First came DreamWorks' Madagascar, which features a stellar cast of comedic voices including Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. Though it received mixed reviews, it was a blockbuster at the box office and ultimately spawned a sequel. By contrast, Disney's The Wild, released less than a year later, was panned by critics, who ripped it for the similarities between the two movies, and failed at the box office. While we prefer Madagascar, both films are great for kids.

Deep Impact vs. Armageddon

5

Deep Impact vs. Armageddon

1998

On the surface there's not much difference between these two films - released just two months apart - about efforts to stop a giant meteor from smashing into the earth and causing a mass extinction. They both have well-known casts, excellent visual effects, and massive box office receipts. There is, however, a serious difference in the tone of the films. Armageddon, with its Bruce Willis-led team of space cowboys as the only hope to stop the meteor, helped set the standard for Michael Bay's brand of absurd, but high-octane summer blockbusters. Deep Impact, by contrast, presented a moral dilemma as only those few allowed refuge in underground shelters would survive the devastation. While both films received mixed reviews, we like Impact a bit better.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop vs. Observe and Report

6

Paul Blart: Mall Cop vs. Observe and Report

2009

Once again, we have two films that could not be more tonally different, but focus on precisely the same subject. Here, the films each tell the story of a lonely shopping mall security guard desperate to prove his heroism and ability as a crime fighter. The affable Kevin James plays his version of said underdog with admirable charisma in Paul Blart, a kid-friendly flick that isn't really worth discussing on a critical level, but became a surprise commercial hit. Released four months later, Observe and Report received better reviews but couldn't compete at the box office. Featuring Seth Rogen in a far darker version of the same character, this film is disturbing, yet amusing. While we like Rogen's film more, we know that many people will simply hate it.

The Illusionist vs. The Prestige

7

The Illusionist vs. The Prestige

2006

Within two months in 2006, two memorable turn of the century films about magicians – each featuring a fantastic lead actor - hit the theaters. First came The Illusionist, a relatively low-budget love fable starring Edward Norton as a conjurer who uses his skills to win the affections of a high-society woman and, in the process, undermines the ruling class. Next came Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, a tale of dueling magicians - well acted by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman - and the deceptive tricks they employ in trying to best each other. Both are great, but it's Nolan's tightly crafted and engaging film that stands out.

Antz vs. A Bug's Life

8

Antz vs. A Bug's Life

1998

At a time when computer generated animation was becoming the standard in its genre, feuding studios DreamWorks and Disney-Pixar released fantastically well-received and commercially successful animated films about insects within a month of each other. DreamWorks' Antz tells the story of an ant colony in New York's Central Park and features terrific voice acting from Woody Allen and many other bold-faced names. Pixar's A Bug's Life is a parody of Aesop's fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper and helped cement the company's reputation as the next great animation shop. Though Pixar's film did better at the box office, both are recommended for animation fans.

Independence Day vs. Mars Attacks!

9

Independence Day vs. Mars Attacks!

1996

Martian invasions were the plotline of choice for makers of big budget films in 1996. But while one of the two flicks on this topic received generally positive reviews and dominated at the box office, the other did neither. Roland Emmerich's Independence Day stars Will Smith and focuses on the simple premise of the earth's population refusing to back down from a fierce corps of aliens. The result is a witty, compelling film with breathtaking effects. By contrast, Tim Burton's campy Mars Attacks! - which the director himself described as a "Mad Magazine version of Independence Day" - bombed at the theaters and just isn't very funny or engaging.

The Truman Show vs. Edtv

10

The Truman Show vs. Edtv

1998 & 1999

These two films each presciently addressed our culture's fascination with voyeurism as a form of entertainment, just at the dawn of realty TV's boom. The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey, came first. Intelligent and funny with just the right touches of drama, the film features a subdued Carrey as an everyman who has no idea that he's been the star of America's most popular show since birth. Ron Howard's Edtv, released less than a year later, stars Matthew McConaughey and takes a more straightforward approach to the story of a man who volunteers to have cameras follow him around full time, only to watch his personal life become unglued. Edtv made for pleasant enough entertainment, but it came nowhere near the critical success of our choice of the two, The Truman Show.

Octopussy vs. Never Say Never Again

11

Octopussy vs. Never Say Never Again

1983

In a historic year for the James Bond franchise, 1983 offered two films starring Agent 007, including the return of Sean Connery to the role he originated on film. But here's where things got sticky. The "official" Bond film that year was actually Octopussy, which stars Roger Moore in his fifth go-round as the suave spy. And while it is certainly entertaining, Octopussy boasts a plot so ridiculous it isn't worth describing here. Connery's film - Never Say Never Again - was released just four months after Octopussy and is a remake of sorts of 1965's Thunderball in which he also starred. Though the film has an enduring fanbase, it's not considered part of the Bond canon by many fans. Still, between the two, we prefer the remake.

United 93 vs. World Trade Center

12

United 93 vs. World Trade Center

2006

It's no surprise that a mere five years after 9/11, the movie-going public was a little wary of films dramatizing the events of that day. That didn't stop Hollywood, however, from turning out two movies on the subject. What was a bit surprising was the result: rather than exploitive, overwrought Michael Bay-styled action films or TV-movie melodramatics, the studios delivered two very different films that both were worth watching. Paul Greengrass' United 93 came first and is our favorite of the two. With its lack of any A-list actors and stark, real-time documentary feel it remains one of the more chilling and gripping films of the past decade. Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is, perhaps appropriately, one of his most objective and least edgy films in years. Nevertheless, it does an admirable job telling the story of two cops trapped in the rubble.

Gordy vs. Babe

13

Gordy vs. Babe

1995

This one is fairly cut and dry; two films, both geared toward children, about a talking pig. The difference between the two, however, is comparable to that between gas station hot dogs and premium-smoked bacon. Though both were released with moderate expectations, one barely received a theatrical release, while the other would become the sleeper hit of the year, capturing the hearts of many. Gordy undoubtedly pleased most little kids, but it offers little more than a way to keep the kids busy for 90 minutes. Babe, on the other hand, was loved by children and grownups alike and received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It remains the Rocky of talking animal movies.

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Comments Leave a comment

stillathreat ★★

How about Iron Eagle vs. Top Gun?

7:14 AM   Apr 07, 2010

ajay ★★

Another amusing factoid is that Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa involved a father & son lion story line like The Wild did. However, the sequel was far better than the first. On another note, the World Trade Center movie was awful.

8:57 AM   Apr 07, 2010

Cupidsmoke 

What about Rookie of The Year ('93) vs Little Big League ('94)?

10:38 AM   Apr 07, 2010

jason ★★

Maybe I'm weird, but I'll take Mars Attacks! over Independence Day. There's just something funny about those aliens.

2:30 PM   Apr 07, 2010

jason ★★

Also the last good silly Tim Burton movie.

2:31 PM   Apr 07, 2010

ajay ★★

Yeah, me too.

2:40 PM   Apr 07, 2010

holmessss 

You forgot the trip to Mars, often replayed on Cable, and quite bad duo of Mission to Mars (the Tim Robbins one) vs. Red Planet (the Val Kilmer one) (2000).

Also dueling sky-diving action films Terminal Velocity (Charlie Sheen) and Drop Zone (Wesley Snipes) (1994).

What a strange phenomenon.

12:30 PM   Apr 09, 2010

ajay ★★

I just found one you missed - First Daughter vs Chasing Liberty (2004). The former starred Katie Holmes, the latter starred Mandy Moore, was originally titled First Daughter, and was directed by none other than Forest Whitaker. Apparently, it was the reason he turned down the role of Sawyer in LOST.

6:46 PM   Apr 26, 2010

ajay ★★

Oh, and in that same year - Yours, Mine and Ours vs. Cheaper by the Dozen 2.

6:58 PM   Apr 26, 2010

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