Let’s say that you wanted to watch a sweet romantic drama called Hearts on Fire and put it on, only to realize a little too late that you accidentally selected an intense horror flick also called Hearts on Fire. While we made that particular movie up, this sort of scenario is quite plausible, considering how many pairs (or groups) of films there are that might have very little in common in terms of their plots, but are identical in name. Not counting remakes, of course, let’s take a look at some of the most notable, intriguing, and even hilarious examples of movies that are almost entirely, but happen to share the same title.
Child’s Play (1972, 1988)
Everyone knows about the classic ’80s slasher movie that introduced the world to Chucky, a doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer, voiced by Brad Dourif. However, less might know about Sidney Lumet’s Child’s Play, a mystery thriller starring Beau Bridges in which a gym teacher becomes embroiled in a strange feud between two colleagues at an all-boys prep school.
The Aviator (1985, 2004)
One of the best Martin Scorsese movies, The Aviator, is an engrossing portrait of the life of Howard Hughes, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The biopic is predated by a 1920s-set adventure epic of the same starring Christopher Reeve and directed by George Miller (but not the George Miller who created Mad Max).
Gladiator (1992, 2000)
In the early ‘90s, future Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and Twin Peaks cast member James Marshall starred alongside each other in a boxing drama called Gladiator. Less than a decade later, director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe released a brutal period epic of the same that went on to win the Best Picture Oscar in 2001.
Drive (1997, 2011)
Most people probably recognize Drive as a neo-noir thriller starring Ryan Gosling as an unnamed Hollywood stuntman by day and getaway driver by night. It is also the name of a sci-fi action movie starring Mark Dacascos as a genetically enhanced man on the run and Kadeem Hardison as his reluctant companion.
The Kid (1921, 2000)
The title of writer, director, and star Charlie Chaplin’s classic silent film era dramedy, The Kid, refers to an orphan of whom Chaplin’s “The Tramp” becomes the adoptive father. The title of Disney’s The Kid refers to Spencer Breslin’s role as a ’60s-era child who meets his grown-up self (played by Bruce Willis) at the turn of the century.
Black Sheep (1996, 2006)
In 1996, Chris Farley and David Spade followed up the success of Tommy Boy with another buddy comedy with a more political edge called Black Sheep. Ten years later, a New Zealand-based film of the same name, a horror-comedy about killer sheep, was released.
Bug (1975, 2006)
Two major horror movies called Bug were released more than three decades apart. The earlier thriller is more of a straightforward creature feature about a swarm of fire-starting cockroaches, while the newer film is a paranoid psychological thriller from director William Friedkin and starring Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd.
Catch Me If You Can (1989, 2002)
The title Catch Me If You Can is associated with quite a few features, actually. The two most notable, however, are a coming-of-age action-comedy about car race gambling and a drama from director Steven Spielberg based on the alleged life of elusive check fraud criminal Frank Abagnale Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and also stars Tom Hanks as the FBI agent trailing him.
Twilight (1998, 2008)
The title Twilight will forever be remembered by mainstream audiences as the adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s phenomenally successful YA novel about a girl (played by Kristen Stewart) falling in love with a vampire (played by Robert Pattinson). Yet, just a decade earlier, Paul Newman starred in another movie called Twilight as a retired detective who accepts a deadly new case.
Crash (1996, 2004)
David Cronenberg’s Crash earned controversy and an NC-17 rating for its bizarre story of a couple who discover automobile accidents have an unusual effect on them. Paul Haggis’ Crash, focusing on racial tension in L.A. from multiple perspectives, earned controversy for winning the Best Picture Oscar over Brokeback Mountain.
Criminal (2004, 2016)
Whether you are in the mood for something light and funny or bizarre and earnest, there is a movie perfect for either occasion called Criminal. One is a comedy about con artists starring John C. Reilly, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Diego Luna and the other is a sci-fi thriller starring Kevin Costner as a convict who becomes implanted with the memories of a slain CIA agent played by Ryan Reynolds.
Inside Out (1975, 1986, 2005, 2011, 2015)
We found five movies called Inside Out. We have a comedic crime thriller starring Telly Savalas, a drama that stars Elliot Gould as an agoraphobic man, one about a suburb affected by a mysterious doctor (played by Eriq La Salle), and an action flick starring wrestler Triple H. The best-known, however, is a Pixar movies favorite following the personified emotions of an adolescent girl.
Bad Boys (1983, 1995)
Michael Bay’s directorial debut starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is now a buddy cop movie classic and, easily, the more recognizable movie called Bad Boys, given it became a franchise. However, it is predated by Rick Rosenthal’s drama starring Sean Penn as a teen sent to reform school after committing manslaughter.
Frozen (2010, 2013)
Frozen, Disney’s retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, “The Snow Queen” became an Oscar-winning, record-breaking cultural phenomenon. A horror movie also called Frozen, in which a young trio (played by Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, and Kevin Zeger) become accidentally trapped on a ski lift, was released just three years earlier.
Australia (1989, 2008)
Director Baz Luhrmann’s sweeping, romantic period piece, Australia, starring real-life Aussie actors Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, was later recut into a Hulu-exclusive miniseries called Faraway Downs. It is unlikely we will ever see the earlier movie named after the Land Down Under, a Belgian, post-WWII-era drama starring Jeremy Irons as a wool dealer, given the same treatment any time soon.
Venom (1981, 2005, 2018)
We found three movies called Venom. One from the early ‘80s is an aptly named creature feature about snakes; the second is another, less-aptly named horror movie about teenagers targeted by a man possessed with 13 evil souls; and the most recent is a Sony Marvel flick starring Tom Hardy as the titular Spider-Man villain.
Jack Frost (1997, 1998)
This pair of films is a special case because each involves a snowman possessed by a dead man’s spirit. The 1997 Jack Frost, however, is a ridiculously cheesy holiday horror movie and the one from the following year is a family film starring Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, and Joseph Cross.
Kicking and Screaming (1995, 2005)
It is actually quite easy to tell the difference between writer and director Noah Baumbach’s debut, Kicking and Screaming, and the Will Ferrell-led Kicking & Screaming. The first is a dramedy about the perils of post-college adulthood and the second is a family-friendly sports comedy that also uses an ampersand in its title.
Bad Company (1972, 1995, 2002)
There are actually three star-studded major motion pictures with the name Bad Company that we know of, the earliest being a Jeff Bridges-led Western. The other two are both CIA thrillers released under Disney’s Touchstone banner — one from the mid-’90s with Laurence Fishburne and Ellen Barkin, and the other from director Joel Schumacher and starring Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock in dual roles as a slain operative and his twin brother.
Legend (1985, 2015)
Ridley Scott’s Legend is an Oscar-nominated fantasy epic starring Tom Cruise as a young hero seeking to save his love (played by Mia Sara) from the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry). Thirty years later, director Brian Helgeland released a film of the same name, a ‘60s-era, British crime biopic starring another famous Tom (Hardy) as notorious twin gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Life (1999, 2015, 2017)
Life could refer to the title of three entirely different films. One is a period dramedy starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence as two imprisoned rivals-turned-friends, another is a James Dean biopic with Dane DeHaan as the actor and Robert Pattinson as a LIFE magazine photographer profiling him, and the most recent (released just two years after the last) is a sci-fi thriller with Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Mother’s Day (1980, 2016)
Mother’s Day is a Troma movie that came out of the holiday-oriented slasher trend of the time in which two brothers carry out their mom’s murderous bidding. It is also the name of one of director Garry Marshall’s holiday-oriented, ensemble rom-coms from the time starring the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts.
Project X (1987, 2012)
In the late 1980s, Matthew Broderick starred in Project X as a pilot involved in a mysterious experimental program involving chimps. Another film with the same title — a raunchy, found footage style comedy and one of the craziest party movies ever made — was released more than two decades later.
Running Scared (1986, 2006)
Both of the films that we know of called Running Scared technically count as crime thrillers, but their respective tones are the differentiating factor. One is a funny buddy cop comedy starring starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines and the other, released 20 years later, is a gritty drama starring Paul Walker as a thug given a task by a mobster that goes horribly wrong.
Sisters (1972, 2015)
Co-writer and director Brian De Palma’s Sisters is a murder mystery thriller about formerly conjoined twins played by Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt. Director Jason Moore and writer Paula Pell’s Sisters is a comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as grown-up siblings who throw a party at their childhood home before their parents put it on the market.
The Babysitter (1995, 2017)
Both of these are horror movies starring one of the most popular, blonde-haired stars of their respective generations. However, 1995’s The Babysitter is more earnest in tone and stars Alicia Silverstone as the victimized protagonist, while the latter, more comedic Netflix original sees Samara Weaving playing a more villainous role.
The Host (2006, 2013)
One of the most acclaimed monster movies of its time is The Host, a South Korean horror favorite from Bong Joon-ho, the director of Parasite. There also exists an adaptation of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer’s sci-fi YA novel, The Host, in which most of mankind is taken over by an alien parasite.
Crossroads (1986, 2002)
Both major films known as Crossroads involve aspiring musicians chasing their dreams. However, the one from the ’80s is about a young blues guitarist (played by Ralph Macchio) seeking mentorship from an older musician (played by Joe Seneca) and the one from the early 2000s is a road trip comedy starring Britney Spears.
Man of the House (1995, 2005)
In Man of the House, the Disney dramedy starring Chevy Chase and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the title refers to a battle of wits between a lawyer and his girlfriend’s rebellious son. In Man of the House, a Tommy Lee Jones-led comedy released 10 years later, the title refers to a Texas Ranger sharing a living space with college cheerleaders he is assigned to protect after they witness a murder.
The Night Before (1988, 2015)
Years before he became a beloved action movie hero, Keanu Reeves starred in The Night Before as a teen trying to piece together a disastrous prom night he forgot. After they had already established themselves as A-list stars, Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie led a different movie called The Night Before, which is also a raunchy comedy, but does not involve amnesia and takes place on Christmas Eve.
Suicide Squad (1935, 2016)
Most audiences today know of Suicide Squad as the first live-action, feature-length adaptation of a DC comic about supervillains forced into completing dangerous tasks in exchange for reduced jail sentences. More than 80 years earlier, a film of the same name was released that follows the dangerous tasks of a group of daredevil firefighters.
Christine (1983, 2016)
John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a killer car is a great scare, but Christine starring Rebecca Hall is even more unsettling. It dramatizes the final days of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, who took her own life live on air.
Let this be a lesson to check a film’s synopsis carefully before you watch it and do not go off of the title alone. You could be in for quite a surprise.