Though mistaken identity is a relatively infrequent incident in real life, it's one of the few movie concepts that can create fertile ground for both comic and serious ventures almost from the outset. Is there not just something tantalising about seeing someone thrown into an excessive situation, entirely out of their depth? As they struggle to re-assert their own identity and eschew the one they've been saddled with, it's an extremely versatile concept that has been a hugely successful formula for Hollywood movies over the decades. Also somewhat timely with today's constant fears about identity theft - hence the box office success of the recent Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy-starring vehicle Identity Thief - the genre, like many of the best, taps into an inherent fear, something that is ticking over in our minds even if we're not always consciously obsessed with it. After all, if the ever-proposed Orwellian biometric identification measures eventually become a reality, is this not a far more likely prospect? In the meantime, revel in these 10 supremely entertaining mistaken identity movies...
10. North By Northwest
Alfred Hitchcock was the master of the mistaken identity film, and easily his greatest work in that regard is his immensely enjoyable thriller North by Northwest. Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a man mistaken for a government agent, who ends up being kidnapped by spies who want to smuggle some government secrets out of the US. As Roger tries to piece his life together and figure out quite what's going on, he's thrown headlong into a series of tense scenarios - most famously, the iconic crop duster sequence pictured above - that has him tentatively teaming up with the dubious Eve (Eva Marie Saint) to try and take the villainous Phillip Vandamm down. Thanks to Cary Grant's impeccable performance as a man hot under the collar, this is the best sort of mistaken identity movie; it's hilarious, intense and utterly exhilarating. If you're not one for "old" movies, this is nevertheless a classic that has aged exceptionally well.
Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.