13 Famous Movies You Didn’t Realise Were Shameless Rip-offs

Ever watch a film and think, “hey, I’m sure I’ve seen this before”?

David Howland


This list looks at all those movies that have a touch of the familiar about them. Ever watch a film and think, “hey, I’m sure I’ve seen this before”, yet you know you haven’t?

In some instances to suggest a film is a rip-off may be a touch accusatory, in other cases maybe not so much. Some filmmakers might apply the term “borrowed” more liberally than others. Maybe the similarity is just pure coincidence, then again, maybe it isn’t. So it’s important to establish some parameters.

To suggest a film is a rip-off or unofficial remake is to suggest that it is so close to the source material it feels like it must have been in the filmmaker’s mind when making it, subconsciously or otherwise. Perhaps another film’s winning formula hadn’t gone unnoticed by studio heads resulting in an overly familiar though perhaps tad unoriginal effort.

Films are often remade; either an older film with a good idea or two gets reimagined or more commonly nowadays, a successful foreign language film gets remade for the subtitle-phobic English-speaking masses. This, whilst perhaps being a sometimes cynical, moneymaking practice, is all above board. Rights are acquired, films are made, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

These are remakes, nothing unofficial about them, yet sometimes, to borrow a quote from the ever-wise Homer Simpson, a film may look like ketchup, it may taste like ketchup, but brother, it ain’t ketchup.

Sometimes films get remade, whole plots lifted and stories re told, but they are mysteriously referred to by a different name. What was that sitcom about six friends frolicking around bars and coffee shops, casually jumping in and out of bed with one another? That’s right, it was called Coupling, wasn’t it? Occasionally any reference to the source material will go un-credited, unnoticed or even flatly denied, like Vanilla Ice claiming the sample to his star-making hit Ice Ice Baby, was anything other than the Queen and David Bowie classic, Under Pressure. It’s the cinematic equivalents of these pop cultural magpies that come under the microscope for this list.

This isn’t homages, tributes, official remakes of foreign fare or anything similar, it’s pretty common knowledge that The Departed is a remake of Infernal Affairs for example. Neither does it focus on films that may have cribbed a scene or two (relax Mr Tarantino), the similarities of the films listed here are far more egregious than that. Also off the hook are films based on other sources like musicals or TV series, so The Lion King’s similarities to Kimba the White Lion are void as the source there is a TV show. These are films that feel too similar to the the source film, be it something obscure or something well known that may have gone under the radar, yet strangely the source remains un-credited.

And just to be clear, each selection has different circumstances, whether something was actually ripped-off or creatively “borrowed” is largely subjective, so draw your own conclusions, as it says above, maybe it was all just a big coincidence. Though here are a few that may have a case to defend.