#3. Wild Wild West Was an Episode of Batman: The Animated Series
Just because you steal your source material from a successful predecessor doesn't mean your movie is going to be worth anything. Case in point: 1999's Wild Wild West. Before steampunk was blowing up your Reddit feed, it was smeared all over this turd stain of a movie. And the steampunk gadgets were the best part!
Kenneth Branagh has had to do some awful things for a paycheck.
Not the best part? The plot. Which consisted of a former Civil War hero and a U.S. Marshal chasing down an evil scientist and his world-jeopardizing contraptions before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. If Atlas Shrugged was set in the Old West and featured Will Smith and a giant mechanical robot spider, it would be just like this.
What It's Suspiciously Like:
A 1995 episode from Batman: The Animated Series called "Showdown."
Now, for those of you asking how the hell an episode of Batman: The Animated Series could get made into Wild Wild West, the truth is Batman was barely in the episode at all. "Showdown" was a flashback focusing on Jonah Hex -- the same character from the recent movie of the same name -- as he battled the immortal Ra's al Ghul in the Old West.
Hey, buddy, you've got something just ... right under your eye.
Incidentally, this episode would have made an even better Jonah Hex film than Jonah Hex.
Not a high bar, but still.
In the episode, the bad guy attempts to conquer the U.S. by attacking the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad with a superweapon -- which, incidentally, is the entire plot of Wild Wild West. They even have that scene with the Golden Spike and everything. The only difference is that Ra's weapon was an ironclad zeppelin instead of what Kevin Smith later described as "this big fucking spider" in Wild Wild West.
Crashing the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad ...
... with two steampunk superweapons ...
One significantly less stupid than the other.
... and a vast assortment of nifty guns ...
... when a flying machine from Leonardo's notebook comes out of nowhere.
Of course, at this point, most people had already left the theater.
#2. Terminator Was a Bunch of Harlan Ellison Sci-Fi Stories
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but James Cameron appears to have stolen the story for one of his biggest, most iconic films -- a story of man's overreaching hubris, and the efforts of a small group to stop the extinction of an entire race. We're talking, of course, about his mega-blockbuster groundbreaking film The Terminator.
What movie did you think we were talking about?
If we have to recap the plot of The Terminator for you, what are you even doing here? Don't you have some butter to churn or something? Some socks to darn? Some VHS tapes to rewind?
What It's Suspiciously Like:
A trio of futuristic stories by sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison. In fact, you can practically build The Terminator's narrative from the premise of each of them. In the short story "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," a super-intelligent AI becomes self-aware and decides to wipe out humanity. The few survivors live in an underground complex, the only habitable place left on Earth. Then in "Soldier," two freakishly strong super-soldiers from a post-apocalyptic world are sent back in time in a flash of lightning.
One materializes in a present-day alley (just like Kyle Reese in The Terminator), where he's quickly spotted by police and has a shootout with them.
Even some of the dialogue in "Soldier" seems pretty close to what's in The Terminator.
But wait, there's one important thing missing: Where are the robots? Well, in "Demon With a Glass Hand," a man from the future with a robotic-looking hand is being pursued by things that are disguised to look just like men.
Like in The Terminator, their time travel only works one way: from the future to the past. Oh, and the main character, Mr. Trent, is told frequently that he's "the last hope of humanity." Finally, at the end of the episode, it's revealed that Mr. Trent is actually ... wait for it ... a robot sent back in time and disguised to look human. Also, if you take the name Mr. Trent and rearrange the letters you get ... TerMntr. Dun dun DUUUNNN.
And here's the kicker: back in 1984, James Cameron did an interview with Starlog magazine where he was asked where he got the idea for The Terminator. He was reported to have bragged that he ripped off a couple of Harlan Ellison stories.
Trust us. Closed eyes make him 30 percent less creepy.
Unfortunately for Cameron, Ellison was friends with some of the staff there, who leaked him the original draft of the interview containing the admission and took Cameron to court. They ended up settling, and to this very day, Harlan Ellison has an "acknowledgement" credit on The Terminator.
Fortunately, it looks like Cameron has learned from his mistakes and will never do the same thing again. PHEW!
#1. Reservoir Dogs Was a Film From Hong Kong
Few directorial debuts have had the cultural impact of 1992's Reservoir Dogs. Pulp Fiction is the first Tarantino film you're more likely to have seen, but Dogs started it all: the out-of-order storytelling, the filthy dialogue, the black suits, the pop-culture references.
The Steve Buscemi.
Despite the distinct look and ear-severing, at its core, the story was simple: A diamond heist goes wrong, and the bad guys involved get into one hell of a tense standoff over the aftermath.
What It's Suspiciously Like:
A 1987 Hong Kong action film, City on Fire, starring a pre-American fame Chow Yun-Fat.
It was a simpler time, before movie posters were required to include explosions and tits.
Now, saying that Quentin Tarantino borrows heavily from Asian films is about as original as saying that Quentin Tarantino borrows heavily from ... uh ... all other kinds of films, but hold on. This one is different, if only because the it's the exact same movie, but with matchy-matchy suits.
Jewel thieves decide to steal a load of diamonds at the behest of an older criminal boss. While robbing the jewelry store, an alarm goes off and one of the thieves kills the employees. Blah blah blah ... Mexican standoff ends in a massacre, aaaand scene. And in case you lost track, that was the plot of City on Fire we were just describing, not Reservoir Dogs.
Tarantino didn't just borrow a character or a scene or a subplot, he ripped off the whole story. And then replaced all the dialogue with pop-culture trivia, as if he was doing some kind of Pop-Up Video version of the same movie, but with white guys.
If you need a visual aid, director Mike White put together a handy 10-minute documentary in 1994 showing the similarities between the two films, titled Who Do You Think You're Fooling?
Probably just a coincidence.
Oh, and did we mention that Tarantino dedicated the script of Reservoir Dogs to Chow Yun-Fat? And that he's also been quoted as saying, "I loved City on Fire, I got the poster framed in my house, so it's a great movie," and "Ringo Lam is like my second, after Jackie Chan, third favorite of all the Hong Kong directors"?
Tarantino's next movie will be called The Suit, starring Uma Thurman as Jackie Chan.
With Sam Jackson in Jennifer Love Hewitt's part.
Maxwell Yezpitelok lives in Chile and likes to waste his time writing back to scammers or making stupid comics. For more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog and Film School Rejects. Jacopo asks that you pick up a copy of his latest book Go @#$% Yourself! An Ungentlemanly Disagreement, by Filippo Argenti, available in paperback and DRM-free on Kindle.
For more blatant rip-offs, check out 6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip-Offs and The 6 Most Psychotic Rip-Offs of Famous Animated Films.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see how Cracked is actually a rip-off of the Economist.
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