Hollywood studios have a tendency to produce suspiciously similar movies, sometimes within the same year. We're pretty sure that for a while there in the early '00s, every movie was The Matrix.
But then there are movies, sometimes decades apart, that seem to have absolutely nothing to do with each other ... and yet, when you look at them carefully, they turn out to be the exact same thing. Movies like ...
6Home Alone (1990) is Die Hard (1988)
A resourceful, somewhat badly adjusted guy is left alone on Christmas eve, when a group of otherwise successful career criminals enact an overly elaborate plan for a robbery. The only thing they weren't counting on is this one-man wrecking crew who, almost single-handedly and against all the odds, completely whoops their asses.
Plus: Gluttony as a sign of badassery.
The Films That Share It:
Die Hard and Home Alone. No, seriously. Hear us out. Both films star a completely normal person who, as a result of being distanced from his family, finds himself trapped in a place invaded by criminals, soon realizing that he's the only one who can do anything about it. He's unequipped, outclassed and lacks any resources (also, shoes).
In both movies, the protagonist must use his wits and improvised weaponry to take out the bad guys one at a time, punctuating everything he does with a glib one-liner or weird facial expression.
But the villains in both movies are pretty different, right? You can't compare Hans Gruber and his team of highly trained professionals to a couple of assclowns calling themselves "The Wet Bandits." Unless you consider the fact that, in both movies, the increasingly exasperated leader of the criminals initially attempts to deceive the protagonist by passing himself off as a good guy, but the protagonist is more clever and sees through his bullshit.
Oh, and at one point, both villains suffer a great fall.
Also, only one of them has won an Oscar, but not the one you'd expect.
But as intelligent, resilient and supernaturally lucky as the protagonist is, he doesn't do everything himself: The final blow is delivered not by him, but by another character who was a complete stranger at the beginning and is now an unlikely friend.
Home Alone gains a few points by not having an analogue for the limo driver.
And thus, the protagonist is reunited with his family, safe and happy once more ... until the same thing happens two years later, except on the East Coast. This time, there's more running around outdoors, so at least he gets some fresh air. And then it keeps happening a couple more times until everyone stops caring.
Critics haven't decided which one's worse: Home Alone 2: Home Aloner or Live Free or Home Alone.
The Major Difference:
The age of the protagonist is the most obvious difference, along with the magnitude of the explosions he causes and his general body count (we're not sure, but we think Kevin killed only two or three guys). In fact, we can see Home Alone starting life as a rejected pitch for a Muppet Babies take on the Die Hard franchise, with Macaulay Culkin playing young Johnny McClane, a kid with a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you consider the fact that Kevin likely had to change his name and go into witness protection after pissing off so many criminals, maybe it still works out.
Although if that was the case, you'd think he'd have learned the dangers of going barefoot long ago.
5Little Miss Sunshine (2006) is National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
A dysfunctional family that's grown apart reluctantly piles into a car for a troublesome trip across the country to California. Hijinks ensue. Not everyone survives. In the end, the trip fulfills its purpose when unexpected circumstances bring the family together.
The Films That Share It:
Give or take a suicidal gay uncle played by Steve Carrell, National Lampoon's Vacation (the Chevy Chase classic) and Little Miss Sunshine (the acclaimed indie film) tell essentially the same story.
This guy's put on some weight, though.
Both films feature a family that embarks on a poorly researched trip inside an increasingly malfunctioning car that will become a running joke throughout the movie. Both go at the insistence of the head of the family (Chevy Chase in Vacation and Toni Collette in Sunshine), who believes that the best way to improve family relations is by cramming everyone into an enclosed space for several hellish days.
Exactly how many filmmakers have been traumatized by this same situation?
Outrageous things happen, testing the patience of the family members and causing some to completely lose their shit.
And here's where things get strangely specific:
When the elderly relative they brought along for no good reason (the old aunt in Vacation, the drug addict grandpa in Sunshine) suddenly drops dead in the middle of the trip, the family decides that the best way of mourning the deceased is to carry the limp, lifeless body around for a while before leaving it comically unsupervised.
No clear cause of death was given for Aunt Edna, so we're guessing it was a heroin overdose, too.
When they reach their destination, it's nothing like what they imagined -- in Vacation, the amusement park is closed, and in Sunshine, the beauty pageant is creepy and weird. In both cases, the head of the family intervenes in a way that wreaks havoc, to the point that cops become involved and things go downhill from there.
In the end, however, the police release them without charges and they head back home as a loving family (unless there are sequels).
Not pictured: Zombie grandpa.
The Major Difference:
National Lampoon's Vacation is pretty well regarded, but it didn't exactly win an Oscar (nor did anyone expect it to). Little Miss Sunshine won two, plus an Independent Spirit Award. What made the difference? We believe it was mainly the soundtrack. Here's a song from Little Miss Sunshine:
It's all moody and dramatic. It could make anything seem deep, even a static shot of a bunch of people in a car. National Lampoon's Vacation, on the other hand, used '80s pop. We're not saying you can take any '80s comedy, replace the soundtrack, add a minimalist poster and win an Academy Award, but some of them might be worth a shot. Weekend at Bernie's, anyone?