7 Directors Who Stole Their Biggest Hits (From Themselves)

All stories rely on formulas. Even when you think you're being completely original, you might find that the plot of your time-traveling porno musical has the same basic structure as an episode of Small Wonder. All effective storytelling follows one pattern or another, because that's just how the human brain works.

However, there's a line where a filmmaker goes from "following the same formula" to "remaking his own goddamn movie." The worst part is that you probably never even noticed how unoriginal some of your favorite directors were until some jackass pointed it out to you. Guess what: We're that jackass.

#7. James Cameron -- Titanic Is The Terminator

Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox

Titanic is about the perils of sea travel and the dickishness of rich people, and it's an instruction manual for getting girls to show you their boobs (hint: be really handsome, charming, good at drawing, and kind on a deep and powerful level). The Terminator, on the other hand, is a seminal sci-fi action flick that totally redefined the genre and established Arnold Schwarzenegger as your go-to actor for "hulking mass of muscle kicks the shit out of everyone." Even on a creative level, they're totally different: Terminator was a personal idea that literally came to Cameron in a dream, while Titanic was thrown together as a way to pay for his diving hobby.

But They're Secretly the Same ...

If you replace "dated synth music" with "Celine Dion" and "time traveling robot" with "iceberg and Billy Zane," then you've got yourself a remake. Check it out: Both kick off the plot with our sexy male hero saving his love interest from certain death:

MGM, Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox
"No biggie. I'm sure you'll save my life when you get the chance."

Then, after outside forces drive them apart (judgmental loved ones and cops, respectively), they reconnect and teach each other important skills:

MGM, Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox

Then they get it on, and we get a shot of their hands.

MGM, Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox
We also see both female leads' nipples, but you'll have to Google Image Search that.

Oh, and that important skill? It's later used to incapacitate the villain at a key moment.

MGM, Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox

Now, obviously those bits aren't exactly interchangeable (it's a totally different movie if Jack blows Cal in half with a pipe bomb), but from a structural standpoint, it's the exact same kind of setup and payoff. And at the end of both movies, the male lead sacrifices himself to save his lover -- and she sets off a stronger person for the experience, free to ride horses with legs on both sides and battle robots.

MGM, Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox
"Neeeear, faaaaar, whereeeeeever you -- BADUH DUH DUH-DUH."

Does this mean that after the events of Titanic, Rose became a mentally unbalanced survivalist and the iceberg came back as a good guy? Yes. Yes, it definitely does.

#6. Sam Raimi -- Oz the Great and Powerful Is Army of Darkness

Walt Disney

Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel-ish thing to the classic film Return to Oz and tells the story of James Franco building a career purely on his smile, Disney trying to kneecap the upcoming Wicked adaptation before it ever happens, and director Sam Raimi clearly not giving a flying shit about his craft anymore. It's nowhere near as great as Raimi's horror/comedy classic Army of Darkness, which is the Citizen Kane of movies where a guy battles a dozen tiny clones of himself while singing nursery rhymes and then murders them. It couldn't have less to do with audience-friendly trash like Oz the Great and Powerful, right?

But They're Secretly the Same ...

Nope, they're pretty much the exact same movie, and we're far from the only ones to notice. Both start with the hero getting sucked into a tornado ...

Universal Studios, Walt Disney

... to a distant land, where he must go on a quest through a forbidden forest ...

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
Earth to Franco: Making shitty movies while winking isn't an art exhibit.

... because of a prophecy. Then he gets attacked by an evil army ...

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
OK, we must admit that movie effects have improved over time.

... his love interest turns evil ...

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
Ah, never mind.

... and he fights back using technology from his own era.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
We're honestly surprised Raimi didn't use the same car.

BONUS: Both movies end with a witch fight.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
SUPER BONUS: It's the same witch.

It's like Sam Raimi took a Final Draft file of his Army script, did a "Find + Replace" with a few key words, and cashed his check. Hell, even the protagonists are similar: They're both wisecracking, attractive womanizers who compensate for being out of their element by being incredibly resourceful and charming (though, to be fair, that's every action movie protagonist ever).

#5. Jason Reitman: Up in the Air Is Thank You for Smoking

Paramount Pictures

Who would have thought that the son of the guy who directed Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and Junior would become "the hope of cinema"? Jason Reitman is the acclaimed director behind movies as varied as Thank You for Smoking, a satire of the smoking debate that cuts both ways, and Up in the Air, the emotional journey of a man who discovers he's not as happy as he thinks he is despite looking like George Clooney. Yep, those two have nothing in common.

But They're Secretly the Same ...

Apparently, Jason Reitman's version of his father's "Arnold Schwarzenegger gets into shenanigans involving children/Danny DeVito" is "a charismatic jerk with an unusual job goes on a potentially life-changing journey." Even outside these two movies, all of Reitman's protagonists are likeable assholes: There's the smartass teenager in Juno and the smartass young adult in Young Adult.

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Paramount Pictures
Both of whom like married men and sleep with nerds.

The tobacco lobbyist from Thank You for Smoking and the guy who fires people for a living from Up in the Air both find their job threatened and embark on a trip in which they'll end up reconnecting with a family member. They also include a back-stabbing woman who will sleep with them under false pretenses, Sam Elliott playing a short but important role, and J.K. Simmons playing J.K. Simmons (also reprised in Juno).

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Paramount Pictures
These stills could all be from the same movie. No one will ever know for sure.

In the end, the jerk protagonist goes through a traumatic experience, and for a moment there, we think they've changed -- but nope, they're pretty much right back where they started. The former lobbyist still defends smoking. The firer goes back to firing. In fact, in Young Adult, the whole ending is about how the protagonist learns literally nothing. Juno is the one who appears to change the most, but then she goes and flips us the bird to prove she's still a smartass.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Unless she's just flipping off Reitman for making her do this.

#4. Woody Allen -- Match Point Is Crimes and Misdemeanors


Woody Allen is known for ... many things, but one of the less icky ones is that he supposedly makes "the same movie over and over" -- except if it's a drama. His comedies are all about neurotic guys fumbling about and somehow putting their penises in gorgeous women, but his dramas are always different. For instance, 1989's Crimes and Misdemeanors is a dry existentialist piece about a dry middle-aged doctor, while 2005's Match Point is a sexy thriller about a sexy tennis player.

MGM, DreamWorks
Hey, Woody, do you think that tennis is ping pong, you fucking joke?

But They're Secretly the Same ...

And they both do the exact same things. Seriously, in this case they didn't even try to hide it: Match Point is like a Muppet Babies version of the doctor's story in Crimes and Misdemeanors. The doctor and the tennis player are both humble men who come into great fortune and achieve a high social status. Both are married, but each has an affair with an unstable woman who threatens to tell everything to his wife.

MGM, DreamWorks
2005: "OK, Scarlett, for this scene, you're gonna get naked and rub oil over your body."
1989: "Anjelica, just sit there."

In order to preserve his current lifestyle, the protagonist decides to have his mistress killed. He doesn't take this decision lightly, though -- there's some moral debate about the act of taking someone's life, which can be perfectly summed up in this clip from an earlier, funnier Allen movie:

At this point there's a tense scene set to classical music where the protagonist must break into an apartment and steal some stuff in order for his plan to work. Despite being questioned by the police, he literally gets away with murder, which makes him feel so guilty that he starts having philosophical discussions with his own hallucinations. In the end, his real punishment is the certainty that there is no God and life lacks any meaning or justice.

MGM, DreamWorks, Columbia Pictures
"No one quite understands how hard it is to be rich, handsome, white, and not a murder suspect. Such is our burden."

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