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We've told you before that some classic movies are essentially unrelated remakes of other famous flicks -- there are only so many ways you can tell the story of "the hero stops all the bad guys" before they start to look the same. But the following family films are so suspiciously similar to adult hits that we have to wonder if the producers just decided to take some major successes, replace all the sex and violence with rainbows and happy endings, and trick adults into seeing the same movie twice by marketing it to their kids. See if you don't agree that ...

5
The Incredibles Is Disney's Watchmen

Pixar

The Beloved Family Film:

Pixar's The Incredibles is one of their more mature attempts to hold dominion over the souls of the world's children. A surprisingly dark and violent film (with multiple on-screen deaths), it works for kids because it's an exciting, fast-paced action-adventure, and it works for adults because it shows viewers that even superheroes can lead crappy lives full of regrets and mistakes. Somehow, this animated superhero movie still manages to take on subjects like the obligations that come with talent and power and how unfulfilled potential can lead to midlife ennui.

Pixar
And comfort pie.

That's heavy shit. It's almost like there's some other, grittier source material it's drawing from ...

The Original It Shamelessly Copied:

The Incredibles shares more than just a premise with the graphic novel Watchmen, which later became a movie itself, albeit one that replaces the source material's Reagan-era malaise with emo hissy fits. As pointed out by Baltimore Sun writer Michael Sragow, both stories concern a world where superheroes exist but have been forced to retire after the American government outlaws their work for political reasons (apparently Canada and Mexico don't have any crime worth fighting).

Both movies feature a pathetic hero who feels emasculated in retirement -- Nite Owl in Watchmen, Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles. They're getting old, they're getting fat, and they're disillusioned by their mundane lives. Thankfully, Pixar spares us a scene where Mr. Incredible can't get it up.

Warner Bros., Pixar
Unless you watch the deleted scenes.

Both superheroes are drawn out of retirement to investigate the disappearances of other retired superheroes. They eventually discover that the murderers are exceptionally intelligent supervillains with no actual powers. There's Ozymandias in Watchmen and Syndrome in The Incredibles -- both once wanted to be superheroes, and even as villains they believe they're serving the greater good. Also, they both have dumb hair.

Warner Bros., Pixar
"New Wave Douche" and "Troll Swirly," respectively.

The heroes gather allies to confront the villains, who unleash large, tentacled monsters of their own creation to wreak havoc on a major city. Ozymandias builds an "alien" in the comic, while Syndrome builds a robot.

DC Comics, Pixar
"Swipe me? I'm not an original serial villain. I already swiped it 18 years ago."

While The Incredibles doesn't show it, it's reasonable to assume that a fair number of people are horribly killed in those attacks. The only major difference between the two is that Syndrome is defeated, while Ozymandias emerges victorious, albeit with the implication that his scheme will one day be unraveled. If Mr. Incredible had fucked his wife to the backdrop of a nuclear explosion and pretentious music while Violet murdered Dash, you'd have basically the same story.

4
The Wizard Is Nintendo's Rain Man

Universal Studios

The Beloved Family Film:

Set in an alternate reality where everyone is addicted to Nintendo, 1989's The Wizard stars Fred Savage, Christian Slater, and the girl who grew up to be Jenny Lewis, celebrity crush of every boy in the 1980s. The Wizard is a 90-minute commercial about a boy and his gifted but mentally troubled brother attempting to win $50,000 at a video game tournament to prove that the Mario-savant doesn't need to live in an institution.

The Original It Shamelessly Copied:

As Janet Maslin, a reviewer who panned The Wizard pointed out, almost all the non-video game parts are lifted from 1988's Rain Man, a revelation that will ruin your childhood worse than the Power Glove did. Each movie starts with the protagonist springing his autistic brother from confinement so they can take a road trip to Los Angeles.

United Artists, Universal Studios
Because if there's one way to break through to an autistic person, it's with strange and unfamiliar things.

Each protagonist discovers that his brother has an amazing skill that can be exploited for money: in Rain Man it's counting cards, while in The Wizard it's hustling Nintendo games (coincidentally, the game is Rad Racer, which is just a knockoff of Sega's Out Run).

United Artists, Universal Studios
"It's OK because we're related."

Upon learning of this talent, both protagonists decide to take a detour to Nevada to make some sweet, sweet cash. In Rain Man they head to Las Vegas to pay off Tom Cruise's debt through blackjack, while in The Wizard they head to Reno to win the video game tournament because kids like video games and money.

Also, they still go to a casino in The Wizard for some reason. With the help of a trucker named Spankey they use money won from craps on an arcade machine so the savant can practice. Somehow they don't get murdered, which is the more likely outcome of hanging out with a guy named Spankey at a sketchy casino.

Universal Studios
"Wow, those cocktail waitresses are barely wearing anything!"

In both movies, a love interest joins them along the way. In Rain Man it's Cruise's girlfriend, and in The Wizard it's a small girl who's a street-savvy drifter for some reason, lending further credence to our theory that the movie is set in a dystopian America brought to an economic standstill by video game addiction.

United Artists, Universal Studios
Savage's character dies in the sequel during a Thunderdome fight for a Super Nintendo.

Both trips culminate in a revealing truth that helps the older brother understand the autistic one better. In Rain Man, Cruise realizes that the imaginary friend he fondly remembers from his childhood was actually his brother. In The Wizard, Savage helps his brother get over the tragic death of his twin sister. Both sets of siblings bond and promise to spend more time together. The only difference is that Rain Man lacks The Wizard's other, more important message: if your parents don't buy you Super Mario Bros. 3, they don't really love you.

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3
The Santa Clause Is a Christmas Version of An American Werewolf in London

Walt Disney

The Beloved Family Film:

The Santa Clause stars Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, a divorced advertising executive (Hollywood's way of saying he has no soul). He's forced to become the new Santa Claus after accidentally killing the old one. That seems like a terrible way to promote people, but hey, we're not elves.

The Original It Shamelessly Copied:

It may sound crazy, but bear with us on this: The Santa Clause is extremely similar to the 1980s cult horror hit An American Werewolf in London. For starters, both movies begin with a horrible accident on a fateful night. Santa Claus is mauled by a werewolf in The Santa Clause, while Scott murders a college student and seriously injures another, David, in An American Werewolf in London. Or something like that.

Afterward, our protagonists are both imbued with an ancient curse. David will turn into a werewolf every full moon, while Scott will turn into Santa Claus come next holiday season.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
"Are you sure you weren't bitten by Kenny Rogers?"

At first, both characters are in denial. Scott doesn't believe that he'll become Santa Claus despite having been to the North Pole, and David doesn't believe in werewolves despite having been attacked by one. However, their doubts begin to fade when symptoms emerge -- David has terrible nightmares, while Scott gains weight for no apparent reason, grows a beard that can't be shaved, and develops a taste for milk and cookies that rivals Tim Allen's taste for cocaine.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
They cut the scene were he starts pawning gifts for hits of raw dough.

Both protagonists have a sarcastic, comic-relief friend that shows up to explain the rules of the magic scenario and convince the protagonist to embrace their fate, then conveniently pops up again whenever something further needs to be explained. In Santa Clause it's Bernard the Elf, while in Werewolf it's David's (un)dead friend. The actors even look and sound similar.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
Affable, yet slightly punchable.

By this point, Scott and David are both becoming believers. However, only one other person takes each of them seriously: Scott's son and David's doctor. Everyone else insists that they're delusional and argues against their claims at every turn, even in the face of mounting evidence. Also, both movies make symbolic trips to the zoo. Scott visits some polar bears, while David wakes up naked with wolves.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
But hey, we've all been there.

Both movies end with the protagonists giving in to their new identities, which puts them in a climactic standoff with the police (don't ask why Santa faces off with the police. It's dumb).

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
Which, considering the other plot points we've covered, should really say something.

Of course, Santa Scott peacefully defuses the situation in a Christmas miracle, while werewolf David goes on a horrible killing spree before being shot dead. But we think that's also what happens in The Santa Clause 2: An American Santa in London Who Is Also a Werewolf.

2
The Princess Diaries Is a Less Raunchy King Ralph

Walt Disney

The Beloved Family Film:

Disney's The Princess Diaries stars Anne Hathaway as a gawky teenager who discovers that she's actually a member of a European country's royal family. The only problem is that she's an uncouth and horribly unattractive American, because in movies adding glasses and frizzy hair is all it takes for someone to become horribly unattractive.

Walt Disney
Look at that hideous she-beast.

Because of the death of an ancestor she never knew she had, she finds herself in line for the throne. She's whisked away from her ordinary life to be taught proper etiquette by that lady from The Sound of Music.

The Original It Shamelessly Copied:

Less popular with tween girls is King Ralph, which stars John Goodman as an uncouth American who discovers he's in line for the British throne after the death of, etc. We know, it's shocking that Disney would stoop to stealing a premise. Even the posters are suspiciously similar, featuring the protagonists lounging on a throne in sneakers just like lazy Americans would.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
They would have given Hathaway a burger, but Goodman would have crashed the set to burgle it.

When we meet each protagonist they're slovenly, unpopular people. Hathaway's Mia gets picked on at school, while Ralph is a washed-up lounge musician who gets fired and replaced by a monkey.

Both protagonists are initially doubtful when informed of their royal heritage but are soon convinced by their grandmothers that the claim is legitimate. The coarse Americans are then given to an older member of the royal family to be taught how to act properly, and in each case that person is played by a famous English actor who's apparently slumming it for a quick paycheck. In The Princess Diaries it's Dame Julie Andrews, while in King Ralph it's Sir Peter O'Toole.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
"I was Lawrence of Arabia, for Christ's sake."
"Yeah, well, I was Mary fucking Poppins. Get over yourself, O'Toole."

They each attend a stuffy formal dinner, where they're forced to eat European food that's apparently so weird and alienating it's worthy of a POV shot of the plate.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
"Green bee-ans? Grey-pes? Are they edible?"

Mia and Ralph embarrass themselves by causing wacky accidents, partly because they haven't shaken their old habits and partly because American moviegoers love it when people spill things.

Universal Studios, Walt Disney
"They use wine, we use water. Those are two totally different liquids."

Both Ralph and Mia are further embarrassed in scandals orchestrated by romantic interests looking to profit from their humiliation. Mia is photographed making out with a boy from school, while Ralph is photographed with his stripper girlfriend. This causes them to get lectured by their furious British teachers, which in turn prompts them to announce plans to abdicate.

But both characters make amends for their mistakes by successfully acting sufficiently royal. The only difference is that Ralph still abdicates by passing the throne to O'Toole, for which he's rewarded with a lavish dukedom. Mia keeps her title, presumably dooming her country to a long and brutal yet lovable reign of twee tyranny.

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1
Wreck-It Ralph Is Taxi Driver Without the Porn and Assassination Attempts

Walt Disney

The Beloved Family Film:

Ralph is the villain of an arcade game who's sick of being a lonely bad guy, so he embarks on a misguided mission to try to convince his community of fellow game characters that he can be a hero. Shenanigans ensue, because it's not called Good-at-Stuff Ralph.

The Original It Shamelessly Copied:

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. No, really.

Columbia Pictures
Yeah, we're talking to you.

It probably sounds odd to associate a cartoon about games with a gritty drama about a depressed Vietnam vet set in 1976 New York (which, for our younger readers, looked like modern Detroit), but there are parallels right from the opening monologue: Taxi Driver's Travis talks about how his work as a short-order cook (if we recall correctly) defines him on his way back to his crappy apartment, while Ralph talks about how he hates being defined as a villain before heading back to the junkyard he sleeps in.

Then, when they express their unhappiness to their colleagues, they're told to get over it and accept who they are.

Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney
"It doesn't get better."

And we mean they literally get the same advice; the older video game villain, Clyde, tells Ralph:

"Ralph, Ralph, we get it. But we can't change who we are. The sooner you accept that, the better off your game and your life will be."

While the older cabbie, Wizard, tells Travis:

"A man takes a job ... that becomes what he is. You know, like -- you do a thing and that's what you are. ... You get a job, you become the job."

(No, we didn't get the names mixed up -- Clyde is the video game villain, Wizard is the cabbie. Go figure.) We learn that Ralph and Travis are both loners whose social skills have rusted over with serious creepiness -- Ralph spies on the hero of his game through his window, bitterly observing his seemingly perfect life ...

Walt Disney


... while Travis becomes enamored with a woman named Betsy and stalks her at her office:

Columbia Pictures
Bitterly observing her seemingly perfect hair.

In both cases, the loner/outsider lurks about, trying to get a glimpse of the society he's not allowed to join. When they decide early in each film to try to force the issue and be social, the results are disastrous: Ralph ruins a party, and Travis takes Betsy on a date to a porn theater (everyone knows you save the porn for the third date). Ralph is forced to leave, Betsy storms off and ends the date. Dejected, Ralph leaves the party and retreats to a bar (that serves root beer, because Disney), while Travis drinks alone in his apartment.

Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney


It's at this point they both realize that the real solution to their problem is, of course, violence. If Ralph joins a war video game and Travis buys a gun, society will finally show some respect!

Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney
"I can feel it growing!"

Both, at this point, have only a fuzzy idea of what, exactly, they intend to accomplish with this new, darker direction in their life. Ralph has some vague idea of winning a medal; Travis seems to be intent on assassinating a presidential candidate. And if it sounds like these two movies are set to wildly diverge, get this: it is at this moment that both men are sidetracked from their mission when they befriend a girl on the fringes of society, who's being imprisoned/abused by a creepy older man.

With Travis, it's a chance encounter with Iris, an underage prostitute abused by her pimp, while Ralph has a chance encounter with Vanellope, a little girl in a racing game who is prohibited from racing by King Candy, the closest a PG movie can come to having to a pimp.

Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney
And they both pose like douches in ugly hats.

Both sets lose track of one another but eventually pair back up and become unlikely friends, due to the protagonist seeing a chance to be a hero by rescuing the girl from the squalor she lives in. Ralph sees Vanellope's shitty bedroom inside the unfinished mountain level of her game; Travis sees Iris' room in the rundown brothel:

Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney
Both places are uncomfortably sticky.

In the end, both Ralph and Travis confront the villains at the very home they visited earlier -- Ralph fights King Candy atop the mountain where Vanellope lives; Travis mows down the pimps in the halls of the brothel, just outside Iris' bedroom. And in that moment, both men have made the decision to die -- Ralph declares it to be "game over" for him and attempts to sacrifice himself for Vanellope, and Travis writes a suicide note to Iris.

But in the end, Travis and Ralph come out alive and laughing, covered in blood and chocolate (you can figure out which is covered in which). In the denouement, Ralph sees Vanellope start to live the life she dreamed of, and Iris' parents let Travis know that Iris is doing OK.

Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney
"You just don't get that level of customer service with Uber drivers."

Both Ralph and Travis become the heroes they wanted to be, due to the magic of murdering the shit out of someone. But now that society loves them, they're content to go back to their old jobs, where they encounter a character who once scorned them but now respects them -- Betsy, and one of the NPCs from Ralph's game.

But here's the best part: we're pretty sure that Wreck-It Ralph is the darker of the two films. After all, Taxi Driver doesn't include a scene in which a helpless, panicking little girl is about to be eaten by giant insects ...

Walt Disney


... while the villain grabs the hero by the hair and forces him to watch, saying, "Let's watch her die together, shall we?"

Walt Disney
"Can you feel it growing?"

We're trying to imagine Scorsese going over that scene with the Taxi Driver cast, and Harvey Keitel saying, "Jesus, Marty, can we change that? This shit will give people nightmares."


J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com. You can also find him on Twitter @Rewatchability. Special thanks to Rob Laronde for his assistance with this article.

For more remakes you didn't know about, check out 6 Movies That Inadvertently Remade Other Movies and 6 Classic Movies You Didn't Know Were Remakes.

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