5 Huge Movies That Shamelessly Ripped Off One TV Show
In 1985, Steve "You're Welcome For Your Childhood" Spielberg created a Twilight Zone-esque show called Amazing Stories featuring the talents of geniuses like Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Gary Coleman, and dozens of others. So, why haven't you ever heard of this thing? Actually, you definitely have ... just with other names, is all.
In the following decades, a suspicious number of famous movies have featured plots that strangely resemble Amazing Stories' amazing stories -- apparently, whenever a Hollywood writer is stuck on a script, they watch a random episode of this series, filter it through an eight ball of cocaine, and call it a day. Otherwise, how do you explain ...
The Green Mile (1999) Is "Life On Death Row" (1986)
Already some of you are calling bullshit, because everyone knows The Green Mile is based on a series of Stephen King novels. But the plot of said novels also runs startlingly close to an Amazing Stories episode. We're not saying King intentionally stole the idea; maybe he saw the show and subconsciously recalled it a decade later, or maybe it's all a bizarre coincidence. But the coincidence would be bizarre -- the similarities are pretty damned specific.
"Life On Death Row" is what The Green Mile would look like if it was possible to adapt a book 10 years before it came out. It also stars a convicted murderer awaiting execution, but, because this is the '80s, he's played by Patrick Swayze instead of Michael Clarke Duncan.
And now we're sad there isn't a version of Dirty Dancing with Michael Clarke Duncan.
Like in the movie, it's revealed that the prisoner is magic, and he uses his powers to cure the ailments of a guard with whom he has formed an unlikely friendship (played by Joe from The Princess Diaries, because they couldn't afford the guy from Bosom Buddies). In "Life On Death Row," it's the guard's leg pain, but since The Green Mile stars Tom Hanks, they obviously had to change it to something that involves peeing.
Cracked Legal Tip #73: If you go to prison, always ask your guards about their pee.
Despite being treated like some sort of criminal or something, the inmate continues helping those within the prison through the magic of making shit glow.
Sometimes while it's still in colons.
Eventually, everyone recognizes that the inmate has a miraculous gift and should be spared from his impending execution. In order to prove this point, he heals an otherwise incurable condition within one of the warden's family members.
"Now you're free to live a few more months before getting cancer or whatever again.
Then your ass is on your own."
The warden does everything in his power to stop the magic inmate's execution, but it all proves fruitless because, at the end of the day, he still was convicted of murdering people, and the criminal justice system frowns on that.
Or, in The Green Mile's case, "He's still black and it's the '30s."
In Amazing Stories, the inmate is brought back to life thanks to all the people he helped, while in The Green Mile, the execution just leads to a light show that doesn't amount to anything. On the other hand, Swayze's character is probably gonna rot in jail and didn't even get to see a free movie, so he's clearly the loser. The lesson here is that it's perfectly possible to tell this story in only 18 minutes, so King and company were clearly fucking with us with that ridiculous three-hour runtime.
Last Action Hero (1993) Is "Welcome To My Nightmare" (1986)
Last Action Hero was hated by critics and audiences alike when it was first released in 1993 (satire wouldn't be invented until 2005), but you can at least admire its wildly original premise, especially compared with other Schwarzenegger vehicles of the era. It's about an outcast teenager named Danny who is obsessed with films and gets sucked into his favorite movie through a magic ticket. This is completely different from the Amazing Stories episode "Welcome To My Nightmare," which is about an outcast teenager named Harry who does all those things.
They both watch TV all day, but different channels.
Both boys love films so much that they neglect all other aspects of their lives, which causes a significant emotional toll on their mothers. However, Harry wears glasses while doing that and Danny doesn't.
Both moms sorta look like Diane Keaton at different points in her career.
Danny's fixation is such that he has a vivid daydream about a bizarre, incongruous movie idea (Schwarzenegger playing Hamlet). Meanwhile, Harry vividly fantasizes about a bizarre, incongruous movie idea (being bullied by zombie fratboys) ... but it's not a daydream, because it's dark out when this happens.
Even zombie-ism can't overpower the part of bro-brain that makes you
wear shades at night like a total asshole.
One night, in an attempt to escape from their various problems, they go to a movie theater, where they are given a magic ticket that glows when it's ripped. The tickets are different colors, though, so we'd be cheating if we counted that as a similarity.
Those little bolts of energy are the same color, but let's not get all pedantic.
Both Danny and Harry find themselves inside the movies they wanted to watch and get to interact with their cinematic idols -- a Schwarzenegger action hero and Norman Bates from Psycho, respectively. The kids quickly discover there's a downside to inhabiting a fictional universe full of murder when the movie tries to murder them.
We'll gloss over the question of why he idolized Norman Bates.
Once they re-enter reality, some other movies get randomly incorporated into the adventure, signaled by a shot of their respective posters to make it really obvious.
"Why didn't I hang out at the shady porno theater instead?"
When all is said and done, the boys learn that they need to start living in the real world and ... wait, both movies end with the protagonist learning a valuable lesson?! Holy shit, that's uncanny. We take everything back.
Beetlejuice (1988) Is "Boo!" (1986)
Beetlejuice is remembered fondly as the film that established Tim Burton as a promising young director who can make surreal, wildly original movies without relying on old formulas or pre-existing source material. Unless, of course, you count the Amazing Stories episode "Boo!" which is basically Beetlejuice without Beetlejuice.
Get it? Because we said the name three times? (No one noticed the last time we did this.)
What does that leave us with? A lot, actually. Both stories are about a married ghost couple who haunt their old home in an attempt to get the annoying new family to move out. The couple from "Boo!" (the Chumskys) is much older than the couple in Beetlejuice (the Maitlands), but they all die and ascend to the big place upstairs. That is, the attic.
Remember, there's always something hiding in your attic.
In "Boo!" the new tenants are a porn producer and his star actress, while in Beetlejuice it's Winona Ryder and her mom and dad (played by Catherine O'Hara and Amazing Stories veteran Jeffrey Jones), but both families instantly display their dickishness by slamming into something ...
... and redecorating the house with all of their weird crap.
Those aren't neon decorations on the right; the place is lit with CSI lights.
The ghosts don't like this, so they decide it's time to dress up in bizarre outfits and spook the new homeowners out of the house, thus conforming to society's outdated expectations of what ghosts should be like. Shame on you, Burton/Spielberg.
We also find out the elderly couple is into some Fifty Shades shit.
But scaring them doesn't work. In fact, the new owners just get excited about the prospect of getting rich from the house (by turning it into a supernatural research center or shooting a porno there). So, the ghosts resort to the next best thing: straight-up murder.
Cracked Legal Tip #74: Murder solves everything.
Naturally, the ghost couples feel bad about it and stop anyone from actually being killed. The Maitlands eventually learn to live (well, "coexist") peacefully with Winona's parents, while the Chumskys do the same with another family who's not the porn couple. We guess the biggest difference between the two stories isn't Beetlejuice but the fact that only the Amazing Stories version makes it clear that the ghosts have to watch the new tenants fucking. For once, the Tim Burton adaptation actually makes the story less disturbing than the original.
Transcendence (2014) Is "The Eternal Mind" (1986)
Transcendence is one of the most ironically named movies ever, since it only came out last year and you forgot it existed until just now. The only truly noteworthy thing about this film is that Johnny Depp manages to be terrible without wearing a silly hat.
His "never showing the top of his head" fetish continues, though.
The plot follows Dr. Will Caster, a scientist dying from a rare illness, who uploads his mind into a computer and then turns evil, because technology and progress should be feared. As disappointing as the movie is, you have to admit that the concept was pretty original ... when it first appeared in an Amazing Stories episode in 1986 (yep, before The Lawnmower Man, too). "The Eternal Mind" follows Dr. John Baldwin (played by Jeffrey Jones), a scientist dying from a rare illness, who creates a process to upload minds into computers. You'll never guess what happens next.
Apparently, both scientists shop at the same robe store.
Both Dr. Scissorhands and Dr. Principal From Ferris Bueller's Day Off work with a team of other researchers who have managed to digitize a monkey's consciousness as part of their experiments. It's unclear what these horny, shit-flinging primates did once they were inside the computers, but we're guessing it looks a lot like certain parts of Reddit.
They instantly subscribed to /r/banana, /r/pooping, and /r/mensrights.
The main scientists decide to try the process on themselves, but their non-insane co-workers aren't so hot on the idea. They end up having to do the work on their own, with help from their suffering wives (both also scientists) and the usage of goofy headwear.
Goofy headwear can really strain a relationship.
Both scientists die, and their wives are super sad for a while, but then ... surprise! The experiment worked!
Man, 3D face technology has really gone downhill since 1986.
To prove that it's really them, both scientists show their wives a memory from the past that only they could've known. We're not entirely sure why all the happy memories in "The Eternal Mind" are from someone else's perspective, though.
"That guy following us around with a mirror seemed weird at the time,
but now I'm glad he was there."
Unfortunately, it turns out that becoming a computer program sort of takes a toll on your humanity, and the protagonists begin displaying the emotionality of a pocket calculator. In "The Eternal Mind" the scientist actually becomes aware of this before it's too late (he's probably less of a jerk because there was no Internet to connect him to back then), but the end result is the same: Both wives end up playing an integral role in finally killing the computer-husband.
Or do they? Both stories end on some heavy-handed symbolism saying that even though the husband is dead, he may still be out there, somewhere. Probably watching porn.
The Truman Show (1998) Is "Secret Cinema" (1986)
The Truman Show is one of those movies that seemed completely far-fetched when it first came out but could easily become the premise of a TLC series these days. It follows Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey), a man who has no idea that his whole life is being recorded for a popular TV show -- a strangely prophetic idea, since reality TV was only just getting started back then. The only thing more incredible would be if that same idea was used before the Snookies of the world had begun to plague the airwaves. Like, say, in 1986, when Amazing Stories did it.
The episode "Secret Cinema" follows Jane, a young woman who also realizes that cameras are recording everything she does (for a film serial, in this case). Like Truman, Jane somehow has no idea that she's an Angelina Jolie-level celebrity.
Like Truman, they didn't really put any thought into her show name.
In fact, their faces are so well known that even children recognize them and call them by their first names at one point.
Proving that kids are terrible actors and will ruin your show if given the chance.
After the protagonists are put through a series of wacky incidents (and an awkward meeting with their mothers, who are in on the whole thing), we learn that all the events in their lives are secretly controlled by morally ambiguous producers, who presumably have access to countless hours of footage of them pooping.
The top douche in the movie is signaled by his hat.
When they realize that nothing in their lives makes sense, both characters start losing a grip on their sanity and resort to violence against their significant others, who are actually actors. Actors who have sex with people for money. There's probably another word for that, but it escapes us right now.
The producers eventually reveal themselves and show that the world Truman/Jane has been living in is just one big set ... at which point both protagonists decide to get the fuck out of there.
The line "Peace out, cockwads!" was cut from both scripts.
Both stories end with the protagonist managing to escape the false utopia. Jane ends up dumping a truckload of garbage onto her serial's creators while Truman poetically informs his director that the two of them will never see each other again. We never would've pegged Carrey to be the one to show restraint.
Mike Bedard is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter @TheMikeBedard. He's also a writer and actor in the sketch comedy group Pregnantville.
Unsurprisingly, Hollywood has a long history of cannibalizing itself. Check out 5 Famous Movies That Shamelessly Ripped Off Obscure Ones to see how Pixar ripped off Fred Savage and Howie Mandel. Or see how an episode of Futurama "accidentally" made it to the big screen in 5 Upcoming Movie Plots That Sound Suspiciously Familiar.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see why Hollywood will inevitably bring about its own downfall with its current model in The Inevitable Crisis Facing Movie Reboots, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also follow us on Facebook, because our parents kicked us out of the house when we told them we want to write dick jokes for a living, and now we need friends.