Ten Deep 3.20.14: Top Ten Doppelganger Movies
Posted by Mike Gorman on 03.20.2014
From Army of Darkness and Fight Club to Dead Ringers, Vertigo, Back to the Future II and more, 411's Mike Gorman counts down the top 10 films featuring dopplegangers!
"Top Ten Doppelganger Movies"
This week sees the release of the much anticipated Muppet's Most Wanted and in honor of this sequel featuring SPOILERS! an evil doppelganger of Kermit the Frog SPOILERS OFF! I decided to dedicate this week's Ten Deep to movies that feature doppelgangers.
In case you're unaware, the dictionary defines a "doppelganger" as "someone who looks like someone else, a ghostly counterpart of a living person, a double or an alter ego." Each of the films cited here feature a doppelganger as a main plot point or as a notable side plot/moment.
In most doppelganger films, the double is not initially a part of the original character's life and often steps into that character's life, at least temporarily. In Dave, the president has a double and people want to use him to replace the president that has fallen ill. The film explores what happens when you try to step into someone else's shoes; can the doppelganger become the better person? Dave seems to think so.
9. The Prestige
I truly feel that The Prestige is an underrated film in general that features some pretty clever uses of doubles. The film is about magic and slight of hand, about missing something obvious in front of your face due to misdirection. Everyone seems to have a doppelganger as this tricked out flick progresses.
8. Back to the Future II
Let's put aside the raging debate over whether or not we should have hover boards and holographic shark movies already, and focus on the excellent work that Michael J. Fox does playing himself in the present, future and even his son in Back to the Future II. All of the iterations are obvious but they are part of the fun of this film series!
7. Army Of Darkness
In Army Of Darkness the doppelganger makes a brief but hilarious appearance as a "Bad Ash" sprouts from the original Ash. It seems as first that this Bad Ash might actually succeed at vanquishing his double, until the original Ash remembers he has one very important thing on his side, his "boomstick." See the scene play out in the clip below.
The lines between fact and fiction blur in this Spike Jonze "dramedy" that follows real life writer (and co-author of the film) as he attempts to adapt a book into a screenplay. The actual events of the film are much more meta-textual and interesting, with a fair amount of the story revolving around the writer's failings and his twin brother, both played with skill by Nicolas Cage.
5. Fight Club
The doppelganger in Fight Club is not necessarily a body double for the film's lead (or is he??) but he is most definitely an alter ego. The unnamed narrator appears to befriend and be come infatuated with the charismatic Tyler Durden. For most of the film it seems possible that the narrator would be so in awe of Durden's actions that he would fall in line and watch his plans turn from men bonding over fists to those same men trying to wake up the world with literal explosions. It seems that the film might actually inspire a movement until the twist is reveal and we discover that Durden and the narrator are one in the same. The insanity of it all that we overlooked is laid quite bare in those final moments.
4. Hitchcock's Vertigo
Alfred Hitchcock was a big fan of using mysterious doubles and almost mystical doppelgangers in several of his films. In Vertigo he blurs the lines between life and death with the use of living and deceased doubles who complicate the mystery at hand. Hitchcock proves once again that he is the master at making you question what you have seen with your own eyes.
Moon is one of the only films on this list that incorporates cloning into the storyline of the double characters. The film is fantastic all on its own but the way it delves into the cloning topic makes it very unique. Here the clones, who each think they are the original initially, get to communicate and question their existence together. It is a plot twist that failed in Tom Cruise's Oblivion but felt more genuine here.
2. The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin's first talking film told the story of a man who was a dead ringer for a fascist dictator. Released in 1940 the film was a not so thinly veiled condemnation of Hitler and his fascist allies, years before the US was actually involved. The film itself is an interesting treatise on the time period using the doppelganger scenario to further its message. It was at the time, well, ahead of its time, but in later years when the true atrocity's of the Nazi regime became public knowledge it is said that Chaplin expressed regret and said he would not have made the film, as it could be perceived as making light of what was occurring.
1. Dead Ringers
Jeremy Irons takes the roles of "creepy twins" to new levels in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers. The 1988 film feature Irons as twin gynecologists who start the film passing women between them without letting them know a different brother has stepped in. This, it turns out, will be looked back upon as one of their saner actions as the film descends into a structured madness of twin craziness, drug use, and horrific specially designed gynecological tools meant for deal with the abnormal genitals of "mutant women," a delusion of one of he twins. The film is pure Cronenberg with a stylistic feel and characters who push the boundaries of normal pass their edge.
Hope this week's list didn't leave you with double vision! I'll leave you to relax now with the Muppet's Most Wanted trailer.
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