I’m thinking of films that were quite good – so good, in fact, that an inferior version ripped off much of the plot. And the inferior film ends up being known than the original. So far, three come to mind:
Brassed Off – a comedy about laid off British miners who perform in a Brass band in order to regain their self-respect. A year later, “The Full Monty” recycled the idea, though not as well.
Return of the Secaucus Seven – a group of 60s friends get together years later and reflect upon their lives. Some time later, Lawrence Kasdan made “The Big Chill,” which also wasn’t quite as good.
Dark City – Our reality is being controlled by others for their nefarious aims. “The Matrix” was a shameless ripoff (up to using some of the same sets) and was boring as hell.
While I kind of enjoyed The Matrix, it was no Dark City.
My suggestion would be The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, ripped off as To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar which had as it’s only redeeming feature the destruction of Patrick Swayze’s career (damn I’m feeling bitchy tonight).
Carnival of Souls was ripped off by Jacob’s Ladder and The Sixth Sense, but they were all good movies.
I’m holding out hope for the remake of Insomnia, but the casting of Robin Williams doesn’t bode well. Also, in the original it was a significant story element that it takes place above the Arctic Circle. The remake seems to be set in America, is it set in the northern extremities of alaska?
“Memento” was a pretty good (though highly overrated) movie, but just once, I was hoping to see a critic point out that the plot was ripped off, in its entirety, from a bad Dana Carvey comedy called “Clean Slate.”
Also, Harrison Ford’s “Witness” was pretty much a remake of John Wayne’s “Angel and the Bad Man.” Now, “Witness” was a better film, but I bring this up because “Witness” won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay… but it WASN’T really an original screenplay. It was adapted from an older movie.
I always thought of The Thirteenth Floor as the rip-off, probably because it’s the weakest of the three (though they did all come out pretty near each other, so it’s hard to call, as MGibson said).
Of course we tend to say something ‘ripped off’ another usually because it doesn’t do anything good with it. Many creative efforts are heavily influenced by others, but if they are good, they distinguish themselves to stand on their own.
Dark City itself shows signs of influence – from the Star Trek episode “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”[sup]*[/sup] to Kafka’s work (also look at the Jeremy Irons movie Kafka, or almost any Terry Gilliam movie). Even some of Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” is in there. But Dark City is very different from all of these, so it’s not ‘ripping off’, it’s drawing from them in a good way.
Ebert & Roper reviewed Insomnia on their show, and Ebert mentioned how it managed to change a bit of the plot and the focus from the ‘original’ while keeping certain things intact, in a way that (he said) it was good enough to be a separate film, not just a remake. By the way it’s set in Nightmute, Alaska in the summer – the midnight sun is a problem for Pacino’s character.
Now, City of Angels ripped off the plot ideas and even some scenes from Wings of Desire (Der Himmel ueber Berlin) and Faraway, So Close! (In Weiter Ferne, So Nah!), two films about angels becoming human. It did not do a good job of it.
[sup]*[/sup] The plot of this episode involved an artificial planet (complete with false sky) managed by a supercomputer. A civilization whose planet was dying built it and sent it off into space; the inhabitants were unaware of their reality (I forget if it was through deliberate misconception or if the situation had devolved over time) until they are discovered by the Enterprise.
IMHO, copying the premise of a movie isn’t ripping it off if something original is done with the plot and presentation, which was done with both of these movies. Also, the premise of Jacob’s Ladder is slightly different from The Sixth Sense, and it isn’t clear exactly which premise Carnival of Souls matches. In any case, the basic idea wasn’t original to Carnival of Souls, it occurs AFAIK, first in the short story “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge”.
See spoiler space for a more specific explanation.
[spoiler]In “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge”, a bridge sabatouer is hung at the start. The rope breaks, and the bulk of the story is a running chase as he tries to escape. In the end, we learn that all of the action takes place during the time the man is falling to the end of the rope–a fraction of a second.
This same premise is used effectively in Jacob’s Ladder, in which a man killed in a battle in Vietnam lives decades of his life subjectively as he is dying on a cot in the mobile hospital.
In both instances, the person is actually alive during the main action of the movie, but what takes a few moments in real life seem like much longer (minutes to years) in the dying man’s mind.
In The Sixth Sense, the protagonist is actually dead for the bulk of the movie, but doesn’t know it until the end.
It isn’t clear at the end of Carnival of Souls whether the protagonist was a disembodied soul or was living the whole thing in the last few moments of her life; I tend to think it’s the latter.[/spoiler]
“Gladiator”- it’s “Ben-Hur” with our day’s heart throb. If Russell Crowe can be defined as such. Except with gladiator fighting instead of chariot racing.
Also “The Omen” basically takes the ideas of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist” but doesn’t really explore any new terrain. No, it’s not the exact same plot, but it does rely on “evil” children, except it really falls short.
I would disagree that The Full Monty was an inferior ripoff of Brassed Off. Both shared the theme of unemployment, and were set in the north of England, but the treatment was quite different and both were excellent films. Monty had just as strong themes of divorced fatherhood and male bonding.
They seem more alike because less films get made in England. Discount the England parameter, and you get two films both loosely based around the same theme, which is really nothing unusual.