deep armageddon

The Ultimate Face-Off of Overly Similar Films

As any self-respecting Ashton Kutcher fan knows, Friends With Benefits — the Justin Timberlake–Mila Kunis fuck-buddy comedy in theaters today — mimics exactly the central concept of No Strings Attached, a movie released just over seven months ago today. That makes FWB and NSA the latest coupling in the surreal, excellent Hollywood tradition of rival studios making the same movie at the same time. And you know what’s really great about this tradition? In nearly every one of these face-offs — from the legendary punch-out between Armageddon and Deep Impact to the forgotten battles of Gordy and Babe — a clear winner can be declared. Vulture, utilizing box office returns, critical reaction, and our own infallible opinions, has now declared those winners, in every same-movie-same-time face-off you care about. Okay, now, start arguing!

Deep ImpactRelease Date: May 8, 1998Rotten Tomatoes: 47%Worldwide Gross: $349,464,664ArmageddonRelease Date: July 1, 1998Rotten Tomatoes: 40%Worldwide Gross: $553,709,788While both movies made more money than, say, NASA has in its planetary defense budget, the moodier Deep Impact simply couldn’t compete with the Bay-Bruckheimer Industrial Complex’s outsized action, music video tie-ins, and Bruce Willises. Yet it did have one key advantage: gravitas (né Morgan Freeman), which helps explain its comparatively warm critical reception. Winner: Deep Impact
A Bug’s LifeRelease Date: November 20, 1998Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Worldwide Gross: $363,398,565AntzRelease Date: October 2, 1998Rotten Tomatoes: 95%Worldwide Gross: $171,757,863Animated movies are especially prone to duplication (think Despicable Me and Megamind, Finding Nemo and A Shark’s Tale, Happy Feet and Surf’s Up, etc.), but this was the first of the many Pixar-DreamWorks-ImageWorks-Illumination battles to come. In the end, Bug’s Life benefited from a broader scope and, more importantly for a kid flick, insect diversity. A feature-length film anchored by a Woody Allen–played ant — in New York, no less! — plays well with nostalgic adults, but not so much with healthy, well-adjusted children. (For further proof, consider the similarly Manhattan-set, similarly underperforming Bee Movie, starring Jerry Seinfeld.) Winner: A Bug’s Life
Saving Private RyanRelease Date: July 24, 1998Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Worldwide Gross: $481,840,909The Thin Red LineRelease Date: December 25, 1998Rotten Tomatoes: 78%Worldwide Gross: $98,126,565Studios can always bank on Tom Hanks projects not named Larry Crowne, so it’s not surprising Ryan outshone Line, even if certain cineastes consider it to be the lesser of the two. The fact that most moviegoers trust prolific director Steven Spielberg more so than sporadic director Terrence Malick, who was then coming off a twenty-year stint on the bench, certainly helped. Even the movies’ titles simplified the choice, with one providing audiences a clear and identifiable objective, and the other an abstract reference to the Crimean War. Winner: Saving Private Ryan Photo: Amblin Entertainment/?1998
Mission to MarsRelease Date: March 10, 2000Rotten Tomatoes: 25%Worldwide Gross: $110,983,407Red PlanetRelease Date: November 10, 2000Rotten Tomatoes: 13%Worldwide Gross: $33,463,969The fourth rock from the Sun received two visits from turn-of-this-past-century Hollywood, but discerning audiences learned all they needed to know from that first trip in Mission to Mars. Chalk it up to Brian De Palma’s ability to reliably churn out meat-and-potatoes suspense-thrillers that require at least a couple of brain cells — or to Red Planet’s inability to establish what exactly Val Kilmer could teach us about Mars that Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, and Gary Sinise couldn’t. Winner: Mission to Mars
TombstoneRelease Date: December 24, 1993Rotten Tomatoes: 77%Domestic Gross: $56,505,065Wyatt EarpRelease Date: June 24, 1994Rotten Tomatoes score: 42%Domestic Gross: $25,052,000Earp’s main attraction — a post–Dances With Wolves, pre-Waterworld Kevin Costner in the title role — sounded as boring then as it does today. Tombstone, on the other hand, handed the gun to Kurt Russell, a man whose badassitude is almost never called into question.  Winner: Tombstone
The IllusionistRelease Date: August 18, 2006Rotten Tomatoes: 74%Worldwide Gross: $87,892,388     The PrestigeRelease Date: October 20, 2006Rotten Tomatoes score: 75%Worldwide Gross: $109,676,311     If you’ve seen The Prestige, and know its trick ending, it’s fitting that these two magical mysteries of 2006 are, to this day, extremely difficult to tell apart. Despite the fact that one starred Ed Norton and one was the second collaboration, after Batman Begins, between Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, these period pieces had nearly identical box-office and critical receptions. Winner: Undetermined
Dr. Strangelove or:How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BombRelease Date: January 29, 1964Rotten Tomatoes: 100%Domestic Gross: $9,440,272     Fail-SafeRelease Date: October 7, 1964Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Domestic Gross: Unknown     As well-received as Sidney Lumet’s intense but straightforward take on the Cold War was, it never gained the cultural resonance of Stanley Kubrick’s nuclear satire, which gave the world memorable phrases like “mutiny of perverts” and “precious bodily fluids,” and is widely considered one of the better movies ever made. Winner: Dr. Strangelove
CapoteRelease Date: September 30, 2005Rotten Tomatoes: 90%Worldwide Gross: $49,233,161     InfamousRelease Date: October 13, 2006Rotten Tomatoes: 72%Worldwide Gross: $2,613,717          When Infamous hobbled into theaters more than a year after its rival — the one that garnered an entire awards season worth of attention, not to mention an Oscar — audiences were too Capote’d out to care, even despite a great performance by Toby Jones. Winner: Capote
GordyRelease Date: May 12, 1995Rotten Tomatoes score: 17%Domestic gross: $3,941,146BabeRelease Date: August 4, 1995Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Domestic Gross: $63,658,910 (Worldwide: $254,134,910)Babe was a heartstring-tugging tale of a plucky piglet struggling to find his place in the world nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (really). Gordy was Look Who’s Talking, but with a pig. (Not that we don’t love Look Who’s Talking.)Winner: Babe
Center StageRelease Date: May 12, 2000Rotten Tomatoes: 43%Worldwide Gross: $26,385,941      Save the Last DanceRelease Date: January 12, 2001Rotten Tomatoes: 53%Worldwide Gross: $131,706,809     Stage came first, but the more popular Dance was responsible for kicking off our nation’s ongoing obsession with watching people dance at each other (and also for proving that Julia Stiles can’t really dance well enough to have landed a part in a dance movie). Winner: Save the Last Dance
The HauntingRelease Date: July 23, 1999Rotten Tomatoes: 17%Worldwide Gross: $177,311,151     House on Haunted HillRelease Date: October 29, 1999Rotten Tomatoes: 25%Worldwide Gross: $40,846,082     On paper, House looked to be a smart bet. It took place in an asylum called the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane, generously employed special effects, and was released on Halloween weekend. So what happened here? Well, it turns out that Haunting’s source material — The Haunting of Hill House (yep!) — is considered to be “the greatest haunted-house story ever written” … so, there’s that. Winner: The Haunting
TroyRelease Date: May 14, 2004Rotten Tomatoes: 55%Worldwide gross score: $497,409,852          AlexanderRelease Date: November 24, 2004Rotten Tomatoes: 16%Worldwide gross score: $167,298,192     For a long time it looked like Alexander, which was directed by Oliver Stone, would face off against another Alexander project directed by Baz Luhrman and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But Baz’s Alexander ended up crying chicken, and Stone’s movie was suddenly stuck being compared to Troy. If there was ever any uncertainty over whether consumers would prefer to see Brad Pitt or Colin Farrell shirtless, this settled it. Winner: Troy
The Fast and the FuriousRelease Date: June 22, 2001Rotten Tomatoes score: 52%Worldwide gross:  $207,283,925               Gone in 60 SecondsRelease Date:  June 9, 2000Rotten Tomatoes: 25%Worldwide gross: $237,202,299     DrivenRelease Date:  April 27, 2001Rotten Tomatoes score: 14%Worldwide gross: $54,744,738    In Gone in 60 Seconds, Nicolas Cage and a blonde Angelina Jolie drive around in fast stolen cars. In The Fast and the Furious, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker drive around in fast stolen cars. In Driven, released a year later, a young race car driver and Sylvester Stallone drive around in fast cars. So who wins in a ham-off between Nicolas Cage, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Sylvester Stallone? It’s a very close contest, but no one beats Cage at his metier, which should make the higher-grossing Gone the winner. And yet … sometimes B-movies do not abide the laws of rationality! Four movies and a robust franchise later, we have to admit The Fast and the Furious had a little je ne sais quoi.Winner: The Fast and the Furious
Paul Blart: Mall CopRelease Date: January 16, 2009Rotten Tomatoes score: 33%Worldwide gross: $183,293,131           Observe and ReportRelease Date: April 10, 2009Rotten Tomatoes score: 51%Worldwide gross: $26,973,554     Basically the cinematic equivalent of pitting Eastbound & Down against King of Queens. In other words, one is, depending on your taste, funny or very rapey, and the other stars Kevin James. Winner: Observe and Report
United 93Release Date: April 28, 2006Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%Worldwide gross: $76,286,096      World Trade CenterRelease Date: August 9, 2006Rotten Tomatoes score: 69%Worldwide gross: $162,970,240      So, how soon is too soon to make a 9/11 movie? Oliver Stone and Paul Greengrass decided, simultaneously, five years later was not too soon, and thus the dueling 9/11 movies arrived. WTC was set at ground zero, had a big star (Nicolas Cage), and made a bunch more money, but United 93, with Greengrass’s signature shaky camera and no-name actors, was by far the better movie, something people might actually watch in years to come.Winner: United 93
Dante’s PeakRelease Date: February 7, 1997Rotten Tomatoes score: 28%Worldwide gross: $178,127,760      VolcanoRelease Date: April 25, 1997Rotten Tomatoes score: 42%Worldwide gross: $122,823,468With the passing years, these infamous examples become harder and harder to tell apart. Volcano is the one with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche; Dante’s Peak is the one with Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. Out first, Dante’s Peak made more money, and was a little more hated than Volcano, but only Volcano imagined the molten annihilation of Los Angeles. That’s always going to be more fun to watch than the lava-led destruction of the fictional small town of Dante’s Peak.Winner: Volcano
PrefontaineRelease Date: January 24, 1997Rotten Tomatoes score: 62%Domestic gross: $589,304Without LimitsRelease Date: September 11,1998Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%Domestic gross: $777,423Steve Prefontaine — a long-distance runner best known for his exploits as an amateur collegiate athlete — is the least likely subject material for the same-movie-same-time treatment, which perhaps explains why no one has actually seen these flicks (see box office above). Parsing this one, then, relies on a few elements some might deem as “irrelevant.” First, Prefontaine is clearly the superior title: it’s both the guy’s name and is more accurate (how many Olympic medals did he win? Zero? Yeah, dude definitely had some limits!). Second: Billy Crudup’s mustache in Almost Famous would later go on to put Billy Crudup’s moustache in Without Limits to shame.Winner: Prefontaine
The Ultimate Face-Off of Overly Similar Films