Nine Pairs of Unrelated Films With the Same Title

Jack Frost and Jack Frost

When I was finishing up my film Claustrophobia in 2003, I noticed that, on the IMDb, a short film of the same title was also in production. For a time, our two films accidentally merged and I found cast and crew members associated with my film who I never even met. The problem was soon sorted out, but it was a reminder that sometimes films come along that share the same title - and no, I'm not talking remakes. Here are nine confusing moments in cinema history:

  1. Crash. Paul Haggis's overrated 2004 Oscar winner had a lot of art house snobs scratching their heads when it came out; everybody remembered David Cronenberg's disturbing 1996 film of the same title pretty well. (To further muddle things up, in 1992 there was a Marcia Gay Harden drama called Crush, followed a year later by an unrelated Alicia Silverstone thriller called The Crush.)
  2. Sunshine. Istvan Szabo's epic portrait of 20th century Hungary was a tour de force for star Ralph Fiennes in 2000. In 2007, Danny Boyle unleashed a sci fi slasher flick by the same name. You can't get much more different than that. "Sunshine" seems to be in vogue these days, as far as film titles go: note Little Miss Sunshine and the upcoming Sunshine Cleaning, costarring Claustrophobia's own Mary Lynn Rajskub.
  3. Black Rain. Film distributors had a major problem on their hands when, in 1989, two movies with the title Black Rain came out at the exact same time. In both cases, "black rain" referred to the post-atomic bombing rain that fell on Hiroshima in 1945. The similarities end there. Shohei Imamura's bleak period picture was about the events in question; Ridley Scott's modern-day police thriller starring Michael Douglas was another creature entirely.
  4. Jack Frost. One of the weirdest holiday films ever was this 1998 family tearjerker about a rock star (Michael Keaton) who dies and comes back... as a snowman! The Jack Frost of two years earlier was about a serial killer who dies and comes back as a snowman as well, only with less friendly intentions. Unlike the above entries, I wisely skipped both Jack Frosts. (I also skipped Robin Williams in 1996's Jack.)
  5. Mr. and Mrs Smith. Alfred Hitchcock's limp, unsuspenseful attempt at screwball comedy in the '40s has nothing to do with the bombastic spy action of the recent Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie blockbuster.
  6. Chocolat. Claire Denis' provocative drama about race relations in colonial Africa thrilled art house audiences in 1988. Twelve years later, the saccharine Juliette Binoche/Johnny Depp vehicle got unwarranted Oscar noms, yet was about nothing more scandalous than sexy candy making.
  7. Carrie. William Wyler directed a 1952 screen adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's anti-capitalist novel Sister Carrie. Paramount released it. When I worked at Paramount, we got a deal around Christmas where employees could buy Paramount home video products (tapes and DVDs) for a bargain. I laughed when one of my coworkers ordered Wyler's Carrie, mistaking it for the better-known Brian DePalma horror flick.
  8. Invincible. The 2006 Mark Wahlberg football movie was not in any way a remake of Werner Herzog's complicated 2001 Nazi/freak show drama.
  9. Mad Love. This list could go on and on - if you want to get foreign, compare Michael Haneke's sadistic 2001 La Pianiste with Roman Polanski's 2002 Holocaust film Le Pianiste (of course they were released in the U.S. as The Piano Teacher and The Pianist, respectively - but some French folks may have gotten confused). Or try Tom Hanks in Cast Away versus Oliver Reed in Castaway. Or Babe, the pig movie, versus The Babe, a Babe Ruth biopic that starred John Goodman. Or Twister the tornado blockbuster versus Twister the quirky comedy with Crispin Glover. But I'll finish up with Mad Love, because while most have rightfully forgotten the lame Drew Barrymore lovers-on-the-run movie, everyone should definitely seek out the fantastically strange 1930s Mad Love with Peter Lorre as a maniac doctor.