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Same Title, Different Movies : Stealing Another Movie’s Title

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

Blockbuster films regularly borrow their titles from forgotten movies (most of the time they’re B movies, but not always – sometimes they’re just so many years old that the powers that be think they can get away with it easily). I’m not talking about remakes or reboots, I’m referring to films that couldn’t be any more different – sharing the same title.

Like, for instance, these two films – released on a few years apart. Didn’t much matter though, because nobody much bothered with the first of them.

 

 

Just stroll the aisles of your local Betamax video emporium (that’s still open, right?) and you’ll spot dozens of films that carry the title of one of your favourites and you can bet that flick has nothing to do with the other.

And yes, legally, as long as you’re not trying to pass yourself off as another film you can use the same title as a film before you.

Jonathan Handel says on his blog that :

Literary titles – such as book or movie titles – fall in a gray area in U.S. law. For instance, although a book or movie is protected by copyright, its title isn’t. Copyright simply doesn’t cover titles.

And even if the title is distinctive, such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, courts and the Trademark Office say it can’t be registered as a trademark, even though distinctive words and slogans can be registered as trademarks in other contexts. There’s an exception for series titles, such as Harry Potter, but that’s of no help to single-work titles.

Here’s a few examples of films bearing the same titles from over the years.

 

Crash

One’s about bonking in cars; one’s about corrupt cops fucking people over¬† – not necessarily in cars.

 

Gladiator

One stars a one-time “Twin Peaks” heartthrob as a reluctant boxer; the other stars a former ‘Ramsay Street’ guestie as a reluctant warrior

 

Bad Boys

Hard to say who was badder in each respective film? Sean Penn in the ’83 film or Will Smith in the 1995 actioner?

 

Twilight

Yep, even I thought Summit might’ve remade the 1998 Paul Newman/Reese Witherspoon movie when the Kristen Stewart starrer turned up on a release calendar.

 

Kicking and Screaming

And believe it or not, the 1995 indy flick starring Josh Hamilton was yards better than the Will Ferrell flick!

 

Flawless

Just a few years after the De Niro/Hoffman flick comes a crime caper, starring Michael Caine and Demi Moore, bearing the same name.

 

Running Scared

A real fun action/comedy from the late ’80s would later see its title thieved by Paul Walker and company.

 

Jersey Girl

Can’t tell what the better film is – the Dylan McDermott/Jami Gertz comedy or the Kevin Smith/Ben Affleck film? I’ve honestly forgotten both.

 

The Avengers

One is based on a great TV series, the other is based on a, well, great TV series… and comic.

 

The Fan

One’s a cool little ’80s thriller with Michael Biehn and Lauren Bacall, the other’s a forgettable little ’90s thriller with Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes. Both were about obsessed fans.

 

Men in Black

Would you believe… an Oscar nominated Three Stooges flick?

 

Can you think of any?

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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

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