Okay, we’re not accusing these movies of actually stealing their plots from The Twilight Zone, but our recent Netflix binges in the Zone have revealed more than a few familiar stories. With all those addictive twists and turns, who can really blame The Truman Show or Final Destination for using Rod Serling’s thrilling TV show as inspiration? The latest flick to raise our Twilight Zone brow, Zoe Kazan’s adorable Ruby Sparks, gave us the idea to gather a list of some popular films that may or may not have taken plot points from the acclaimed series. Check ’em out (and a couple spoilers, so proceed with caution) after the jump, and hit the comments to lets us know of any other films that seem to be missing Serling’s classic opening and closing narrations.
Ruby Sparks (2012) / “A World of His Own” (1960)
Ruby Sparks is about a young novelist who writes his dream girl into existence. The Twilight Zone’s Gregory West does the same, but he’s a few decades older than Ruby’s beloved Calvin and has two dream girls floating around his real world. The only difference? Calvin uses a typewriter and Gregory West uses a dictation machine. We won’t spoil anything, but West uses a questionably cruel method to temporarily destroy his characters, whereas Calvin is a bit more respectful of Ruby.
The Truman Show (1998) / “Special Service” (1989)
The Truman Show was inspired by the 1989 episode “Special Service,” which begins with the protagonist discovering a camera in his bathroom mirror. This man, John Selig, soon learns that his life is broadcasted 24/7 to TV watchers worldwide. Sound familiar?
Midnight in Paris (2011) / “A Stop At Willoughby” (1960)
In Midnight in Paris, Gil Pender repeatedly hops into a 1920s Peugeot Type 176 car to be transported to a “better” time in the past, just as Gart Williams, the protagonist of “A Stop At Willoughby,” frequently finds himself on an 1880s-style train that takes him to Willoughby, a place where it’s suddenly 1888 and Gart’s modern worries are nil. Et tu, Woody?
The Village (2004) / “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” (1961)
It’s sort of impossible to discuss M. Night Shyamalan’s mixed-reviewed The Village without revealing the twist, so click here to watch Rod Serling do our initial spoiler dirty work. Of course, there’s much more to both the episode and the film than that 27 second explanation, and The Village throws in some extra conniving characters and conspiracy twists, but you get the gist; members of The Village’s community are unknowingly living in the past while the rest of the world has cars, planes, electricity, Flavorpill, and so on.
Final Destination (2000) / “Twenty Two” (1961)
In “Twenty Two,” a woman has a ticket for a flight, but stays true to her odd premonition that the plane will explode upon takeoff. In Final Destination, a teenager has a ticket for a flight, but stays true to his odd premonition that the plane will explode upon takeoff.
The Box (2009) / “Button, Button” (1986)
This one’s tricky. 2009’s The Box was based on Richard Matheson’s short story, Button, Button, which inspired a 1986 Twilight Zone episode of the same name. But, since Basil Hoffman (the guy who played The Twilight Zone’s Mr. Steward) was cast as a character in The Box, we’ll give the episode some credit as inspiration. Basically, a couple is given a box with a button. In The Twilight Zone version, the couple is told that if the button is pressed, they will receive $200,000, but a stranger will die. In The Box, one million dollars is offered. The couples clearly press their respective buttons, or else there wouldn’t be a story, but we’ll end the spoilers there. Check ’em out for yourself.
Poltergeist (1982) / “Little Girl Lost” (1962)
Little girls getting sucked into other dimensions through portals in their own bedrooms. Gets us every time.
The Sixth Sense (1999)/ “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1962)
There are several episodes with the “I’ve been dead all along” twist, but The Sixth Sense mostly resembles “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” a French short film that was aired as an episode of The Twilight Zone in ’62. The episode opens with a man in a near death situation similar to that of Bruce Willis’ Sixth Sense character, which we assume he escapes, as later scenes reveal the man to be alive and well. It isn’t until the very end, when the man is reunited with his loved ones, that it is clear that he did, in fact, die at the beginning of the episode. Same set-up as The Sixth Sense, eh? The only big difference is that the man’s escape and familial reunion was part of his pre-death dream, whereas Bruce Willis’ character had been obliviously living his life as a ghost.
Child’s Play (1988)/ “Living Doll” (1963)
The title of this Twilight Zone episode says it all. Creepy, unbreakable dolls who kill humans.