Beyond the Brain Eaters
July 25, 2008 8:37 AM   Subscribe

What are some examples of sci-fi movies that are "unofficially" based on books or stories, to the point of blatant rip-off? Heinlein examples encouraged-- all examples welcome.

It was "The Brain Eaters" that got me wondering, so I think you can exclude that example.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I, Robot (Trailer)
posted by theiconoclast31 at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2008


Alien is very similar to A.E.Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle
posted by octothorpe at 8:54 AM on July 25, 2008


Someone may correct me, but John Carpenters "The Thing" is based on "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. and I dont think it was credited.

I'm not sure this counts (not a book), but "Barb Wire" which takes place in an unspecified 21st Century time, is kind of sci-fi-ish (maybe) and is a blatent rip-off of Casablanca, almost down to the dialog. It's a hysterically bad film and a guilty pleasure of mine, I confess.
posted by elendil71 at 8:58 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not sure if it's strictly relevant, but James Cameron acknowledged that Terminator was inspired by two Outer Limits episodes written by Harlan Ellison - Demon with a Glass Hand and Soldier - the latter based on his Fifties era story Soldier from Tomorrow. Hemdale and Orion Pictures acknowledged Ellison's works in the credits and gave the author a cash settlement to avoid a lawsuit.
posted by nanojath at 9:00 AM on July 25, 2008


Are we looking for actual malice in the ripoff? 'Cause the recycling of plot structures happens a lot, but it's usually put as "homage."

hermitosis, you ever seen La Jetée? It was this fantastic half-hour French film from the sixties, done almost entirely in still black-and-white photos, and Twelve Monkeys was sorta based on it.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2008


There's ongoing controversy about whether or not "The Matrix" infringes on Sophia Stewart's work.
posted by sleevener at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2008


"Barb Wire"... is a blatent rip-off of Casablanca

You know what else is a blatant rip-off? Showgirls. Of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge... while (ironically), Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers bears little resemblance to the Heinlein book it is explicitly and officially based on!

Wait, what was the question?
posted by nanojath at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2008


Michael Bay's sci-fi clunker The Island was a blatant ripoff of an equally terrible b-movie called Parts: The Clonus Horror. The creators of the original movie sued DreamWorks and apparently were paid a relatively large settlement.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:09 AM on July 25, 2008


octothorpe, Alien is a lot more similar to It! Terror From Beyond Space (written, interestingly enough, by Jerome Bixby) than to the Van Vogt book (the opening line of which I quoted over in the sf-opening-line thread in the blue).
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:13 AM on July 25, 2008


Hardware was a pretty blatant take off of the 2000ad story Shok!, and the creators got writers credits after legal action.
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on July 25, 2008


Hmm. Books, I can't think of at the moment, but Soldier was intended as a sort of unofficial "sequel" to Blade Runner. The idea is that Kurt Russell's character Todd was pretty much the same kind of soldier replicant that Roy Batty was supposed to have been.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:43 AM on July 25, 2008


And while not a movie, this may interest some. The plot for the game Mass Effect is dramatically similar to the arc of the Heechee Saga novels by Frederik Pohl.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:46 AM on July 25, 2008


You can't copyright a story structure. People have been doing this since the dawn of time, in books they call it a "meta-text."

That said, "Star Trek II" = "Moby Dick," to the point of using actual lines of dialogue.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:52 AM on July 25, 2008


The Jacket was a ripoff of the Jack London book Star Rover (which was actually released in the U.K. as The Jacket!). The director claims the film is "loosely based on a true story that became a Jack London story" but Jack London wasn't given official credit on screen. I'm guessing they got around that by working the "based on a true story" angle.
posted by sharkfu at 9:56 AM on July 25, 2008


Greg Nog: "hermitosis, you ever seen La Jetée? It was this fantastic half-hour French film from the sixties, done almost entirely in still black-and-white photos, and Twelve Monkeys was sorta based on it."

To be fair-- Chris Marker (director of La Jetée) was given a Story By credit for Twelve Monkeys, so it was done with his consent and he was financially rewarded for it, so it isn't really a ripoff.
posted by sharkfu at 9:59 AM on July 25, 2008


The Matrix has some not-insignificant similarities with The Invisibles.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:00 AM on July 25, 2008


The Island is also very similar to the novel "Spares". The real movie adaptation of Spares was cancelled because this apparent plagiarism.
posted by w0mbat at 10:01 AM on July 25, 2008


Well, I'm an idiot and didnt even read my own link. John W. Campbell Jr. was in fact credited with Carpenter's "The Thing" so ignore my comment. Move along.
posted by elendil71 at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2008


The Thing is a licensed remake and 12 Monkeys is honest about La Jetee being the inspiration.
There is also nothing unofficial about I, Robot either.

The most famous example I know is not sci-fi, but F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu is an adaptation of Stoker's Dracula. He got sued for it, lost the case and almost all of the prints were destroyed.
posted by slimepuppy at 10:27 AM on July 25, 2008


elendil71 - FWIW John W. Campbell Jr. never got any money for the use of his story in "The Thing From Another World".
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on July 25, 2008


There is also nothing unofficial about I, Robot either.
Yeah, some of us just wish it had been unofficial...
posted by juv3nal at 10:48 AM on July 25, 2008


The Truman Show is very similar to Phillip K. Dick's Time out of Joint.

Another Jim Carrey film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, uses many of the same themes and ideas as Dick does, but isn't similar to any specific book.
posted by siskin at 10:54 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean vs Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:14 AM on July 25, 2008


There more than a few movies (Hackers, Sneakers, etc) of the cyberpunk genre that are ripoffs of William Gibson's Neuromancer. I guess one can argue its impossible to ripoff the originator of a genre when writing in that genre.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:19 AM on July 25, 2008


The Wing Commander movie was an "homage" to Das Boot, right down to the casting of Jurgen Prochnow and the scene where "we all have to be really, really quiet in the submarine spaceship because otherwise the Allies Kilrathi will hear us. In space."

As for the Wing Commander video games, the parts that weren't ripped off from WWII movies were ripped off from Niven's Man-Kzin Wars. They're still pretty much the best space combat games ever made, though.
posted by vorfeed at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I watched 28 Days Later I couldn't help but see the similarities in some sections to The Day of the Triffids.

Apparently Wikipeida agrees with this quote:

The film 28 Days Later features several nods to The Day of the Triffids, including the protagonist awakening in a deserted hospital, finding other survivors by following tower lights, and encountering a paramilitary group in a country house whose plans include the acquisition of women with whom to repopulate the country.
posted by billy_the_punk at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2008


The Star Trek episode Arena (the one where Kirk has to fight a guy in a lizard suit a Gorn) was so similar to a classic story by Fredric Brown that they called Brown and offered him a story credit on the episode (which he took).
posted by EarBucket at 11:53 AM on July 25, 2008


Tron is very similar to Ben Hur.
posted by WPW at 11:58 AM on July 25, 2008


I like this game.
I submit:

The Incredibles v. Watchmen
posted by Acari at 12:26 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The plot of Star Trek Nemesis looked like a blatant ripoff of Lois McMaster Bujold's Mirror Dance.
posted by Coventry at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2008


Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean vs Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides.

The first time I saw Pirates, I was reminded of Tales of the Black Freighter portion of Moore's Watchmen. Among other things, the undersea "walk of the damned" at the end the Black Freighter seemed to prefigure Barbossa's attack on the Dauntless.
posted by SPrintF at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2008


There's ongoing controversy about whether or not "The Matrix" infringes on Sophia Stewart's work.

Yeah, try reading her script and find out how ridiculous her claims are.

I always thought The Island was a rip-off of Logan's Run.

How about Halo ripping off Ringworld? There has been talks of making Halo into a movie.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2008


Yeah, but at least the Bungie guys acknowledged Niven. The Bioware folks, to my knowledge, have not said word one about the massive (by comparison to Halo) debt their game owes Pohl.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:47 PM on July 25, 2008


Star Wars was a remake of Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress.
posted by neuron at 1:57 PM on July 25, 2008


The Wing Commander movie was an 'homage' to Das Boot, right down to the casting of Jurgen Prochnow

So was Das Boot in Beerfest.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:34 PM on July 25, 2008


The attack on the Death Star in Star Wars owes a huge debt to the climactic scene from The Dam Busters--so much so that if you watch the two scenes side by side, you'll sometimes get two near-identical shots synching up.
posted by EarBucket at 4:25 PM on July 25, 2008


Yikes, I completely misread your question.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 8:25 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Acari: "I like this game.
I submit:

The Incredibles v. Watchmen
"

I disagree with this one. I mean, they're both superhero movies which show superheroes as real people, so of course they're similar, but The Incredibles is more about a family learning to work together and be a good family together. I'd be interested to hear your case for it though...
posted by sharkfu at 10:52 PM on July 25, 2008


Someone may correct me, but John Carpenters "The Thing" is based on "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. and I dont think it was credited.

I correct you. It's credited in both the Carpenter and 1950's versions.

Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers bears little resemblance to the Heinlein book it is explicitly and officially based on!

Naw, it's extremely close... it just thinks that the novel is reprehensible.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:54 AM on July 26, 2008


I was pretty surprised by the similarities of characters and abilities between World of Warcraft and Hiero's Journey.
posted by ptm at 8:56 AM on July 26, 2008


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