Tombstone (1993) vs. Wyatt Earp (1994): Fresh ideas are notoriously scarce in Hollywood, but it’s rare to see two productions come up with roughly the same idea. In the wake of the hit westerns Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven, two separate projects were launched on Wyatt Earp. The dirtier Tombstone focused entirely on the Gunfight at the O.K. Coral, plus let loose a prime Val Kilmer on sickly Doc Holliday. Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp, befitting its lofty title, took an epic look at the iconic lawman’s entire life, with a Holliday played by an actor (Dennis Quaid) who wouldn’t upstage bigheaded star Kevin Costner. Alas, audiences preferred their Earp sagas less than three hours long.
Antz vs. A Bug’s Life (1998): During the infancy of CGI animation, DreamWorks rushed out its own insect toon, Antz, to arrive shortly before Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. It did OK, but DreamWorks would quickly learn that Disney-owned rivals will always prevail in commerce and quality.
Deep Impact vs. Armageddon (1998): Such were our choices in the summer of ’98. Sad times.
Capote (2005) vs. Infamous (2006): Both Capote and Infamous told the unpleasant backstory behind Truman Capote researching In Cold Blood. Yet Capote did it first, and scored Oscars and box-office booty. Infamous didn’t stand a chance. Too bad, because it’s lighter, less pompous and, in some cases, better cast. (Toby Jones was born to play Truman Capote; you can tell Philip Seymour Hoffman is acting.)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop vs. Observe and Report (2009): Both films depict mall cops becoming heroes to impress a hottie. One was so sloppily put together, even its star was surprised when it became a fluke blockbuster. The other was a deranged portrait of an off-his-meds sociopath from a filmmaker who specializes in them (see also: Eastbound and Down).
No Strings Attached vs. Friends With Benefits (2011): Natalie Portman vs. Mila Kunis: the rivalry’s back on! (Or real this time.) Except Kunis’ has a better title and co-star (Justin Timberlake vs. Ashton Kutcher). Advantage: Black Swan!