Top 10 Cinematic Doppelgangers!

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Okay now, who’s getting loose with Jordan Peele’s US this weekend? While the movie has been garnering positive buzz just below that of GET OUT two years ago, there’s no doubt Peele has brought back the horror tenet of creepy-ass doppelgangers to his home-invasion thriller. And for that, Peele has inspired our newest Top 10.

Twins, doubles, alter-egos, projections, or actual doppelgangers, the distinction matters little. What we’re far more interested in is how well the conceit is used to horrifying effect, and how well the actors/actress fare in dual roles. And as you’ll see, some of the all time best film directors have found the idea of mirror imaging hugely compelling. But enough foreplay, let’s get into our Top 10 Favorite Cinematic Doppelgangers!


Sam Rockwell is one of the finest contemporary character actors alive, and it’s always a rare treat to see him take a leading role. He does just that in Duncan Jones’ feature debut MOON, giving a virtuosic turn as a sole astronaut consigned to a base on the lunar surface. As his isolation gets the best of his psychology after three years, Sam Bell begins projecting phantom images of his own likeness to keep him company. All he wants is to return home to see his wife and daughter, but his destructive doppelganger has other ideas. A Hauntingly memorable performance in an underrated movie! GET HERE


Jake Gylllenhaal continues to prove he’s one of the supreme actors of his generation, and every time he works with director Denis Villenueve, he pushes the boundaries of his own dramaturgical limits. In the highly unheralded ENEMY, Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a Canadian professor who lives a drab daily routine. But when he spots an actor on TV that looks just like him, Adam is persuaded to confront Anthony Claire, a successful celebrity who has a pregnant wife. As the film unravels, we learn Anthony is a mere figment of Adam’s fantastic imagination. Pay close attention to this one, it really plays as one large metaphor for Adam’s crippling infidelity. GET HERE


Okay, so this is the least horrific entry on the list, but so what, Chris Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE may actually be the director’s best film, all things considered. And the way Nolan keeps the Borden twins mystery under wraps the entire way through until the jaw-dropping, brain-busting finale is simply too ingenious to omit. But remember, Borden would not have been able to trick Angiers in the way he did without the help of an accomplice, and it just so happens that accomplice was Borden’s disguised double, Bernard Fallon (a near anagram of Alfred Borden). It’s a masterful piece of misdirection in a movie whose conceit is sleight of hand! GET HERE


Leave it to Lynch to hang a mind-fu*king mystery around a pair of female doppelgangers and a protagonist who switches actors midway through. Talk about surreal! LOST HIGHWAY is one of the first films in a string of latter Lynch affairs to feature duplicitous doubles ahead of MULHOLLAND DRIVE, INLAND EMPIRE, etc. Not only does Balthazar Getty and Bill Pullman start off as different characters who literally meld into each other at one point, Patricia Arquette also plays dual roles as Alice and Renee, making for one the most taxingly cerebral cinematic puzzles ever deconstructed. GET HERE


Have you ever seen the screen shot taken from the sex scene in BLACK SWAN between Kunis and Portman? Ever notice another woman’s face transposed onto Mila’s body? Well, whatever yours answer is, it does not change the fact that much of Nina Sayer’s obsessive paranoia is derived from the arrival of Lily, who increasingly appears more and more like Nina as the movie progresses. Arnofosky’s metaphysical take on the psychological splintering of a young women in the throes of intense pressure to perform is horrifically absorbing as one can ask for, the dynamics of which culminate in a resplendent burst of gory life imitating art! GET HERE


Truth is, you can launch a dart at De Palma’s filmography and land on a title featuring devious doppelgangers of some kind. OBSESSION is the obvious R-rated antidote to Hitch’s VERTIGO (stay tuned), BODY DOUBLE certainly alludes to such in its title, SISTERS features two homicidal twins, etc. But for whatever reason, perhaps because it features a doppelganger of a different stripe, we’ve elected to honor the kickass DRESSED TO KILL. Michael Caine stuns and startles as a shrink by day who moonlights as a cross-dressing psycho killer in a blonde wig, dark sunglasses and long black trench-coat. The mystery is brilliantly shrouded until the end! GET HERE


Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION is require viewing for any legitimate horror fan, and its freakish ferocity comes in large part from featuring a bizarre doppelganger in its storyline. With no rhyme or reason, Isabella Adjani plays identical seductresses named Anna and Helen, the former of which happens to be an unhappy wife seeking divorce from her husband Mark (Sam Neill). When Mark meets a teacher named Helen who looks exactly like Anna but acts completely differently, he begins to spend more time with her until a violent domestic eruption threatens the lives of all involved. For the uninitiated, THE POSSESSION is one of the most wildly insane horror movies ever attempted! GET HERE


It may not register as a horror flick at first glance, but anyone familiar with Kieslowski’s riveting film THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE knows full well how unsettling and psychological unnerving the film is by the time the credits roll. The film tells the lives of two seemingly identical strangers – Weronika, who lives in Poland, and Veronique, who lives in Paris – and how the profound mystery of their inextricable linkage. The pure poetry of the images is matched by the lyrical quality of the story, in which two unrelated women see and hear clues that hint at the phantom of their coexistence. A truly remarkable work! GET HERE


I’ve long maintained that DEAD RINGERS is my favorite Cronenberg flick, and one of the main reasons is the phenomenal double-performance of star Jeremy Irons, who plays diametrically opposed twin gynecologists. Elliot is confident and cynical, Beverly is shy and reserved. Alone they’re vulnerable, together they’re unstoppable, until a sexy siren named Claire Niveau arrives (Genevieve Bujold) and drives a psychological spike directly between the two. “Separation can be a scary thing,” as the films tagline suggests, and what’s so compelling is watching how seamlessly Irons goes from Bev to Elly, often in the same frame, as the brother’s relationship deteriorates to the point of intense violence. GET HERE


The man, the master, the myth…we’ll always defer to Alfred Hitchcock as the finest exemplar of whatever cinematic topic we happen to be exploring. In this case, Hitch’s VERTIGO has certainly informed the entire list below it (or above I guess). Remember, James Stewart becomes romantically enraptured by a striking blond woman named Madeline, the wife of a man who hired him to locate. When Maddy ostensibly commits suicide, Stewart cannot shake the haunting image of her beauty, so much so that he begins obsessing over an identical looking woman he believes must be Maddy’s relative. Kim Novak sparkles as both Maddy and Judy Barton, playing the amorphous object of obsession for the ever-perverted Stewart. GET HERE

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