When there’s massive hype and anticipation for a major release, sometimes smaller studios try to cash in, piggy-backing off the blockbuster’s success with their own low-budget versions. With the advent of online video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, these “mockbusters” have been on the rise for the past 10 years. Here are 20 knock-off movies that you might confuse for the real deal (if you squint real hard).
1. Frozen Land
Following Disney’s Frozen, Phase Four Films released the animated film Frozen Land. Originally titled The Legend of Sarila, the film distributors re-branded the French Canadian movie's artwork and logo to mimic Disney’s wildly popular family film for its home video release in late November (around the same time Disney released Frozen). In fact, The Legend of Sarila was released theatrically in Canada under its original title in February 2013. Disney eventually sued Phase Four Films for intentionally misleading the public.
2. Atlantic Rim
Released a few days before Pacific Rim hit theaters, The Asylum (you'll be seeing that name a lot in this list) released Atlantic Rim on DVD. The low-budget film featured almost the same premise as its major studio counterpart, but took place in New York City instead of Hong Kong. Atlantic Rim boasted a $500,000 production budget as compared to Pacific Rim’s $190 million. The mockbuster also featured ex-Baywatch star David Chokachi and Naughty by Nature rapper Anthony “Treach” Criss.
3. Apocalypse Z
Originally called Zombie Massacre, this Italian zombie movie was re-titled Apocalypse Z when it was released on DVD in the U.K. to capitalize on the anticipation of World War Z starring Brad Pitt. The film was an adaptation of a video game of the same name for the Nintendo Wii. Iconic German schlock director Uwe Boll produced Apocalypse Z and made a cameo appearance in the film as the President of the United States.
4. Street Racer
While the low-budget film Street Racer closely resembles the title to Warner Bros’ Speed Racer, the car chase action flick's story is closer to those of The Fast & The Furious film franchise. The movie also bears a resemblance to two other racing movies from The Asylum: Speed Demons released in 2003 and Death Racers from 2008.
5. Android Cop
Released a week before Sony’s RoboCop remake was scheduled to open in theaters, The Asylum released Android Cop starring Michael Jai White. While the DVD box art looks like it was created to fool people into thinking it's the new remake, Android Cop’s narrative more resembles RoboCop 2, in which involves a drug-related citywide plague.
6. What’s Up?: Balloon to the Rescue
Brazilian animation studio Vídeo Brinquedo (Toyland Video) is known for low-budget, direct-to-DVD animated movies that closely resemble Pixar and DreamWorks family films. What's Up?: Balloon to the Rescue is a blatant rip-off of Pixar’s Up, and both films were released in the United States during the summer of 2009. Instead of thousands of small balloons to lift up his house, the elderly man in What's Up?: Balloon to the Rescue uses one big hot-air balloon. Revolutionary.
7. The Apocalypse
In 2007, The Asylum released the direct-to-DVD disaster film The Apocalypse. It was made with heavy similarities to other asteroid blockbusters released a decade earlier, namely Armageddon and Deep Impact. While The Apocalypse was originally conceived as a straight up action film, its buyers wanted the movie to have religious themes to appeal to a Christian movie-going audience. The Asylum then created Faith Films, a faith-based film distribution arm of the company.
8. Transmorphers: Fall of Man
Although Transmorphers was the mockbuster of Michael Bay’s Transformers in 2007, its prequel Transmorphers: Fall of Man actually received a few favorable movie reviews when compared to the film it was trying to copy, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
9. Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls
Released at the same time as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls was actually the film adaptation of British author H. Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines. The adventurer Allan Quatermain was also the template for George Lucas when he created the character Indiana Jones with director Steven Spielberg. Still, there's no doubt who is trying to profit off of whom with these films.
10. Bikini Spring Break
While Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers was originally supposed to be released in 2012, the colorful, trippy film was delayed until 2013. That didn’t stop the folks at The Asylum from releasing Bikini Spring Break, which features almost the same premise of four young co-eds from a conservative college throwing caution to the wind in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida during spring break.
11. Pirates of Treasure Island
Released a week before Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest during the summer of 2006, Pirates of Treasure Island borrowed heavily from the popular Disney film. Although the movie received harsh criticism for being a weak imitation, Pirates of Treasure Island was officially based on author Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island.
12. AE: Apocalypse Earth
While AE: Apocalypse Earth was marketed to look like an imitation of After Earth, the low budget science fiction film’s narrative was more of a mix between Predator and Avatar. AE: Apocalypse Earth was shot on location in Costa Rica and was released a few weeks before M. Night Shymalan’s movie starring Will Smith.
13. Paranormal Entity
In 2007, Paranormal Activity was a surprise box office hit. Shane Van Dyke—Dick Van Dyke’s grandson—conceived, wrote, and made the copycat Paranormal Entity for The Asylum. Although both Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Entity were made for almost the same amount of money, the former quickly became a pop culture phenomenon and an instant classic in the horror genre, while the latter was instantly forgotten.
14. Alien Origin
In June 2012, director Ridley Scott released Prometheus, an origin story to his 1979's Alien. A few days after Prometheus hit the screen, The Asylum released Alien Origin. While The Asylum is known for its low-quality mockbusters, Alien Origin is considered one of its worst.
15. Chop Kick Panda
With the working title Tae Kwon Do Panda, Gaiam released the 41-minute animated direct-to-video Chop Kick Panda to capitalize on the anticipation and excitement of Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011. Netflix received heavy criticism from customers who were duped into watching Chop Kick Panda, thinking it was the international smash hit.
16. Almighty Thor
A few days after Marvel Studios' Thor came out in theaters, The Asylum's Almighty Thor aired on the SyFy Channel. While Marvel’s movie was based on the popular comic book of the same name, The Asylum’s was apparently just based on Norse mythology. Almighty Thor stars Richard Grieco as Loki and pro wrestler Kevin Nash as Odin, so it has that going for it.
17. Sunday School Musical
Banking off the success of the theatrical release of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, The Asylum produced Sunday School Musical. The knock-off film was conceived when producer Paul Bales attended a seminar for marketing to a Christian audience. Like The Apocalypse, Sunday School Musical was distributed by Faith Films.
18. Snakes on a Train
One of The Asylum's first films, Snakes on a Train put the studio on the map for making low-grade copycat movies. When the producers were looking for additional financing for Snakes on a Train, a Japanese investors group became interested based solely on the poster. The would-be investors wondered if the movie featured a giant snake eating an out-of-control train. The film didn't orignally have a scene like this, but producer David Rimawi added it to secure funding.
19. Aliens vs. Avatars
While most knock-off movies only copy one popular movie, Aliens vs. Avatars rips off two: Alien vs. Predator and Avatar. The film follows the intergalactic battle between a quarrelsome alien race and shape-shifting extraterrestrials, while six college friends find themselves in the middle of the interstellar war.
20. Kiara the Brave
Originally titled Super K, Phase 4 Films released, re-titled, and re-packaged the Indian animated film as Kiara the Brave, after Pixar’s Brave. Kiara the Brave takes place in a special part of the galaxy called Dreamzone, but somehow it didn't win an Oscar like its counterpart Brave.