It’s a big, time-consuming ordeal to get a film from the page to the big screen. Some movies use footage from other films to expedite the process and to keep production budgets low. Although audiences aren’t supposed to notice the recycled footage, there are some movies out there where the decision to use stock or re-purposed footage is completely obvious.
1. Movie: Transformers: Dark of the Moon // Recycled footage from: The Island
In 2011, director Michael Bay released the third film in the Transformers series with Transformers: Dark of the Moon. While the movie featured Bay’s penchant for loud explosions and revolutionary action sequences, it also recycled footage from the action auteur’s 2005 science fiction effort The Island.
The scene from the Transformers movie in question involved an elaborate car chase on a busy highway featuring the character Sam Witwicky and the Autobot Bumblebee trying to get away from pursuing Decepticons. Footage from the car chase scene in the second half of The Island was spliced into Dark of the Moon and re-rendered to feature battling Transformers instead of pursing bounty hunters.
2. Movie: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure // Recycled Footage from: War and Peace
The first movie in the Bill & Ted film series featured recycled footage from the 1956 version of War and Peace starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda. When the dudes travel back in history for the first time with Rufus, they find themselves in the year 1805 where Napoleon Bonaparte is leading his French forces against the Austrian army. The establishing shot of the scene is directly lifted from a battle scene in the film War and Peace.
3. Movie: Overlord // Recycled Footage from: World War II stock footage and Newsreels
For Overlord, director Stuart Cooper's World War II film about the D-Day invasion of the beaches of Normandy, Cooper used old Kodak film stock and World War II-era German military camera lenses to give the film its authentic look. He also incorporated thousands of feet of real stock footage of World War II battle scenes from the Imperial War Museum in England into his narrative. Cooper won the Silver Bear Award for the film during the 25th Berlin International Film Festival in 1975.
4. Movie: Blade Runner // Recycled Footage from: The Shining
The ending for the theatrical cut of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner featured Rachael and Deckard escaping into the mountains. Due to cloudy weather, the exterior car shots didn’t match the interiors, so Ridley Scott turned to Stanley Kubrick to fix the problem. The opening credits sequence from The Shining featured clear blue skies and winding roads that Scott felt could be used for the ending of Blade Runner. Kubrick “must’ve done a blanket shoot of every peak in Montana for The Shining using the best helicopter crew...I’ll bet you he’s got weeks of helicopter footage,” recalled Ridley Scott.
5. Movie: Back To The Future Part II // Recycled Footage from: Back To The Future
Due to a financial dispute with the film’s producers, actor Crispin Glover did not reprise his role as George McFly in Back To The Future Part II. Instead, director Robert Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale re-cast the role with an actor with a similar build and characteristics as Glover and dressed him in prosthetics. To further build the illusion that he was in the movie, the filmmakers also spliced in footage from the original film into its sequel, thus fooling audiences to believe that Crispin Glover was in Back To The Future Part II.
Crispin Glover later filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers for wrongfully using his likeness without financial compensation or asking for his consent.
6. Movie: Time Bandits // Recycled Footage from: A Night To Remember
Time Bandits is the first film in Terry Gilliam’s "Trilogy of Imagination." The science fiction flick features a scene where protagonist Kevin and his dwarf friends find themselves onboard the RMS Titanic. The scene recycles footage of the sinking of the Titanic from 1956 British drama A Night To Remember.
7. Movie: Star Trek: Generations // Recycled Footage from: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
In the first Star Trek movie featuring The Next Generation cast, the battle between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire was comprised of recycled footage from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Both movies share the same scene where the Klingon Bird of Prey explodes.
8. Movie: Citizen Kane // Recycled Footage from: The Son Of Kong
Citizen Kane is considered by many to be the greatest film of all time, but it’s also guilty of recycling footage from another movie. During one of the lavish picnic scenes with Charles Foster Kane’s new wife Susan Alexander, the background is lifted from the monster flick The Son of Kong. If you look carefully you can actually see animated pterodactyls flying in the background.
9. Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark // Recycled Footage from: Lost Horizon
The iconic map transitions in Raiders of the Lost Ark used footage of a DC-3 flying over the Himalayas from the film Lost Horizon. Director Steven Spielberg rented stock footage from the 1973 film to save money on production costs.
Spielberg also used footage from the 1975 film The Hindenburg to double as a 1930s street.
10. Movie: Robin Hood // Recycled Footage from: The Jungle Book and The Aristocats
In the early days, Disney animators frequently recycled footage from older animated films. They would simply draw over existing animation cells to make new scenes with characters with similar designs, characteristics, and movements.
1973's Robin Hood featured footage from 1970’s The Aristocats, 1967’s The Jungle Book, and 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When comparing the films, you can plainly see that, in the dance scene in Robin Hood, Little John and Lady Kluck are doing the exact same dance as Baloo and King Louie from The Jungle Book. In fact, Little John and Baloo share the same character design and voice, provided by entertainer Phil Harris. Robin Hood and Maid Marian also do the exact same dance as Thomas O’Malley and Duchess from Disney’s The Aristocats.