Doppelgängers have been baffling people for centuries. Identical twins, in particular, have always held a certain fascination on the public with some saying that they possess sinister abilities or are mystically bonded. However, it is the notion of “an evil twin” which probably holds the most fascination because it involves the timeless tale of the good vs. evil battle – i.e, the situation whereby twins look absolutely identical to each other, but one twin is good, whereas another harbours evil intentions. Below are 10 great films (in no particular order) that display and explore just this interesting situation, attempting to awe their audience.
I. The Dark Mirror (1946)
Starring Olivia de Havilland and Lew Ayres, this entertaining film starts with the investigation of a murder and eyewitnesses all point to one suspect, but the detective soon realises their eyewitness accounts are useless because he deals with twin sisters and finding out which one is culpable looks like an impossible task. This is definitely a movie which demarcates clearly an evil and a good twin, and it also deals with the topic from a scientific point of view because some study is conducted on twins in the story.
II. Dead Ringers (1988)
Loosely based on a real life story, this film, directed by David Cronenberg, is a fascinating account of two brothers gynaecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle (Jeremy Irons in a dual role) whose bond goes far beyond an ordinary friendship or sibling companionship, complicating their personal relationships and career aspirations. Clearly, it is Elliot who is more uncaring and ruthless of the two, with Beverly being more emotional.
III. A Stolen Life (1946)
Bette Davis plays identical sisters Kate and Pat Bosworth and the plot revolves around one man (Bill) who both sisters covet at some period of time. While Kate is an innocent one who first meets Bill and develops strong affection towards him, her sister Pat is a manipulative one, desiring Bill for herself by pretending at first to be Kate. Better Davis also played identical sisters later on in “Dead Ringer” (1964) – see below, and, contrary to popular belief, this later film is not a remake of “A Stolen Life”.
IV. Spirited Away (2001)
For some this will be an unexpected inclusion on my list, but it is important to draw attention to the fact that the topic also appeals to anime producers, and can be found throughout different film and art genres. In this story, a ten year old girl Chihiro enters another world and, at some point, encounters there Zeniba and Yubaba – ageing twin sisters who look identical, but it becomes apparent that Zeniba is a kind one, whereas Yababa, who is also the owner of the Bathhouse, is selfish and antagonistic.
V. Sisters (1973)
Paying tribute to Hitchcock, Brian de Palma made this film about twin sisters (conjoined at birth, but later separated) residing in one apartment block in Staten Island. Margot Kidder plays a sweet aspiring model who starts to feel overwhelmed by her sister’s murderous and maniacal tendencies. The film is even eerie since it was inspired by the real case of Soviet-Union born Maria and Daria Krivoshlyapova. Krivoshlyapovas were conjoined twins who have never been separated, had traumatic childhood and died at the age of 53 in Moscow.
VI. The Black Room (1935)
Directed by Roy William Neill and starring Boris Karloff in a leading dual role, the film is about the events taking place in a Tyrolean castle in the late 18th century. Gregor and Anton are twin brothers of a wealthy estate who have to wiggle out of a old prophecy that the younger brother will inevitably kill the elder brother in the Black Room of the castle. While Anton is a benevolent brother liked by his people, Gregor has a murderous streak and is often engaged in debauchery. Great acting, interesting Gothic setting, cinematography and the inventive ending all make this film a classic.
VII. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
Inspired by a myth and Alexander Dumas novel, this film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role, explores the “evil twin” concept by contrasting King Louis XIV with his twin brother Philippe, who was unjustly imprisoned and put in a mask to hide his identity. Whereas Louis is arrogant and cruel in the film, Philippe is kind and caring. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich.
VIII. Dead Ringer (1964)
Starring Bette Davis, this fascinating film is about a working class lady and her wealthy twin sister. It is difficult to tell who is the “evil” one here because although the wealthy sister displays high levels of arrogance and callousness, it is the poorer one which ultimately commits the greatest evil and kills her sister. The interesting bit is then to watch the murderer impersonating the victim.
IX. Okja (2017)
Netflix-produced “Okja” may be all about environmental messages, but Swinton’s performance also merits a special mention. Swinton plays both Lucy Mirando, a CEO of a powerful corporation, and her twin sister Nancy Mirando. While Lucy is often dressed in pink, displaying idealistic qualities, Nancy, who is often dressed in dark green, is presented as a totally greed-driven individual who will stop at nothing to make some gain.
X. Legend (2015)
In this movie based on a real story of crime-driven brothers Ronald and Reginald Kray, Tom Hardy plays both twins, and, initially, it is hard to tell who is more evil here. However, while Ronnie was mentally unstable, Reggie was often portrayed as a “charmer”. The twins terrorised London in the 1950s and 1960s and their notoriety was such that books, TV series, music and numerous films were made to underscore their amazing infiltration into the respectable and wealthy side of life.
This list included films that deal with real-life twins (or the appearance of those), and not with clones or mythical dualities. The interesting bit is also that identical twins share each others’ DNA and, at times, can even display astonishing similarities (as is seen by studies of twins who are raised separately – see this amazing case). If you became curious about the topic, do check out the story of June and Jennifer Gibbons, or maybe even watch the documentary “Trapped by My Twin” about twins from Amsterdam who became very dependent on each other.