(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series where two strangely similar films released around the same time are put head-to-head. This time, we look skyward for falling objects that are closer than they appear.)

The premise of this column is to take a closer look at those not-so rare instances where two competing film studios raced to theaters with remarkably similar projects. They’re typically high-concept ideas involving volcanic disasters, doomed expeditions to Mars, or terrorist attacks on the White House. Sometimes, though, they’re about bad guys skydiving.

Okay, one time it was about bad guys skydiving, but that still feels like one time too many. The world had already been gifted with Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break in 1991, and among the many memorable scenes in the film are sequences showing playful criminals enjoying the high of falling through the sky. Paramount and Disney’s Hollywood Pictures, never ones to shy away from a hot trend, immediately got to work developing films about murder, theft, and the perils of skydiving with murderous thieves.

The race was on, and three years later – and released just three months apart – the world was made witness to two high-flying action romps with killer tag lines. “It’s not the drop the kills you…” warns the poster for Terminal Velocity, while Drop Zone‘s points out that “Something dangerous is in the air.” How can you not love the 90s?

Keep reading for a head-to-head look at 1994’s dueling movies about irresponsible skydiving.

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(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series where two strangely similar films released around the same time are put head-to-head. This time, we rev our engines and hit the asphalt with movies about high-speed, fun-filled car races across America.)

If someone mentions having seen a movie about a wild and highly illegal cross-country car race you’d most likely think they were referring to 1981’s The Cannonball Run. It’s understandable as the Hal Needham-directed hit is popular, filled with A and B-list celebrities, and even received a sequel, but it’s neither the first nor the best to tackle this very real race in the form of a comedic action flick. (And no, they’re definitely not referring to 1989’s Speed Zone. No one ever refers to that movie.)

Two movies were released in 1976 and opened a mere three weeks apart, and both put an eclectic group of characters behind the wheel for a coast to coast race where only the fastest can be crowned the winner. Big stunts, eccentric characters, and a massive disrespect for the law are the order of the day in both films, but which movie wins the race? Ready, set…go!

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(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series where two strangely similar films released around the same time are put head-to-head. This time, we leave the safety of Earth behind and head towards Mars in search of adventure, the future of the human race, and some intergalactic mediocrity.)

Original movies come out of Hollywood – it’s true! – but much of its output consists of films inspired by previous successes. They’re mostly visible in the form of direct sequels, of course, but they also come from studios trying to mimic a hit in tone, style, and/or genre. Michael Bay’s Armageddon was the second biggest box-office hit of 1998, so it was no real surprise that some similarly themed films went into production soon after.

Disney tried recapturing their own magic with Mission to Mars, while Warner Bros. entered the fray with Red Planet. (Hell, it’s entirely possible that Clint Eastwood’s Space Cowboys got the green light for the same reason.) Both films put movie stars into a rocket and launched them on a mission to the red planet, and they opened exactly eight months apart in 2000. Nobody cared about either one.

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(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series where two strangely similar films released around the same time are put head-to-head. This time, we take a timely look at two movies that turn volcanic activity into action/adventure romps for the big screen.)

Volcanic eruptions don’t typically get the kind of attention in the US that hurricanes, tornadoes, and sinkholes do as they’re understandably infrequent here in the states. We had Mount St. Helens back in 1980 and then… nothing. The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s big island started spewing lava from newly created fissures in the earth last year, though, destroying homes and roads and causing thousands of people to be evacuated. Thankfully, no one lost their lives to the red-hot rumblings this time, but Hollywood likes their gassy earth tales a bit deadlier.

1997 saw two big studio movies open less than three months apart focused on volcanic tales with far deadlier outcomes. Dante’s Peak was first out of the gate on February 7 and actually focused on a Mount St. Helens-type scenario, while Volcano opened on April 25 and moved the action to the unlikely locale of downtown Los Angeles. Both are big-ish, effects-driven disaster pics with remarkably similar character dynamics, but for all their similarities, they’re wholly different beasts.

Keep reading for a head-to-head face-off between Dante’s Peak and Volcano.

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Friends With Benefits vs No Strings Attached

(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series where two strangely similar films released around the same time are put head-to-head. This time, we’re letting love take the wheel in honor of Valentine’s Day and looking at a pair of movie twins about sex, love, and the futility of denying your feelings.)

Every week is “Love” week here at /Film, but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day this edition of Seeing Double is focusing on the most American representation of love possible – the romantic comedy. Some say it’s the most honest film genre there is while others call it poppycock of the heart, but there’s no denying the popularity of funny movies about love. Audiences and Hollywood alike just love seeing characters laugh and kiss their way to a happy ending.

2011 saw two high-profile rom-coms hit theater screens just six months apart, both centered on an identical premise, and both starring a cast member from Black Swan and That ’70s Show. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Impossible to believe even? But it’s true, I swear. As insane as it sounds, though, there’s an even bigger mystery surrounding No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits. In the seven years since their release, no one’s ever felt 100% confident identifying which romantic pairing of popular young actors is in which film without a quick IMDB search.

That confusion ends now. Keep reading as we put No Strings Attached and Friends Without Benefits head-to-head and end this madness once and for all.

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