The Best Doppelgängers in Horror Films
This month on Lunatics Radio Hour, we’ve explored the history of doppelgängers, especially as they relate to horror. On the podcast, we debate the definition of a doppelgänger versus a clone versus an evil twin…but all that aside, here are some of our favorite films within this hard-to-pin-down sub-genre.
I’m putting Jordan Peele’s Us at the top of the list for a reason. It’s such a fun movie, and the use of doppelgängers functions so brilliantly. This film is the perfect mix of comedy, horror, and metaphor. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elizabeth Moss, Evan Alex, and Shahadi Wright Joseph, Us tells the story of a family who must fight their doppelgängers. A genuinely horrifying premise that I would wish on no one.
Black Swan (2010)
Starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan follows a dancer under immense pressure at the New York City Ballet. Her technically perfect dancing isn’t enough to win her the lead role; she must find a way to unleash her dark side.
Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo stars James Stewart and Kim Novak—a squarely psychological thriller, which expires obsession and delusion in a way only Hitchcock can. This film is the first to use computer graphics, which appear in the opening credit sequence.
Brian de Palma, one of my favorite directors, takes us on a terrifying ride with Sisters. Sisters stars Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt and tells the story of twins. Like many de Palma films, Sisters pulls heavy influence from Hitchcock and keeps us on the edge of our seats until the very end.
Body Double (1984)
Another film from Brian de Palma, Body Double, is an erotic thriller that does not disappoint. Body Double stars Melanie Griffith and Craig Wasson. It pulls directly from both Vertico and Read Window, but infuses those storylines with new energy and edge.
Dead Ringers (1988)
David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers stars Jeremy Irons as identical twin doctors. Loosely based on the true lives of Upper East Side doctors, Dead Ringers takes us on an out-of-body experience. Personally, one of my favorite Cronenberg films and one that explores the theme of doppelgängers through an almost literary lens.
Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession uses a doppelgänger to portray the vast differences between two characters. Or at least one character’s perception of those differences. Starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill, Possession is an intense look at the end of a marriage. And the unraveling of one life back into two.
Sam Rockwell stars in Moon, directed by Duncan Jones. As Alan explained on Lunatics Radio Hour, Moon takes place in space. Sam Rockwell’s character spends his three-year contract alone on a space station. What could go wrong?
And finally, Annihilation (based on the book series by Jeff VanderMeer) was directed by Alex Garland. Annihilation stars Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. This strictly science-fiction take on doppelgängers tells the story of a woman who follows her lost husband into a dangerous ‘environmental zone’ in an effort to bring him back home.
Listen to episode 119 of the Lunatics Radio Hour podcast for the history of Doppelganger horror in film.