Good science fiction movies are often inspired by a whole host of other films. Star Wars was influenced by a samurai movie The Hidden Fortress, western The Searchers, German silent Metropolis, and the old Flash Gordon serials. But bad science fiction movies almost always rip-off just one film, leading to the movie version of a knock-off cereal on the bottom shelf of your supermarket. Here are the sci-fi movies that straight-up ripped off better sci-fi movies!
Warrior of the Lost World
Stole From: Mad Max
If the Mad Max movies are Legos, then Warrior of the Lost World is the Mega Blok. Originally titled Mad Rider before the producers realized that was only one step away from renaming their lead actor “Mel Gibbons”, Warrior of the Lost World has a post-apocalyptic world, impractical clothing, a future where there’s almost no gas but plenty of cars, and a lone rider who helps an oppressed groups defeat a tyrannical leader before pulling an Irish goodbye. But Warrior of the Lost World does all this one worse by featuring a Super Cycle that won’t shut up, constantly spouting such bon mots as “tubular”, “bad mothers”, and the almost Shakespearian “dickheads”.
Stole From: RoboCop
In R.O.T.O.R., a beleaguered police force looks to a corrupt organization to build them a robotic cop that becomes self-aware. Sound familiar? But R.O.T.O.R.‘s cyborg looks less “high-tech” and more “bar regular who swiped a leather jacket from the clothing drop box” and goes from “tool of police force” to “serial killer” in a under a minute. If you ever wondered what RoboCop 4 could have looked like if it starred your neighbor Vern, this is the sci-fi classic for you.
Stole From: Battlestar Galactica
Space Mutiny was so inspired by Battlestar Galactica: The Movie that it just lifted footage wholesale. Its plot saw about a multi-generational population seeking a new world to colonize… just like in Battlestar. But instead of fighting Cylons, the crew just fights each other, leading to an exciting climax in which hero and villain chase each other in golf carts. Riveting.
Time of the Apes
Stole From: Planet of the Apes
Cobbled together from a mid-’70s Japanese TV series, Time of the Apes follows the exploits of a scientist and two kids who are frozen and wake up in a future ruled by apes. But unlike its more famous counterpart, Time of the Apes also features a technologically-advanced ape society, a helpful ape-boy, a hapless robot, a random UFO, and the glorious concept of ape ninjas (ninjapes?). Because it edits 26 episodes into 90 minutes of film, Time of the Apes possesses the narrative coherence of a four-year-old trying to recount Inception. But what is there must be seen! (And dismissed.)
The Man Who Saved the World
Stole From: Star Wars
Why just copy Star Wars when you can splice it together with Battlestar Galactica, Indiana Jones, and footage from the Soviet space program? Stealing footage and plot points with maniacal glee, The Man Who Saved the World opens on a desert planet where an evil wizard uses a special force — and clips of X-Wing fighters, TIE fighters, and the Millennium Falcon — to attack an Earth protected by a giant shield of human brain waves. In a rare moment of originality, the movie has its Dark Lord live off the blood of zombie children, only to then show our hero in the actual Mos Eisley Cantina sequence from A New Hope. Yes, there’s a knock-off lightsaber in the form of a lightning bolt sword. Yes, the Dark Lord suggests he and the hero rule the universe together. Yes, the entire movie is scored by John Williams without John Williams ever knowing. And yes, our hero karate chops the villain in half, which has nothing to do with Star Wars but is not a detail that CAN be overlooked.