Top 10 Mistaken Identities in Film
“Friends don’t steal friends’ identities, do they?”
– Sandy Patterson, “Identity Thief” (2013)
From undercover agents to amnesiacs to good ol’-fashioned hustlers, The Massie Twins examine the top 10 films featuring those who have either had their identities lost, temporarily misplaced, or just badly mistaken.
10. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
“Amnesia Chick” Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) gets caught up in a world of terrorists, murderers, and corrupt government officials in a quest to uncover her true identity. Bringing Samuel L. Jackson along for the ride, director Renny Harlin delivers explosive, cheesy good fun for the lost identity sub-genre.
9. Aladdin (1992)
Living the life of Prince Ali so he can woo Princess Jasmine, “street rat” Aladdin’s new disguise seems to be working according to plan – that is until a stolen genie and an evil sorcerer reveal his true identity. But Jasmine kinda knew all along.
8. Dave (1993)
Forced to pretend he’s the president, Dave (Kevin Kline) manages to convince everyone, including First Lady Ellen (Sigourney Weaver) that he’s legit, but soon he discovers he’s in over his head and the ruse starts to fall apart – but in a fun, comedic sort of way, where national security takes a backseat to the laughs.
7. True Lies (1994)
A masterpiece in hidden identity, James Cameron’s “True Lies” features Arnold as a secret agent – so secret in fact that his own wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) thinks he’s a computer salesman. When she discovers his real job, hilarity, nonstop action, and stuff-blowing-up ensues.
6. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Sorry “Tootsie,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “The Birdcage,” etc., but “Some Like It Hot” did it first and did it best as Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis successfully trick Marilyn Monroe into thinking they’re female musicians in a desperate scheme to escape the mob.
5. Memento (2000)
Poor Leonard (Guy Pearce) can barely remember his own identity or his dire mission as his rare condition prevents him from forming new memories. Everyone is out to use him; and corrupt cop Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) learns the hard way that Lenny isn’t quite as gullible as he thought when he turns the tables on his deception and teaches him not to leech off his unfortunate predicament.
4. The Bourne Saga (2002-)
Based on Robert Ludlum’s famous books, the 3+ Bourne movies (as well as the 1988 TV mini-series) have become wildly successful and follow Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in his quest to uncover the conspiracy surrounding his real identity. The first film, directed by Doug Limon, brought a fresh new action thriller to the screen, with plenty of gritty realism and intriguing performances. Paul Greengrass admirably continued the series with “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum,” increasing the frenetic action and ratcheting up the suspense.
3. Fight Club (1999)
Who is Tyler Durden? Everyone seems to know except our protagonist, “The Narrator” (Edward Norton), who is mistaken for the godfatherish founder of the title club and is drawn into a nightmarish mystery of personalities, mayhem, and soap. The spoiler here would be comparable to “The Usual Suspects” – another picture with a cryptic ringleader behind the chaos.
2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
Causing every misadventure throughout the entire film, the “Dude” (Jeff Bridges) is mistaken for Mr. Lebowski and becomes embroiled in a wild scheme of extortion, kidnapping, and nihilism. Oh yeah, and bowling.
1. North By Northwest (1959)
The greatest of all movie-based mistaken identity cases, Hitchcock’s supremely influential and never surpassed thriller “North By Northwest” finds Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) caught up in murder, espionage, and Eva Marie Saint when he’s accidentally mistaken for a spy – who may not even exist!