10 Must-See Double Feature Films That You Need To Binge: The beloved event of the true double feature experience may be all but extinct these days, commercially, but that doesn’t mean it will ever be fully lost on cinephiles. Introduced in the 1930s as a way to combat the economic drought of the Great Depression, double bills were shown in cinemas, featuring two films for the price of one, as a surefire way to sell tickets and fill seats. In time, the practice would become a staple of the moviegoing experience, selling out drive-in shows, and gracing screens with b-movie goodness.
Theatrically-released double feature films have certainly proven themselves to be relics of the past, with the financial bombing of the 2007 Quentin Tarantino/ Robert Rodriguez experiment “Grindhouse” solidifying their demise, despite an excellent execution of the concept. Still though, who doesn’t love a good double bill from the comfort of their own home? Everyone has their own favorite films to watch back-to-back, and for plenty of different reasons. It’s fascinating that even though the age of countless sequels, remakes, and reboots, viewers still associate certain movies together, despite existing as completely separate entities. Each in their own way and for their own individual reasons, these film pairings are simply meant to be – here are ten of the greatest double features you must see.
10. Kill Bill: Vol.1 (2003) / Promising Young Woman (2020)
The quintessential female revenge flick paired with the most clever subversion of the sub-genre to date, Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” takes what audiences adore about “Kill Bill” and turns it on its head. While Quentin Tarantino’s masterful tale of retribution is a beautifully-crafted, satisfyingly cathartic endeavor, Fennell’s satirical thriller is a haunting look at the toxicity surrounding rape culture, with a pitch-black comedic edge. Each boasting their own unforgettable lead, in the form of Uma Thurman’s Bride and Carey Mulligan’s Cassie, where one plays out like an exhilarating fantasy, the other is a more grounded, disturbing look at someone hellbent on vengeance, but rendered powerless by a problematic system.
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They may differ in tone, and certainly in theme, but it’s impossible to dismiss how clearly the two films were cut from the same cloth. Delivering two completely different looks at female revenge: one rooted in poignant truth and the other overflowing with bloodsoaked madness, charming characters, and rich dialogue, it’s a duo that packs a firm punch, using polar opposite approaches. For a fresh take on the genre with something to say, look no further than “Promising Young Woman” for its Oscar-winning screenplay and Mulligan’s knockout performance. On the other hand, you can’t ever go wrong with the action-packed, Tarantino-helmed joyride that is “Kill Bill”, and as a pair, there’s simply nothing else quite like it.
9. The Hitcher (1986) / No Country for Old Men (2007)
Two of the finest cat-and-mouse thrillers ever made share more DNA than what initially meets the eye. Sure, one is a slightly cheesy cult horror film from the ‘80s and the other is considered a bonafide modern masterpiece, but they do have an indistinguishable likeness that makes for an intriguing marathon. In “The Hitcher”, a young man (C. Thomas Howell) finds himself stalked and hunted by a mysterious hitchhiker, (Rutger Hauer) on a deadly, life-altering road trip. The Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” is a little more complex, with a plot centered around missing money, a merciless hitman hot on its trail, and an aging sheriff lost in the times.
At their core, though, each film is a riveting tale of an unassuming everyman, in way over their heads at the mercy of an unstoppable, unrelenting force of evil. Rutger Hauer’s unpredictable performance as the sadistic hitcher is the stuff of nightmares, and on the other side, Javier Bardem’s cold and calculated turn as the ruthless hitman, Anton Chigurh, is just as frightening, as the metaphorical embodiment of death: unforgiving and harshly inevitable. Each displaying their own visually-striking Western landscape along with a lingering, almost palpable sense of dread and tension, these are two spine-chilling thrillers likely to inhabit anyone’s psyche for quite some time. A perfect late-night viewing to scare you out of your seat if there ever were one.
8. The Craft (1996) / The Witch (2015)
It takes a bold film to revisit traumatic events from the past and reinvent them into something empowering for modern audiences, but that is exactly what these two cult-horror-classics accomplish. Taking on ideas surrounding the misogynistic bigotry of witchcraft persecution, each with their own spin, these feminist-revisionist witch tales make for an enchanting double feature like none other. Following a teenage coven of misfits, 1996’s “The Craft” riffs on the agony of high school alienation, through the lens of a supernaturally-charged teen drama. Headlined by a slew of ‘90s icons (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True), the tormented group seeks vengeance on all those who have wronged them and learns to grow through the dark powers they possess.
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Conversely, Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” takes audiences back to the 1600s, at the height of witchcraft paranoia to give a suffocating look at the repressive restraints of young womanhood that still reign prevalent in our society, even today. Driven by a brilliant breakout performance by the great Anya Taylor-Joy, the film is a stressful peak into the unraveling of a New England family upon being exiled into the eerie wilderness, as unexplainable events begin to meticulously occur. The unnervingly authentic 17th century period-piece aesthetic, thick tension, and old-timey dialect are certainly a drastic change in pace from the contemporary gothic sensibilities of “The Craft”, but it makes for a compelling contrast nonetheless. Unorthodox, maybe, but this back-to-back horror fest is most definitely worth a watch.
7. The Goonies (1985) / Stand by Me (1986)
This definitive duo of coming-of-age films from the ‘80s remains the pinnacle of the genre. Many have tried, but few movies have ever managed to illustrate the spirit of youth and friendship quite as purely and effortlessly as these two. In an effort to save their homes from being destroyed, Richard Donner’s “The Goonies” finds a gang of outcast kids on a mission to find some long-lost treasure. Written for the screen by Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus, the film is an action-packed adventure from start to finish, filled with endlessly quotable dialogue, set to an absolutely mesmerizing score. Where the truffle-shuffling classic is distinctly lighthearted in tone, however, Rob Reiner’s “Stand by Me” is the more mature, heart-wrenching portrayal of leaving childhood behind.
From the magnificent mind of Stephen King, the story centers around the simple premise of four young boys’ naive attempts to locate a dead body; and their loss of innocence along the way. Featuring the phenomenal chemistry of Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, along with a fantastic 1950s-infused soundtrack, and an utterly imposing villain from Kiefer Sutherland in the role of Ace, the film is a flat-out triumph in every sense of the word. You simply couldn’t find a more childlike heart between two movies if you tried. Group camaraderie, touching moments, and genuine laughs lighting up the silver screen brighter than any other has, the “kidventure” flick was founded on these films and has yet to be surpassed.
6. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) / Get Out (2017)
Released towards the denouement of the Civil Rights Movement, Stanley Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” follows an interracial couple breaking the news of their recent engagement to the soon-to-be bride’s white liberal parents. If this premise seems familiar, that is because fifty years later, Jordan Peele would turn heads with his own horror-centric spin on the material, garnering himself an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay in his directorial debut. Though it admittedly feels a tad dated today, Kramer’s heartfelt drama offered a sappy, yet endearing message, about love, knows no color. It can certainly feel like an overly preachy PSA at times, but it was a refreshingly positive step in a new direction for a country divided by issues of race.
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Held together by an excellent performance by the late Sidney Poitier, the film is still a comforting, optimistic watch that pleads for a better and brighter future. In 2017, though, Jordan Peele would remind the world that these problems are far from over, with his sharp, and remarkably timely psychological-horror hit “Get Out”. Using roughly the same setup as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, but with a decidedly morbid twist, Peele, through the lens of a mind-bending thriller, would use the film as a platform to voice his frustrations surrounding cultural appropriation and the systemic oppression of African-Americans. Displaying a tremendous outing from Daniel Kaluuya, the decade-defining masterpiece is a harsh, albeit entertaining, declaration that though progress is being made, there is still a long way to go in the fight against racial injustice.
5. The Thing (1982) / The Hateful Eight (2015)
Originally planned as a direct sequel to the Spaghetti-Western-inspired “Django Unchained”, Quentin Tarantino would ultimately opt to take his next Western in a different direction, with a secluded winter mystery akin to John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. It’s no secret that Tarantino loves to pay homage to his favorite filmmakers, but who could have predicted the esteemed director helming what is essentially a loose reimagining of a sci-fi horror classic, dressed as an ensemble Western? Going so far as to take bits of Ennio Morricone’s unused score from Carpenter’s masterpiece and place them into “The Hateful Eight”, QT did what he does best – borrowing from a cult genre staple and infusing it with his own special spin.
The connective glue between the films is irrefutable, from the snowy settings and paranoiac tension to the fact that they both star the great Kurt Russell and retain an unshakably ominous atmosphere. However, this double bill’s strongest achievement is actually how unique each film feels from one another, despite their obvious similarities. Though both feature unpredictable ‘trust nobody’ plots, the post-Civil War set Western is a play on America’s collective unease and racial hostility of the time, whereas 1982’s “The Thing” is more of a straightforward horror-thriller, with an alien invasion whodunnit in the center. Worth it for the gruesome practical effects alone, this blood-splattered, claustrophobia-inducing combo is the perfect fix for a frosty day.
4. A Clockwork Orange (1971) / One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
These classics of the 1970s could easily pass for siblings; not exactly in tone or plot, but surely in spirit. Each derived from successful novels in their own right, these provocative companion pieces offered up some daring social critiques for their time, and still resonate with audiences today. Dealing with similar themes of conformity and authoritarian suppression, both films pit reckless, carefree individualist protagonists against the soulless machinery of society, and observe the dangerous repercussions. With Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” set in futuristic dystopian England and Miloš Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” set in a mental institution, the pair use very different backdrops to tell their stories, but essentially convey the same concerns. Kubrick’s audacious, ‘ultra-violent’ character-study of Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is an unforgettably disturbing journey that is never entirely easy to stomach but certainly poses some interesting moral dilemmas.
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The same can be said for Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-winning turn as R.P. McMurphy in Cuckoo’s Nest. Sure, the two are cancerous to themselves and others, but should the government be allowed to force them into unwilling (often cruel) treatment? It’s a fascinating question that each film presents in its own way, and begs further, are these sick individuals better off being silenced, or left alone to run wild? Shocking, disgusting, but definitely not without their own unbridled beauty, there’s a reason these movies have endured for so long. Two outstanding leading performances, met on one end by gorgeous Kubrickian imagery, and the symbolic villain for the ages on the other, calling these essential viewings would be a massive understatement.
3. Boyz n the Hood (1991) / La Haine (1995)
From separate parts of the globe, these offbeat teen dramas of the ‘90s would use their passionate voices to speak out about unrepresented problems in their respective communities and become timeless classics in the process. Shining some well-needed light on the issues surrounding South Central Los Angeles, John Singleton’s “Boyz n the Hood” follows three young black men, and the hardships inflicted by their poverty-stricken surroundings. Singleton would become the youngest (and first African-American) filmmaker to ever be nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, and his youthful urgency in telling his story is exactly what holds the film together. Aided by the terrific casting of Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, and Ice Cube, the coming-of-age study helped open the door for many others to express their societal grievances, including Mathieu Kassovitz’s “La Haine”.
Created in response to frequent occurrences of police brutality along the outskirts of Paris, Kassovitz set out to make a movie depicting the disregarded class and racial divide plaguing France. Comparably featuring three friends as a collective lead (Vincent Cassel, Saïd Taghmaoui, Hubert Koundé), the black-and-white picture plays out like a ticking time bomb of mounting tension. While “Boyz n the Hood” is a conscious dissection of the roadblocks surrounding marginalized youth, “La Haine” drops the audience into an ordinary day of its protagonists, as they deal with the fallout of a police riot from the previous night. Channeling the rampant anger of their subjects, seamlessly, each armed with their own explosive endings, these extraordinary films sadly only become more relevant with time, making them all the more important.
2. American Psycho (2000) / Nightcrawler (2014)
Sick, cruel, and utterly deranged, these bleak social satires definitely weren’t made for the faint of heart, but they sure are two of a kind. Holding up twisted mirrors to cut-throat capitalism and the remorseless sociopaths it makes of its participants, the pair takes turns poking fun at the cold-hearted nature of separate economic climates, to equally stirring effect. In “American Psycho”, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a cynical hyperbole of 1980s yuppie culture, as a callous businessman who spends his time away from Wall Street killing and terrorizing whoever he pleases. “Nightcrawler” modernizes this idea in the form of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a diligent entrepreneur who will stop at nothing to climb the ladder of a shady news corporation.
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Bringing new meaning to “if it bleeds, it leads” journalism, Bloom finds himself pulled deeper and deeper into the scrappy world of investigative journalism; becoming, in a sense, the physical embodiment of the media’s invasive, horridly inhumane tendencies. The two films share repulsive stories you can’t look away from, delightfully grim senses of humor, and notable secondary performances, from Willem Dafoe and Riz Ahmed, respectively. What they claim most in common, however, are two of the most commanding, yet underappreciated performances of the 21st century. In fact, neither Bale nor Gyllenhaal would receive Oscar nods for their immaculate efforts, making for some truly bewildering snubs. Every bit as intelligent, captivating, and unapologetically insane as their leading characters, this unsettling duo is a creepy good time that demands multiple viewings.
1. Black Swan (2010) / Whiplash (2014)
Ballet and jazz music have never seemed so terrifying. It’s crazy to think that two of the most calming art forms in the world were used to produce a pair of the most relentlessly nail-biting dramas of the 2010s. Frankly just a testament to incredible filmmaking, and a handful of outstanding performances. Natalie Portman stars in “Black Swan”, the story of a meek ballet dancer desperate to earn the role of the Black Swan in an upcoming production, as she’s haunted by increasingly horrific delusions. Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” pushes this idea of self-determination and the pursuit of perfection even further, with a seemingly barebones plot. The film pits a mild-mannered drummer (Miles Teller) against his abusive bandleader (J.K. Simmons) and chronicles the ups and downs of the boy’s path to excellence.
Where Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” plays like an unnerving psychological-horror flick with supernatural implications, Chazelle’s “Whiplash” focuses on the painful realities of isolation and rejection that come with pursuing one’s dreams; with a side debate of how much pressure is too far. Each movie boasts dazzling music (shocker), and breathtaking acting – Natalie Portman and J.K. Simmons have the hardware to prove it – but that is not entirely what makes them so special. Their restless intensity in their depictions of the price of success makes them well worth the cost of admission, alone. Sparking conversation and filling the screen with inescapable suspense, this enticing double feature may be far from relaxing, but it sure is rewarding.