The moviegoing market is flooded with “mockbusters” that rip off the plots and characters of popular Hollywood blockbusters with inferior actors, visual effects, and overall filmmaking. Mockbusters usually feature a very similar title, storyline, and poster art to a recent Hollywood hit in a sneaky attempt to trick viewers looking for the latest blockbuster into watching the wrong movie. IMDb and Wikipedia have made it a lot easier for casual viewers to spot a forgery, but there’s still plenty of entertainment factor in watching an imitation of a big-budget blockbuster.
The most prominent mockbuster factory, The Asylum, has expanded into more original storytelling with the Sharknado series, but they still pump out a couple of movies every year that mimic the biggest studio releases. In 2023, they made End Times to copy The Last of Us, a new version of The Little Mermaid to copy Disney’s live-action remake, and Attack of the Meth Gator to copy Cocaine Bear. Over the years, there have been plenty of awful mockbusters hoping to cash in on a superior film’s success. From Transmorphers to The Fast and the Fierce, many low-budget movies have shamelessly ripped off popular Hollywood franchises for an easy buck.
20 Snakes On A Train (Snakes On A Plane)
The Asylum’s Snakes on a Train swaps out the plane in Snakes on a Plane for a train. As it turns out, a snake-infested transport isn’t as much fun without the badass star power of Samuel L. Jackson’s character. Snakes on a Train is a much lower-stakes scenario; it’s a lot quicker and easier for a train to stop than it is for a plane to land. The rip-off builds to an even more ridiculous climax than its source material, as the cursed woman who brought the snakes onto the train inexplicably turns into a giant snake and eats the train.
19 The Little Panda Fighter (Kung Fu Panda)
The Brazilian animation studio Vídeo Brinquedo is notorious for making knock-offs of popular animated movies (usually those produced by Pixar or DreamWorks) with much cruder animation and much less imaginative storytelling. The Little Panda Fighter, their rip-off of Kung Fu Panda, is a prime example. This version of the panda-led martial arts story lacks the heart, humor, and beauty of Kung Fu Panda – not to mention the presence of a voice actor like Jack Black, who carried the original movie with his signature warmth and pitch-perfect comic timing.
18 Cruel Jaws (Jaws)
1995’s Cruel Jaws blatantly borrows the title of the movie it’s ripping off and slaps an arbitrary adjective on it. Released direct-to-video, Cruel Jaws shares Jaws’ lucrative high-concept premise of a beach community being terrorized by a giant shark. The film was directed by notable mockbuster maker Bruno Mattei, who also made unofficial sequels to Zombi 2 and The Terminator. Cruel Jaws made no attempt to hide the fact that it copied Steven Spielberg’s monster movie masterpiece. It was even released in some markets under the title Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws, despite having no official affiliation with the Jaws franchise.
17 AVH: Alien Vs. Hunter (Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem)
The Asylum released AVH: Alien vs. Hunter straight to DVD one week before the theatrical release of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. AVH borrows AVPR’s story of a suburban community being rocked by a battle between two warring aliens. The Alien and Hunter designs fall far short of the iconic creatures in Aliens vs. Predator. AVH ends with a pretty interesting twist revealing the true identity of the Hunter, but it’s not enough to make up for a shoddy movie that’s light on fun, scares, and technical competence.
16 Paranormal Entity (Paranormal Activity)
Directed by Dick Van Dyke’s grandson Shane Van Dyke in his directorial debut, Paranormal Entity is The Asylum’s take on Paranormal Activity. Much like Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Entity is a found footage film about an attempt to capture a supernatural force on camera. It helped that the original movie was already produced on a shoestring budget. Usually, mockbusters have to ape the look of a $200 million tentpole on a $1 million budget. It’s easy to recreate Paranormal Activity because it had a much smaller budget than even the average Asylum movie.
15 Atlantic Rim (Pacific Rim)
The Asylum’s answer to Pacific Rim was named after a different oceanic rim: Atlantic Rim. With its story of humans in giant robotic suits fighting kaiju monsters, Atlantic Rim borrowed everything from Pacific Rim – it even borrowed its iconic scene of a robotic suit crashing down on the beach (to far lesser effect). Without Guillermo del Toro’s visionary eye behind the camera, it’s just robots smashing into monsters. Without major studio money behind the production, the visual effects are wholly unconvincing.
14 The Little Cars: In The Great Race (Cars)
Another production of Vídeo Brinquedo, The Little Cars: In the Great Race and its various sequels borrow heavily from Pixar’s Cars franchise. The Little Cars is an underdog story about a delivery car who dreams of becoming a racing car. Cars itself was already derivative with a plot borrowed from the Michael J. Fox comedy Doc Hollywood. Rather than seamlessly turning the cars’ windshields into a pair of eyes like Cars, The Little Cars’ character design just crudely pastes eyeballs over a windshield. Whereas Pixar only made three Cars movies, Vídeo Brinquedo pumped out eight Little Cars movies.
13 Top Gunner: Danger Zone (Top Gun: Maverick)
The Asylum produced its own mockbuster version of Top Gun, creatively dubbed Top Gunner, in time for the original release date of Top Gun: Maverick. Then, the Tom Cruise-starring sequel was delayed for so long during the pandemic that The Asylum had time to make its own sequel, Top Gunner: Danger Zone, to coincide with the film’s actual release. While the appeal of Top Gun: Maverick was its mind-blowing practical effects achieved by flying real fighter jets, Top Gunner: Danger Zone is awash with bland CGI.
12 Ratatoing (Ratatouille)
Vídeo Brinquedo’s mockbuster version of Ratatouille, Ratatoing, tells a similar story about a rat who dreams of being a chef and sneaks into restaurants to collect ingredients. Ratatoing is missing the heart and humanity that made Ratatouille a masterpiece, not to mention its awe-inspiring visuals. Whereas Ratatouille is one of Pixar’s best movies, giving life and personality to a swarm of rats inhabiting the City of Light, Ratatoing’s low-rent graphics look like a video game from the ‘90s.
11 Ape Vs. Monster (Godzilla Vs. Kong)
The Asylum gave Godzilla vs. Kong the mockbuster treatment with Ape vs. Monster, the most generic, non-copyright-infringing title imaginable. What made Godzilla vs. Kong interesting wasn’t the mindless spectacle of a big monster fighting a big ape; audiences were drawn to the crossover event because of their familiarity with two of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. The Asylum version takes away the emotional investment in the characters and leaves behind an uglier version of the monster-on-monster combat.
10 Android Cop (RoboCop)
When the remake of RoboCop arrived in 2014, The Asylum offered up its own version, Android Cop. This one has more star power than the average Asylum mockbuster, with Spawn’s Michael Jai White in the lead role. Much like the RoboCop remake itself, Android Cop is lacking in the satirical bite that made Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original such a masterpiece. Without the commentary on privatization and police brutality, it’s just a standard sci-fi actioner. In a world where the original RoboCop still holds up, it didn’t need a remake or a mockbuster.
9 The Da Vinci Treasure (The Da Vinci Code)
Released in the same month as Ron Howard’s blockbuster film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, The Asylum’s The Da Vinci Treasure revolves around treasure hunters following clues left in the works of Leonardo da Vinci to a secret that could alter Christianity. The mockbuster plays more like National Treasure than The Da Vinci Code, with flagrant historical inaccuracies and lazy storytelling. The Da Vinci Code was already far-fetched to begin with, but The Da Vinci Treasure really takes the cake.
8 Ghosthunters (Ghostbusters)
To coincide with the release of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, The Asylum made Ghosthunters, which adapts the familiar premise of the Ghostbusters franchise as a straightforward horror movie. It revolves around a team of freelance paranormal investigators whose latest case – to liberate the souls of two murder victims – leads to shocking revelations. Ghosthunters is about as satisfying as can be expected from a version of Ghostbusters, with no laughs (no intentional laughs, anyway).
7 Tiny Robots (WALL-E)
Vídeo Brinquedo ripped off Pixar’s touching robot romance WALL-E with Tiny Robots. Set in a world inhabited by robots, Tiny Robots follows plucky robot underdog Trank, who teams up with his new friends Tron2B and Nevi to take down the villainous “The Leader.” Whereas WALL-E held a mirror up to humanity with a warning about the future of a planet being depleted of its natural resources and filled with trash, Tiny Robots is just a standard adventure movie full of clichés. It’s not as bad as some Vídeo Brinquedo productions, but it’s far from a Pixar-level gem.
6 Independents’ Day (Independence Day)
To coincide with the release of Independence Day: Resurgence, The Asylum churned out the very similarly titled Independents’ Day. Like the classic Roland Emmerich disaster movie, Independents’ Day revolves around an alien invasion. Its overly convoluted plot sees the aliens wiping out cities while also kindly offering to transport sick and hungry humans to a new planet. A militia called “Earth First” comes together to fight the aliens while the U.S. Vice President attempts to negotiate with them after they kill the President. Independents’ Day isn’t as dreadful as some Asylum releases, but it’s still far from a great movie.
5 The Fast And The Fierce (The Fast And The Furious)
The Asylum was late to the game with its rip-off of The Fast and the Furious franchise. The Fast Saga was on its eighth installment by the time The Asylum made its own version: The Fast and the Fierce. Despite taking its title from the Vin Diesel street racing franchise, it has very little in common with it. The plot is more similar to the classic ‘90s action movie Speed than The Fast and the Furious, as terrorists rig a plane with a bomb that will explode if the plane drops below 800 feet. It’s entertaining enough, but nothing compared to Speed (or even the weaker Fast & Furious films).
4 Little Bee (Bee Movie)
Vídeo Brinquedo’s mockbuster version of Bee Movie, Little Bee, is a soulless re-tread of one of DreamWorks’ quirkiest animated hits. It revolves around a honeybee who wants to be a soldier and a soldier who wants to be a honeybee. What made Bee Movie such a delight was Jerry Seinfeld’s distinctive comic voice driving every scene and every character. Without Seinfeld at the helm, Little Bee is just a mediocre cartoon about bees. Whereas Bee Movie made a passionate case for bees’ rights, Little Bee offers an uninspired take on The Prince and the Pauper narrative.
3 Planet Dune (Dune)
When Denis Villeneuve brought the first half of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi masterpiece Dune to the big screen, The Asylum took its own trip to a dangerous desert world in Planet Dune. Planet Dune looks at the epic tale of Herbert’s novel through a very narrow lens, reducing a powerful story about colonialism and religious fanaticism to the giant sandworms lurking underground. All the nuanced allegorical elements of Herbert’s opus are thrown out the window in favor of a mindless survival movie about astronauts outrunning big worms. There are no deeper themes at play in Planet Dune like there are in Dune – just monotonous, mechanical action.
2 Avengers Grimm: Time Wars (Avengers: Infinity War)
The Asylum’s Avengers Grimm franchise combines a mockbuster of The Avengers movies with a mockbuster of Once Upon a Time. They’re superhero stories with an ensemble of heroes made up of fairy tale characters like Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, and Little Red Riding Hood. Avengers Grimm: Time Wars mimics Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos’ quest to acquire the Infinity Stones is replaced by Magda the Mad’s quest to acquire Prince Charming’s ring. The novelty of an Avengers story with fairy tale characters wears off almost immediately, and what remains is a generic action movie with an overcomplicated plot.
1 Transmorphers (Transformers)
When Michael Bay’s explosive Transformers movie burst onto screens, The Asylum made its own mockbuster version called Transmorphers. This version doesn’t have good and evil factions of alien robots; all the robots are evil, and they’ve successfully invaded Earth. Transmorphers’ tale of a human resistance rising up against the machines that have conquered civilization has more in common with the Terminator franchise than the Transformers franchise. Transformers wasn’t all that great to begin with, but at least it’s a competently made movie. Transmorphers has badly dubbed dialogue and noiseless explosions. These glaring filmmaking errors are as noticeable as The Room.