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20 of Film and Television's Best Spiritual Successors

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | November 11, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | November 11, 2015 |

You’ve Got Mail is a Spiritual Successor to Sleepless in Seattle. Same actors, same premise, same director. You say “spiritual successor,” and I say a slightly better remake.


L.A. Confidential is a Spiritual Successor to Chinatown — Both neo-noirs set 40 years into the past, both feature scores by Jerry Goldsmith, and both suggest that evil deeds are a necessary means to an end.


Casino is a Spiritual Successor to Goodfellas — Similar stories, the same director (Martin Scorsese), the same actors (Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci), the same screenwriter (Nicholas Pileggi) and the same use of music.


Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration are all Spiritual Successors to Waiting for Guffman, which was a Spiritual Successor to This Is Spinal Tap. They all use the same faux-documentary style to highlight the same kind of reality heightened for laughs, they all share similar cast members, and they all come from Christopher Guest.


The Goldbergs as a Spiritual Successor to The Wonder Years, which itself was a Spiritual Successor to the movie Stand by Me. Basically, The Wonder Years is a coming of age story story from the same time period as Stand by Me told with the same poignancy, while The Goldbergs takes The Wonder Years and tells a similar coming of age story in a similar way, only its set in the 80s.


Parker Lewis Can’t Lose as a Spiritual Successor to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Basically, Parker Lewis is Ferris Bueller, only he goes to school (most days). It’s not like anyone was trying to disguise this: Parker’s girlfriend is even named Annie Sloane (a nod Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane Peterson).


This is 40 is the Spiritual Successor to Knocked Up, which was the Spiritual Successor to The 40 Year Old Virgin — These are not just spiritual sequels, but at one point, Knocked Up was supposed to be an actual sequel to The 40 Year Old Virgin, and This is 40 takes characters from Knocked Up and spins them off. They all have the same roster of actors, they all come from Judd Apatow, and they all have the same sensibility. They are not just spiritual sequels, but spin-offs from each other, exploring different central characters.


The Way, Way Back is a Spiritual Successor to Adventureland, which as a Spiritual Successor to Garden State. The Way Way Back took the coming of age story set in an amusement park (only here, it’s a water park) from Adventureland, while Adventureland took the same emo romance and quirky characters from Garden State (Zach Braff’s Wish You Were Here is a direct spiritual successor to Garden State).


Fierce Creatures is the Spiritual Successor to A Fish Called Wanda. The same four actors playing characters with very similar dynamics, and some of the same supporting characters. It’s practically a direct sequel.


The World’s End is the Spiritual Successor to Hot Fuzz, which was the Spiritual Successor to Shaun of the Dead, which was the Spiritual Successor to Spaced. Basically, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost took the same character sketches and put them in different settings, but created the same brand of comedy with the same running gags throughout all four properties.


The Hangover is a Spiritual Successor to Very Bad Things. I may be the only person who adored the nihilistic Very Bad Things, and liked it, in fact, more than The Hangover. The Hangover is basically the same story with less drastic results. There are many spiritual successors to The Hangover (including two actual sequels), but they’re better known as hack jobs (except for Bridesmaids).


Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the Spiritual Successor to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgund — Adam McKay and Will Ferrell essentially took Ron Burgundy out of the anchor’s seat and put him in the driver’s seat.


Mean Girls is a Spiritual Successor to HeathersMean Girls is a less dark version of Heathers, featuring The Plastics instead of The Heathers. Basically, Heathers is Mean Girls with a body count.


Black Sheep is a Spiritual Successor to Tommy Boy — The same two lead characters, and the same brand of comedy, only Black Sheep is the inferior a movie. (Tommy Boy itself was a spiritual successor to Planes, Trains and Automobiles.)


Labryinth is a Spiritual Successor The Dark Crystal — Both feature Jim Henson created creatures, both were co-written by Henson, and both have similar set designs. Labyrinth is a lighter, more accessible The Dark Crystal.


Grosse Pointe Blank is a spiritual successor to Say Anything, if you assume that Lloyd Dobler didn’t get on the plane with Diane Court and instead joined the army, basically disappeared for a decade, and returned as a hitman (and Ione Skye’s character ws recast as Minnie Driver). (War, Inc. was also a spiritual successor/unofficial sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank).


Carlitos Way is a spiritual Scarface if you assume that Tony does not die at the end of Scarface, but rather goes to prison, returns, and tries to stay away from drugs, but ends up dead anyway (both characters are played by Pacino and both movies directed by Brian DePalma).


Green Mile can be seen as a spiritual successor to Shawshank Redemption, in that both are period pieces set in prisons, both come from the same director (Frank Darabont) and both are adapted from Stephen King stories.


Interstellar can be seen as a spiritual successor to Contact: They’re both based on actual science, they explore similar themes, have similar plot points, and both star Matthew McConaughey. (And The Martian feels like a spiritual successor to both Interstellar and Cast Away).


The AMC Series Humans is an unintentional spiritual sequel to Ex Machina, if you assume that the android in Ex Machina is mass distributed as robot helpers.


Likewise, the British series Black Mirror is a spiritual successor to The Twilight Zone, only the stories are updated to reflect the dangers and fears of 21st century technology.