The Mockbuster

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
(Redirected from Mockbuster)
A clever rat knows how to get the freshest ingredients: by stealing from another restaurant -- or animation studio, as the case may be...

"Another great knock-off is DVDs. The ones that are slight variations of slightly animated kids' movies. The kind they put right next to the check-out line, so Grandma might accidentally mistake it for the real thing. And they have titles like, The Secret Princess and Her Oppressive Authority Figure 4, and the always-popular Jungle Animals in Decidedly Non-Jungle Situations."

Strong Bad, Homestar Runner, Strong Bad Email #190, "licensed"

In principle, the Mockbuster is a bit like a movie with an Alternative Pornographic Name, but there's generally no nudity. It's not part of a pair of Battling Films, because it can't even afford the fare to get to the ring where the shows duke it out. A mockbuster is a movie that is suspiciously similar to another more popular, more well-known—and, let's face it, more "real"—movie, to the point of being the copy of an entire film. Why? Trying To Make Money Off A Popular Idea, of course.

Because they're generally made by no-name studios to make a quick buck, the biggest difference between mockbusters and the movies they're based on is budget. The mockbuster has serious budget restrictions. Think "three kids with a cellphone" production values. The writing is usually subpar, too—the producers aren't striving for Genuine Artistry; they're trying to rip off a more popular idea in an attempt to con gullible consumers. Of course, depending on what they're copying, the original might not have been such a cinematic masterpiece itself.

However, if there's one thing mockbusters can do well, it's Mimicfeline Boxart. Their designs and logos, like the colors of a viceroy butterfly, are designed to resemble the "real" movies they're copying as closely as possible. Remember, Covers Deceive All The Time. They also pick titles similar to the original, often containing similar words, or made-up words that sound the same.

The people mockbusters tend to appeal to seem to fall into four brackets: kids too young to know the difference between the real deal and the fake; people too old to care, who might get the two confused when looking for something for their kids and grandkids; parental Propriety Police who want to get their children The Upstanding Alternative to a mainstream film that is more in line with their values; and Dorks, who aren't fooled at all, but who watch them for their awesome badness. Bad Stuff Is Interesting! As such, they tend to be sold in supermarket magazine racks, pharmacy gift racks, and grab bags in outlet shops.

The rare cases of mockbusters that might actually try to do something "artistic" are those adapting Out Of Copyright works, though again, generally only if a more "popular" story adapting the same work came out recently. This phenomenon sometimes applies to live theater as well with regards to public domain works (Pixie Stories, The Theater Spirit) that have had a more popular version created that smaller theater companies could never produce on their own.

Mockbusters tend to be made in countries outside of the US, as if in "response" to a coming American blockbuster. Those might change the plot based unobtanium to something more in touch with their national sensibilities (the Indian Ultraguy mockbuster has him getting his powers from a god, for example) and the genre might skew towards one more popular in that country (the Brazilian series Non-Villains is somewhat like a soap opera).

How do all of these copyright friendly guys get away with it? Often times, it's simply a matter of obscurity. Sure, that "Larry Baxter" guy on the back of the cereal box who has to find the "Gilded Stitch" is pretty similar to some book you read, but how much money is there really to be made from suing some company that designs bargain-basement cereal boxes?

See also Alternative Adult Film Names (when this is applied to porn), Shoddy Knockoff Product (when this is applied to commercial products), In Everything But Name, and In Name Only Sequels (when old foreign movies have their titles for the re-release changed in order for them to cash-in from current blockbusters).

Has nothing to do with the Mythtesters or Phantomgetters.

UK Created For Television Film channel Movies 24 ran a Mockbuster season, deliberately confusing the derivatives with the originals and calling out the trope by name. It includes The Terminators, Aliens Versus Hunters, Transmorphers Fall Of Man and Snakes On A Train.

Examples (Pot holes lead to pages of the films being copied unless the copy itself has an article):

Film - Animation

Film - Live Action

  • Battle of Los Angeles - obviously referencing Battle: Los Angeles.
    • This one was even on Syfy, thus fully cementing it within the same realm as the other examples of this trope.
  • The Asylum is a company that only makes mockbusters and bad "Christian" movies, and are quite cynical about it. in fact, there's a news article in their website that states (and these are the actual words they use) "We've decided to use some of the billions of dollars we've made ripping people off..." The majority of the examples on this page are Asylum productions.
    • Even better, from a blog entry advertising a sale on their films: "You'd have to illegally download to get a better deal than that... but then you'd just be stooping to our level..."
    • Their DVD covers have quotes from uncredited sources, which is illegal.
  • Following The Asylum's footsteps is Tom Cat Films LLC which includes a major numbers of mockbusters amongst few others that makes The Asylum look like 20thCenturyFox by comparison, this includes...
  • 10 Million B.C.
  • 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • AVH: Alien Vs. Hunter, which despite it's source pulls out a surprising twist ending the hunter aliens are humans...from another planet
  • I Am Omega, which even also bills itself as an adaptation of the book I Am Legend. Their choice of "Omega" is interesting because "The Omega Man" was the title of a previous film adaptation of "I Am Legend."
  • |The Day The Earth Stopped—Notable for prompting Fox to threaten to take legal action, though said threat wasn't carried out.
  • Snakes On A Train
    • Incidentally, that one did provoke a lawsuit.
  • King of the Lost World, which claimed to be based on Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World, but was a clear King Kong ripoff. In fact, the cover art even went so far as to point out that Doyle's book inspired King Kong (which is true, but hardly justifies such ridiculousness).
    • It also says that the "story" it's based on inspired Literature/Jurassic Park!
    • Similarly, we have Pirates of Treasure Island. "We're not stealing from Disney; they're stealing from Stevenson!"
    • A similar deal exists with Alan Quartermain and the Kingdom of Gold, which re-purposes the classic character as an Indiana Jones Captain Ersatz.
    • Then there's an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Land that Time Forgot" released just in time to counter the Land of the Lost movie.
  • Death Racers (whose cover art also bears a strong Death Proof influence), note that Violent J of Insane Clown Posse who stars in said that this movie is "the bootleg ripoff fake version" of Death Racers in 2008 Gathering of the Juggalos.
  • Sunday School Musical
  • Universal Soldiers (note the plural)
  • The 18 Year-Old Virgin
  • The Terminators (Again, note the plural).
    • Back in 1990, there was Terminator II. Which was actually released before the official sequel. Humorously enough, Terminator II is actually a remake of Aliens.
    • Bruno Mattei, the director of the aforementioned Mockbuster, also directed Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws. For an extensive look into Mattei's films, check out The Bruno Mattei Show, in which Brad Jones discusses the man's filmography with Ed Glaser, Noah Antwiler and other friends. It's quite insightful into how a mockbuster comes to be. For that matter, Bruno's career consisted almost entirely of Nazisploitation and Mockbusters, though these were never mutually exclusive. It's almost too bad he's dead - his ripoff of Inglorious Basterds would be... something.
    • Later in 2010, Eric Parkinson, who used to be president of Hemdale (which also made the first Terminator movie), tried to make a cheap CGI animated spin-off of the franchise called Terminator 3000, but production on that movie is being halted due to a cease-and-detest letter he received from Pacificor, the recent owner of the Terminator franchise rights. However, Eric has spoken that he kept the animation rights to the franchise under Hemdale when he sold the live-action sequel rights to Carolco in 1990, and that he took those rights with him when Hemdale closed down.
  • The War of the Worlds (the title is public domain now)
    • The War of the Worlds actually got two mockbusters to go with the Spielberg film. One of which apparently actually follows the book and sets the invasion in Victorian Britain.
  • Tornado!
  • Transmorphers and Transmorphers: Fall of Man.
    • For the toys, there is Beast Tech Fighter, Quick Change, etc.
    • Although the funny thing about this is that the Transmorphers movies are Terminator ripoffs with a Transformers-sounding name.
      • In fact, it blatantly steals elements from the Transformers films (the robots do transform, albeit badly & slowly & they are extraterrestrial in origin), The Matrix trilogy (insofar as fashion) and the Terminator films (particularly Salvation). Trifecta!
  • Paranormal Entity
    • 8213: GACY HOUSE is apparently some kind of Paranormal Activity 2 rip-off.
      • So much so that it was actually released in the UK as Paranormal Entity 2 (though it's more likely that it was due to the John Wayne Gacy case not being as well known outside the US).
  • Certain Mystery Science Theater 3000-featured films such as the Conan-inspired Ator series, Escape 2000 (in which people try to Leave the Bronx instead of Escaping from New York), Mad Max-alikes Warrior of the Lost World and City Limits , Japanese Planet of the Apes clone Time of the Apes, Hobgoblins (not Gremlins), and Pod People (whose name invokes Invasion of the Body Snatchers, while the aliens look like ALF and the plot is ripped right out of ET the Extraterrestrial.)
  • Everything ever made by Branscome International. Keep 'em coming, we're not going anywhere.
  • Alien 3000
  • Italians also made the Star Wars ripoff Starcrash. Which somehow had John Barry's music, and starred Christopher Plummer - and David Hasselhoff!
    • Starcrash may be more (in)famous, but The Humanoid beats it for sheer plagiarism. Whenever possible, props and costumes (and even entire scenes) are copied wholesale from A New Hope, to the point that Starcrash seems completely original in comparison.
  • A number of Bruno Mattei's films. The best known are:
    • Terminator II, as stated above (It's actually more of an Aliens ripoff.)
    • Robowar with Reb Brown
    • Jaws 5 ( Fourteen More to Go), ripping it off almost word for word
    • Hell Of The Living Dead, not content with trying to shoe horn this movie into Romero lore, Bruno Mattei lifted most of the soundtrack from Dawn of the Dead to score this.
  • And now - Titanic 2! That's not a sequel to Titanic, though, but a new film about a totally different ship called the Titanic 2!
  • High School Musical: Sunday School, which is also a blatant rip-off of Sunday School Musical.
  • Sherlock Holmes (Asylum, again), which can use the name since he's a Public Domain Character. With Gareth David-Lloyd who played Ianto in Torchwood as Dr. Watson. Holmes investigates a case with tentacle monsters, androids, dinosaurs, and robot dragons setting fire to Parliament. Attempts Rule of Cool to the twenty-third power.
    • Also of note; despite using a character whose entire works (pretty much) are available for free online, they apparently couldn't even be bothered to spend five minutes skimming the Wikipedia article; in this film, Sherlock's name isn't actually Sherlock, his brother's name is not Mycroft, the brother worked as a detective alongside Lestrade instead of founding the Diogenes Club...
  • Princess Of Mars. Made it out while the legitimate adaptation was still stuck in Development Hell. Comes from The Asylum, which pretty much gives away the intention. May be a mockbuster of Avatar instead based on the promotional material. Starring Traci Lords in the title role.
  • After Impact.
  • This was a big problem in Italy during the Spaghetti Western craze of the Sixties. The relaxed copyright law in Italy at the time meant as soon as a character got popular, knockoff movies would appear seeming to star that character. Django, Sabata and Sartana were famous for having their names recycled in knockoffs. (They couldn't do this to the most popular Spaghetti Western character ever, for reasons which are quite obvious if you think about it a little, but it didn't stop one film claiming to be "The Return of Clint the Stranger".)
    • Actually, the so-called "Man With No Name" is named in each film, only it's different each time (Joe, Manco and Blondie, in order).
  • While Curse of the Ring doesn't have anything to do with the The Lord of the Rings movies, and is in fact originally called Ring of the Nibelungs - the plot being based off of the Sigfried/Brunhilde/Fafnir saga - the movie's marketing and even logo font really, REALLY tries hard to be mistaken for a Lord of the Rings movie.
  • 2012: Doomsday
  • The Exterminator 2 and The Executioner Part 2—no Executioner Part 1.
  • Almost everything released by Video Asia, the masters of In Name Only Sequels. One of the worst offenders, they don't even make their own mockbusters: they just re-release old foreign movies with different titles.
  • Mac and Me, a 1988 movie that badly rips-off E.T., and is basically an 80 minute-long commercial for McDonald's, Coke, and some other stuff.
  • The Man Who Saves the World and many other Turkish rip-offs of then popular movies.
  • There were at least two Indian Superman films produced, complete with musical numbers.
  • The Almighty Thor, featuring a Thor with an Uzi. Asylum, you've done it again!
  • The Real King's Speech, notable for injecting irony straight into the veins of the audience.
  • A modern adaptation of Moby Dick. Ahab (Barry Bostwick) is a Navy captain who repurposes his high-tech submarine to track down Moby Dick, here a prehistoric whale the size of an aircraft carrier, after it took his leg decades ago. Despite being made by The Asylum, it's not half bad and features many references to the original story.
  • Gargantua.
  • Somewhat unfairly, the original Battlestar Galactica movie was accused early on of being a rip off of Star Wars - presumably on the basis that after Star Wars debuted, ANY movie set in space was ripping off Star Wars. Legal action was even mooted - but sensibly quickly dropped when it became clear that a setting in space was really the only obvious link between the two.
  • Lady Terminator—basically the same as its namesake, but instead of an android, it's an archaeologist possessed by the Queen of the South Sea. Other than that, according to The Cinema Snob, if you haven't seen Terminator, but you've seen Lady Terminator, you've pretty much seen Terminator.
  • Cowboys and Aliens was ripped off by Cowboys And Vampires and Cowboys And Zombies.
  • Bloody Murder, which is about a group of young people hired to fix up and act as the counselors of a secluded summer camp with a dark past involving a drowned boy. Unfortunately for them, a maniac adorned in a hockey mask starts knocking them off. Sound familiar?
    • There was even a character named Jason. Whe he disappears, we get several scenes of people asking "Where's Jason?" or "Have you seen Jason?"
  • Chihuahua: The Movie was audacious enough to admit that it's a film for those who like Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
  • 3 Dev Adam (Three Big Men) is a notorious 1973 Turkish film featuring three famous (and extremely unauthorized) superhero characters: Captain America (comics), Spider-Man, and El Santo. Spidey, of all people, is actually the sadistic villain of the piece.

Live Action TV

  • The Hamas made kids show Tomorrow's Pioneers features characters who are blatant ripoff of American cartoons. Though said characters are given Islamist twists by the writers.
  • Time Bomb had so many similarities to 24 that the makers of the latter sued.


  • Since the source novel is in the public domain, musical versions of The Phantom of the Opera ran rampant in the 1990s (regional tours, community theaters, etc.) to cash in on Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation—enough so that Time magazine did a whole article on the phenomenon. But not all of them qualified as this trope: Ken Hill's version was the one that inspired Lloyd Webber to take his own stab at the story in the first place, and Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Phantom was actually written around the same time as Lloyd Webber's but couldn't get produced until afterwards due to the competition. One of the mockbusters was videotaped and later released on DVD, and the Phantom Reviewer took it on.
  • Similarly, a few stage musical versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame appeared around 1996, perhaps hoping to compete with a Screen to Stage Adaptation of the Disney movie, which was considered likely in the wake of Beauty and the Beast. Disney's version had a successful Screen to Stage Adaptation in Germany in 1999 but has not been staged elsewhere.
  • Cirque Productions and Le Grand Cirque are companies that are this to Cirque du Soleil (seriously, compare the websites), to the point that the former was sued for using "Cirque" in their name; it didn't work since that's just the French word for "circus". Judging from reviews at Ticketmaster's website, the former's shows have successfully tricked ticket buyers who didn't do the research and thought they saw an actual CDS show. It doesn't help that until 2006 CDS tours only visited major cities, and thus knockoff troupes could make hay by visiting places that weren't. Alternatively, knockoffs often have extended runs in casino-heavy towns like Atlantic City and Reno as opposed to Las Vegas, where the real deal has put down roots.
  • If a popular fairy or folk tale gets adapted into a Disney Animated Canon film, expect a knockoff stage version to tour the children's theater/school group circuit soon after, and perhaps be available to community theaters after that. The Enchantment of Beauty and the Beast is a good example.

Video Games

  • The company Gameloft applies a similar concept to video games, where they release shameless copies of well-known franchises (usually on cellphones); the difference here is that their games are usually quite well-made (although some of them, most notably the Mac OS X and 3DS ports of Gangstar: Miami and Asphalt, respectively, were met with negative reception, being that they were lazily ported especially Gangstar, having outdated graphics compared to the the ones they were imitating). One of their more interesting examples is Shrek Kart, which copies Mario Kart but replaces the cast of well-known characters with a different cast of well-known characters rather than a bunch of Captain Ersatz's (unlike with most of their games).
    • Another thing that makes Gameloft less of a negative thing than other examples on this page: almost all of the games they copy have not yet been released on cellphones/iOS, so they serve a positive role in bringing the genre to mobiles, instead of just competing with better alternatives. They have also made several games using real official licenses such as Assassin's Creed and Brothers in Arms, so they are perfectly willing to help bring games to mobile/iOS legitimately.
      • Given that the company was also founded by the same Guillemot brothers who were behind French video game giant Ubisoft, it wouldn't be that much of a surprise.
  • There is a webgame called Chick'n Bash. It's especially odd because there are plenty of other webgames in the "smash the tower" genre that have vastly different aesthetics from Angry Birds.
    • There's a similar one called Chicks'n'Vixens.
  • Final Combat, the Chinese Team Fortress 2.
  • Many of the unlicensed NES games made by Taiwanese company Sachen fit this category:
  • Several console rip-offs. Funstation? Vii? The list goes on...
  • Power Punch II. It doesn't help that it was going to be an actual Punch Out!! game (hence the II, since there's no "first" Power Punch game).
  • There's Pirates: Legend Of The Black Buccaneer, which came out for the PlayStation 2 on the heels of the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.



  • The Amanda Show parodied this in a recurring sketch. People were returning movies they got from a movie store that were knockoffs of whatever they really wanted, created by a family of foreigners. The icing on the cake is that the store itself was a knock-off of Blockbuster, "Blockblisters".
  • Be Kind Rewind is about a pair of video store owners who make their own mockbusters after all their tapes are destroyed, and become a massive success after their remakes grow wildly popular.
  • Tanaka Bros Game Development does this with all their releases. Including Bad Mileage and Pocket Morons.
  • MAD has been known to make parodies of these such as Home School Musical.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus made fun of Mockbusters well before they were even a phenomena, with the Mr. Dibley sketch , about a filmmaker who makes hideously bad, silent, one-reel versions of famous movies starring random people from shops.

"Oh yes, well, I mean, there were some people who said my film 2001: A Space Odyssey was similar to Stanley Kubrick's. I mean, that's the sort of petty critical niggling that's dogged my career. It makes me sick. I mean, as soon as I'd made Midnight Cowboy with the vicar as Ratso Rizzo, John Schlesinger rushes out his version, and gets it premiered while mine's still at the chemist's."

  1. the same folks who brought us the Godfrey Ho Ninja Movies and, in turn, Pierre Kirby