“You’ve got the wrong guy!” That exasperated statement has been uttered countless times at the movies as hapless characters suffer improbable cases of mistaken identity, then scramble to prove their innocence before the credits roll. Something tells us confusion will be played for comedy when Steve Carell and Tina Fey are mistaken for spies in Shawn Levy’s Date Night, but our selections are no laughing matter! Click through and count your blessings if it’s never happened to you….
10. Galaxy Quest
What if aliens beamed to our planet and snatched William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy because they believed the Star Trek cast members to be actual adventurers? That’s the joke behind Dean Parisot’s Galaxy Quest, only it’s Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Tony Shaloub — among others — who are mistaken for warriors by an endangered alien race. Turns out, however, that the one joke is pretty funny.
9. The Glass Bottom Boat
Frank Tashlin’s ludicrous spy spoof begins with America’s sweetheart, Doris Day, losing the bottom half of her outlandish mermaid costume after her boss (Rod Taylor) snags it on his fishing hook. Desperate to make it up to her, Taylor hires Day for a full-time gig at his aerospace research laboratory (!!), where she is mistakenly identified as a Russian secret agent. Don’t you just hate when that happens?
8. The Man from Cairo
Near the end of his career, the gangster-movie star George Raft switched gears to play an American tourist wandering through Algiers who is mistaken for a government agent ordered to locate nearly $100 million in stolen gold bullion. As is the case with most of these mistaken-identity plots, this one’s predictable, coincidental, and silly. But the final confrontation on a packed freight train more than makes up for all that.
7. Intimate Strangers
Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) mistakes tax attorney William (Fabrice Luchini) for a therapist and immediately starts spilling her guts about her husband’s devious, sexual demands. Needless to say, William hides his true identity from this “patient” so he can continue listening to her dish. What comes next is an artfully crafted reminiscence on frozen longing and staid, sexual deceptions. All because of one man’s inability to turn himself off!
6. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) was born a few doors down from Jesus Christ, a coincidence that causes him a lifetime of heartache. Right off the bat, he’s visited by three confused wise men. Later, he’s summoned to appear before Pontius Pilate (Michael Palin), only to escape when the guards get hung up on a titillating name. But all of these mix-ups pale in comparison to Brian’s final identity crisis, when thousands of wayward peasants mistake him for the King of the Jews.
5. The Man with One Red Shoe
Tom Hanks dons a single red sneaker while strolling through the airport and winds up embroiled in a petty spy game being waged between Dabney Coleman and Charles Durning. Yes, Hanks’ concert violinist is mistaken for a secret agent by a paranoid CIA director. But really, Coleman only believes that because Durning lies. Toss in Lori Singer as a lightweight femme fatale, and Man makes for an ace case of cloak-and-dagger comedy.
4. Being There
Peter Sellers earned his third Oscar nomination for playing Chance, a simple-minded gardener who is mistaken for a political advisor thanks to the TV-inspired witticisms he spouts to clueless aristocrats. Now, it’s unlikely Chance would eventually land an audience with the American President, as happens here. But by going with the flow, Chance demonstrates how, sometimes you can achieve great things simply by being there.
3. The Great Dictator
You know who you never want to be mistaken for? Hitler. In a razor-sharp comedy he wrote and directed, Charlie Chaplin plays a Jewish barber who is confused with Adenoid Hynkel, tyrannical ruler of Tomania. Film historians know this one as the Little Tramp’s first all-dialogue feature. German historians, however, know it better as the film Hitler banned after disapproving of Chaplin’s portrayal.
2. The Big Lebowski
Lebowski’s a pretty uncommon name. So how do two thugs mistake Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) for Jeffrey “The Big” Lebowski (David Huddleston)!? It’s also unclear why they had to urinate on his rug, which really tied the room together. But without that honest mistake, we wouldn’t have Joel and Ethan Coen’s wonderfully deranged comedy of errors … and thousands of fans would have no reason to gather each year and sip white Russians.
1. North by Northwest
Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) sure picked the wrong moment to send a telegram to his mum! By signaling for the valet, the advertising exec accidentally identifies himself as a covert government agent, thereby kick-starting Alfred Hitchock’s dizzying cross-country race. Pretty silly, really. The surprise though was how beautifully all of the familiar ingredients gelled into a masterpiece of intrigue, comedy, romance, and heart-pounding thrills.