Ah, the movies. A chance to relax, escape from your problems, and check out some of Hollywood’s most splendid entertainments, right? Not according to these litigious folks.
Here are some of the strangest lawsuits ever brought to court over a dang movie.
Sarah Deming saw the trailer for Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, and thought it would be a fun, Fast and Furious-style action flick. So she bought herself a ticket and sat herself down for some mindless shenanigans. But if you’ve seen Drive, you know Deming was about to run on empty.
Drive is less “Fast and Furious” and more “Slow and Artsy.” And Deming was upset, feeling lied to. So, she sued Drive for having a misleading trailer. Her only demands? The theatre to refund her ticket. And they did!
Maybe Gosling can adapt this thrilling legal drama next!
The Dark Knight
Since 1939, the character of Batman has delighted folks across the world in comics, movies, TV shows, and video games. But do you know what has a longer history than Batman?
Batman. Specifically, Batman, Turkey, the real name of a real city.
In 2008, when Christopher Nolan dropped The Dark Knight on us, the city of Batman dropped a lawsuit on their doorsteps, for using their name without permission. Batman’s mayor said “There is only one Batman in the world,” and blamed the film for the city’s high crime and suicide rates.
The Shape of Water
Playwright Paul Zindel’s estate sued the makers of Best Picture-winning The Shape of Water for copying his work Let Me Hear You Whisper. His play is about a cleaning woman who bonds with a dolphin in captivity and wants to let it free.
What’s The Shape of Water about?
A cleaning woman who bonds with a monster in captivity and wants to let it free.
Admittedly, there are some similarities. But director Guillermo del Toro denied the charges, saying he’s never read the play. A judge wound up throwing out Zindel’s estate’s lawsuit in court.
In 1999, Damon Pourshian wrote a script called Inside Out, about the anthropomorphized insides of a little boy. He made a short film version and supposedly sent it around to Disney and Pixar people. And he wound up suing them for copying his idea and title.
2015’s Inside Out is about the anthropomorphized emotions of a little girl. And this wasn’t the only lawsuit over the movie. Author Carla J. Masterson thought it borrowed elements of two of her books, and an anonymous child development expert thought it stole from her programs.
Avatar’s lush, absorbing worlds sprung forth from the mind and technology of James Cameron. His vision catapulted to the top of the box office, becoming the second highest-grossing film of all time (behind some movie about superheroes playing a board game or something).
One question: Is it really his vision?
Artist Roger Dean, noted for designing famous album covers for Yes and Asia, sued James Cameron for $50 million over copying key pieces of art for Pandora design. While it’s likely Cameron was influenced by Dean’s work, a judge ruled in favor of Cameron.
Based on a true story, James Wan’s The Conjuring depicts Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), two married paranormal investigators, investigating a spooky case in a house.
But what about the people who live in that house now?
Norma Sutcliffe and Gerald Helfrich, who currently live in the house, sued Warner Bros. over the movie, claiming that since its release, people have been visiting, harassing, and vandalizing the property. While they didn’t see much success from their suit, they’ve since been pleading their case in several online pieces.
The Devil’s Advocate
Al Pacino (aka the titular Devil) has some human sculptures in his apartment, with one key scene featuring them. Artist Frederick Hart thought they were similar to a piece of his, Ex nihilo, which was built in Washington D.C.’s Episcopal National Cathedral. So he and the cathedral sued!
Warner Bros. eventually agreed to reedit the offending scene of The Devil’s Advocate for home video release. They edited out the sculptures and put a sticker on VHS copies insisting no relation to the artwork.
Where’s Keanu Reeves with a Southern accent to be your lawyer when you need him?
12 Monkeys, a hyperactive sci-fi story from the hyperactive brain of Terry Gilliam, features a litany of bonkers scenes. One scene features Bruce Willis getting interrogated by a strange sphere that’s able to probe his weaknesses. How spooky and unique!
Er… maybe just one of those words.
Architect Lebbeus Woods thought this device was similar to his Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber piece, and sued successfully! Universal Pictures had to pay him a healthy sum and credit him. Bet Gilliam wishes he could go back in time and replace that prop with literally anything else.
When you think of Nicolas Cage, you think of “calm, patient, subdued energy,” right? NO, OBVIOUSLY WRONG.
You think of bonkers movies like Knowing, which features an outlandish piece of technology — a time capsule that has been able to predict the locations of every natural disaster. Crazy, right?
But that exists in real life. It’s being developed by tech company Global Findability, and they call it the “Integrated Information Processing System for Geospatial Media.” They sued for patent infringement, and bolstered Cage’s persona with a surprising amount of accuracy.
Natural Born Killers
Two people robbed a convenience store in the mid-90s, shooting and killing the cashier. They’re currently in prison. Their reason for committing such a heinous crime? They claim that Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, was a huge reason they became killers.
So the family of the cashier sued the studio, claiming it caused the death of their family member. In 2001, the suit was thrown out, and the judge said it was a free speech issue, not meant to encourage violence specifically.
Monster-In-Law is a Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda-starring comedy. And you know what? It’s really darn cute! Fonda’s a fun monster and Lopez is an endearing lead. But one screenwriter, Sheri Gilbert, thought it was less “really darn cute” and more “really darn illegal.”
Gilbert claimed she wrote a similar script based on her life, and was astonished to see how close the film was to her real-life details. She sued everyone involved. Warner Bros.’ lawyers said, basically, “Everyone has an annoying in-law,” and a judge agreed, not believing Gilbert’s story was specific enough.
Frozen is, very literally, based on a Hans Christian Andersen fable called The Snow Queen (give or take a singing snowman). But author Isabella Tanikumi didn’t agree. She thought it was based on her life, and not being able to let it go, sued.
Tanikumi wrote an autobiography, citing 18 similarities between her story and Frozen, including the fact that they’re both about sisters experiencing trauma in snowy mountains. However, a judge threw out her lawsuit, saying the stories were in no way similar.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Based on the real-life crazy person Jordan Belfort, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s fever dream is full of cusses, sex, and general insanity. That extends to the ultra-insane lawsuit that germinated from it — which whole hopefully one day be adapted by Scorsese and DiCaprio into a new movie.
Andrew Greene, personified in the movie as Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff (P.J. Byrne), sued the movie over his likeness, because his character wears a bad toupee and everyone makes fun of it. Greene said no one ever sought his permission, and now his business is ruined.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s fake documentary Borat was bound to cause controversy by its production methods alone. They straight up lied to their subjects about the star’s real identity and the film’s authenticity! But still, they couldn’t have anticipated the sheer number of lawsuits that emerged.
The town of Glod, Romania sued for being depicted as backwards. The frat bros sued for being lied to and forced to get drunk. The etiquette teacher sued for the film ruining her business. And the driving instructor sued for being lied to about the film’s truth.
If you haven’t seen Mr. Holmes, please do! It’s a very pleasant take on the detective, anchored by lovely work from Sir Ian McKellen. And it got sued by the estate of the original Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Why? So many other adaptations exist, why go after this one specifically?
Because this one uses stories from Doyle that haven’t yet entered public domain, and they apparently have a Google alert for any mention of Holmes. The case was settled out of court.
The Hangover Part II
Picture Mike Tyson. What do you focus on first? Likely, his distinctive face tattoo, designed by S. Victor Whitmill. When Tyson cameoed in the first Hangover with the tattoo, no harm no foul.
But the sequel threw Whitmill a killer left hook.
Ed Helms was now seen with the exact same tattoo. And Whitmill sued Warner Bros. over the transfer, claiming it was a replication of his work used without his permission. He and Warner Bros. settled, but not without Whitmill trying to stop the movie’s release.
For many years, Pixar’s logo featured a cute lamp as its I, even animating into the company’s logo and squishing a regular I. It’s based on a real lamp, designed by Luxo, who appreciated the free publicity.
Until the release of Up on blu-ray.
Pixar included a Luxo toy lamp with the film. And Luxo hit Pixar with a lawsuit, saying they were selling Luxo’s product without their permission. They eventually reached an agreement: Pixar can keep using Luxo in their logo, but can’t sell physical Luxo lamps.
The Basketball Diaries
1995’s The Basketball Diaries, an unflinching look at a young heroin addict played by Leonardo Dicaprio, features many shocking scenes in its pursuit of gritty realism. But one went further than the rest: a startling sequence where Dicaprio fantasizes about shooting up his classmates.
In 1997, a shooting at Heath High School occurred. And Jack Thompson, an activist and former lawyer known for crusading against violent media, sued the film in 1999 for causing the attack to occur (alongside video games like Resident Evil and Doom). The case was dismissed in 2001.
Barbara Chase-Riboud wrote a novel called Echo of Lions, about a mutiny on a slave ship. The novel was so acclaimed, it got her a meeting with Steven Spielberg’s production company, and screenwriter David Franzoni was hired to adapt her work. All pretty normal so far.
The film came out without crediting Chase-Riboud. In fact, it credited a different source book. What happened? Chase-Riboud sued to find out.
Apparently, Franzoni never heard about Chase-Riboud’s book, only hearing about the idea through someone else who met with Chase-Riboud. The case was eventually settled out of court.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
The Resident Evil saga is full of jaw-dropping action sequences that delight fans worldwide. But at what cost?
On its final entry, Olivia Jackson, Milla Jovovich’s stunt double, suffered a horrible injury that she said was the result of negligence on the production’s part. She sued everyone involved.
Jackson was supposed to shoot a fight scene. But when she arrived to set, she was blindsided with a complex motorcycle stunt in poor weather conditions. Everything went horribly, and she had to be induced into a coma and have her arm amputated as a result of the accident.
Rocky Balboa got pretty good at running up the stairs of an art museum. Maybe he should’ve gotten better at running up the stairs of a courthouse.
In 2003, the real life boxer Chuck Wepner, whose challenging of Muhammad Ali inspired Sylvester Stallone to make Rocky, sued the Italian Stallion.
Stallone, who publicly talked about his movie’s borrowing Wepner’s fight against Ali, had wanted to pay tribute to Wepner by casting him in Rocky II — but Wepner failed a drug test. Eventually, Wepner and Stallone settled out of court, with both parties asserting the other was benefiting unfairly.
In the Tom Hanks film, based on a true story, we watch as Captain Phillips gets his crew out of an impossible situation: The vicious hijacking by Somali pirates, led by Oscar-nominated Barkhad Abdi. But how true was this story?
According to Captain Phillips’ real life crew, not so much.
They asserted, in a blunt lawsuit, that the real Phillips was an egotistical blowhard who steered directly into pirate-strewn waters to save some time and money, instead of listening to his crew. Their attorney claimed that the real heroes of the story were the crew and Navy, not Phillips.
Darren Aronofsky’s dance-centered fever dream features an Oscar-winning Natalie Portman obsessively pushing herself past the point of no return in her quest for greatness. Should we be expecting the same out of the film’s interns?
After a lawsuit, a judge ruled, “No!”
Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, who worked more than 40 hours per week for over a year, never received pay or college credit. They sued the film’s production company not just for fair pay, but to prevent them from undergoing similar practices. And a judge ruled in their favor.
Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton dramatizes the rise of influential hip-hop group N.W.A, featuring notable figures like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E. One figure you may not have known in their story was their manager Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti. And Heller was not happy with the performance.
He sued the studio for $110 million, claiming the film unfairly paints him as a villain. The film’s producers countersued, claiming that Heller’s story is a matter of public record and therefore not eligible for defamation. Heller died in September of 2016, three months after his lawsuit was thrown out.
The Hurt Locker
The Best Picture-winning The Hurt Locker paints an intense depiction of life during the Iraq war. It follows Jeremy Renner’s Will James, leader of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, and his harrowing close calls with IEDs. Screenwriter Mark Boal based it on his experiences reporting on soldiers at war.
But one soldier thought it came too close. Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Sarver, whom Boal wrote about in a Playboy article, believed Renner’s character was directly based on him, and sued for defamation. The courts ultimately ruled that the film was protected by the first amendment, and Sarver lost.
Coming to America
Humorist Art Buchwald wrote a movie treatment in 1982 called King for a Day, about a young African leader who comes to America. Buchwald pitched it to Paramount Pictures for Eddie Murphy to star and John Landis to direct. After years of development hell, Paramount passed, and life went on.
Until Paramount released Coming to America. Starring Eddie Murphy. Directed by John Landis. About a young African leader who comes to America.
Buchwald sued the studio, and thanks to his copious amounts of evidence, courts rules in his favor. Buchwald received $900,000 in damages.
After getting involved in some shady cahoots, a tough and rugged action hero must rescue the President’s daughter from a massive, near-future prison. Cool movie idea, right? It’s so cool they made it twice.
Lockout, made in 2012, shares this plot with Escape From New York, made in 1981.
John Carpenter, noted genre director who made Escape, sued the makers of Lockout, including noted genre director Luc Besson, for plagiarism. Somewhat surprisingly, Carpenter won, earning himself and Escape’s co-writer money in damages. Besson appealed the case and lost, owing more money to Carpenter.
Pain & Gain
In 1994, businessman Marc Schiller was kidnapped and tortured by the Sun Gym gang, a group of Miami bodybuilders who resorted to crime. After an attempted murder went awry, Schiller escaped and testified.
So how did he feel when he saw his story in Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain?
He watched as his captors, played by movie stars Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Anthony Mackie, garnered sympathy and humanization. His character, played by Tony Shalhoub, was painted as a gross creep who deserved his fate. Schiller sued for defamation of character.
On paper, this lawsuit is easy to understand. Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway as a woman whose alcoholic episodes are somehow linked to a giant monster attacking cities, was pitched as Godzilla meets Being John Malkovich. Its director Nacho Vigalondo even called it a low-budget Godzilla movie.
So why wouldn’t Godzilla’s studio sue? That’s what Toho did in 2015, claiming the studio behind Colossal brazenly stole the imagery for the iconic monster. Eventually, both parties agreed to withdraw from the formal lawsuit, and Colossal was released un-stomped.
In the United States, Disney has owned the name Tomorrowland since 1970, as part of their Epcot theme park. So when they released their George Clooney-starring movie in America in 2015, no harm no foul. But when they tried to sell it overseas, one music festival sought revenge.
When a European electronic music festival called Tomorrowland tried to expand to the US, Disney stopped them, making them change their name to TomorrowWorld. So when Disney was ready to release the movie in Europe, the festival struck back, suing them for using a name they owned in those countries.
The 30 Most Filthy Rich Actors and Actresses, Ranked
Most of us, at one point or another, have longed for greater fortunes. A bigger house, a nicer car. Or, at the very least, enough to pay the bills. Hollywood is chock full of loaded stars.
Not all of them have made the bulk of their dough performing in front of the camera. And some have opted to spend their earnings on some most peculiar things.
Let’s count down the richest living actors and actresses. We bet you’ll be shocked at how much some of them are worth.
The 30 Worst Performances From Typically Great Actors
There’s nothing like discovering a new favorite actor. A talented thespian who delivers consistently excellent performances. Until… they boink up. And they all boink up.
Here are the worst performances from 30 otherwise incredible actors. You know what? Everyone makes mistakes!
Classic Movies That Were A Nightmare to Make
Classic movies are a blast to watch, but many of them weren’t so fun to make.
Some of the most famous movies of all time were grueling experiences for the cast and crew. Read on to see which of your favorite movies were a total nightmare behind-the-scenes.