When the Twilight saga proved a huge hit, numerous teen movies were inevitably accused of trying to recreate its appeal, but what were these alleged rip-offs, and how many of them were actually guilty of trying to cash in on the success of the series? Released in 2008, Twilight was a massive hit with audiences and soon spawned a string of sequels. Based on the bestselling novel saga from author Stephenie Meyer, Twilight always had the potential to be an outsized success, but the sheer size of the franchise surprised many commentators.
Despite the movies being critically dismissed (save for the original Twilight, to an extent), the Twilight saga consistently impressed the box office and made major stars of its leads Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Despite this success, few movies were able to successfully recreate the appeal of Twilight after the saga proved such a huge hit. However, that did not stop studios from trying to find the next Twilight—again, and again, and again.
Countless movies attempted to cash in on the success of the Twilight series, and the phenomenon was so common that eventually some movies were accused of doing so despite not having a lot in common with the franchise. By the time the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2, hit theatres, almost every major movie based on a young adult novel was accused of attempting to be the new Twilight. So, which of these accusations were accurate, and which were way off base?
The Hunger Games
The most successful of the Twilight “rip-offs,” The Hunger Games was also (not coincidentally) the movie that had the least in common with Meyers’ famous franchise. Outside of being a bestselling saga marketed to teen girls and featuring a love triangle, The Hunger Games was not a lot like Twilight despite what some critics claimed, and the success of the series was largely down to the surprisingly thoughtful dystopian franchise sidelining the more melodramatic elements of its YA source material. The Hunger Games movies mostly focused on effective action, believable lore, and sharp social commentary, none of which the Twilight movies were overly concerned with.
A huge hit in its own right, The Hunger Games managed to escape these comparisons in short order and is now due to receive a prequel, something that the Twilight series has yet to earn despite a resurgent interest in the franchise. The Hunger Games also made a star of leading lady Jennifer Lawrence, who proved a believable action heroine throughout the often brutal movies. One of the primary complaints critics of both the Twilight movies and novels had was that Bella was a placid, passive heroine, a criticism leveled at the series so often that Meyers eventually wrote the gender-flipped retelling of Twilight, Life and Death, solely to address this claim. However, the Hunger Games franchise never struggled with making its lead a proactive, self-reliant character, further distancing the movies from the Twilight saga in the process.
I Am Number Four
Starring teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer (remember that name), 2011’s YA adaptation I Am Number Four saw Disturbia director DJ Caruso bring the sci-fi novel of the same name to life. The story is a stock standard “star crossed lovers with a genre twist” effort wherein the alien hero hiding among humans on earth must travel from place to place to avoid detection —until he falls for a small-town girl whose love will leave him willing to risk it all. Unlike some of the movies accused of cashing in on Twilight’s success, I Am Number Four is a cut-and-dried ripoff that at least switched the romance sub-genre from fantasy to sci-fi. While not much in the way of invention, this is at least more than can be said for some lesser attempts to knock off the Twilight movies.
Also released in 2011 and also starring Alex Pettyfer, a veritable veteran of Twilight cash-ins, the Beauty and the Beast retelling Beastly was another blatant knock-off that existed solely to cash in on the success of Meyers’ series. Here, Pettyfer’s brooding Beast stand-in bullies a teen witch (played by an Olsen twin, bizarrely) who curses him with a shaved head and some impressive body art that makes him “hideous” (something that the target demographic of the movie were not entirely convinced by). Thus, the stage is set for a love story so blatantly modeled on the Twilight series that the movie’s first teaser debuted before the second movie of the series, 2009’s New Moon. Beastly was hated by critics mostly because of Pettyfer and leading lady Vanessa Hudgen’s lack of chemistry, but the outing also deserved flack for having a “Beast” who resembled a handsome Soundcloud rapper and a storyline that was even more predictable than that of Twilight.
Red Riding Hood
2011’s Red Riding Hood was a fantasy horror romance that admittedly deserved the ire of critics who called the movie a Twilight rip-off. Despite its period setting, this sexed-up fairytale retelling did essentially turn the titular tale into an opportunity for a guileless teen heroine to get caught up in a love triangle between two brooding antiheroes. This ripoff at least boasted some level of legitimacy, as Red Riding Hood was directed by original Twilight helmer Catherine Hardwicke. Future star Amanda Seyfried is typically solid in the lead role, but this is still an outing that would likely have never been greenlit without Twilight’s success. In an era when more inventive fairytale retellings like the R-rated action-comedy Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters were flopping with critics, a less interesting and more anodyne effort like Red Riding Hood needed much more than an appealing central performance to keep its prospects afloat.
Despite Hardwicke’s solid pacing, Red Riding Hood fell flat with critics and failed to earn a sequel despite faring respectably well at the box office. Like most of the movies listed here, the outing was a minor hit but did not recapture the allure of the Twilight saga and thus could not sustain an entire series, leading the creators back to the drawing board until the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s saga waned. By that time, it was the turn of The Hunger Games to be ripped off by opportunistic producers, and Twilight became another iconic franchise whose imitators could never quite get the recipe right.