When Barbenheimer first stepped into the world of internet memedom, I distinctly remember letting out a sigh — one of exhaustion but also of intrigue. Was this discourse about to route itself to the deadbeat “boys-versus-girls” conversation, resulting in a sexist box-office showdown? Or was this going to be a twist of fate finally showing us how different genres of film could hold each other up rather than tear one another down?
While the human tendency to see objects in black and white did peek through often, Barbenheimer — at large — demonstrated the uniting power of storytelling. As a result, Oppenheimer was given the space to be vulnerable and heart-warming, while Barbie proved its mettle of being crucial, and groundbreaking. The emerging victor, therefore, was neither.
As we continue to hope that Barbenheimer is not the last in its cinematic legacy of being a changemaker, we are certain that it is not the first. Here are five movie pairings similar to Barbenheimer where the true winner was not a movie, but the beauty of cinema as a whole.
1. The Mamma Knight! (July 18, 2008)
If we wander through the pages of history, we are sure to find Christopher Nolan nestled within headlines similar to that of Barbenheimer. In a clash of cult classics, Nolan’s The Dark Knight squared off against Phyllida Lloyd’s Mamma Mia! on July 18, 2008. With one foot in Batman’s Gotham City and the other rooted on ABBA’s sunny Greek isle, fans were torn and cinema queues similarly split.
2. Frozen Fire (November 22, 2013)
On November 22, 2013, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen went head-to-head in a Sharkboy and Lavagirl pairing at the multiplex. The former is the second instalment in a dystopian franchise where the districts of Panem survive on the brink of an uprising. Frozen is an animated jukebox where an endless winter bridges the relationship between two sisters with a snowman, a mountaineer and his reindeer by their side. With the box office heating up, audiences were left to ponder what can only be described as a brain-“freezing” decision.
3. Om Saawariya Om (November 9, 2007)
On the weekend of November 9, 2007, cinemagoers across India stubbed two tickets — one for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya and the other for Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om. As silver screens all around came alive with these two Hindi-language romance films, many decided to double bill it (what we can now conveniently deem “Babrenheiming”). To this day, we go through life humming the melody of Jab Se Tere Naina and impulsively breaking into the hookstep of Deewangi Deewangi.
4. Blonde Terminator (July 2, 2003)
The coming together of two cinematic masterpieces can be aptly summarised in a date: July 2, 2003. In a head-to-head clash of legacy film sequels, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde opened their doors to the world, simultaneously. While the sci-fi action film by Jonathan Mostow found itself in a post-apocalyptic future where cyborgs and robot invasions cast an ominous shadow, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld’s rom-com exhibited Elle Woods and a cotton-candy courtroom drama in Washington, D.C. The question lingers again: she’s everything. He’s just… a cyborg?
5. 10 Things I Hate About The Matrix (March 31, 1999)
If Barbenheimer was to walk back into the 20th Century, dial down a smidgen and choose to adopt a vintage-film aesthetic, it would probably be in a pool of copyright infringement with 10 Things I Hate About The Matrix — a conjunction of Gil Junger’s romantic comedy and The Wachowskis’ science fiction film. While these two genres sit on opposite ends of the spectrum, their overlapping release on March 31, 1999 allowed us to witness teenagers dodging love triangles as well as suited agents dodging time-warping bullets. In a choice between Junger’s red pill and The Wachowskis’ blue, there is only one true answer: purple, please.