A film genre exists that takes the question literally. Characters physically or mentally swap places with one another. Wacky comedic antics or serious intellectual revelations are usually the norms. There’s a certain film genre that always seems to deliver the ideal blend of drama, humor, and hilarity. In either case, you’ll appreciate the madness regardless of which film you choose to see. There have been many films like Freaky Friday, but only a few have truly endured the test of time — some of them have become so legendary that they are difficult to forget.
1. Freaky Friday (2003)
In every sense, it’s better than the original. This is partly due to the screenplay, which is less scary and more carefree-freaky than its predecessor, but it is mostly down to the performers. Jamie Lee Curtis is a versatile actress who can play both a worried mother and a rebellious adolescent. Has there ever been a youngster who could play a disapproving adult as well as Lindsay Lohan? This entire film should be protected in glass to remind the world of Lohan’s incredible talent.
2. Face/Off (1997)
Face/Off isn’t a body-change film because Nicolas Cage and John Travolta swap face rather than bodies. This picture is truly Citizen Kane in terms of bringing the genre forward. The action is thrilling, and the leads play off each other with reckless abandon. Until now, body-swap movies had featured sacred canines, magical fountains, voodoo princesses, and living Indian statues. The famous story of an FBI agent (John Travolta) and a terrorist is told in Face/Off (Nicholas Cage). After more than two decades, a sequel is in the works. On Amazon, you may rent Face/Off.
3. 17 Again (2009)
Remember the movie 18 Again, where George Burns effectively paid a youngster to play him while he slept? It’s a complete, completely realized performance that may well be the best he’s ever given. Matthew Perry makes a deal to revert to his childhood age of 17 and learns where he went wrong in life. Zac Efron’s portrayal of Perry’s younger self provides a lot of the film’s charm. For a character that he played during his High School Musical days, Zac Efron does a terrific job, and Matthew Perry also stands out for the brief time he plays like the older Mike.
4. All of Me (1984)
The film is about Lily Tomlin’s soul being mistakenly transplanted into Steve Martin’s body. Martin has to play both starring roles in theory, but in practice, he gets to make a lot of silly expressions and flail his arms around. What could be better, honestly, than Carl Reiner’s comedy?
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5. Big (1988)
There’s a reason Robert De Niro battled so hard for the main role, and it’s because the entire movie is a gift. You’ve probably seen it before. Tom Hanks’ best film may still be this one. You know every scenario, every beat, from beginning to end: the lovely, the sad, and the terrible.
6. Dating The Enemy
The filmographies of Guy Pearce and Claudia Karvan aren’t short on highlights, but the two have rarely been as charming as they are in 1996’s Dating the Enemy. They play an opposites-attract couple in the Australian rom-com—an extroverted TV host and a serious-minded journalist—who swap bodies after making a wish under a full moon. Whether their characters are struggling to fit into each other’s skins or simply being themselves, the actors excel in their roles.
7. Detention ( 2011)
Detention has time travel, aliens, the end of the world, serial killers, a serious case of 90s worship, and a spoof on The Breakfast Club. The video spans two high school years, one in 2011 and the other in 1992. So it’s no surprise that writer/director Joseph Kahn and co-writer Mark Palermo include a case of body swapping between a mother and her daughter in the mix.
8. Being John Malkovich (1999)
John Malkovich is director Spike Jonze’s and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s first feature film. The film takes a different approach to the body-swapping premise. In other words, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a film written by Kaufman.
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9. Prelude To A Kiss (1992)
The drama Prelude to a Kiss is based on the same name. The film is quite dull and sugary. Alec Baldwin also appears as the groom, who finds himself in a marriage that is not what he expected. Prelude to a Kiss, based on the play of the same name, turns the concept into a love drama when a bride (Meg Ryan) trades souls with an elderly man (Sydney Walker) who requests to kiss her on her wedding day.
10. The Change-Up
Ryan Reynolds delivers an excellent impersonation of Jason Bateman. The Change-great Up’s change is sparked by urinating in a fountain. The film follows two buddies who become inebriated and urinate in a fountain, hoping for each other’s lives. Ryan Reynolds is an action star, and I’m quite convinced he’s Deadpool in real life. Peacock is streaming The Change-Up. The Change-Up is also available on Amazon.
11. Nine Lives (2016)
Nine Lives, starring Kevin Spacey, is one of the worst films ever created. The majority of the films on this list are body-swap films, in which two people swap bodies without reciprocating. Before we begin, it’s important to understand the difference between body-swap and body-switch movies.
12. A Saintly Switch (1999)
I debated whether or not to include Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon because it was a made-for-TV movie that never saw a theatrical release. However, I’ll include it because it was directed by the same person who directed Paper Moon and The Last Picture Show.
Starting with one of the most recent additions to this list, 2020’s Freaky is a horror-comedy, which isn’t something you’d expect to see in a body-swapping film, but it works brilliantly. Freaky is about a serial killer (Vince Vaughn) and an outcast teen (Kathryn Newton) who accidentally swap bodies after the serial killer steals an ancient dagger from a museum.
14. Alison’s Birthday (1981)
Alison’s Birthday is an Australian horror film in which nothing happens for lengthy periods until a 16-year-old girl is forcibly implanted into the body of a 104-year-old lady. It’s a terrible movie, but it’s still a lot better than Kevin Spacey’s cat-based body-switch thriller Nine Lives from 2016.
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15. The Hot Chick (2002)
The film has the potential to be shockingly emotional, but only if you walk into it inebriated and with no expectations. In a film that allows Rob Schneider to expand his range by portraying Rob Schneider, but with a slightly higher voice, he swaps places with entitled brat Rachel McAdams. The Hot Chick depicts a teen (Rachel McAdams) who discovers magical earrings that force her to switch bodies with a burglar the moment she puts them on (Rob Schneider). She and her companions strive to locate her body, which is home to the thief while coping with the usual bizarre scenarios. The film is similar to Freaky Schneider, but without the fear and focusing solely on comedy. McAdams, in her pre-Mean Girls days, is fantastic as the vengeful Jessica. This would be a fantastic addition to the watch list for true aficionados of the body-swapping genre.
16. Like Father Like Son (1987)
Body-swap movies were popular in the late 1980s. “Like Father, Like Son” stars Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron. Some of them were excellent, others were just plain bad.
17. The Cobbler (2014)
The Cobbler depicts Adam Sandler as a man who can walk into other people’s shoes and experience their lives. The end effect is so gloopy and sickly, and it trips over so many toes, that it’s repulsive. Sandler must have chosen to trudge through the hellscape of Uncut Gems as a form of direct penance.
18. Dream a Little Dream (1989)
The soul of elderly professor Jason Robards inhabits the body of painful teenage Michael Jackson imposter Corey Feldman during an unusual meditation-based bicycle accident. Robards can only see the real Feldman in his nightmares, along with his wife for some reason. Which is a difficult idea for a film that exists largely to let Corey Feldman dance like Michael Jackson whenever he wants.
19. 18 Again! (1988)
18 Again! is the latest in a long line of body-swapping comedies. George Burns plays the lead in a film based on a song he recorded eight years before. Burns spends most of the movie in a coma for whatever reason. Meanwhile, his soul is implanted into Charlie Schlatter’s body. 18 Again! is one of the many body-swapping movies from the 1980s that helped popularise the genre. 18 Again! has all of the elements you’d expect from a film like this, with some horror thrown in for good measure. Once he’s practically swapped bodies with a teenage girl, Vaughn does an outstanding job in his role. He does such an excellent job portraying these characters that you become emotionally invested in them. After an accident, a college student (Charlie Schlatter) switches souls with his grandfather (George Burns), resulting in hilarity and mayhem as they both struggle to figure out how to go back into their bodies. 18 again! is available to rent on Amazon.
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20. The Shaggy Dog (2006)
Unless a counterpart film about a happy-go-lucky dog who is constantly plunged into the waking terror of becoming Tim Allen is made, The Shaggy Dog needs to be classified as a body-switch comedy. Tim Allen is bitten on the hand by a sacred dog that Robert Downey Jr stole from Tibet, and as a result, he transforms into a dog, making friends with a snake who is also a dog. This is a genuine film that exists. This was one of the first body-swapping movies I recall seeing, and it’s not even a human body he replaces with. Tim Allen plays a district attorney investigating the usage of laboratory animals in the Shaggy Dog remake. The Shaggy Dog tells the story of a district attorney (Tim Allen) who is investigating a case involving the usage of experimental animals and is bitten by a 300-year-old Tibetan dog. He learns more about his family and gains a deeper understanding of them. Who wouldn’t want to spend an hour and a half watching a puppy run around? That’s something I’m always up for. While the jokes are still made in this story, we also get to observe a classic case of expanded perspective.
21. 13 Going on 30 (2004)
Mark Ruffalo plays an anodyne love interest. There is a joke about how “Eminem” sounds like “M&Ms”. Judy Greer plays a best friend. Look past that avalanche of period signifiers, though, and you are left with a sweet enough film about a girl who went to bed aged 13 and woke up as pre-Affleck Jennifer Garner.
22. The Change-Up (2011)
In five years, Jason Bateman appeared in 18 films. His post-Arrested Development money-grab period is represented by The Change-Up. It’s the movie in which he urinates in the same fountain as Ryan Reynolds and subsequently transforms into Ryan Reynolds.
23. Freaky Friday (1976)
This is the original Freaky Friday, in which Jodie Foster takes the role of Barbara Harris. Although it is undoubtedly the most influential film on the list, its allure cannot disguise the reality that it has aged horribly. There are also concerns regarding the film’s gender politics, given that it is primarily about Foster learning how to be a housewife in a hurry.
24. Vice Versa (1988)
Vice Versa, another late-80s body-swap extravaganza, is one of the more successful. This is due to Fred Savage’s convincing portrayal of a cynical middle-aged divorcee and Judge Reinhold’s complete lack of respect. He portrays an 11-year-old boy who is more like an adult who has suffered concussion injuries to his skull than an 11-year-old boy. As a result, it has a strange allure that sets it apart from, say, Like Father, Like Son. Due to divorce and the father’s busy work schedule, a father (Judge Reinhold) and a son (Fred Savage) don’t get to spend as much time together as they would want. After a lengthy discussion, the two of them express their want to be in each other’s bodies while clutching an ancient skull, and the skull granted their request. This film is widely regarded as one of the best made. Not only is it amusing to witness a little boy suddenly have all the freedom in the world as an adult, but we also get to observe their relationship from the perspective of both the spectator and the character. You’ll feel that familiar warmth flowing through your chest at another wonderful family story after watching this short. We begin to see how two people’s lives are more than just what they say, and how stepping into each other’s shoes might help us understand them better.
25. Turnabout (1940)
The film by Hal Roach has not aged well. When I see it now, however, it feels ancient. It’s probably a pretty good artifact of its day as a sarcastic skewering of 1940s sexual politics. Even if the majority of it is as highly dubbed as a cheap kung fu movie, it may have seemed like a smart idea 80 years ago to keep the body-swapped characters’ original voices. Perhaps it was amusing for John Hubbard to play Carole Landis by clod-footed mincing around everywhere. You can watch Turnabout here on Amazon Prime.