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Must-Watch Body-Swap Movies To Add To Your Bucket List

One of the often-recurring stories in fantasy and sci-fi movies is the body-swap narrative. The most classic version of this is two characters swapping minds with each other, but there are countless other variants of this basic idea. Sometimes, it's one person magically transforming into an older or younger version of themselves. Other times, it may even be two or more personalities fighting for control of the same body. It's a big genre with somewhat fuzzy borders, but no matter how you get there, the end result is the same — either one actor playing multiple characters or multiple actors playing the same character.

We can understand why this particular oddly specific sub-genre has remained so popular for so long. From an actor's perspective, it gives them an opportunity to break out of their normal rut and play against type. From a production standpoint, it allows you to make a film with science fiction or fantasy elements without needing a big budget. And from an audience standpoint, these films are a sure-fire recipe for great comedy. Seriously, as long as Hollywood keeps making body-swap movies, we'll keep watching them.

And today, we're talking about some of the greatest body-swap movies of all time — the classics, the obscure, and the just plain weird. These are our favorites, but this list is by no means definitive. With such a large body of films to choose from, we wouldn't blame you if you wanted to swap another one in.

The 2003 Freaky Friday is a body-swap classic

In many ways the archetypal model for a body-swap story, the 1972 novel Freaky Friday has been adapted to the screen on numerous occasions. The best incarnation is probably the 2003 version starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsey Lohan, so if you haven't seen it before, give it a watch. Even though it's been quite a while since 2003, this heartwarming family comedy has aged surprisingly well.

The film centers on the fraught relationship between Anna Coleman (Lohan), a detention-prone teenage punk musician, and her high-strung widowed mother, therapist and author Tess Coleman (Curtis). Anna wishes that her mother accepted and supported her more, and Tess wishes that her daughter was more welcoming towards Tess' new fiancé. One night, after a particularly explosive argument at a Chinese restaurant, the two are given a pair of mystical fortune cookies by the restaurant's owner. (Okay, so maybe not everything about the movie has aged well.) The next morning, our two leads awake to find that they've swapped bodies. Tess now has to endure math tests, teenage drama, and performing in a rock band, whereas Anna has to deal with anxious patients, wedding preparations, and a television talk show appearance.

Though the film's first act feels a little talky and on the nose at times, once the actual body swap happens, it's a complete delight from there to the finish. Gather your loved ones and watch this wholesome little flick the way it was intended to be watched, as a family.

You can't go wrong with the original Freaky Friday

Once you're done watching the 2003 version of Freaky Friday, consider checking out the original from 1976. This telling of the story follows Mary Rogers' original novel much more closely than the later remakes. It keeps the original names of the characters and much of the plot intact, and it even features voiceover narration that quotes directly from the book. Barbara Harris plays the mother in this incarnation, Ellen Andrews, and a young Jodie Foster plays the daughter, Annabelle Andrews.

The biggest difference between the 1976 version of the story and later stories that followed in its footsteps is that there's just a lot less plot than you might expect. No big rock concerts or rehearsal dinners to deal with here, just a series of short comedic adventures as our two protagonists struggle to deal with the day-to-day problems in one another's worlds. That being said, the central performances are compelling enough that 1976's Freaky Friday is still worth your time to check out, even if it's just as a curiosity. No joke, Jodie Foster delivers some of the best acting of her entire career here, and that's very much saying something.

Your Name is beautiful and heartbreaking

Your Name might be considered somewhat of a hidden gem in the English-speaking world, but that's very much not the case in the film's native country. In fact, it's one of the highest-grossing Japanese movies of all time.

The film tells the story of two teenagers who begin as strangers to one another. The first is Mitsuha, a restless and wistful girl who lives in a small, sleepy village in the Japanese countryside. The second is Taki, a hardworking yet somewhat scatterbrained boy who lives in an apartment in Tokyo. One day, the two teens awake to find that they've switched bodies with one another. At first, this leads to the sorts of lighthearted supernatural rom-com shenanigans that you might expect. However, as the story progresses, it gradually deepens into something far more complicated — a fascinating supernatural mystery that leads, after many twists and turns, to a genuinely jaw-dropping revelation.

Gorgeously animated, compelling, funny, and heartbreaking, Your Name is a complex and thought-provoking movie that's pretty much perfect in every way. We don't want to say anything else about it because we don't want to spoil any of the film's later plot beats, so all we'll say is go watch it. Seriously.

Being John Malkovich is the weirdest body-swap movie ever

All body-swap movies can get a little strange now and then, but by far, the most wonderfully strange movie that we'll be talking about today is 1999's Being John Malkovich. If you haven't seen this one before, strap in, things are about to get weird.

The film opens with our perpetually frustrated protagonist, Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), being forced to take a temp job in an office building. It seems that his true passion, puppeteering, just isn't paying the bills. One day while at work, Craig finds a small hidden door behind a filing cabinet, and he discovers that by crawling inside, he can inhabit the mind of real-life actor John Malkovich (playing himself) for 15 minutes. This discovery awakens a dark ambition within Craig, and he, along with his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) and co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener), try to come up with various ways to turn this supernatural phenomenon to their advantage. Along the way, Craig slowly discovers that he may have finally gained the opportunity to control the most dangerous puppet of all — man.

From there, believe it or not, things get even weirder. Being John Malkovich is a truly unforgettable film and not just because it's funny, which it is. This film legitimately contains some of the most raw and unflinching portrayals of human pain and longing that have ever been put on film. It's easy to see why this oddly compelling, misshapen masterpiece rocketed then-unknown screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to instant stardom.

Face/Off features two stars going wonderfully over the top

It takes FBI agent Sean Archer years before he finally apprehends his nemesis, "terrorist for hire" Castor Troy. During their final battle, Archer learns that Troy has hidden a bomb somewhere in Los Angeles, but before Archer can get more information, Troy is knocked unconscious and ends up in a deep coma. In order to find the location of the bomb, Archer undergoes an experimental face transplant procedure, literally stealing Troy's face so that he can impersonate the terrorist and covertly interrogate his criminal contacts. However, shortly thereafter, a faceless Castor Troy awakens, and understandably, he's in a foul mood. In order to get even, he steals Sean Archer's face and starts impersonating him, killing everyone else who knew about the transplant and wielding Archer's powerful position within the FBI towards his own evil ends.

Sure, they may not technically be swapping bodies, but the end result is the same. Archer has to live as Troy, and Troy has to live as Archer. Despite its absurd premise, or perhaps because of it, Face/Off is an unforgettable action movie classic. This film features John Travolta delivering maximum John Travolta, Nicolas Cage delivering maximum Nicolas Cage, and director John Woo delivering maximum everything else. If you haven't checked it out before, do yourself a favor. We promise the thrills and laughs will be just as big as the explosions.

Big is one of Tom Hanks' best comedies

The 1988 classic Big tells the story of 13-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow), who, like many kids his age, is tired of being a kid. He's too small to do fun adult stuff, like ride roller coasters, and he's too small to be noticed by his female classmates. So, when Josh comes across a creepy carnival attraction called Zoltar, an automaton that claims to grant wishes, he decides to make a wish to be "big." The next morning, Josh awakens to find that his wish came true, as he's been magically transformed into a 32-year-old Tom Hanks. To be honest, we can think of worse fates.

Until Josh can find a way to reverse his condition, he runs away from home, fleeing to New York City, where he starts living a very grown-up life. He manages to get an entry-level job at the offices of a toy company. Once there, Josh's youthful exuberance and effortless insight into the minds of child customers attracts the attention of the company president, who gives Josh a big promotion. Josh also starts gaining the attention of women, and he ends up in a romantic entanglement with one of his much older coworkers. Yikes.

Apart from the inclusion of that one particular romantic subplot, which has aged extremely poorly, Big is pretty much a flawless film. Hanks radiates charisma and vulnerability in a way that's truly mesmerizing. It's one of the cleanest and simplest ideas for a movie ever, masterfully executed by everyone involved.

All of Me puts a unique spin on the body-swap formula

The 1984 film All of Me mixes up the usual body-swap formula in a truly unique way. Rather than having two people exchange bodies, this is a case where two personalities end up sharing the same body.

The film opens with cynical lawyer Roger Cobb (Steve Martin) visiting the home of one of his firm's richest clients, the bitter misanthrope Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin), to make some final adjustments to her will. Cutwater finds herself at death's door and tells Cobb of the unusual plan she has for her estate. She's giving everything away to a spacey young hippy named Terry (Victoria Tennant). Upon her death, Edwina has made arrangements with a spiritual guru to transfer her consciousness to Terry, who claims that she's eager to give her body away to Edwina so that she, Terry, may rejoin her being to the cosmos. Cobb thinks this all sounds like total nonsense and storms out. Shortly thereafter, Edwina does indeed pass away, but things don't go exactly as planned. During the spiritual transfer process, a bowl holding Edwina's soul accidentally falls out a window and lands on Roger's head.

Roger then finds that Edwina's spirit is now inhabiting his body, alongside his own. Hijinks ensue as the two characters battle for control of the same body and eventually learn how to, against all their instincts, work together. With top-notch acting from Tomlin and Martin and masterful direction from Carl Reiner, this forgotten comedy classic is definitely worth a watch.

13 Going on 30 is a hilariously perfect rom-com

Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) is having a disastrous 13th birthday. Her dorky friend Matt (Sean Marquette) just embarrassed her in front of the coolest girl in school, Lucy Wyman (Alexandra Kyle), and now all the popular kids are leaving. Unable to deal with the social mortification, Jenna tells Matt, "Get out ... I hate you!" She then locks herself in the closet and makes a wish. She wants to grow up past all this teenage awkwardness. She wants to be "30, flirty, and thriving."

And then, she wakes up. However, Jenna (Jennifer Garner) is now, inexplicably, 30 years old, 17 years into the future. And she seems to have everything she ever wanted. She's an editor at a fashion magazine, she's rich and attractive, and a 30-year-old Lucy Wyman (Judy Greer) is now her best friend!

But not everything is great about Jenna's new situation. She starts to figure out that, even though she grew up into a very successful person, she isn't necessarily a good person. Also, she never patched things up with Matt and hasn't spoken to him in years. She decides to track him down and finds out that now he's ... a hot Mark Ruffalo? Now, that's interesting.

As a result, 13 Going on 30 is a non-stop delight. It's well-acted, hilarious, and super stylish. All the leads are truly magnetic, but Jennifer Garner is flawless in her portrayal of a big-hearted, confused, sad kid in an adult's body. Rarely has a film so perfectly captured that painful feeling of being awkward, being 13, and just wanting to be loved.

Heart and Souls is sweet and superbly acted

If you're a Robert Downey Jr. fan, and who isn't, you owe it to yourself to check out the 1993 film Heart and Souls. This forgotten film from early in Downey's career has him playing a heartless banker named Thomas Reilly. Reilly is haunted by the spirits of four relatively friendly ghosts — Milo, a charmingly crude small-time thief (Tom Sizemore), Harrison, a neurotic aspiring singer (Charles Grodin), Julia, a sweet yet aimless commitment-phobe (Kyra Sedgwick), and Penny, a hardworking single mother (Alfre Woodard).

The four spirts ask Thomas for help in resolving their unfinished business, and he reluctantly agrees. Then, things get really exciting midway through the story when our four ghosts discover that death has given them a strange new ability. They can temporarily take possession of Thomas' body. This allows them to start resolving their unfinished business in a much more hands-on fashion, and it allows Downey to start doing some delightful impressions of his four co-stars.

When it first came out, reviews for Heart and Souls were somewhat lukewarm, with many critics finding it a bit too corny and sentimental. While that might still be the case, so much about this movie was criminally underrated, especially the acting. This film is packed with many of our favorite B-list actors giving A+, Oscar-worthy performances. Also, if it isn't obvious from the description so far, the story is wonderfully strange. It's impossible to not be at least a little bit charmed by this film's unapologetic weirdness and its giant vulnerable heart.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has an absolute blast with its body-swap premise

If you skipped 2017's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, thinking it would be just a nostalgic retread of the original, consider checking it out. This pleasantly inventive sequel takes the Jumanji franchise in surprising new directions, and it provides a ton of great thrills along the way.

Since its previous appearance in the 1990s, our titular board game has mutated into a form better suited to enticing the next generation — a video game. When our new four teenage protagonists start the game, they not only enter a fantastical and deadly jungle world, but each kid also transforms into the character they chose from the character select screen. The neurotic Spencer (Alex Wolff) becomes the hyper-competent Dr. Xander Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). Beefy football player Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) finds himself in the much smaller body of Bravestone's sidekick, zoologist Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Kevin Hart). Shallow popular girl Bethany (Madison Iseman) is trapped in the hairy and unsexy body of Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon (Jack Black). And finally, the introverted cynic Martha (Morgan Turner) becomes martial artist Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).

As our four heroes search for a way to escape the game, there's no end to the film's wonderful body-swap shenanigans. We get to see the Rock baffled by his own ridiculous physique. We get to see Jack Black confidently teaching a nervous Karen Gillan how to seduce a man. It's not a particularly deep film, but's it's an fun as heck. There are far worse ways to spend a lazy afternoon.