What would it feel like to be someone else? That question is kind of the basis for all fiction ever, from romantic comedies to space operas, since theyre all about following the adventures of someone in circumstances youd probably never find yourself in.
But theres a sub-genre of movies that takes the question literally, and features characters physically or mentally swapping places with someone else. The outcome? Usually, either wacky comedy hijinks or deep philosophical revelations. Or both. With new Ryan Reynolds/Ben Kingsley body swap thriller Self/Less about to hit cinemas, lets take a look at the best of the body swappers
Like Father, Like Son (1987)
Whos Swapping? No prizes for guessing whos swapping with whom in this mostly-forgotten 80s comedy. Dad Jack (Dudley Moore) is a surgeon, while his son Chris (Kirk Cameron) is a mediocre student.
How They Swapped: Via magic mind transference potion. As you do.
Consequences: Just mild awkwardness, really, as Chriss popularity at school takes a hit, and Jacks reputation among his colleagues similarly drops. But its all okay in the end.
Virtual Sexuality (1999)
Whos Swapping? Justine (Laura Fraser), a frustrated teenager, and Jake (Rupert Penry-Jones), a 3D representation of Justines perfect man, brought accidentally to life.
How They Swapped: Technically, this isnt a swap, since Jake doesnt exist as a separate being but its a badly timed power cut and a virtual reality machine that catapults Justines mind into Jakes virtual body.
Consequences: General hilarity, plus a lesson or two on what its like to be a teenage boy.
Wish Upon A Star (1996)
Whos Swapping? Outgoing older sister Alexia (Katherine Heigl) and nerdy younger sister Hayley (Danielle Harris).
How They Swapped: By wishing on a shooting star. As the title kind of implies.
Consequences: Some mild reputation-denting dramas, as the squabbling sisters try to cause trouble for one another by dressing in ridiculous clothes and annoying their friends. But since wish-granting stars are easy to come by, they dont have to spend long in the wrong bodies. This is a pretty lightweight made-for-TV drama, but the cast make it worth a look.
Vice Versa (1988)
Whos Swapping? Busy businessman Marshall (Judge Reinhold) and his son, Charlie (Fred Savage).
How They Swapped: By accidentally coming into contact with a magical stolen skull while wishing they could swap bodies. Because thats how all frustrated parents and children deal with their problems, no?
Consequences: Charlie almost loses his dads job for him; his dad gets him in trouble with his mum, and then gets him kidnapped. The magic skull gets it all sorted out in the end though.
The Change-Up (2011)
Whos Swapping? Best buddies Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds). Because who wouldnt wanna steal Ryan Reynolds body?
How They Swapped: By, um, peeing in a magic fountain and wishing they could have one anothers lives.
Consequences: Mitch-as-Dave nearly destroys an important business deal, while Dave-as-Mitch gets an ill-advised tattoo. But as per, it all ends happily and no-one is permanently scarred by their swap. Except Mitch, whos stuck with his I love Dave tattoo.
Childs Play (1988)
Whos Swapping? Bodyswapping was everywhere in the 80s, even in horror movies. Here, serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) manages to swap bodies with a Good Guy doll.
How They Swapped: A voodoo ritual lets Ray pop out his soul and stick it in the nearest available empty vessel, a doll. If you wanted to be pedantic, its not quite a swap, since the doll didnt have a mind or soul to swap with, and Rays body ends up dead, but he definitely jumps bodies.
Consequences: An evil, unstoppable doll goes on a killing spree, and a whole new horror franchise is born.
The Hot Chick (2002)
Whos Swapping? Mean but popular girl Jessica Spencer (a pre-Regina George Rachel McAdams) and petty criminal Clive (Rob Schneider).
How They Swapped: Via Wiccan ritual and magic earrings.
Consequences: All kinds of chaos. Clive-as-Jessica becomes a pole dancer and continues his life of crime; Jessica-as-Clive spies on all her friends and learns valuable life lessons. The less said about the very end, the better. Urgh.
Dating The Enemy (1996)
Whos Swapping? A couple of the verge of breaking up: TV presenter Brett (Guy Pearce) and science journalist Tash (Claudia Karvan).
How They Swapped: Again, its because of a wish. Tash wishes that Brett could know what its like to be her, and because its a full moon, her wish is granted. Who knew it was that easy?!
Consequences: Trapped in one anothers bodies for an entire lunar cycle, the unlikely couple learn to appreciate one another and live happily ever after. Awww.
Whos Swapping? FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) and deranged terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage).
How They Swapped: Again, technically, this isnt a body swap its a face swap, as Archer gets a surgeon to give him Troys face so he can go undercover and root out his accomplices. And then Troy demands Archers face in revenge.
Consequences: Archer nearly ends up getting stuck with his new face and left in prison forever, while Troy runs riot using Archers face for credibility. But in the end, Archer kills Troy and nabs his face back. Which is as close to a happy ending as this film was gonna get.
18 Again! (1988)
Whos Swapping? 81 year old millionaire Jack (George Burns) and his 18 year old grandson David (Charlie Schlatter).
How They Swapped: A car accident, combined with a wish to be young again, puts Jack in Davids body, and leaves David in Jacks body and in a coma.
Consequences: While Jacks busy enjoying his newfound youth, David nearly dies in hospital, which is a bit bleak. Also, Jack discovers how horrible everyone is, including his trophy wife. But they manage to swap back, and its all okay. Just like it always is.
17 Again (2009)
Whos Swapping? 37-year-old Mike (Matthew Perry) swaps bodies with his 17-year-old self (Zac Efron). And no, maybe that doesnt quite count as a body swap, but its closer to that than time travel, since Mike doesnt get to go back in time in his own life he just gets to be young again in the present day.
How They Swapped: By meeting a mysterious janitor (Brian Doyle-Murray) while reminiscing about his school days.
Consequences: Mike gains a better understanding of his daughter and also realises that hes wasting his life by being miserable, so he takes the opportunity to get his shit together and change career.
Whos Swapping? Rich but ungrateful couple Tim (John Hubbard) and Sally (Carole Landis).
How They Swapped: By making a wish in front of Mr Ram, an Indian idol they were given by a friend (or possibly a frenemy, considering).
Consequences: Tim upsets Sallys friends by not knowing the social niceties theyre used to, while Sally makes a hash of his business deals. Oh, and Tim ends up pregnant. Whoops.
Its A Boy Girl Thing (2006)
Whos Swapping? Next door neighbours Woody (Kevin Zegers) and Nell (Samaire Armstrong).
How They Swapped: By having an argument in front of a statue of Tezcatlipoca at their local museum.
Consequences: Nerdy Nell wreaks havoc on Woodys social life, while he nearly jeopardizes her academic career. As is usually the case, the two cant swap back until theyve learned to respect one another, in this case by training one another to get through important life events for each other. Also, they fall in love, which is just weird.
Prelude To A Kiss (1992)
Whos Swapping? Julius, a lonely, ill old man (Sydney Walker) and young newlywed Rita (Meg Ryan).
How They Swapped: Via a kiss on Ritas wedding day.
Consequences: Less wacky comedy and more sentimental meditation on the nature of love, the film focuses on how Ritas husband, Peter (Alec Baldwin), copes with the bizarre situation hes found himself in. Theres lots of hand-wavey stuff about soulmates, and ultimately everyone learns that love transcends physical appearances though they swap back again at the end, so maybe love has its limits.
All Of Me (1984)
Whos Swapping? The plan was for dying millionaire Edwina (Lily Tomlin) to switch bodies with a young woman (Victoria Tennant), but due to a slip up, Edwinas soul ends up getting dropped into the body of her attorney, Roger (Steve Martin).
How They Swapped: Via magic, and a botched soul-transfer.
Consequences: Bit of an unusual one, this, with two people occupying one body at the same time: Edwina on the right, Roger on the left. Wacky hijinks ensue, but theres a darker side to the comedy, especially where Edwinas intended new body, Terry, is concerned. It all ends up sort of okay. Ish.
Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941)
Whos Swapping? Boxer Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) and cruel investment banker Bruce Farnsworth (also played by Robert Montgomery, post-switch).
How They Swapped: After an overly keen angel nabbed Pendletons soul out of a plane crash he was meant to survive, he insists on being sent back to Earth and takes the body of a recently deceased rotter. So its not strictly a swap, because Farnsworths soul has departed the mortal coil.
Consequences: Pendleton undoes some of Farnsworths misdeeds, but he gets shot and Farnsworths body dies again. Doh. It sort of ends up okay, though, as head angel Mr Jordan (Claude Rains) finds Pendleton a new boxers body to keep instead.
Whos Swapping? Cheerleader Ione (Spencer Locke) and her mother, Sloan (Erica Shaffer).
How They Swapped: Its a minor plot element in a trope-stuffed movie, but this might be one of the weirdest body swaps in the movies because thanks to some interfering aliens, Ione ends up time-travelling as well as body-swapping. She ends up in her mums body back in 1992 while her mum nabs her body in the present day.
Consequences: Ione saves the world by going to prom with the boy her mother rejected, and learns to love the 90s. For once, too, the body swap is permanent.
Whos Swapping? Josh Baskin (David Moscow) swaps his 12-year-old body for that of his 30-year-old self (Tom Hanks).
How They Swapped: Josh makes a wish using an antique fortune telling machine at a carnival, and the eerie Zoltar grants his wish to be made big.
Consequences: Silliness, mostly. Josh is woefully unequipped to handle the adult world, but somehow manages to find a home and a job anyway, while his parents search in vain for their missing child. Maybe the weirdest part of his early adulthood is that he begins a romance with an adult woman, which is actually really creepy. Luckily, Josh tracks down Zoltar and puts everything right again.
13 Going On 30 (2004)
Whos Swapping? 13-year-old Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) and her 30-year-old self (Jennifer Garner), seventeen years down the line.
How They Swapped: Via a wish made in front of a doll house covered in magic wishing dust. Where the dust came from remains a mystery.
Consequences: Jenna learns a series of valuable life lessons that boil down to dont be a bitch. But in her 30-year-old body, she has to watch her best friend Matty (Mark Ruffalo) marry someone else. Sob. Its okay, though, she manages to drum up some dust and reset her life, creating her own happy ending.
Freaky Friday (2003)
Whos Swapping? Typical teenager Anna (Lindsay Lohan) and her long suffering mother, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis).
How They Swapped: Via magic fortune cookies at their local Chinese restaurant.
Consequences: Anna and Tess have to live one anothers lives until they can demonstrate selfless love for one another. Which means Anna has to learn to accept her new stepdad (luckily, not in any creepy way) and Tess has to learn to trust Anna and support her hobbies. Mother and daughter ultimately learn to love and respect one another and everything ends happily. Hurrah!