Today, pretty much any movie that we want is available at our fingertips for streaming by one service or another. But things were different in those ancient days before Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Before Blu-rays, DVDs or even VHS. A time that would terrify millennials who just might not be able to cope with the idea of catching something at the time of its release or not get another chance until much later. That notion was certainly an important part of moviegoing years ago, when fans of popular films either had to wait for a straight re-release of a particular film, or, preferably, getting it back in the theater with a second film. Yes, we’re talking about the classic movie double features. And not the schlock that was frequently thrown on to Drive-In screens, but mainstream movies.
Maybe you’re a fan of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, or James Bond films… whatever it might be, back in the day the odds were you would get the opportunity to see one of your favorites with a 50/50 shot of it being paired with something else you cared about. Sometimes you’d get a double that made absolutely no sense and you were left wondering who thought that was a good idea. In either case, we’ve gathered up this look at a number of double features with some quick commentary on each.
Double Feature Frank Sinatra
Come Blow Your Horn (1963) / All the Way formerly known as The Joker is Wild (1957).
Ol' Blue Eyes is back. Or, you know, he was, when these two films were paired up. The first is a comedy and the second has him as a mobster in the '20s whose throat is slashed at one point. Weird combo.
Double Feature Connery Moore
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) / Gold (1974)
At this point Roger Moore had replaced Sean Connery as James Bond, but rather than double-featuring (think we just coined that term) each of their Bond films, they decided to take Connery's last one, Diamonds Are Forever, and pair it up with a Moore non-007 film, but make it look like it was one. Very odd.
Double Feature Diana Ross
Lady Sings the Blues (1972) / Mahogany (1975)
Diana Ross at her acting and singing best, in a pair of acclaimed films that prove why she was heralded as the star she was.
Double Feature Elvis
Fun in Acapulco (1963) / Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)
There aren't a lot of people who are going to claim the films of Elvis Presley are great works of art, but what we do get with this double feature are two doses of the King and the opportunity to see and hear him singing... a lot.
Double Feature Go Ape
Planet of the Apes (1968) / Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) / Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971) / Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) / Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
It's your non-objective reporter again, just to say that when I was a kid, the Planet of the Apes films were my Star Wars. If you grew up with them, you know what I mean. If you didn't, you think the make-up stinks and the films are ridiculous. Still not talking to my kids because of that one!
Double Feature Alfred Hitchcock2
To Catch a Thief (1955) / Vertigo (1958)
They're always saying someone is a master of this or that, but when you hear that director Alfred Hitchcock was the Master of Suspense, you'd better believe it.
Double Feature Liz Taylor
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) / Butterfield 8 (1960)
Before she became Elizabeth Taylor the icon, she was Elizabeth Taylor the actress, and this double feature is a perfect example of how she became who she became.
Double Feature Bond Triple
Dr. No (1962) / From Russia With Love (1963) / Goldfinger (1964)
Personal story time. I was introduced to the world of James Bond in 1965 with the fourth Bond film, Thunderball. From there I caught the subsequent You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Diamonds Are Forever. It would be impossible to convey the excitement I felt as an 11-year-old when I went to the Marine Theater in Brooklyn, New York one Saturday afternoon with my friends to watch the first three Bond films. Amazing experience.
Double Feature Odd Couple Rosemarys Baby
The Odd Couple (1968) / Rosemary's Baby (1968)
In 1974 ABC had a Friday night line-up that began with The Brady Bunch and ended with a horror show called Kolchak: The Night Stalker. To advertise it they used the tagline, "You'll laugh until you scream." Always thought that was pretty brilliant. Too bad nobody thought of that for this double feature. The mis-matched humor of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger teamed up with the devil's spawn? Who thought that was a good idea?
Double Feature Rocky
Rocky (1976) / Rocky II (1979
Before we could stream 'em or watch a marathon on TV, this was actually a very cool double feature. Of course back then, who thought they'd still be in production? The spin-off film Creed 2 will be released next year. As to the first Rocky, it's hard to remember all those sequels later, but it won the 1976 Academy Award for Best Picture. Yo, Adrian!
Double Features Psycho War Of The Worlds
Psycho (1960) / War of the Worlds (1953)
We know this one! It's where Anthony Perkins dresses up like his mother and kills Martians with a kitchen knife. Isn't that right? Not quite as gonzo as other double features, but definitely teetering close to the edge of them. They do have the benefit of both being well-made.
Double Feature Mel Brooks
*Young Frankenstein_ (1974) / Silent Movie (1976)
The first is spoofer Mel Brooks' brilliant classic that takes on the old Universal Frankenstein films, the latter a humorous version of a modern silent movie.
Double Feature Lancaster Douglas
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) / Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
Hey you've got to love the bold ad claims of this one, "The Fiery Brilliance of 8 Great Stars....The Double-Barreled Excitement of 2 Might Action Spectacles!" C'mon, they don't sell 'em like that anymore. We get Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in one of their many appearances together in the first film, and then Kirk with Anthony Quinn in the second.
Double Feature Star Wars
Star Wars (1977) / The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The first two films in the series were re-released the week that the third film Return of the Jedi was released. One day my friends and I saw the double feature in the afternoon, Jedi in the evening (back in the days when my butt could spend the day in a theater seat).
Double Feature Matt Helm
Murderer's Row (1966) / The Silencers (1966)
The novels the character Matt Helm came from are gritty detective adventures, but Dean Martin and Columbia Pictures decided to spoof Bond instead with a series of films "inspired" by the character. These two actually came out in the same year, which was unexpected. Can't tell if Dean's sleepwalking through it all, or is just having a really good time.
Double Feature The Beatles
A Hard Day's Night (1964) / Help! (1965)
Now that's a way to indulge in Beatlemania. The first film is brilliant, the second not so much, but both of them have awesome music.
Double Feature Superman
Superman: The Movie (1978) / Superman II (1981)
The first two films starring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel are two of the best filmed versions of the character. Personal annoyance? I never even knew this double feature was released to theaters, because I would have definitely been there. Just sayin'.
Double Features Valey Of The Dolls Beyond
Valley of the Dolls (1967) / Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
Honestly, the first one is a way over the top melodrama about a trio of women starting out on their lives, while the second was supposed to be a sequel but, instead, became a spoof of the first. How do you spoof something that was so insane to begin with? We don't know. We were hoping you had an idea.
Double Features Straw Dogs Food Of The Gods
Straw Dogs (1971) / Food of the Gods (1976)
Another one of those mis-matched double features that cracks us up. The first is the story of a guy and his wife who are trying to survive in a remote location against a bunch of violent and depraved locals, while the latter is about rodents that eat some gunk and grow giant-sized. Well, both films do have someone armed with a rifle.
Double Feature Bad News Bears
The Bad News Bears (1976) / The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977)
Those kids who couldn't get a break finally get one when their team starts winning. Walter Matthau starred as the coach in the first, William Devane in the second. Hey, don't underestimate the power of the Bears: they were back for 1978's The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, a 1979 TV series and a 2005 remake.
Double Feature Capone Dillinger
Al Capone (1959) / Dillinger (1945)
Two gangsters are better than one! What's surprising about this particular double feature is that the films were separated by 14 years — usually there was less of a gap. Not sure how it worked out for them.
Double Feature Clint Eastwood5
The Gauntlet (1977) / The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
One recurring theme you'll find in this guide is that there were quite a number of re-releases of Clint Eastwood double features. These days people know him as an acclaimed director, but in the 1970s he was absolutely the number one star in the world. Interesting double: a cop thriller and a Western. He pulled them off equally well.
Double Feature Audrey Hepburn
Sabrina (1954) / Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
If you ever wondered why Audrey Hepburn is still revered as a true Hollywood star, just check out these two classics.
Double Feature Clint Eastwood4
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) / Magnum Force (1973)
And the Western Josey Wales is back again! The co-feature is the second of Clint's oh-so-popular Dirty Harry films, of which he made a total of five. If the audience had their way, they would have had a lot more.
Double Feature Freebie Enter The Dragon
Freebie and the Bean (1974) / Enter the Dragon (1974)
This is definitely one of those odd pairings that was mentioned at the outset. On the one hand, we've got what is probably the first buddy cop film starring James Caan and Alan Arkin, while on the other we've got the last film of martial arts master Bruce Lee. Maybe it's us, but we're not quite seeing how these two go together.
Double Feature French Connection The Seven Ups
The French Connection (1971) / The Seven Ups (1973)
It's back to back, bumper to bumper, chase to chase....oh, sorry, you probably read that on the poster. Well, what it is (they are?) is a gritty pair of cop pictures from the early '70s where filmmakers were experimenting all over the place. The French Connection won 1971 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (William Friedkin), and Actor (Gene Hackman).
Double Feature Newman Redford
Never Give a Inch (1970) / Willie Boy (1969)
First off, Never Give a Inch was originally released as Sometimes a Great Notion. Second, Paul Newman and Robert Redford had scored so massively in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (we were still a few years away from their re-teaming in The Sting) that a double feature of one film from each was the studio's hope of catching some lightning in a bottle.
Double Feature Martin And Lewis
Living It Up (1954) / Pardners (1957)
Remember when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis didn't hate each other? Or at least Jerry didn't hate Dean? These are two of their films, and Paramount was sure to get their hits back into theaters as often as they could.
Double Feature The Graduate Midnight Cowboy
The Graduate (1967) / Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Two great performances from Dustin Hoffman, first as Benjamin Braddock that beautifully captures so much of the '60s and was highlighted by the music of Simon & Garfunkel (and which won director Mike Nichols the Academy Award). The other as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, the only X-rated film to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Co-starring is the equally brilliant Jon Voight.
Double Feature Saturday Night Fever Grease
Saturday Night Fever (1977) / Grease (1978)
After the massive success of the R-rated Saturday Night Fever, Paramount had the...uh, brilliant idea of cutting out the naughty bits and making it PG. The fact that the film lost a bit of its edge didn't seem to matter, and it allowed them to pair it up with John Travolta's massive success of the following year, Grease.
Double Feature Willard Ben
Willard (1971) / Ben (1972)
Pardon the interruption, but personal story again. Willard was about a lonely guy who ends up raising and training rats to do his bidding. When his boss (Ernest Borgnine) kills one of his rat friends, Willard goes to the guy's office and tells the rats, "Tear him up!" And they do so (in restrospect, very cheesily). As an 11-year-old when Willard said, "Tear him Up," I, having seen that bit in the trailers and commercials, said, "This is the good part!" My parents both looked at me as though they were suddenly raising John Wayne Gacy or something, and my apparently corrupted mind was forbidden from seeing movies for a year. You want to know the definition of irony? When your punishment is lifted and the first movie you see is Ben, the sequel to Willard. Hah!