In principle, the Mockbuster is a bit like a movie with an Alternative Pornographic Name, but there's generally no nudity. It's not part of a pair of Battling Films, because it can't even afford the fare to get to the ring where the shows duke it out. A mockbuster is a movie that is suspiciously similar to another more popular, more well-known — and, let's face it, more "real" — movie, to the point of being the copy of an entire film. Why? Trying to Make Money Off a Popular Idea, of course.
Because they're generally made by no-name studios to make a quick buck, the biggest difference between mockbusters and the movies they're based on is budget. The mockbuster has serious budget restrictions. Think "three kids with a cellphone" production values. The writing is usually subpar, too—the producers aren't striving for Genuine Artistry; they're trying to rip off a more popular idea in an attempt to con gullible consumers. Of course, depending on what they're copying, and the fact that it's probably not out yet when they start making the mockbuster, the original might not have been such a cinematic masterpiece itself.
However, if there's one thing mockbusters can do well, it's Copycat Covers. Their designs and logos, like the colors of a viceroy butterfly, are designed to resemble the "real" movies they're copying as closely as possible. Remember, Covers Always Lie. They also pick titles similar to the original, often containing similar words, or made-up words that sound the same.
The people mockbusters tend to appeal to seem to fall into four brackets: kids too young to know the difference between the real deal and the fake; people too old to care, who might get the two confused when looking for something for their kids and grandkids; parental Propriety Police who want to get their children The Upstanding Alternative to a mainstream film that is more in line with their values; and Dorks, who aren't fooled at all, but who watch them for their awesome badness. Bad stuff is interesting! As such, they tend to be sold in supermarket magazine racks, pharmacy gift racks, and grab bags in outlet shops.
The rare cases of mockbusters that might actually try to do something "artistic" are those adapting Out Of Copyright works, though again, generally only if a more "popular" story adapting the same work came out recently. This phenomenon sometimes applies to live theater as well with regards to public domain works (Pixie Stories, The Theater Spirit) that have had a more popular version created that smaller theater companies could never produce on their own.
Mockbusters tend to be made in countries outside of the US, as if in "response" to a coming American blockbuster. Those might change the plot based unobtanium to something more in touch with their national sensibilities (the Indian Ultraguy mockbuster has him getting his powers from a god, for example) and the genre might skew towards one more popular in that country (the Brazilian series Non-Villains is somewhat like a soap opera).
How do all of these copyright friendly guys get away with it? Often times, it's simply a matter of obscurity. Sure, that "Larry Baxter" guy on the back of the cereal box who has to find the "Gilded Stitch" is pretty similar to some book you read, but how much money is there really to be made from suing some company that designs bargain-basement cereal boxes?
See also Alternative Adult Film Names (when this is applied to porn), Shoddy Knockoff Product (when this is applied to commercial products), In Everything But Name, and In Name Only Sequels (when old foreign movies have their titles for the re-release changed in order for them to cash-in from current blockbusters).
Has nothing to do with the Mythtesters or Phantomgetters.
UK Created For Television Film channel Movies 24 ran a Mockbuster season, deliberately confusing the derivatives with the originals and calling out the trope by name. It includes The Terminators, Aliens Versus Hunters, Transmorphers Fall of Man and Snakes on a Train.
Examples (Pot holes lead to pages of the films being copied unless the copy itself has an article):
Because of the problems between South Korea and Japan, anime was not available to Koreans. Because of this, in the 80's, the South Korean animation industry produced many films that were ripped off from Mazinger and Getter Robo, Transformers toys, and even films like TRON. Later, a fella by the name of Joseph Lai and his company, IFD note The same folks who brought us the Godfrey Ho Ninja Movies and, in turn, Pierre Kirby , bought up the rights to these films, and edited bits and pieces of them together into new, incomprehensible forms, with titles like Space Thunder Kids and Protectors Of Universe and horrible English dubbing. A website called Teleport City does a remarkable coverage of these Joseph Lai chop-jobs.
Also, there was an animated film called Secret of the Hunchback that came out after Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and even featured talking, singing gargoyles.
The same company also made The Secret of Anastasia just as Don Bluth's Anastasia was released in theaters. Especially odd in that they weren't satisfied ripping off just one movie, but they also ripped off Beauty and the Beast by having the rest of the royal family transformed into talking musical instruments!
The company in question is called UAV Corporation, and it's also done a version of Mulan where all the characters are insects.
Right when Brave hit the big screen in 2012, a DVD called Braver started appearing on UK shelves, with a remarkably familiar front cover featuring a red-haired heroine in a green dress standing in front of a circle of standing stones. It turns out this one isn't even a knock-off; it's an entirely unrelated 2005 movie called A Fairy Tale Christmas (IMDB page here) which was hastily repackaged and rereleased to cash in. The new cover and title have nothing to do with the movie at all, and the main character Angela is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed princess who wears pink, making her look more like Aurora than Merida. Review here.
This one (and other repackagings by the same company called Tangled Up, The Little Cars, and The Frog Princess) led to a successful prosecution for passing off by Disney in the UK, which may put a stop to this trope there.
There's also another attempt to rip off Brave called Kiara the Brave, which was originally a completely unrelated Indian animation called Super K. The title character, Kiara, apparently barely appears, and only gets pushed because she's a red-headed princess.
Early in 2012, Back to the Sea was released, which is essentially Finding NemoAS AN ANIME! Bonus points for the Covers Always Lie, which paints it as a CGI movie along the lines of Finding Nemo or Shark Tale… even though the actual special uses 2-D animation.
This one was even on SyFy, thus fully cementing it within the same realm as the other examples of this trope.
The Asylum is a company that only makes mockbusters and bad "Christian" movies, and are quite cynical about it. in fact, there's a news article in their website that states (and these are the actual words they use) "We've decided to use some of the billions of dollars we've made ripping people off..." The majority of the examples on this page are Asylum productions.
Even better, from a blog entry advertising a sale on their films: "You'd have to illegally download to get a better deal than that... but then you'd just be stooping to our level..."
Their DVD covers have quotes from uncredited sources, which is illegal, unless they're making those up, too.
Following The Asylum's footsteps is TomCat Films LLC which includes a major numbers of mockbusters amongst few others that makes The Asylum look like 20th Century Fox by comparison, this includes...
Metal Man, aka Iron Hero, which is a mockbuster of the first Iron Man film but features bad characterization, dodgy special effects and suits and even Reggie Bannister of Phantasm fame who is not only the creator of the Metal Man suit but comes off as an asshole and dickish mentor to the hero of the movie. See Film Brain and Obscurus Lupa tear this movie apart.
The Amazing Bulk, notable for having mundane settings such as alleyways and house interiors represented as cheap greenscreen/CGI and a climactic chase scene primarily consisting of The Bulk running through badly rendered stock CG settings with random CG figures such as koalas, Robin Hood and kids playing soccer to several lizards working on laptops. It was also skewered by Obscurus Lupa in one of her funniest videos yet.
AVH: Alien Vs. Hunter, which despite it's source pulls out a surprising twist ending the hunter aliens are humans...from another planet
I Am Omega, which even also bills itself as an adaptation of the book I Am Legend. Their choice of "Omega" is interesting because The Omega Man was the title of a previous film adaptation of I Am Legend.
The Day The Earth Stopped — Notable for prompting Fox to threaten to take legal action, though said threat wasn't carried out.
King of the Lost World, which claimed to be based on Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World, but was a clear King Kong ripoff. In fact, the cover art even went so far as to point out that Doyle's book inspired King Kong (which is true, but hardly justifies such ridiculousness).
It also says that the "story" it's based on inspired Jurassic Park!
Similarly, we have Pirates of Treasure Island. "We're not stealing from Disney; they're stealing from Stevenson!"
A similar deal exists with Alan Quartermain and the Kingdom of Gold, which re-purposes the classic character as an Indiana JonesCaptain Ersatz.
Then there's an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Land that Time Forgot" released just in time to counter the Land of the Lost movie.
DeathRacers (whose cover art also bears a strong Death Proof influence), note that Violent J of Insane Clown Posse who stars in said that this movie is "the bootleg ripoff fake version" of Death Racers in 2008 Gathering of the Juggalos.
Back in 1990, there was Terminator II. Which was actually released before the official sequel. Humorously enough, Terminator II is actually a remake of Aliens.
Bruno Mattei, the director of the aforementioned Mockbuster, also directed Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws. For an extensive look into Mattei's films, check out The Bruno Mattei Show, in which Brad Jones discusses the man's filmography with Ed Glaser, Noah Antwiler and other friends. It's quite insightful into how a mockbuster comes to be. For that matter, Bruno's career consisted almost entirely of Nazisploitation and Mockbusters, though these were never mutually exclusive. It's almost too bad he's dead - his ripoff of Inglorious Basterds would be... something.
Later in 2010, Eric Parkinson, who used to be president of Hemdale (which also made the first Terminator movie), tried to make a cheap CGI animated spin-off of the franchise called Terminator 3000, but production on that movie is being halted due to a cease-and-detest letter he received from Pacificor, the owner of the Terminator franchise rights. However, Eric has spoken that he kept the animation rights to the franchise under Hemdale when he sold the live-action sequel rights to Carolco in 1990, and that he took those rights with him when Hemdale closed down.
The War of the Worlds actually got two mockbusters to go with the Spielberg film. One of which apparently actually follows the book and sets the invasion in Victorian Britain. (That will be because the original story by HG Wells was set in Victorian Britain).
For the toys, there is Beast Tech Fighter, Quick Change, etc.
Although the funny thing about this is that the Transmorphers movies are Terminator ripoffs with a Transformers-sounding name.
In fact, it blatantly steals elements from the Transformers films (the robots do transform, albeit badly & slowly & they are extraterrestrial in origin), The Matrix trilogy (insofar as fashion) and the Terminator films (particularly Salvation). Trifecta!
Starcrash may be more (in)famous, but The Humanoid beats it for sheer plagiarism. Whenever possible, props and costumes (and even entire scenes) are copied wholesale from A New Hope, to the point that Starcrash seems completely original in comparison.
A number of Bruno Mattei's films. The best known are:
Terminator II, as stated above (It's actually more of an Aliens ripoff.)
Also of note; despite using a character whose entire works (pretty much) are available for free online, they apparently couldn't even be bothered to spend five minutes skimming the Wikipedia article; in this film, Sherlock's name isn't actually Sherlock, his brother's name is not Mycroft, the brother worked as a detective alongside Lestrade instead of founding the Diogenes Club...
Princess Of Mars. Made it out while the legitimate adaptation was still stuck in Development Hell. Comes from The Asylum, which pretty much gives away the intention. May be a mockbuster of Avatar instead based on the promotional material. Starring Traci Lords in the title role.
This was a big problem in Italy during the Spaghetti Western craze of the Sixties. The relaxed copyright law in Italy at the time meant as soon as a character got popular, knockoff movies would appear seeming to star that character. Django, Sabata and Sartana were famous for having their names recycled in knockoffs. (They couldn't do this to the most popular Spaghetti Western character ever, for reasons which are quite obvious if you think about it a little, but it didn't stop one film claiming to be "The Return of Clint the Stranger".)
Actually, the so-called "Man With No Name" is named in each film, only it's different each time (Joe, Manco and Blondie, in order).
While Curse of theRing doesn't have anything to do with the Lord of the Rings movies, and is in fact originally called Ring of the Nibelungs - the plot being based off of the Sigfried/Brunhilde/Fafnir saga - the movie's marketing and even logo font really, REALLY tries hard to be mistaken for a Lord of the Rings movie.
Almost everything released by Video Asia, the masters of In Name Only Sequels. One of the worst offenders, they don't even make their own mockbusters: they just re-release old foreign movies with different titles.
Somewhat unfairly, the original Battlestar Galactica movie was accused early on of being a rip off of Star Wars - presumably on the basis that after Star Wars debuted, ANY movie set in space was ripping off Star Wars. Legal action was even mooted - but sensibly quickly dropped when it became clear that a setting in space was really the only obvious link between the two.
LadyTerminator—basically the same as its namesake, but instead of an android, it's an archaeologist possessed by the Queen of the South Sea. Other than that, according to The Cinema Snob, if you haven't seen Terminator, but you've seen Lady Terminator, you've pretty much seen Terminator.
Bloody Murder◊, which is about a group of young people hired to fix up and act as the counselors of a secluded summer camp with a dark past involving a drowned boy. Unfortunately for them, a maniac adorned in a hockey mask starts knocking them off. Sound familiar?
There was even a character named Jason. When he disappears, we get several scenes of people asking "Where's Jason?" or "Have you seen Jason?"
3 Dev Adam (Three Big Men) is a notorious 1973 Turkish film featuring three famous (and extremely unauthorized) superhero characters: Captain America, Spider Man, and El Santo. Spidey, of all people, is actually the sadistic villain of the piece.
Universal successfully sued The Asylum for their movie "American Battleship" for being too obvious of an attempt to fool viewers into thinking it's "Battleship". The Asylum had to change the name of their movie to "American Warships". It's still rented and sold in many countries as "American Battleship", though (and damned if you can find out who made the film from its cover; it's nowhere to be found).
The Asylum were given a court order preventing them releasing The Age of Hobbits three days before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. How did they think they'd get away with that, when "Hobbit" is a trademark of the Tolkien estate? Because "Hobbits" in their title refers to Homo floresiensis, obviously.
Before Dreamworks released Shark Tale in 2004, they had copied Disney before in 2002 with their own version of Inspector Gadget called The Tuxedo.
Disney's Planes technically does this to themselves.
Subverted with Boy Eats Girl; it was never intended to be a Scary Movie mockbuster, but its Scandinavian title, Scary Video 5, gives the impression of this (fourScary Movie movies had been made at the time when Boy Eats Girl went on video).
Live Action TV
The Hamas made kid's show Tomorrow's Pioneers features characters who are blatant ripoffs of American cartoons, though said characters are given Islamist twists by the writers.
"Did You Know Gaming" is a Tumblr blog featuring little-known facts about video games. "Did Yuo Know Gaming" is a Tumblr blog featuring humorous, false facts about video games.
Since the source novel is in the public domain, musical versions of The Phantom of the Opera ran rampant in the 1990s (regional tours, community theaters, etc.) to cash in on Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation — enough so that Time magazine did a whole article on the phenomenon. But not all of them qualified as this trope: Ken Hill's version was the one that inspired Lloyd Webber to take his own stab at the story in the first place, and Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Phantom was actually written around the same time as Lloyd Webber's but couldn't get produced until afterwards due to the competition. One of the mockbusters was videotaped and later released on DVD, and the Phantom Reviewer took it on.
Cirque Productions and Le Grand Cirque are companies that are this to Cirque du Soleil (seriously, compare the websites), to the point that the former was sued for using "Cirque" in their name; it didn't work since that's just the French word for "circus". Judging from reviews at Ticketmaster's website, the former's shows have successfully tricked ticket buyers who didn't do the research and thought they saw an actual CDS show. It doesn't help that until 2006 CDS tours only visited major cities, and thus knockoff troupes could make hay by visiting places that weren't. Alternatively, knockoffs often have extended runs in casino-heavy towns like Atlantic City and Reno as opposed to Las Vegas, where the real deal has put down roots.
The album of Jesus Christ Superstar was released before the theatre show or movie were, resulting in multiple adaptations touring the stages before the official release.
The company Gameloft applies a similar concept to video games, where they release shameless copies of well-known franchises (usually on cellphones); the difference here is that their games are usually quite well-made (although some of them, most notably the Mac OS X and 3DS ports of Gangstar: Miami and Asphalt, respectively, were met with negative reception, being that they were lazily ported especially Gangstar, having outdated graphics compared to the the ones they were imitating). One of their more interesting examples is Shrek Kart, which copies Mario Kart but replaces the cast of well-known characters with a different cast of well-known characters rather than a bunch of Captain Ersatz's (unlike with most of their games).
Another thing that makes Gameloft less of a negative thing than other examples on this page: almost all of the games they copy have not yet been released on cellphones/iOS, so they serve a positive role in bringing the genre to mobiles, instead of just competing with better alternatives. They have also made several games using real official licenses such as Assassin's Creed and Brothers In Arms, so they are perfectly willing to help bring games to mobile/iOS legitimately.
Power Punch II. It doesn't help that it was going to be an actual Punch Out!! game (hence the II, since there's no "first" Power Punch game).
There's Pirates: Legend Of The Black Buccaneer, which came out for the PS2 on the heels of the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
A significant portion of the indie games one can find on Xbox Live Marketplace turn out to be rip-offs of popular games, past and present, including a particularly cheap Minecraft clone titled CastleMiner that even got a zombie-oriented sequel less than four months after its release. The indie games that are not this, actually good original games that are not console ports of PC indie games, or the aforementioned console ports of PC indie games are generally absolute crap that are not worth the 80 MSP purchase price.
Smartphone app 3D Cartoon Land: Safari, a transparent and horrendous imitation of Super Mario 3D Land.
In December of 2012, Hammerpoint Interactive (In which a member of them, Sergey Titov, worked on Big Rigs) released a ridiculously poorly made MMO clone of the famous zombie mod Day Z, creatively titled The War Z. Let's just say that many, many gamers are not amused.
It was SO broken, and the advertising was filled with so many lies, that it actually was taken OFF Steam and Valve offered a refund.
It gets better. Six months development time (despite Hammerpoint insisting otherwise), the developers effectively banning people at random in an inane attempt to get rid of hackers, among other things, and a month before "release", their trademark over the game's name was taken away from them because of Paramount, who had their own trademark for an intended World War Z game, and "The War Z" was obviously way too similar. Naturally, the response from Hammerpoint is to claim this is not the case, despite all evidence against them.
That Hunchback had already been converted to the Amstrad CPC didn't stop Blaby Computer Games from releasing The Bells, which had the same premise and similar gameplay but painfully bad programming.
Taomee had made blatant knockoffs of popular browser online games like ''Boke'' and ''Magic Monster'',the former is a knockoff of Poptropica and the latter is a knockoff of Moshi Monsters.
The Amanda Show parodied this in a recurring sketch. People were returning movies they got from a movie store that were knockoffs of whatever they really wanted, created by a family of foreigners (which they always contend is "MUCH BETTER!"). The icing on the cake is that the store itself was a knock-off of Blockbuster, "Blockblister".
"Oh yes, well, I mean, there were some people who said my film 2001 - A Space Odyssey was similar to Stanley Kubrick's. I mean, that's the sort of petty critical niggling that's dogged my career. It makes me sick. I mean, as soon as I'd made Midnight Cowboy with the vicar as Ratso Rizzo, John Schlesinger rushes out his version, and gets it premiered while mine's still at the chemist's."
Referenced in The Amazing World Of Gumball, as Gumball complains they can only afford movies like "How to Ratatwang Your Panda". It's a parody of Brinquedo in particular; the mice even resemble those of Ratatoing.
An episode of My Name Is Earl revealed the Camden County Library is so underfunded that it can only afford knock-offs of literary classics. Not-Tarzan apparently features a tiger named Monkey.