5 Famous Films Accused of Plagiarism

The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator, directed by James Cameron in 1984, is a highly influential sci-fi action film that has captivated audiences for decades. It follows the story of a cyborg assassin, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who travels back in time to eliminate a woman named Sarah Connor, portrayed by Linda Hamilton. The film’s immersive storytelling and low-budget charm have contributed to its status as a classic in both the sci-fi and action genres. However, its success was marred by accusations of plagiarism.

Renowned American writer Harlan Ellison claimed that The Terminator was heavily influenced by an episode of his 1963 series The Outer Limits, which adapted his short story “Soldier From Tomorrow.” Ellison filed a lawsuit against Orion Pictures, alleging that the film had similarities to his earlier work. Despite his reputation for being argumentative and having a litigious nature, Ellison emerged victorious from the legal battle and received an acknowledgement credit for his contribution to the film. However, James Cameron refrains from commenting on the subject due to a gag order and has referred to Ellison as a “parasite.”

Nosferatu (1922)

F.W. Murnau’s silent horror masterpiece, Nosferatu, released in 1922, remains an iconic film in German Expressionism and the horror genre. The movie revolves around Count Orlok, a vampire who preys on unsuspecting victims. What many might not know is that Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s renowned novel, “Dracula.” Despite altering various elements of the story, the film’s opening credits acknowledged its inspiration from “Dracula.” Unfortunately, Bram Stoker’s estate sued Prana Film, the production house behind Nosferatu, and won. The court ordered the destruction of all copies of the film, threatening to erase it from existence. Thankfully, a surviving copy allowed this cinematic gem to endure.

The Great Dictator (1940)

Regarded as one of Charlie Chaplin’s greatest films, The Great Dictator, released in 1940, stands as an iconic satire and political statement. The story revolves around the eccentric dictator Adenoid Hynkel, played by Chaplin himself. During the film’s pre-production phase, a writer named Konrad Bercovici claimed that his concepts for the movie were never properly compensated. Chaplin, seeking to avoid negative publicity, quickly settled the dispute by paying Bercovici the disputed sum. However, Chaplin insisted in his memoir that the allegations of plagiarism were unfounded.

Frozen (2013)

Disney’s 2013 animated sensation, Frozen, captured the hearts of both young and old with its enchanting tale of sisterhood, love, and the power of acceptance. However, this beloved film faced multiple accusations of plagiarism. Firstly, Isabella Tanikumi sued Walt Disney for a whopping $250 million, claiming that Frozen plagiarized her life story, which she had detailed in her autobiography published in 2010. Unsurprisingly, Tanikumi’s lawsuit was dismissed. Another lawsuit emerged when author Muneefa Abdullah noticed similarities between Frozen and her own 2007 story, “The Snow Princess.” This suit, too, was ultimately dismissed in 2016 after noting similarities between the tales. Additionally, Frozen faced copyright claims related to musical aspects. Singer Jaime Ciero alleged that the popular song “Let It Go” was based on his 2008 composition “Volar.” Although some musical resemblances were present, the suit was dropped following a settlement agreement. Most recently, in 2022, indie musician Daniel E. Grigson filed a lawsuit against Frozen II, claiming that the song “Some Things Never Change” plagiarized his 2001 track “That Girl.” The outcome of this lawsuit is yet to be determined.

Zootopia (2016)

Disney’s 2016 animated hit, Zootopia, delves into a world where anthropomorphic animals coexist. The film tells the story of Judy Hopps, a determined rabbit aspiring to become a police officer, and Nick Wilde, a cunning fox. Shortly after Zootopia’s release, Esplanade Productions filed a lawsuit against Disney, alleging that the movie infringed upon the concept pitched by writer Gary L. Goldman years earlier. However, the court ruled in Disney’s favor due to insufficient evidence supporting the infringement claim.

In the creative world of filmmaking, discussions of plagiarism can be complex. Storytelling often involves a collaborative effort, making it challenging to pinpoint individual contributions and influences. While copyright claims are inevitable at times, mere similarities should not be instantly equated with guilt. Coincidences can occur, and each case requires careful examination. Nonetheless, let us celebrate the countless original stories crafted by dedicated storytellers that bring us the magic of cinema every year.


Plagiarism accusations have cast a shadow of doubt over several famous films, illustrating the complexities of creative endeavors in the cinematic world. While some claims were substantiated and resulted in acknowledgments or legal settlements, others proved to be unfounded. Filmmakers must navigate the fine line between inspiration and infringement, ensuring they give credit where it is due without stifling the endless possibilities of storytelling. Let us appreciate the vast array of original narratives delivered by visionary filmmakers, as they continue to captivate audiences and enrich the world of cinema.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are these plagiarism accusations a common occurrence in the film industry?

Plagiarism accusations do arise in the film industry, albeit relatively infrequently. When creative works bear similarities, it is essential to investigate the circumstances thoroughly before jumping to conclusions.

2. Do plagiarism claims always hold true?

No, not all plagiarism claims are valid. Films, like any other creative endeavors, can unintentionally share similarities due to the vast pool of ideas and influences available in the world. Resolving such claims requires a careful examination of the facts and a consideration of the degree of similarity.

3. How do filmmakers ensure they avoid plagiarism?

Filmmakers should strive to create original stories, properly attribute sources of inspiration, and seek permission when adapting existing works. By acknowledging their influences and respecting intellectual property, filmmakers can mitigate the risk of plagiarism claims.

4. Can plagiarism accusations harm a filmmaker’s reputation?

Plagiarism accusations certainly have the potential to damage a filmmaker’s reputation. Perception plays a significant role in the artistic community, and unfounded claims can still impact public opinion. Due diligence and ethical practices are crucial in building and maintaining a filmmaker’s integrity.

5. Should audiences be concerned about plagiarism in films?

While concerns about plagiarism are valid, audiences can find solace in the knowledge that the film industry enforces strict copyright protections. The majority of filmmakers, driven by their creative passion, strive to produce original content that resonates with viewers. It is essential, however, to remain vigilant and support creators who uphold