Spitting Images: Every Same-Year Parent-Offspring Double Feature

Movies Lists M. Night Shyamalan
Spitting Images: Every Same-Year Parent-Offspring Double Feature

Nepo baby discourse is officially over. No, not because one of them gave a refreshing, nuanced take on the matter, but because we’re just too exhausted to keep it going. That said, too much focus was spent on famous actors being related to more famous actors, not enough on acclaimed filmmakers inspiring/encouraging/helping their kids to make movies. There’s a lot of the latter case and it’s worth shaking off cynicism to embrace how parent and child works of art speak to each other, or deny their connections.

This feels especially necessary in 2024, when three famous directors premiere new work the same year as their filmmaking children: In the last couple months, we saw David and Caitlin Cronenberg reflect on family strife and loss, now it’s the turn of Ishana Night Shyamalan to live up to the atmospheric chills of her father’s work months before his single-location pursuit thriller Trap hits theaters. 

To fully appreciate the directorial dynasties that have built modern filmmaking, here’s a list of every instance (that we could find) where directors released new movies the same year that their child did. It’s time for some parent-offspring double features!

Not applicable: Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola or Roman Coppola

A quick note on the only parent-child filmmakers to both have Oscars—no, Francis does not appear on this list with either of his filmmaking children, because of the arbitrary but fixed qualifiers that went into making this list. Francis released Youth Without Youth in 2007 when Sofia had Marie Antoinette in 2006; Francis had Tetro in 2009 when Sofia had Somewhere in 2010; Francis had Twixt in 2011, Roman Coppola made A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III in 2012 (and maybe he shouldn’t have!) Even though there were less than 12 months between the premiere of Priscilla and Megalopolis, one was in 2023, the other 2024, so the patriarch of filmmaker legacies is not featured here. Another note before we truly dig in: All the parent directors are unfortunately fathers, a result of the sexist biases built into Hollywood, ones that not only have resulted in infinitely more male directors, but ones that favor men who (it is implied) will still work despite having young kids. (The only mother-daughter directors we can think of are Jane Campion and Alice Englert, but no films in the same year.)

1. David Cronenberg and Brandon Cronenberg—Cosmopolis and Antiviral (2012)

After years of making films about strange offspring and disease, David Cronenberg’s own offspring made a film about strange diseases. Well, Antiviral is about normal diseases, but people being strange with them—a minimalist noir set in a world where celebrity culture involves fans aching to be infected with the same viral loads as their icons. Wealth and influence was also on father David’s mind in 2012, when he released the claustrophobic Wall Street mania thriller Cosmopolis. The films share more than intense themes of power and biologically related directors—they also both star Sarah Gadon, who has also collaborated with Caitlin Cronenberg in still photography. She’s practically part of the family!

2. David Cronenberg and Caitlin Cronenberg—The Shrouds and Humane (2024)

While promoting her darkly comic debut Humane, Caitlin Cronenberg stressed the different artistic outlooks she and her father David have. But while Humane may be a different beast from The Shrouds, a wryly funny and typically vulnerable reflection on tech and grief, it is noteworthy that both father and daughter have premiered films this year about confronting bereavements of a loved one after David cited the loss of his wife (and Caitlin’s mother) Carolyn Cronenberg as an inspiration. Get ready for a generational double-whammy of uncomfortable family questions.

3. Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood—Sully and Battlecreek (2016)

Alison Eastwood has been acting in her father’s movies since before I could walk or talk, so it makes sense that the indie drama Battlecreek (note: not her directorial debut, which was the 2007 train accident drama Rails & Ties) seems to have soaked up a lot of the fraught, fringe characters and violent undertones of Clint’s filmography—even if the small-town strangeness of Battlecreek does not make for a movie Clint Eastwood would ever make. He continued his run of deceptively complex commercial biopics the same year with Sully, a movie about Tom Hanks being A Noble And Tested Man, which seemed to be his bag for most of the 2010s.

4. Ron Howard and Bryce Dallas Howard—Pavarotti and Dads (2019)

This double-bill certainly includes the most minor films on the list, and hopefully the most minor works from either director’s filmographies. Ron “on time and under budget” Howard made a documentary about Italian tenor Luciano Paverotti the same year actor-turned-filmmaker daughter Bryce Dallas made… a film about Ron Howard. Dads, one of Apple TV+’s earliest documentary acquisitions, is a film packed with celebrity fathers sharing paternal insight and wisdom. At least Bryce’s first feature film is upfront about her famous parents? 

5. Peter Hyams and John Hyams—Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)

Peter and John Hyams share a rare honor among father-and-child director pairs: They’ve both directed multiple films starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Peter didn’t direct the original Universal Soldier, he did Timecop, but only after he had made a name for himself with surprising and tactile genre fare like Outland and 2010 (the 2001 sequel). Beyond a Reasonable Doubt wasn’t quite his final film, just like Universal Soldier: Regeneration wasn’t John Hyams’ first, but the 2009 double feature serves as a nice changing of the guard as John picks up Peter’s baton doing exemplary genre work within commercial packages. 

6. Barry Levinson and Sam Levinson—Paterno and Assassination Nation (2018)

One of the more cursed double features on this list: Just as Rain Man director Barry Levinson settled into his overproduced TV movie era with the Al Pacino-starring dramatization of the Penn State athletic director’s downfall in Paterno, his annoying son Sam Levinson was breaking out with his way too internet era and try-hard Assassination Nation. Looking at the long career of Barry Levinson and the shorter but much more shrill career of his son, it becomes very clear how much long-term noise a director can generate without ever really producing anything great, and this double bill is excellent proof of that.

7. Barry Levinson and Sam Levinson—The Survivor and Malcolm & Marie (2021)

Oh god, we’re still not done with these guys. Barry and Sam Levinson launched new work in 2021 with two non-theatrically released projects, one about an Auschwitz prisoner who boxed to survive, the other about the neurotic narcissisms of a creative couple on the night of a big premiere. The latter made a huge splash for all the wrong reasons; The Survivor made barely any. With Barry making the leap back to cinemas with next year’s Alto Knights and Sam showing no sign of slowing down, it’s likely we’ll have even more baffling double-bills from this intergenerational Hollywood duo in the future—a terrifying prospect.

8. David Lynch and Austin Jack Lynch—Twin Peaks: The Return and Gray House (2017)

The same year that David Lynch released his magnum opus, a 17-hour Twin Peaks film that happened to be packaged in episodic, ad-supported hour-long chunks and released sequentially on TV, his son Austin premiered a film that feels modest in comparison. Gray House made a buzz on the doc fest circuit, a patient and atmospheric collaboration with photographer Matthew Booth that covers fiction and documentary in its ambient portrait of American alienation. Austin has been very frank about how he wants his work contextualized as separate from the famous people connected to it and him, so it’s handy that Gray House feels so singular.

9. Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Samira Makhmalbaf—The Silence and The Apple (1998)

Described as the Iranian equivalent of Francis and Sofia Coppola by The New Yorker’s Richard Brody, father and daughter Mohsen and Samira Makhmalbaf are just two members of an incredibly artistic Iranian family that has been living in exile after persecution in their home country in the 2000s. In 1998, the 18 year old Samira premiered The Apple, a film about two daughters escaping house arrest, at Cannes months before her father’s The Silence, a Sufism-infused story of a young boy’s daily tasks, launched at Venice. The hardship that Mohsen and Samira suffered with their family has relegated them to relative popular obscurity, but the artistry of their shortened careers makes them one of the most compelling filmmaking families on this list.

10. M. Night Shyamalan and Ishana Night Shyamalan—Trap and The Watchers (2024)

It’s a big year for the Night Shyamalan clan: Not only does M. Night Shyamalan have the hotly anticipated, perfect-premise thriller Trap, featuring music from his eldest daughter Saleka, but one of his other daughters, Ishana, is graduating from second unit photography and TV director gigs on her father’s projects to her own shot in the horror director’s chair with The Watchers. M. Night also was the second unit director for Ishana’s film—it seems like there’s a collaborative quality to this parent-offspring double feature that the others lack or shy away from. M. Night seems more interested in stepping into his daughter’s shadow than her stepping out of his.

11. The 10-film Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner marathon (1984-1990)—All of Me and This Is Spinal Tap; Summer Rental and The Sure Thing; Summer School and The Princess Bride; Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool and When Harry Met Sally; Sibling Rivalry and Misery

Carl Reiner was an entertainment polymath, a venerable titan of TV comedy whose slew of awards only touches the surface of his impact, but by the 1980s, his directorial efforts were exhibiting signs of wear and tear. Thankfully, his very talented son Rob Reiner was starting his filmmaking career around the same time, presumably siphoning off his father’s power to make some of the most defining Hollywood films of the decade. Watch all 10 films for the full Reiner x Reiner experience, or for the avant-garde fans out there, watch two at once to immerse fully in the Reiner consciousness.

12. Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman—No Strings Attached and Young Adult (2011)

This is the other double bill you can do with Ivan Reitman’s No Strings Attached, this time matching it with his son Jason’s arrested development dramedy Young Adult to form a duet of grown-ups chasing the flight and fancy of youth. There’s a much surer sense of auteur vision in Jason’s film, which takes a sharp Diablo Cody script and infuses it with performances that astutely capture patheticism to a cringe-inducing degree. No Strings Attached is much less annoying and desperate than Will Gluck’s similarly-premised Friends with Benefits, but is also more boring, so it’s dubious if you should watch it on its own, or in either of the double features laid out here.

13. Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman—Draft Day and Men, Women, and Children (2014)

Just once it would be nice to have a parent-offspring double feature where both films were actually really good. It’s difficult to imagine a situation where you’d ever need to watch Draft Day and Men, Women, and Children back-to-back; these two 2014 films received lukewarm-to-negative receptions, the former for being a thoroughly derivative Moneyball snooze and the latter for its cloying, sentimental musings on modern family life that came across as completely out of touch. For all its faults, at least Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a neater conclusion for Ivan and Jason’s arcing careers.

14. Ridley Scott and Jake Scott—Robin Hood and Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

Both times Ridley Scott has released a film the same year as one of his kids, his film has been a massively expensive historical blockbuster, and his kids have made a nice wee indie drama. Still, the Scott clan certainly keeps busy: Beyond the enviable career of Ridley’s late brother Tony, his children Jake, Luke and Jordan have been shooting feature films, music videos and short films for years. Robin Hood may have little in common with the grieving father and teenage stripper melodrama Welcome to the Rileys, but it serves as a decent showcase of the workmanlike approach Ridley brings to all his dramas.

15. Ridley Scott and Jordan Scott—Gladiator II and A Sacrifice (2024)

Ridley may be 86 years old, but he has not shown any sign of slowing down his mega-scaled production pipeline—and Gladiator II isn’t the only Scott film coming out this year. His daughter Jordan, director of the Eva Green-starring Cracks, has made psychological thriller A Sacrifice, about Eric Bana rescuing his daughter Sadie Sink from a cult. Note: the only Scott child to not release a film the same year as their dad is Luke, whose single feature film Morgan released in 2016 alongside no Ridley work. It’s a shame to not include it on this list as it would have marked the first time someone talked about the film since its opening weekend.

16. Melvin Van Peebles and Mario Van Peebles—Gang in Blue (1996)

A cheeky technicality to close us out: Blaxploitation pioneer Melvin Van Peebles was still making independent features long after his son Mario Van Peebles debuted as a director with New Jack City, so it’s perhaps no surprise they directly collaborated on this made-for-television police thriller about a Black cop discovering white supremacists in his department (we assume he didn’t have to look that hard). Modest in scope as most ‘90s TV movies were, there’s something charming about father and son using their overlapping talents for a project where neither filmmaker is outshining the other. They were, after all, always pushed to the fringes of the industry.

Rory Doherty is a screenwriter, playwright and culture writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. You can follow his thoughts about all things stories @roryhasopinions.

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