Body switch movies are probably some of the most fun, unsung films to ever grace the silver screen. They are simple tales of people (usually humans) switching bodies, often to hilarious effect when they have to live the other person's life. Then there's the aspect of how are they going to switch back? And suddenly you have a genre of movies that borders on the fantastic.
Another aspect of these films is precisely how the switch happens. Sometimes the actors merely bump into one another. Other times they get something that serves as a conduit to make the switch happen. Then there's those times (i.e. Mulholland Drive) where the actors become other people simply because that's just what makes sense for the story that a particular director is telling.
It is the fantastical nature of these films, the idea that a body switch of comedic (and sometimes tragic) proportions can happen, that truly works in their favor. These movies don't need to explain too much. They don't need to depend on the exact nature of science. All they need to do is present a scenario where a body switch can happen, and if the acting and story are entertaining and engaging, generally the film will work overall.
This list does its best to see which body switch films are worth your time, and which ones are ultimately discardable. However, my taste is probably going to skew differently than some of your tastes. So the film that I think is the worst might be the best body switch film you've ever seen. To each their own, right? As you will see, this list more than most I have written, is mainly predicated on comparisons.
So sit back and enjoy our list of Body Swap Movies Ranked Best to Worst, which was compiled with a little help from Wikipedia. There's a lot of gems on this list. There's also a lot of oddness and films that might not be thought of as very good. As you read, hopefully you recall how much fun you had watching these movies and recalling if you found the body switch premise solid or merely palatable.
Is there a better switcheroo movie than Big? We don't think so. Josh (David Moscow) wants to be big as he's tired of being told he can't do things. So he goes to a carnival and makes a wish using a wish granting machine. Suddenly, Josh becomes big Josh (now played by the great Tom Hanks) and he's got to navigate the grown up world he so desperately sought to enter. Filled with laughs and physical comedy, Big's real heart is the fact that Josh's ultimate goal is to return home and be with his family. Sure, there's the classic moment of Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing out the song "Heart and Soul" on a large, electric piano. Or, one could site the awkward, funny scenes of Josh losing his virginity. You could even dissect how much this film recalls Peter Sellers in "Being There," especially as we see Josh's rise through the toy company he works for. Whatever your take on this film is, Big is a truly special movie and the cream of the body switch crop.
All of Me (1984)
Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin star in this body switch movie that is nothing if not a 1980s gem. This body switch premise couldn't have been dreamed up in any other decade but the 1980s. Tomlin plays Edwina Cutwater. She is a dying millionaire who is planning to have her soul put into the body of a younger woman. Well, nothing goes as planned and her soul ends up in the body of her lawyer Roger Cobb (Steve Martin). As you can guess a lot of hijinks ensue especially on the man/woman front. I can recall the moment at the urinal scene like it was yesterday. Roger has just finished peeing and he needs Edwina (because she is now in control of his body) to shake the final pee droplets out of his ding-a-ling. I had never seen anything like this in my life! Sure, All of Me is filled with many other great scenes. However, this movie stands out because of it's comedic trappings, surefire direction from comedy icon Carl Reiner, and of course the dead on performances from Martin and Tomlin.
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Having played the Joe Pendleton role in Heaven Can Wait in high school, this body switch movie has a very special place in my heart. That is not why I have it ranked so high on this list here. In this film, Warren Beatty plays a quarterback for the Rams who's soul is taken from his body a bit too soon. So the angel that made this mistake decides to make things right by putting Pendleton's soul in the body of a millionaire who was murdered. This is one of those rare body switch movies that doesn't rely on some non-defined paranormal aspect. Rather it almost turns to the theological to explain how the whole body experience thing happens. This late 1970s film was not seen as one of the great movies from that decade. Rather it was seen as sort of a harbinger of the blockbusters to come from the 1980s. Whatever your feeling about this movie may be, and for the current young generation it might be a body switch film they just can't relate to, Heaven Can Wait is as solid a body switch film as they come.
In what has to be one of the most interesting body switch endeavors, legendary director John Woo legitimately takes the body switch concept places that it has never been before. Relentless FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) must go dangerously undercover to investigate the location of a lethal biological weapon planted by his arch rival, the sadistic terrorist-for-hire Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). After undergoing a radical surgical procedure, Archer literally "borrows" Troy's face and identity to carry out his mission. But things go awry when Troy, emerging from a coma, transforms into Archer and wreaks havoc upon his life, both at work and at home. What makes Face/Off so amazing is that Woo and Co. not only explain the body switch, it actually makes sense and is feasible in this movie. Add to this that Face/Off is filled with such intense and immense action sequences, and we get a body switch film that literally explodes the genre.
Dream a Little Dream (1989)
This film is ranked as high as it is for a number of reasons. First of all, it was a very odd, surreal, dream fest that, years later, plays as an almost bold tale of body-switch oddness. Also, Dream A Little Dream came out at a time when Corey Feldman and Corey Haim were at their peak of their creative prowess. These two actors, believe it or not, were the hottest teen duo going. Things would sadly change for them after this film, but that doesn't mean that all the changes were bad. In this film, Bobby Kellar (Corey Feldman) has a crush on Lainie Diamond (Meredith Salinger), girlfriend of school jerk Joel. Coleman (Jason Robards) is working on an experiment which will help him move into a place where Dreams are reality. When an accident occurs Coleman finds himself in Bobby's body and can only contact Bobby in his dreams. Part of his wife's mind has also ended up in Lainie. To bring his and his wife's body back to reality, Coleman must agree to fix Bobby's messed up life. Meanwhile, Dinger (Corey Haim) is simply left to hang out, chew the scenery, make jokes and help his buddy Bobby. As you can tell, this story is convoluted and didn't really make the splash of say, The Lost Boys, but for what it is, Dream A Little Dream is quite the bold body switch odyssey.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Let me start by saying (and this should come as no surprise to anybody who knows anything about the films of director David Lynch), this is not your parent's body switch film. A bright-eyed young actress travels to Hollywood, only to be ensnared in a dark conspiracy involving a woman who was nearly murdered, and now has amnesia because of a car crash. Eventually, both women are pulled into a psychotic illusion involving a dangerous blue box, a director named Adam Kesher, and the mysterious night club Silencio. To try and explain this movie, or even when or how the body switch happens, would be an exercise in futility. More to the point, Mulholland Drive is more more psychological in its approach. The main characters in this film don't have their body switch achieved in a way that makes a lot of sense. However, sense isn't what Lynch is going for here. He wants to take us into the mindset of these characters to see how they deal with being somebody else. As a result, Mulholland Drive isn't as fun as other body switch films but it isn't trying to be. It really wants us to see what the people go through when they become somebody else.
Freaky Friday (2003)
This update pretty much follows the first film. However, the original came out in 1976 and this one came out in 2003. So as you can see there's been a fair amount of updating going on. In this body switch extravaganza, Jamie Lee Curtis plays Tess Coleman. She is an overworked therapist who could use some therapy of her own. She switches bodies with her daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) and it is here that the freakiness begins. The odd thing about the 2003 Freaky Friday vs. the 1976 Freaky Friday is that the newer one is actually the better film. Jamie Lee Curtis is not only amazing in the role of a put upon mother who needs a break, but Lindsay Lohan really showed that when she wanted to she could be a movie star. She plays a young girl trying to figure out her world to perfection, and it's probably because, well, she was a young girl trying to figure out her world. As a body swap movie, this movie is quite solid but it doesn't really move the needle. The premise of how these two switch bodies is unique (it has to do with fortune cookies and an earthquake of all things!), but it just isn't as plausible or as cool as it should be.
Child's Play (1988)
Is Child's Play really a body switch movie you ask? That depends on your definition of the term. It isn't some sweet film where a mother and daughter don't get along, they bump into each other, and suddenly they've completed a body switch across space and time. Here's how it goes down, when serial killer Charles Lee Ray is mortally wounded in a police shoot-out, he uses a voodoo spell to transfer his soul into Chucky, a "Good Guys" doll. Young Andy (Alex Vincent) receives the doll as a birthday gift, and Chucky soon resumes his killing spree. However, Charles doesn't want to be trapped in the body of a doll forever. His only escape would be to transfer into the first human he revealed his true identity to... which places Andy in mortal danger. You see what I mean? Nothing about Child's Play is really that cute. Okay, the young Alex Vincent is quite cute but this film doesn't have a traditional body switch happy ending. It isn't like Andy and his mom reconcile and learn to respect each other's lives. No, this film leaves a lot of bodies and blood in its wake and that is what really separates this body switch film from the others on this list.
In this body switch movie (from 1940!) bickering husband and wife Tim and Sally Willows mutter a few angry words to a statue of Buddha and wind up living each other's life. While maybe not the most ingenious premise for a body switch vehicle, this film gets a higher ranking than it might've simply because of when it was released. When you realize when this movie came out you have to give it a lot of credit. They were doing some amazing things with the whole body switch idea even way back when. This is a pretty heavy concept. Even though it has become the domain of light hearted family movies (for the most part), the idea of actually switching bodies with somebody is terrifying. Imagine being put in the body of somebody else? I can barely take care of myself let alone another person that's NOT me. Turnabout may not be as well known as other movies on this list but that doesn't make it any less formidable.
13 Going on 30 (2004)
Jennifer Garner stars in one of the best body switch movies in recent memory. Well, considering that there really weren't too many body switch movies happening at the time, 13 Going On 30 pretty much gets a higher spot by proxy. Jenna, is picked on by her peers and classmates for being too eager to be liked and popular. Locked in a closet on her 13th birthday (after an embarrassing round of the "7 minutes in heaven" kissing game), she makes a wish to become "thirty, flirty and thriving", and when she gets out of her entrapment, she discovers that she's skipped ahead 17 years to become a sexy and successful advertising agency executive (Jennifer Garner). 13 Going On 30 really follows the storyline of Big. Had it gone in a different direction it may have been higher on this list. 13 Going On 30 is fun, engaging and highly rewarding for viewers. That it isn't wholly original is the only thing really working against it.
Freaky Friday (1976)
There was a time when this body switch movie would've would've been the body switch movie to beat. In this classic film, school girl Annabel (Jodie Foster) is hassled by her mother Mrs. Andrews (Barbara Harris). As you can guess, Mrs. Andrews is annoyed with her daughter. They both think that the other has an easy life. On a normal Friday morning, both complain about each other and wish they could have the easy life of their daughter/mother for just one day and their wishes come true as a bit of magic puts Annabel in Mrs. Andrews' body and vice versa. As you can see with this body switch movie, again, they don't really delve into the realm of science with this film. Instead, they just go the magic route. And the best part about a body switch movie that does that? Well, when you leave the entire story to magic then the door is open for just about anything. What makes Freaky Friday work is the fact that in basing its story around that it also remains grounded in reality.
Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
This body switch film delves deep into the supernatural. Peter (Alec Baldwin) and Rita (Meg Ryan) meet, immediately they're smitten with one another and they decide to get married. However, during their wedding reception, an older man (Sydney Walker) very oddly comes up to Rita and asks her for a kiss. Rita grants this man his wish and they go on with their wedding. Everything is okay, but then Peter eventually realizes that his wife's kiss with that man has caused her and the man to switch bodies. Suddenly, Peter is on a frantic search to try and switch them back. Now Peter is faced with either having to love Rita in the body of an older man or staying married to this stranger who is now his wife. While not the biggest, happiest and funnest of the body switch movies, Prelude to a Kiss is the kind of film that actually shows the ability of the body switch genre to stretch itself. Think about it? You've just married a beautiful woman and suddenly she's acting like an old man!! Could a movie like Prelude to a Kiss even be made today? Could the only place it exist be on TV? I am honestly not sure about the answers to these questions. I will say that Prelude to a Kiss is the only film that gives Mulholland Drive a run for it's money, and that is even more extraordinary when you realize how much in the mainstream Prelude to a Kiss is.
The Change-Up (2011)
Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman play Mitch and Dave in this seen it before, not really anything new, body switch film. Growing up together, Mitch and Dave were inseparable best friends, but as the years have passed they've slowly drifted apart. While Dave is an overworked lawyer, husband and father of three, Mitch has remained a single, quasi-employed man-child who has never met a responsibility he liked. To Mitch, Dave has it all: beautiful wife Jamie, kids who adore him and a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm. To Dave, living Mitch's stress free life without obligation or consequence would be a dream come true. As you can guess they eventually switch bodies and learn to appreciate and respect what each other has. The Change Up is not a bad movie. It's just that you have two of Hollywoods best and most creative actors. Why in the world is their body switch film being relegated to this? It is for that reason and that reason only that The Change Up is so low on this list.
17 Again (2009)
What would you do if you got a second shot at life? Class of 1989, Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron) is a star on his high school basketball court with a college scout in the stands and a bright future in his grasp. But instead, he decides to throw it all away to share his life with his girlfriend Scarlett (Leslie Mann) and the baby he just learned they are expecting. Almost 20 years later, Mike's glory days are decidedly behind him. His marriage to Scarlett has fallen apart, he has been passed over for a promotion at work, his teenage kids think he is a loser, and he has been reduced to crashing with his high school nerd-turned-techno-billionaire best friend Ned. But Mike is given another chance when he is miraculously transformed back to the age of 17. Unfortunately, Mike may look 17 again, but his thirty-something outlook is totally uncool in the class of 2009. And in trying to recapture his best years, Mike could lose the best things that ever happened to him. 17 Again is the kind of body switch film that people love. It is easy, never really unsettling and doesn't make us think too much. At the same time, it covers big ideas and big thoughts and that makes it worth your time.
Like Father, Like Son (1987)
There was a time when Kirk Cameron was one of the biggest actors going and this film is representative of that time. In fact, I will say it, Kirk Cameron was really big off of his show Growing Pains. In many ways he was like a newer Michael J. Fox and Like Father, Like Son was his Back to the Future. Okay, this body switch movie is nothing on par with Back to the Future, but it really is a good movie. This film teams up Cameron with the always solid Dudley Moore. Moore is a doctor who is a little starched around the collar. Cameron is a young man that takes nothing seriously. Well you can imagine what happens when these two men switch bodies. Suddenly, the starchy doctor starts having more fun at the office. At the same time his laid back son upsets everybody in his life by becoming becoming responsible. While maybe not the class of body switch movies, Like Father, Like Son is fun, nostalgic, and has a lot of heart.
Vice Versa (1988)
Judge Reinhold is truly one of the most underrated, comedic, leading men to ever grace the silver screen. With his ability to deliver punchlines and display physical comedy, it is shame that he was never really able to rise up past co-star to fulfill his leading man potential. The fact that he has the solid Fred Savage at his side makes Vice Versa a true gem of a body switch film. In this movie, Marshall (Reinhold) is a divorced dad who just can't seem to get along with his son Charlie (Savage). During one of their tougher moments, these two touch a Tibetan skull that somehow switches their minds. Suddenly, these characters who don't understand each other, find themselves having to learn very quickly how to accept who the other is. As I said, Reinhold was always very good at physical comedy and that is never more on display than it is here. Fred Savage is excellent as a young character playing older. These two play off one another brilliantly as they manage to make a very big statement about the generation gap. And at the same time, Vice Versa also fills the screen with heart and love as we see a father and son ultimately come to understand one another.
18 Again (1988)
The plot involves David Watson (Charlie Schlatter) switching souls with his grandfather Jack Watson (George Burns) by accident. Jack is a swinger who can't get enough of the ladies. David is young but lacks self confidence. Well, now that he's in the body of a young David, Jack decides to make both of their lives a little more interesting. And, on the flip side, Jack starts acting a little more his age. Overall, 18 Again is one of those body switch movies that is timeless. Sure, Jack and David switch bodies by virtue of a car accident. Yes, this "body switch" premise really makes no sense. However, do any of these body switch movies make a whole helluva lot of sense? This film has heart. We get to see what David goes through as a young kid. At the same time, Jack has to reconcile how his young girlfriend and son really feel about him. 18 Again still reminds us just how great it is when two different generations collide. Which come to think of it, "Generation Colliding" body switch movies could be a whole genre of their own.
The Hot Chick (2002)
One could talk about the plot to this film and it would mostly fall along lines of the other body switch films listed here. Basically, Rob Schneider and Rachel McAdams (of all people!) switch bodies due to some earrings that Jessica helps herself to. What is very different about this film is that once the body switch happens, only McAdams (as the character of Jessica) wants to switch back. Lets be honest, would you rather be in the body of Rachel McAdams or Rob Schneider? Schneider (as the character of Clive but in the body of Jessica) wants to remain in her body because it is allowing him to commit crimes. Rarely do we see this in body switch films. Sometimes the characters are happy to be somebody else, but they always seem to want to return to their normal bodies. Rob Schneider sees a lot of financial gain in being Jessica and one can see why. Overall, The Hot Chick is probably the weakest of all the body switch films on this list. It is not terrible but compared to movies like Big, Vice Versa and some of the other movies, it is really paling in comparison. And when you consider that comparisons are at the heart of body switch films, being rated #19 on this list seems to loom even larger for The Hot Chick.
Wish Upon a Star (1996)
Alexia Wheaton (Katherine Heigl) and Hayley Wheaton (Danielle Harris) are two sisters who do not get along. Making things even worse is the fact that Hayley is jealous of all the attention boys pay to Alexia. Well, one night Hayley wishes upon a star to be her older sister. Well, low and behold they next morning the girls wake up and they've switched bodies. Now, the fun begins as the girls have to live each other's lives. Of course this doesn't go well because they each have certain standards for the other. With a tagline that reads, "I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, Become My Sister For A Night!", this TV movie makes it onto this list because it displays a huge amount of heart. It may not be as well known as the other body switch films on this list, and that's probably because it wasn't released or given the fanfare as the other movies. However, Wish Upon A Star does its best show how the grass truly isn't always greener and the best thing you can do is love who you are.