Can you imagine what it would be like to wake up in another person’s body? It’d be quite the trippy experience, which makes for a pretty awesome premise for movies across genres.
But not all body swap movies are made equal. The premise is easily squandered, either by scripts that fail to do anything unique or original with the ones who get swapped or by scripts that become bogged down by the mechanics to the detriment of their characters.
Here are our picks for the best body swap movies of all time, in which characters find their consciousnesses transported into another body, leading to all kinds of interesting stories.
10. The Change-Up (2011)
Amazon Prime offers unlimited streaming for thousands of great TV shows and movies, plus 2-day delivery, free games and ebooks, and more. Try it for FREE for 30 days!
What would you rather be: a successful lawyer with a house and family, or a handsome playboy with lots of time to kill? For Dave and Mitch in The Change-Up, the grass is greener on the other side.
After visiting a bar, the two polar-opposite best friends break the seal together into a nearby fountain and admit their envy for each other’s lives. They wake up the next morning with exactly what they wanted—but as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for…
Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star as the bickering besties in The Change-Up, directed by David Dobkin. This is your classic Hollywood comedy that’s an easy-to-watch crowd-pleaser with an all-star cast. It’s a basic body-swap narrative, but proof that less is more.
9. Source Code (2011)
Source Code is one of the more complex examples of a body swap movie. US Army Captain Colter Stevens doesn’t wake up in someone else’s literal body, but rather he awakens in a simulation of that person’s consciousness… if that makes any sense.
In action-thriller Source Code, Colter (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) appears to us as his real self. But whenever he catches glimpses of himself in the window, he looks like a complete stranger.
Colter is actually being sent into a simulation of a train carriage, over and over again every 8 minutes, because he has a mission: to find and identify the bomber on the train before the train blows up.
Of course, despite being a US Army Captain, his superiors are a bit vague on the details of his mission—for good reason.
8. Freaky Friday (2003)
Comedies and chick-flicks love the body swap scenario because it makes for a lot of hilarious mishaps and lesson-learning.
Freaky Friday is one of the classic teen movies from the early 2000s, with Lindsay Lohan with top billing. Originally a children’s novel written by Mary Rodgers in 1972, Freaky Friday takes your typical angsty-teen-versus-strict-mom story and reverses them.
Anna (played by Lindsay Lohan) dreams of being a rock musician, but her widowed and workaholic mother Tess (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) isn’t so keen. They argue relentlessly… then wake up in each other’s bodies, forced to continue living their lives without drawing suspicion.
Freaky Friday takes the phrase “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” very literally, forcing Anna and Tess to see eye-to-eye.
7. 17 Again (2009)
Oh look, another 2000s teen flick! This time with Zac Efron on the cover. But who’s he body-swapping with? Well… himself. Except in this case, it’s another version of himself, played by Matthew Perry.
Directed by Burr Steers, 17 Again takes what 13 Going on 30 did five years before and inverts it. Instead of going to bed a kid and waking up an adult, Mike goes to sleep a 37-year-old man and wakes up 17 again.
A tried-and-true plotline plus teen heartthrob? That’s guaranteed success, which is exactly what 17 Again was upon release. It might not be an Oscar-winner, but Steers’ harmless comedy is funny, fresh, and even a little touching at times.
6. 13 Going on 30 (2004)
13 Going on 30 has one character jumping between time in their own body. Released as Suddenly 30 in some countries, Gary Winick’s rom-com centers on a protagonist who’s excited to become an adult—so much so that she wishes for it at just 13 years of age.
Jenna wakes up in New York, relieved to find she’s no longer a geek and is now working as an editor for her favorite fashion magazine. Of course, she’s also a little confused at how she got there.
With no memory of the past 17 years, Jenna brings the poppy energy of a delighted 13-year-old to the much-less glamorous reality of adulthood. Jennifer Garner’s bright performance was particularly praised and is guaranteed to bring a smile your face!
5. Vanilla Sky (2001)
A remake of Alejandro Amenábar’s 1997 Spanish film Open Your Eyes, Vanilla Sky complicates the notion of a traditional body swap with its twisty conclusion.
The movie starts as a standard character-driven romance drama, in which we follow wealthy playboy David (played by Tom Cruise) as he parties and works in his Manhattan apartment.
But when director Cameron Crowe suddenly switches to David sitting masked in a police cell and accused of murder, things get a little tricky.
The first body swap in Vanilla Sky appears when David starts hallucinating that his girlfriend (played by Penélope Cruz) is actually a long-dead woman he had a fling with (played by Cameron Diaz). As his dreams and visions merge with reality, he can no longer tell who’s who.
But wait, that’s not all. There’s a lot more to the story that unfolds, and it would sound quite confusing if written out here. The best way to watch this film is to just watch it—and maybe think about why it’s titled Vanilla Sky, which will make sense in retrospect.
4. Big (1988)
Big, directed by Penny Marshall back in the 1980s, was certainly the inspiration behind aforementioned hits 13 Going on 30 and 17 Again.
Tom Hanks stars as a 12-year-old boy who awakens in his childhood bedroom as a fully grown man. Unsurprisingly, his mother is terrified and believes that adult-Josh is her son’s kidnapper—and chucks him out on the street.
After Josh convinces his best friend that he really is Josh, the two set out into the big bad world and ends up at MacMillan Toy Company. What is the mysterious reason why he woke up an adult? You’ll have to watch this classic to find out.
3. Being John Malkovich (1999)
If you’re a fan of anything weird or offbeat, this film is for you! Directed by Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich is a surreal metacinematic adventure where John Malkovich plays himself. Multiples of himself, in fact.
It’s actually John Cusack who’s the star of the movie as a struggling puppeteer in New York City. After stumbling on a portal into John Malkovich’s body, Craig discovers you can only stay inside the actor for about 15 minutes before being ejected onto the New Jersey Turnpike.
Body-swapping is just one of the many bizarre things that take place in this movie, including a tiny-ceilinged office and a room full of Malkoviches who can only say the word “Malkovich.”
2. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Warning: Stop reading this section if you haven’t seen Mulholland Drive yet! Mild spoilers ahead. If you intend to watch this movie and you haven’t yet, just go and watch it already.
David Lynch’s surrealist neo-noir film Mulholland Drive was both inspired by his lucid dreaming and follows a dream-like logic. Within all of that, Mulholland Drive has a body swap you won’t see coming… except now you’ll probably be looking for it since we mentioned it.
Naomi Watts and Laura Harring star as a wannabe Hollywood actress and an amnesiac stranger who’s trying to recover her identity. The dark-haired amnesiac (played by Laura Harring) appears at the door of Betty (played by Naomi Watts), and together they follow clues to an unexpected end.
A bunch of other seemingly random subplots are also woven into the narrative, and the conclusion of the movie is still debated today. What do you think happened?
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
Everything Everywhere All at Once is much more than a body swap movie. It has so much more than you’d expect: astounding special effects, dazzling wardrobes, mind-bending editing, and a narrative that’ll take you to places you never thought about.
But the film doesn’t start off so epicly. In fact, it starts off quite down-to-Earth—in an old laundromat run by a Chinese-American couple who are facing IRS troubles. The journey that begins here and the way it builds up to epic multiversal stakes is a spectacle to behold.
The absurdist comedy-drama gets creative with the idea of body swapping across dimensions. Evelyn Quan Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh) doesn’t find herself in someone else’s body—instead, she taps into her other lives across parallel universes.
It’s a complicated film with many jaw-dropping and mind-bending moments, brilliantly executed by directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. Everything Everywhere All at Once is the highest-grossing A24 film at the box office and proof that originality in cinema is still possible.