Welcome to a Random Pop Culture Top 10! Though in this case, it’s a Top 12. But to be honest, it’s not really a Top anything. More of a Random Twelve–twelve examples that came to mind, listed in my ascending order of preference. Indeed, one of them especially is pretty bad–a strong contender for a “Bottom 12” list.
In any case, the topic today is Twins in Fiction.
Not included in the Ten to listed below are a variety of comic book characters that I’m not interested in, including the Trigger Twins or the Tornado Twins or Captain Triumph. I also didn’t include Billy & Mary Batson because I forgot until after I’d already settled on my picks that some versions of their characters are twins.
I also didn’t include any of the classic identical “sit-com” twins that have appeared through the years, either in actual TV sit-coms nor in movies. These generally involve two people with very different personalities but who look just alike, so that hilarity (or confusion about identity) can ensue. My 13 year old self was a bit entranced with Jean & Liz Sagal from Double Trouble (see above)but that was still not enough for me to pick it.
Incidentally, at least one of the items on this list constitutes a spoiler, just for appearing on this list at all. So if ruins a movie for you, I’m sorry about that. The movie, though, is from 2006, so hopefully for most of you it’s not a big deal.
Romulus & Remus Sylvest
(Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma)
To start with we’re not talking about famous Romulus and Remus of myth. Instead, we’re talking about Romulus and Remus of Doctor Who. To be clear, they are not on this countdown because they are tenth best twins in fiction, but because they are some of the worst. Or at least, they are one of the worst stories.
That story is The Twin Dilemma, from 1984, one of the consistently lowest rated serial in the show’s 26 year history. The episode is about two mathematically gifted brothers who are kidnapped by an evil alien so they can figure out how to blow up his sun and spread his eggs throughout the universe. Amongst the story’s many problems is the fact that these twins are extremely dull and unconvincing, and almost devoid of personality. Furthermore, their role in the story is actually pretty irrelevant (in spite of getting referenced in the title).
The Wonder Twins
Aliens Zan and Jayna came from the planet Exxor and served as superheroes-in-training alongside earth’s Superfriends. They had very particular shapeshifting abilities–Jayna could turn into animals whilst Zan could become any form of water. But it was all a bit ridiculous–Zayna could become totally made up animals, like a “Giant Space Amoeba”, and Zan could become complex machinery, like a jet engine, as long as it was made of ice.
Truth be told, I have never been a big fan of the Wonder Twins. When I was a kid watching the Super Friends, I wasn’t really wanting to watch the teenaged sidekicks of the super-heroes, I was wanting to watch the super-heroes themselves. And the Wonder Twins were in the show a lot in those days, along with their space-monkey (really!) Gleek.
Oh well, like them or not, their Saturday morning cartoon prominence certainly gave them an iconic quality, and got them a spot on this list.
Julius and Vincent Benedict
The 1988, two of the biggest stars of the era teamed up for one buddy film, Twins, directed by Ivan Reitman. A lot of the humor of the movie was built on pairing the chiselled body-builder Arnold Schwarzeneggar with the diminutive Danny DeVito as twin brothers. In the film, they were actually the result of scientific experiment to combine the DNA of six different father. The two boys were separated at birth, and then grew up into the basic screen personas that one associates with Schwarzenneggar and DeVito. As the movie progresses, they are reunited, and hi-jinks ensue.
I only know this from reviewing the film’s plot summary on the internet, because I don’t remember it all in spite of seeing the movie in the cinemas. I guess I liked it enough at the time, but now find it completely forgettable, with only the image of the two actors next to each other really enduring. Critics seemed to agree with me because they generally don’t like the, even though it was still a hit with audiences.
Dan & Ken Grove
Thriller was a 1983 debuting DC Comic about a team of operatives serving a mysterious master to prevent the destruction of a semi-dystopian world. The seventh and last of this team (known as the Seven Seconds) was TV news cameraman Dan Grove, who had quit his job after witnessing (and filming) the death of his twin brother Ken at the hands of an insane terrorist. Ken was depicted as the courageous risk-taker of the group, while Dan was the more hesitant and fearful. After Ken’s death, Dan is recruited by Angelina Thriller, the head of the Seven Seconds, to join the team and help take down the terrorist who had killed his brother. Dan’s story is thus one of overcoming his fear and allowing himself to be part of something heroic. He also served as the point of view character for the audience into the more fantastical world of Angelina Thriller and her Seven Seconds.
I really like Thriller (and have written about some of the issues, starting here), even though it only lasted 12 issues. Creators Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor von Eeden didn’t stick around for the entire brief run, but the work they did has stuck with me til this day. The Grove brothers would probably have figured more highly on this list if the Ken had been around longer–he after a couple of pages in issue #1.
Nicholas Benedict & Ledroptha Curtain
The Mysterious Benedict Society & its sequels
It’s just a coincidence, I assume, that one of the main members of this set of twins is also named Benedict (see above). Nicholas Benedict is not necessarily the main character of The Mysterious Benedict Society (and its sequels) by author Trenton Lee Stewart, in spite of being the one the show is named after. Nicholas Benedict is a well-meaning but idiosyncratic philanthropist who becomes aware of a terrible evil that is threatening the world, which can only be confronted by extremely bright children (who become the titular Mysterious Benedict Society).
The threat, it turns out, is orchestrated by Benedict’s evil twin brother, Ledroptha Curtain, who is particularly out to subjugate the world’s will. Both brothers suffer from narcolepsy, but while Benedict’s is triggered by laughter, Curtain’s is brought on by anger. The conflict between them extends over several novels, in which their various agents confront each other numerous times.
In the Disney+ TV series based on the book, Curtain is renamed Nathaniel Benedict, and given a more tragic backstory. Both brothers are played by actor Tony Hale, who does quite a good job even though the characterizations are a fair bit different than in the source material.
Edwin Dingle & Buzzy Bellew
Buzzy Bellew is actually Buster Dingle, the twin brother of Edwin Dingle. Both are played by comedian and entertainer Danny Kaye in the 1945 film, Wonder Man. In the movie, Buster is a successful singer and dancer at a club who is murdered to prevent him from testifying against a gangster. Buster returns as a ghost and seeks out his twin brother, the intelligent but socially awkward Edwin. Since the people in Buster’s life don’t know he had a twin, the plan is that Edwin will impersonate him until the criminals can be brought to justice. Of course this means that Edwin has a host of obstacles to face: criminals who still want to kill him, the love-interests of both brothers who are obviously confused as to what is going on, and the demands on him placed by his more talented brother’s career. Fortunately, Buster can possess Edwin when necessary, to pull off the singing and dancing.
The movie takes a bit to get going but then does not let up for air. It’s a fun story with a lot of hi-jinks to laugh at. No matter which character he is playing, Danny Kaye is hilarious with both dialogue and physical comedy. Lots of sets of fictional twins have been played for comedy before but is one of the best.
Tom Jeffers & his twin brother / Geraldine Jeffers & her twin sister
The Palm Beach Story
Preston Sturges 1942 screwball comedy is about a married couple–Tom & Gerry Jeffers (played by Claudette Colbert & Joel McCrea)–who are struggling financially. Suddenly, Gerry decides to divorce Tom so she can marry a rich guy and get money for them both. She runs to Florida and gets involved with a young and eccentric millionaire. Tom follows and attempts to win her back while at the same not blowing her secret. In the process, the millionaire’s sister becomes infatuated with him. When it’s all over, true love prevails and Gerry returns to Tom. Their secret out, the disappointed millionaire siblings ask whether Tom or Gerri have a brother or a sister. It turns out they do–in fact, they both have twins!
These twins are never named but in a bizarre conclusion, we see both the brother and sister marrying Tom and Gerri’s twins, resulting in three happily married couples. Or one hopes, anyway, because both twins look slightly confused and befuddled to be there.
So we’re talking about two sets of twins in this entry, and even though they are barely developed, they are some of the best just due to the unexpected hilarity of the movie’s ending.
Shasta & Prince Corin
The Horse and His Boy
Shasta is the main character of The Horse and His Boy, aka Book 5 of The Chronicles of Narnia b C.S. Lewis. When I first read the books as a kid it was by far my least favorite of the series, but in recent years my opinion has changed–it’s quite the cool tale and could make a pretty nifty movie. Shasta was a enslaved boy who ended up escaping his unkind master with the help of an intelligent, talking horse from Narnia. As he goes along, the two have many adventures and meet a variety of characters. One of them turns out to be Prince Corin of Archenland, who is the spitting image of Shasta.
Eventually the truth is revealed: Shasta is really Corin’s elder twin brother, Cor, the heir to the throne of Archenland. Ultimately, Shasta and his friends help save Archenland from a great disaster, and the book’s epilogue reveals that he later married, became the king (to the great relief of his younger twin who had never wanted the position), and had a son who was the greatest king his country had ever known.
Unique on this list is Alfred Borden from The Prestige, who is a persona shared by two twin brothers. Neither of them are ever given another name, although they also go by the alternate identity of Bernard Fallon in order to maintain their ruse. The Bordens are stage magicians who are so committed to their craft that they keep their true nature a secret from everyone in order to sell to the illusion of their “Transported Man” trick.
Both played by Christian Bale, Borden appears in The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan and released in 2006. In the film, Borden’s true nature represented a massive (and effective) twist. The movie is based on a novel by Christopher Priest, which retains the twist but does not hold onto it for as long. Indeed, based on a plot summary that I have read, the novel The Prestige instead gets into some pretty strange territory–even more out there than the movie.
Luke Skywalker & Leia Organa
When I first began to develop this list, it was easy to assume that Luke & Leia, two of the most significant characters in one of the most popular and influential entertainment franchises, would top the list. But when I came to actually write it up, I realized that there is actually very little of Star Wars which deals with Luke & Leia as twins, or even as siblings (basically they have one conversation in Return of the Jedi and another one in The Last Jedi). Or at least, there is very little of this in the Star Wars that I am familiar with, having never read any novels and very few comic books.
Nonetheless, they are still two of the most significant characters in one of the most popular and influential franchises, so they are here. Both are pretty awesome heroes in their own rights, with many spectacular moments between them. Leia’s best movie for characterization is almost certainly The Empire Strikes Back, but her best moment is arguably in Return of the Jedi when she strangles the giant disgusting space slug that had been enslaving her. For Luke, I’d say his signature scene is discovering the identity of his father in Empire, but my favorite moments are also in Jedi: when he defiantly threatens that same space slug, and later facing off with the Emperor in a bid to redeem Darth Vader.
The reveal that Luke & Leia were related was a pretty big shock back in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, but still probably not a good way to pull of a plot twist, coming as it did with almost no build-up. It also led to one of one of the franchise’s biggest “ick” factors, being the fairly passionate kiss that Leia gives her brother a movie earlier, before their relationship had been either discovered by the character, or (one presumes) imagined by the creators.
Garth & Ayla Ranzz
Legion of Super-Heroes
Garth and Ayla Ranzz were better known as Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass, of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of teenaged heroes from the future (usually, 1000 years from whenever the comic was published). The siblings were from the planet Winath, where twin births was normal
Lightning Lad was a founding member of the Legion–indeed, he was the first the futuristic heroes to ever appear. He had gained the ability to generate powerful lightning bolts in a bizarre accident. When first depicted, this incident involved Garth alone, but later his elder brother Mekt was added to the story. Then, after Garth had actually died heroically saving the galaxy, readers (and the rest of the Legion) learned that Garth also had a twin sister who had gained the same powers the same way. This was revealed in a strange incident in which Ayla pretended to be her brother come back to life.
Ayla was originally LIghtning Lass, but later had her powers changed to be able to make things super-lightweight, and thus became Light Lass. Other code names applied to Garth and / or Ayla at different times in Legion history were Live Wire, Gossamer, and Spark.
The Legion are my favorite comic book title, and Lightning Lad especially is one of my favorite characters. Both heroes have had plenty of great moments throughout the years. Even though their twin-ness has only occasionally been significant in the series (Ayla’s first appearance is a notable example), they land high on this list for just being a couple of great super-hero characters.
1. Dipper & Mabel Pines
I like Gravity Falls and I like both Dipper and Mabel, but I think the reason they top this countdown is that amongst all the characters on this list, their status as twin siblings is the most important to their characters. This is true not because of shenanigans based around their inter-changeable appearance, but because the story of Gravity Falls was frequently built around their relationship as brother and sister who were more-or-less on equal footing with each other. In other words, the fact that they were twins actually mattered, and as something other than a way to kick off the plot.
Dipper and Mabel (voiced by Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal) were 12-year old siblings who go to live with their great-Uncle, who ran a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack near the small town of Gravity Falls. There, they discover that many local legends and myths have a root in fact, and engage in a complex and frequently hilarious mystery-adventure over the two season Disney animated series.
By the time we get to the especially bizarre final episodes of the series, they face tests and challenges that threaten to tear them apart as a family, but eventually overcome this and remain united (and manage to help save the universe at the same time).
Incidentally, Dipper and Mabel aren’t the only twins in Gravity Falls, but they are the main ones, and the other pair amounts to a spoiler so I want reveal it here.