Mistaken identity: It’s a device of mishaps and misunderstandings that can launch a great comedy of errors or a thrilling drama. Either way, the appeal is the fish out of water story: People trapped in and trying to make their way in a strange world.

In the video below, check out my five recommendations for mistaken identity movies you much see, and read on past the video for a bit more about these films.

Check out these previous entries in HitFix’s Watchlist series:
The Watchlist #1: Submarine movies — by Richard Rushfield
The Watchlist #2: Funniest TV shows about women with serious problems — by Louis Virtel
The Watchlist #3: TV one-season wonders — by Alan Sepinwall

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    Photo Credit: Orion Pictures

    5. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
    A mistaken identity movie and amnesia movie for the price of one. Bored housewife Roberta finds herself mistaken for bohemian drifter Susan in this frothy and silly movie that gave Madonna her first major screen role. It’s a totally ’80s movie — synth soundtrack, new wave fashions, and all — with the Queen of Pop oozing style, while head injury-stricken Roberta struggles to figure out why she can’t seem to fit into this slick free spirit’s shoes when she finally gets to live a dangerous and desperate life.

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    Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

    4. Life of Brian (1979)
    For their third feature film, British comedy troupe Monty Python told the story of Brian Cohen, who is born in the stable right next door to Jesus Christ, on the same day as Jesus Christ. Brian ends up being constantly mistaken for the Messiah, and he’s increasingly exasperated by a gaggle of followers who respond to his pleas like “Go away!” with exclamations like “A blessing!” The Python group fill a variety of outrageous roles in the irreverent movie that gave us a crucifixion scene to the tune of the now-classic song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

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    Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

    3. Casanova (2005)
    What better stage to set a mistaken identity comedy than a masked ball at Venice’s Carnevale? With stars Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller supplying plenty of wit and charm, this costume romance is an utterly delightful romp of a film with such a fun, tangled web of multiple mistaken identities — including Jeremy Irons’ Grand Inquisitor mistaking a rotund lard merchant for the infamous seducer of women, a brother-sister duel switcheroo, and Miller’s headstrong Francesca Bruni falling for a man she doesn’t know is Casanova, a man who stands for everything she writes against (under a pseudonym that, of course, adds to all the confusion).

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    Photo Credit: Gramercy Pictures

    2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
    Two Jeff Lebowskis. Two totally different worlds. When burnout Jeff Lebowski —  better known as the Dude — gets mistaken for millionaire Jeff Lebowski, we get to watch the loopy, oddball story that unfolds as the Dude spirals into the big money crime underworld of Los Angeles in this Coen Brothers staple. Who knew that seeking compensation for a soiled rug could make things so complicated?

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    Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

    1. North by Northwest (1959)
    In this acclaimed thriller from Alfred Hitchcock, an ad exec finds himself out of his depth and on the run after he’s mistaken for a government agent. This leads us to Cary Grant climbing down Mount Rushmore, and Cary Grant chased and attacked by a crop-duster in a wide-open field where there’s nowhere to hide — scenes that are among the most memorable and iconic set pieces in cinematic history.

An enthusiast of time travel stories, film scores, avocados and Charades, Emily Rome is an alumna of Loyola Marymount University and a native of beautiful Washington State. Emily’s writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyNRome.