You’re looking for a great compare and contrast essay topic to kick start your assignment. How can you choose an interesting topic that’s simultaneously narrow yet broad enough to provide you with plenty of great material?
In this blog post, I’ll give you 70 compare and contrast essay topics. I’ve also included links to sample essays for even more inspiration.
With many of these topics, I’ll also give you some basic compare and contrast points to get your ideas going. Note that my points are pretty general.
Let’s get started!
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Influential People
It’s time to dust off your powers of creativity and have some fun comparing and contrasting influential people.
People are the definition of unique—no two are exactly alike. The challenge is to find the similarities between two individuals, even when they seem to have nothing in common.
Comparing two people from a similar background is pretty easy. But surprising comparisons—such as those between fictional characters and real-life people or between people from different epochs—can lead to the most interesting essays.
When you successfully make those unlikely connections, readers will be awestruck by your sheer brilliance.
Mahatma Gandhi and Osama Bin Laden were both extremely influential figures who successfully motivated thousands of people to act on behalf of their visions. Both leaders were killed by their opposition.
Gandhi was a pacifist and a bastion of peace and compassion. He fought for freedom and civil rights. Bin Laden was an extreme militant and a bastion of war and intolerance. He fought for the implementation of extreme religious propaganda.
Both Edward Snowden and Julius Caesar played an instrumental role in the inevitable demise of the powerful institutions in which they functioned—Snowden the 21st century United States of America and Caesar the Roman Republic.
Speaking of Romans: The Roman and Han empires make for an interesting comparison. Even though the two nations were separated by time and geography, they experienced striking similarities in technological, political, and economic advances.
OJ Simpson and Tom Robinson were both black men who stood accused of violence against white women. Both men were convicted for these crimes. Their convictions left behind a debate as to whether the men were actually brought to justice or rather were victims of racial injustice.
Tom Robinson is a fictional character from the book To Kill a Mockingbird. OJ Simpson is a real-life former NFL player. Tom Robinson was sentenced to death, while OJ Simpson received a prison sentence.
Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass were former slaves who became abolitionists. Both Jacobs and Douglass wrote profound autobiographical accounts of their lives as slaves that helped form the argument against slavery.
Harriet Jacobs wrote about the struggles and hardships unique to women in slavery, such as sexual abuse. Frederick Douglass wrote about the struggles and hardships specific to men in slavery, such as emasculation. Douglass went on to become a well-known orator and ran for vice president on the Equal Party Ticket. Jacobs remained an important but relatively unrecognized figure in the abolitionist movement.
Maya Angelou and Alice Walker are both well-known African American authors. They are credited with contributing important fictional and non-fictional texts on the issues surrounding what it means to be black in the United States. They are both inspirational political and civil rights activists. They are both recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.
In addition to writing, Angelou is also known for her work as an actress and film and television producer. Even though they addressed similar topics in their writings, the two authors wrote in very different styles—each with her own unique voice.
Hobbes and Locke were both 17th century English philosophers. They were both interested in exploring political philosophy. Both men, for instance, talked about a state of nature—the idea of man existing without government—and the dangers of such a state (though that’s where their similarities largely ended on the topic).
Hobbes and Locke disagreed on a number of issues. For example, Hobbes believed that man is by nature a social animal, while Locke believed the opposite. Hobbes believed that man has an intrinsic understanding of the difference between right and wrong. Locke believed that man only understands the difference between right and wrong when an authority, such as the law or God, enforces it.
As a comedienne, DeGeneres relies on witty humor and sarcastic criticism to convey her messaging, while the more serious Winfrey relies on inspiration, insights, and aha moments.
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” – Ellen DeGeneres
Washington and DuBois disagreed on how to go about achieving racial equality. Washington believed that African Americans should earn equality through self-help and hard work. DuBois, conversely, believed that African Americans needed to become better educated and more politically active.
Socrates was Plato’s teacher and mentor. Socrates expounded on the wisdom of “I know that I know nothing.” Plato philosophized that the world of ideas was the only constant and that the world of senses is changeable.
Adolf Hitler and Regina George both can be considered dictators in their own right. Both Hitler and George believed that people with blonde hair, blue eyes, and other Aryan features were somehow better than other people.
Adolf Hitler was a real person, dictator, and founder of Nazism in Germany. He was responsible for countless human atrocities, including the murder of over 6 million Jews. Regina George is a fictional character from the 2004 movie Mean Girls. George’s biggest human atrocity is the creation of the Burn Book, a book that libels the other students in school.
Pope Francis is the leader of the Catholic Church. Macklemore is an American entertainer and hip-hop rapper. Macklemore “wears your grandad’s clothes,” while Pope Francis is old enough to be your grandad.
13. Both playwrights have changed the face of theater forever. Both playwrights have been criticized for creating historically inaccurate works. Both writers make political and social commentary in their plays.
Shakespeare’s plays were not musicals (though they often contained musical components). Miranda’s most famous play, Hamilton, is a wildly successful musical. Shakespeare lived and wrote in the 16th century, while Miranda is a contemporary playwright.
When Reagan took office, interest rates and inflation were high. Trump, on the other hand, entered office with historically low inflation and interest rates. Many people believed Reagan understood the problems with government and believed he was willing to work with citizens to help solve problems. Trump has claimed that he alone will be able to solve problems.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: History
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Religion
When you set out to compare and contrast world religions, you may feel like you have fallen down a rabbit hole. A student I know once wrote an essay comparing Jesus Christ and Snow White—talk about falling down a rabbit hole!
What’s more, the crossovers between two opposing religions can be surprising.
Among their many differences, Catholics believe in Holy Water, purgatory, and that those wafers you eat at mass are actually, literally the body of Christ. Protestants don’t believe in any of that. (While protestants do take communion, they don’t think the wafers are really a piece of flesh.) Catholics have nuns, priests, and a pope. Protestants don’t.
Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism have some basic philosophical differences. For example, Theravada Buddhists believe that Buddha died, leaving his teachings behind. Mahayana Buddhists believe that Buddha lives on in various incarnations.
Judaism and Christianity are both monotheistic religions that teach about one almighty God. Both are Abrahamic religions. Both religions teach the Old Testament. Both believe in angels, demons, and spirits as spiritual beings.
Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ was the messiah and that he will return to Earth one day. Christians believe that Jesus died for the sins of humankind. Judaism teaches that Jesus was a teacher and a prophet of God, but not God himself. Judaism also rejects the notion of Jesus’s sacrifice.
Cults are more likely to attempt to extort money from their followers. Cults are also more likely than religions to use mind-control to force members into following the teachings of the cult.
Jesus Christ and Buddha were both spiritual leaders. Both were teachers and tutors during their time on Earth. Both were miraculously conceived, performed miracles, and were tempted but overcame the devil.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Countries and Politics
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Education
You can compare and contrast different facets of education until you are as blue as a Smurf. To succeed, you’re better served by pitting two very specific elements of education against each other.
The trick is to narrow your angle down to a tight focus while leaving room to write enough compelling points to describe the differences and similarities.
Private universities are typically more expensive. The College Board reports that for the 2013-2014 school year, private universities cost over $30,000 for one year of tuition, while public universities cost just over $8,000 for in-state and $22,000 for out-of-state tuition. However, private institutions are known to offer better financial aid options.
Both small and large universities can provide students with the opportunities to achieve educational goals. Both offer bachelor’s degrees. (We’re not comparing the size of their parties here…but you could!)
Small universities offer individualized majors, smaller class sizes, and hands-on learning opportunities. Large universities offer state-of-the art research facilities, a wider range of academic programs, and more student clubs and events.
High school is a stepping stone to attending college. Students need to successfully complete the curriculum of both educational institutions in order to advance in many careers. Both institutions employ instructors to teach coursework. Both require students to refer to textbooks. Both require substantial homework.
High school allows for fewer academic choices. Students are typically limited to a state-designed curriculum that does not take into account a student’s particular strengths and interests. College is a time for students to focus on courses that are specific to their career goals.
Both online and traditional classes offer education toward a degree program. Students have access to instructors in both class formats. Both involve some form of discussion among classmates. Both often have group projects.
Online classes allow for more flexibility than traditional classes. Students can take an online course at any time from the comfort of their homes. Traditional classes require students to attend class at a specific time and location. The access to instructors is virtual in online classes and in-person in traditional classes. Online classes often have discussion board posts that replace live classroom discussions.
Honors courses are essentially high school courses that cover subject matter in greater depth. AP courses are designed to mirror college-level courses. High school honors courses do not allow students to earn college credit. Some high school AP courses allow students to earn college credit.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Film and Literature
Chances are, if you’ve been in English class for any length of time, you’ve been asked to compare and contrast two bodies of literature or other fictional work.
This is your chance to surprise the heck out of your professor (and get a good grade) by making unexpected comparisons.
Following are some topic examples.
Twilight’s 21st century vampires are sexy and sparkly. Edward Cullen of Twilight is charming and irresistibly dangerous. On the other hand, Dracula is a 19th century blood-thirsty beast that anyone would resist. Bram Stoker’s Dracula had a thick mustache, a large nose, and white hair that “grew scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere.” (Bella, eat your heart out.) Also, there are no werewolves in Dracula.
Both Breaking Bad and Lost were hit TV series of the early 21st century. Both shows have won a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy. Both have a character named Walt. Both use flashforward scenes to move the narrative forward.
Breaking Bad investigates the concept of the anti-hero in the character Walter White, who is easy to hate but hard not to cheer on as he descends into a life of crime. Lost investigates the virtues of a classic hero in the likeable character of Jack Shephard.
Both stories depict women being forced into isolation as a result of “lunacy.” Both stories explore the definition of femininity and the repression of women. Both stories explore dysfunctional relationships between women and men.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” tells the story of a woman’s experience of being shut into a bedroom for a summer. “A Rose for Emily” explores a woman’s experience of shutting herself into a house for 40 years. Both stories investigate these themes in very different ways.
Both stories uncover themes of cultural repression. Both stories revolve around the human experience of defying unjust government regulations. Censorship and loss of individual rights are themes in both books.
Fahrenheit 451 is a science fiction novel about how the character Montag defies authority and begins to read the books that he had been ordered to burn. Red Scarf Girl is a true story about a young girl, Ji-li, and her experience of defiance and resistance during China’s cultural revolution.
Both movies address the theme of the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic struggles for survival. Both movies touch on deeply rooted fears of humanity and our intrinsic understanding that the human race must eventually meet its end. Both showcase a lone scientific hero who tries to save humanity.
Both novels create a dystopian vision of life in the future where society has been divided into factions. Both novels are coming-of-age love stories. Both stories require the female protagonists to partake in violent rituals.
While Dr. Jekyll swings from being good and bad, Dorian Gray slowly transforms from good to bad as the story progresses. Dr. Jekyll outwardly manifests his dark side as Mr. Hyde, but Dorian keeps his darkness hidden, only acting on his impulses in secret. Dorian’s portrait is the only outward clue of his wrongdoing—the picture reveals his true nature with every wicked act.
1984 is commentary on the dangers of a totalitarian state, and it’s set in Europe. The protagonist is an adult man. The Hunger Games is a coming-of-age story with a US-inspired setting. The protagonist is a young woman.
These two Shakespearean plays have a lot of common. They both revolve around regicide (the murder of a king). Both involve power plays, scandals, and manipulation (but don’t all Shakespeare tragedies?).
Macbeth relies on prophecies and the fulfillment of prophecies as one of its main literary hooks—it’s a story filled with magic and witches. Julius Caesar is realism-based, focusing on the plausible dramas and tragedies of the Roman Empire.
Beowulf was created in the ancient stew of medieval literature. Wolverine was created in 1974. Beowulf revels in glories, while Wolverine’s good deeds go without reward.
Beowulf and Odysseus both must battle monsters on their epic journeys. Both heroes share many of the same traits: courage, intelligence, and strength. Both men use all three traits to win their respective battles.
Odysseus makes it safely home and dies in his old age. Beowulf dies after slaying a dragon. Odysseus uses deception while battling enemies, while Beowulf doesn’t play games to gain an advantage against his enemies.
Bonus info:12 Angry Men was made into a movie in 1957 and in 1997. You might also write a compare and contrast essay about the two film adaptations.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Art
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Culture and Society
There are infinite possibilities when it comes to choosing from compare and contrast essay topics about culture and society. The trick here is to pick a topic that is very specific and interesting.
Here are some ideas.
Marriage involves a legal and binding contract between two people that includes healthcare benefits and tax benefits. Cohabitation does not require a legal contract and does not include such benefits.
Teenagers are more mobile than toddlers and can be far more destructive in their actions. Toddlers are a thousand times more adorable than teenagers. Teenagers have the ability to reason, unlike toddlers, but rarely take advantage of this ability.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Technology
64. Honda vs. Ford
Hopefully, you’ve found a topic that will make writing your essay fun and easy. If you need even more ideas, here is a web app that helps you compare just about anything. And here’s a cool website with compare and contrast topics galore.
Once you’ve settled on a topic, I recommend reading these posts to get started with your essay:
- Compare and Contrast Essay Tips from a Kibin Editor
- This Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Will Help You Beat Writer’s Block
- 2 Compare and Contrast Essay Examples Worth Emulating (with annotations)
Once your own compare and contrast essay is drafted, send it to one of our awesome essay editors for review.