Sidekicks have been a part of television and movie history since the very beginning of Hollywood’s timeline. Going back as far as Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid where the Tramp’s sidekick was a young Jackie Coogan as “the kid”, sidekicks have been a popular and necessary part of any hero’s known associates.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the first sidekick appeared in cinema history, but one thing is for sure, most leading men or women wouldn’t be near as interesting, and sometimes, as effective without them. Recently Hollywood has made a legitimate effort to bring back the classic sidekick in shows like No Ordinary Family and movies like Kick-Ass and of course, The Green Hornet. But in order for the sidekick to make a proper return there are some questions we must answer: Why are sidekicks important? What different roles do sidekicks play? And why is this the right time to bring them back to the mainstream? Let’s discuss.
Sidekicks used to be a staple in just about every TV show or movie featuring a hero in the lead, but over the past decade writers have been purposely leaving them out of storylines. It could be that writing a hero/sidekick dynamic is just too much to put into a script (see Batman and Robin). Burt Ward is probably the most famous of all sidekick actors as he played Bruce Wayne/Batman’s (Adam West) ward Robin – though he is typically the exception and not the rule when it comes to sidekick mythos.
One has to look no further than the past few superhero movies to see the decline of the sidekick first-hand. Spider-Man, Superman Returns, X-Men – none of them included a sidekick of any type. True fans of TV shows and movies will tell you that a sidekick plays a very important role in a story and can sometimes be a more integral part of the show than the hero himself.
What happens when the good guy is caught by the bad guy and is about to die a horrible death? If they have a sidekick then they survive after they are saved at the last minute. If they don’t have a sidekick – well it might be time to get a new good guy. You should never underestimate the importance of a well-written and well-acted sidekick.
The Role of the Sidekick
Typically sidekicks can be broken down into five major categories: The Assistant, The Best Friend, The Brains, The Brawn, and The Comedy Relief. Of course there are going to be some outliers – sidekicks that don’t quite fit into any of those categories – but for the most part each sidekick listed below fills the role they have been assigned quite nicely.
The Assistant Sidekick
These sidekicks are probably the most unsung of them all – they don’t fight, they do very little if any comedy, they aren’t the brains of the operation (meaning they don’t make the decisions) nor are they considered to be the leading character’s best friend. The main role of this sidekick is that of both trusted confidant and loyal supporter. They are usually, though not always, portrayed by a character in the service profession, such as a butler. Below are examples of our favorite Assistant Sidekicks:
Herbert Cadbury – Richie Rich
Tattoo – Fantasy Island
Sharona Fleming – Monk
Lurch – The Addams Family
Alfred Pennyworth – Batman
The Best Friend Sidekick
Every leading character, whether they are male or female, needs a best friend – someone who will keep them on the straight and narrow and is always there to help them regardless of the situation. Best friend sidekicks are among some of the most popular in TV shows and movies because each character usually incorporates a few qualities from multiple categories. Think of them as a “Jack of all trades and master of none.” Below are a few of our favorite choices that represent Best Friend Sidekicks.
Hermione Granger & Ron Weasley – Harry Potter
Lt. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw – Top Gun
Samwise Gamgee – The Lord of the Rings
Tonto – The Lone Ranger
Dr. John Watson – Sherlock Holmes
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