Heroes and villains have fought against each other in movies for ages, but every once in a while two sworn enemies are forced to work together in order to accomplish a common goal. Adding a new dynamic between the characters, watching this transpire can be very interesting for viewers, keeping things fresh as we see the hero and villain put aside their differences.
In Thor: The Dark World, the titular God of Thunder and his scheming brother Loki are put in this very scenario. United in the fight against the Dark Elves, the two enemies form an unlikely alliance in order to save their world.
To coincide with the release of Thor: The Dark World, we have compiled a list of our favorite movie nemesis team-ups. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
During the first two installments of this seminal sports franchise, Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed give the boxing world a great rivalry, splitting two grueling title bouts. But after Rocky’s world is turned upside down with Mickey’s death and a defeat at the hands of Clubber Lang, the Master of Disaster lends a helping hand to the Italian Stallion.
Taking Rocky back to his roots of gritty boxing, Apollo aids Rocky in shedding his new celebrity image as he looks to recapture the “eye of the tiger.” Working together in Los Angeles, the former foes form an unlikely bond through epic training montages and motivational speeches (“There is no tomorrow!”).
Once a broken man, Rocky gets his confidence and hunger back thanks to Apollo’s teachings. More determined than ever, Balboa reclaims his title from Lang in a rematch, cementing a friendship that could have lasted a lifetime.
Frodo Baggins is a very brave Hobbit for taking on the task of destroying the One Ring, but he needed help to get to Mt. Doom. While Sam was there for moral support, he didn’t exactly know how to get to Mordor since he had never ventured out of the Shire before. Lost, the heroes are forced to turn to an unlikely source to be their Middle Earth GPS.
Gollum had been stalking the Hobbits since their journey began, but once he is discovered, he makes a deal with Frodo and Sam. He will take his new “friends” to the Black Gate if they don’t kill him. The partnership leads to several tense moments, as Sam is constantly skeptical of Gollum’s true intentions. Frodo sees what he could become in Gollum and takes pity on the creature, going so far as to take Sméagol’s side when Sam questions his actions.
Despite constantly plotting to murder the Hobbits and take the Ring back, Gollum is true to his word. Frodo wouldn’t have accomplished his mission without a guide and Gollum got to die with his “Precious.” It was a win-win for everyone.
Two mutant teams with dueling ideologies, the peaceful X-Men and militant Brotherhood don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to human/mutant relations. But when a new threat endangers all of mutant kind, the two fractions have no choice but to put their differences aside and do battle against William Stryker together.
With Professor X incapacitated, Magneto emerges as the leader of the group as they attempt to prevent genocide. Infiltrating his base of operations at Alkali Lake, the mutants use teamwork and brute force to rescue their brainwashed kin and overtake Stryker, stopping his son Jason before all of the mutants are killed through a new Cerebro machine.
Of course, Magneto had ulterior motives and attempted to execute all of the humans via a brainwashed Charles Xavier, but he was arguably the most valuable member of this reluctant team. As the one mutant immune to Cerebro’s effects, only he could prevent Jason from completing the task, turning this villain into a mutant hero.
After Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas embezzles $15 million from mob boss Jimmy Serrano, bounty hunter Jack Walsh is hired to track him down and bring the accountant to LA for punishment. For most of the journey, not only are Mardukas and Walsh at odds with each other, the FBI is a thorn in Walsh’s side, as they have their own needs for the Duke.
Growing a conscious after a conversation with Mardukas (“Hope it’s a wonderful coffee shop, Jack”), Walsh’s objective changes from turning the Duke in to getting revenge on Serrano – who had ruined Walsh’s police career by planting heroin at his house. Joining forces with the FBI, Walsh plans to take Serrano and his henchmen down, which ultimately leads to the arrest of the criminal.
Getting the last laugh, Walsh also lets the Duke free, indicating that after the wild ride, the two are no longer enemies. The change of heart proves to be financially beneficial as well, since Jack receives a $300,000 gift from the Duke – as opposed to the $100,000 reward he would have received had he turned him in.
Frank Abagnale, Jr. may have been trying to fix his parents’ relationship by making enough money to get everything back, but he was still a criminal. Forging his way to millions of dollars by posing as a pilot, doctor, and lawyer, Frank draws the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty, one of the lead investigators of check fraud. Making it his life mission to catch Frank, Carl and the teenager embark in a game of cat-and-mouse that spans several years.
While the young Abagnale successfully outsmarts Carl on many occasions, he is ultimately caught and placed in jail. Getting periodical visits from Carl, Frank examines a potentially fraudulent check, causing Carl to convince the FBI to allow Frank to be freed and work in his department. By working together, the two form a strong friendship and help each other fill personal voids. Functioning as a surrogate family, these two lonely souls give each other someone to confide in and care about.
Neill Blomkamp’s breakout debut was noteworthy for combining social commentary with genre thrills, punctuated by Wikus van der Merwe’s glee at committing the mass murder of unborn prawn babies. As karma would have it, Wikus gets exposed to alien fluid, undergoing a very literal transformation. Now a fugitive, he is forced to team up with prawn Christopher Johnson if he is to turn back to a human.
The two work together in an effort to retrieve a canister of the fluid in order to give Wikus access to medical treatment. Launching a terrorist attack on MNU headquarters, they are successful in their mission, but the goals change when Christopher sees his kind being experimented on. He intends to use the rest of the fuel to return home ASAP and save his people, placing Wikus in a predicament.
Earning a newfound respect for the prawns, Wikus leads a one-man assault on MNU soldiers as Christopher and his son leave Earth. The prawns promise to return and help Wikus in return for his sacrifice.
Even though the reprogrammed T-800 Terminator is not a villain in this sequel, the fact remains that this particular model has a complicated history with Sarah Connor, who has justifiably formed a bias against the machines after almost being killed by one. Of course, if Sarah and her son John are to save humanity, it only seems right that they would team up with a new version of the T-800.
Remembering that there is no fate but what we make, Sarah devises a plan to end Skynet before it begins. Using the files stored in the T-800, she learns of Cyberdyne Systems and the trio (along with Miles Dyson) bring the battle to their doorstep, destroying all traces of the new microprocessor.
The new alliance with the T-800 also allows Sarah to undergo a personal transformation. Seeing the Terminator form a fatherly relationship with John, she is convinced that if a heartless machine can learn to love, humans may not be doomed after all.
For most of this film’s running time, undercover cop Billy Costigan and mob mole Colin Sullivan are working on opposite sides of the law, trying to discover their nemesis’s true identity before their cover is blown. The two have a few close calls, but after discovering Frank Costello is an FBI informant, Sullivan – fearing for his personal safety – turns against his old friend and wishes to bring him down.
With the two enemies unknowingly working together (Costigan is unaware Sullivan is the rat), Costello is followed to a cocaine drop-off site and Massachusetts state police meet him and his crew. In a bloody shootout, Sullivan kills Costello, allowing Costigan to escape the criminal underworld as Sullivan seemingly gets away free.
This partnership isn’t without its sense of heavy irony. Sullivan, the lifelong criminal, is hailed as a great man, while Costigan is left to assume a thankless life (until both join the ranks of the faithful departed, of course).
During the first two films of the Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are classic archetypes of hero and villain, their personalities in stark contrast with one another. However, a certain plot twist adds a new layer to their relationship and the two former enemies end up working together to restore freedom to the galaxy.
At first, the stubborn Vader refuses Luke’s pleas to resume his Anakin Skywalker identity, being blindly loyal to the power of the Dark Side. Once Luke stands up to the Emperor, Vader has a change of heart as he admires his son’s courage and willpower. Embracing the good within him, Vader chooses to turn against his former master to save Luke from certain death.
While these two didn’t “team up” in the traditional sense, their relationship gradually changed from hatred to love. In the end, father and son considered each other to be friends instead of foes and Anakin was the hero the prophecy said he’d be.
Aggressive hotshot Maverick and cool, calculating Iceman are polar opposites of each other, making them perfect rivals at the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School. Competing with each other to be the “top gun,” tragedy strikes Maverick’s life, leaving him in a fragile state of mind. In order to get his confidence back, he has to team up with his main nemesis and aid him in a dogfight.
As six Russian MiGs threaten to attack a communications ship, Maverick is thrust into action after Hollywood is shot down. Flying with Iceman, Maverick proves to be the ideal backup as the two destroy four planes, causing the other two to flee. The experience not only reestablishes Maverick’s status as one of the leading Naval pilots, it also allows him to overcome feelings of grief due to Goose’s death earlier in the film.
Learning the value of teamwork, Maverick forms a friendship with Iceman, guaranteeing that he’ll have a wingman any day of the week.
Films of all genres have forced two rivals to work together; creating situations that can be both entertaining and tense. Using this trope allows characters to grow, creating rewarding scenarios for the audience.
Our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to put your picks in the comments section below. Whether it’s Dom and Hobbs in Fast & Furious 6, Ripley and the prisoners in Alien 3, or a different one, Hollywood is ripe with these instances.
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Thor: The Dark World opens in U.S. theaters November 8.