Whether it’s an animal, alien, mythical beast or even a robot, humans have a knack for befriending non-human creatures. Friendship between a human and a non-human companion is a long standing trope of storytelling (and real life), and one that movies have used too many time to count.
There’s the prototypical ‘boy and his dog’ and the zanier ‘hero and alien sidekick,’ but no matter how odd the pairing, the two friends’ enduring bond is typically key to their survival (whether against certain doom or the school yard bully). In Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon, it’s the unusual friendship between Hiccup and Toothless that saves the vikings and dragons from mutually assured destruction and begins a beneficial alliance between the former foes.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens this weekend and promises to further test Hiccup and Toothless’ special bond, making this the perfect time to look back at the plethora of human and creature friendships from movies. The only requirement? It must be a friendship between one human and one non-human creature.
While there a lot of best buds to choose from, here are our 10 Favorite Human/Creature Friendships from Movies (in no particular order).
Elliot and E.T. – E.T. the Extraterrestrial
If Timmy and Lassie are the proto-version of the human/creature friendship in film, then Elliot and E.T. took that bond to the next level. In Steven Spielberg’s widely acclaimed E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, the connection between the 10-year-old boy and the stranded alien went beyond kindred spirits dealing with abandonment (E.T.’s abandonment was quite literal, while Elliot’s was due to his parents’ divorce). The longer the two spent together, a psychic link actually began to form, allowing one to experience or exhibit what the other was feeling.
This deep connection, however, wasn’t good for either Elliot or E.T., causing both to fall ill, with E.T. even appearing to die for a period of time. Sometimes even the best of friends can’t and shouldn’t always be together. And though they were together only briefly, Elliot and E.T. helped each other grow to become stronger individuals able to finally go – or in Elliot’s case. come to terms with – home.
Lilo and Stitch – Lilo and Stitch
Not all movies about a young child who befriends a stranded alien need to be such tearjerkers. Disney’s Lilo & Stitch is a far more comical spin on the human/creature friendship, yet still finds plenty of moments to tug at your heart.
Lilo is a weird little girl and an outcast among her peers (a trait shared by almost every human on this list). Stitch is an alien experiment who escapes exile only to wind up in Hawaii. Both in need of a friend, the wild pair cause more than a few disasters before Lilo is mistakenly captured and Stitch must learn the meaning of family – or in Hawaiian: Ohana – and come to her rescue.
And unlike Elliot and E.T., Lilo and Stitch are able to remain together, which (this being a Disney film) allowed for multiple sequels and a television series in which Lilo and Stitch’s friendship was further explored (or milked for extra cash, depending on your viewpoint).
Mulan and Mushu – Mulan
Unlike the two previous entries, Mulan and Mushu weren’t lost souls seeking companionship, but they sure did come to depend on one another by the film’s end. Each has something to prove: Mulan, that she is capable of more than becoming some man’s wife, and Mushu, that he too can be a respected guardian of the Fa family. How they achieve this is unconventional at best, but there’s no doubt these two make one dynamic duo.
To spare her father, Mulan disguises herself as a man in order to join the army and help defend China from the invading Huns. Mushu, a dragon and disgraced family guardian, tags along in the hope of guiding Mulan toward bringing her family honor, and restore his own in the process. They face many, many hurdles – not the least of which is the eventual discovery of Mulan’s true gender by her superiors – but thanks to Mulan’s tough spirit and Mushu’s unfaltering encouragement, not only do they save the day, but they save Emperor himself!
Hiccup and Toothless – How to Train Your Dragon
The 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon again sees our hero befriending a dragon, only this time the dragon’s a wild animal, not an ancient family guardian. However, that doesn’t stop the two from forming an unbreakable bond.
The pair first meet after Hiccup fires on Toothless during a dragon attack, injuring his tail fin and preventing him from flying. Determined to prove himself a proper viking by killing it, Hiccup looks for the downed dragon, but upon finding him, he can’t bring himself to kill the creature. Rather, Hiccup decides to study the dragon, whom he names Toothless due to his retractable teeth. All the while, Toothless is observing Hiccup, too, and a deep understanding grows between them.
Eventually, Hiccup engineers a new tail fin for Toothless, but in order for it to work properly, Hiccup must ride Toothless and operate the fin. Their teamwork becomes key to the pair’s future, and without each other, neither would have survived for the sequel.
Wallace and Gromit – Wallace and Gromit
These two claymation superstars are recognized the world over and are practically ambassadors of British culture. Bumbling, absented-minded Wallace and his best mutt, Gromit – the silent yet more responsible of the two – have had a lot of wild adventures over the past 25 years.
Wallace and Gromit star in only one feature film, but they’ve appeared in over a dozen shorts and even had their own short-lived TV series. Throughout it all, Wallace and Gromit have been inseparable, more so for Wallace’s sake because without Gromit there’s no telling how many times Wallace would have ended up injured, incarcerated or worse!
Sadly, with the declining health of Wallace’s voice actor, Peter Sallis, creator Nick Park has said it’s likely there will never be a new Wallace and Gromit. Which is a real shame, but at least we have Wallace and Gromit’s madcap adventures with unpredictable trousers and deadly were-rabbits on DVD and Blu-ray.
Han and Chewbacca – The Star Wars Trilogy
You and your best friend, cruising the galaxy in rickety but beloved starship – who hasn’t dreamed of such an adventure!? When Han and Chewbacca first appeared in Star Wars: A New Hope, they were hanging out in that seedy hive of scum and villainy, the Mos Eisley Cantina, and right away it was apparent that these guys have been through it all together.
According to the Expanded Universe lore, they first met when Han saved the wookiee from an imperial officer, and from that day on Chewie owed Han a life debt. The two went on to became a couple of the galaxy’s most notorious smugglers before getting involved with Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan and the rebellion. Throughout the original trilogy, Han and Chewie’s loyalty was unwavering, and because of it they were able to scrape out of more than a few tricky situations. These two even made it out of the Star Wars Holiday Special relatively unscathed!
Han and Chewie will return in Episode VII and will surely once again face unknown perils and countless enemies, but together they can handle it.
John Conner and The Terminator – Terminator 2
“Hasta la vista, baby.” As friendships on this list go, the one between a young John Connor and the T-800 from Terminator 2 is the only one that involves a non-human creature whose initial programming was to kill its human, not protect him. Sure, technically that was a different cyborg, but the sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic Terminator palling around with John was no less bizarre.
Terminator 2 already stands out as one of the best action movies ever, as well as one of those rare sequels that matches or surpasses the original, but what makes the film truly special is the bond between John and The Terminator. The T-800 acts as something of surrogate father for John and John teaches him how to care for others (and to speak Spanish). In the end, when the Terminator sacrifices himself and slides down into a vat of molten steel with an encouraging thumbs up, admit it, you got a little teary-eyed. And that’s something you surely weren’t expecting from Terminator 2.
Hogarth and the Iron Giant – The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant built upon the foundation created by E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, where a young boy befriends an alien traveler. Except this time that alien traveler is a 50-foot-tall metal robot with destructive capabilities on a massive scale.
Discovered by 9-year-old Hogarth, he and the Iron Giant become fast friends, bonding over a shared adoration of Superman comics and heroics. While the Iron Giant is the best big brother a kid could ask for, protecting him from threats real or not, it’s Hogarth who has something to teach the Iron Giant, telling him: “You are who you choose to be.”
As happens with all alien outsiders, the military comes to investigate, eventually deciding the Iron Giant is a threat. When this leads to a nuclear ballistic missile being fired at a civilian town, the Iron Giant gets to be the hero he’s always wanted to be by sacrificing himself to stop it. It’s yet another of these young boy/alien visitor/robot protector friendships that ends in tears, but at least The Iron Giant gives us a glimmer of hope at the end.
Boo and Sully – Monsters Inc.
With almost every duo on this list, it’s the creature playing sidekick to the human. In the unlikely friendship seen in in the 2001 film Monster’s Inc., however, it’s the monster Sully who picks up a pet (of sorts) in the 2-year-old girl, Boo. The trope is subverted even more when you consider it’s Sully the audience can understand, while Boo mostly babbles. Adorably so, but it’s all baby talk.
Boo first stumbles into Sully’s life when she follows him back through the closet door linking their worlds. Like most toddlers, she leaves disaster in her wake, causing Mike and Sully headache after headache, but Sully never abandons her or turns her in. He’s smitten, and like a parent or guardian, he promises to do whatever it takes to get her home safely.
In the process, Sully discovers an even more powerful energy than the one fueled by a child’s scream – a child’s laughter. Boo and Sully’s friendship in the end didn’t simply bring them both joy, it revolutionized how monsters powered their world.
Remy and Linguini – Ratatoille
Remy, a rat, wants nothing more than to be a great chef. Linguini, a human, has the opportunity to do so, but none of the talent. Together, with Remy controlling Linguini’s movements by tugging his hair, the two are an unstoppable culinary force. It’s through Linguini’s kind and accepting heart that Remy is able to achieve his dream, and it’s through Remy that Linguini’s directionless life is given purpose.
They wow the most fickle of critics and turn Gusteau’s once again into Paris’ premiere restaurant. Eventually, though, Gusteau’s is shut down (because, y’know, rats in the kitchen), but Remy and Linguini remain determined and go on to open their own restaurant, where they continue to serve the only cuisine prepared by rat and served by man.
As you can see, humans and non-human creatures very often form life-long and live-saving friendships, and it’s not only in the movies, as any pet owner will tell you. And though we may consider ourselves the most intelligent species on the planet, there’s plenty we can learn from our non-human companions.
Again, this list is by no means meant to be all-inclusive, so please share your favorite human/creature friendships from the movies in the comments below!
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is in theaters now.
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