There’s something to be said about forming a bond with another person. Sometimes, you find that person you can’t seem to shake off – not that you would want to. They become the other half of your mind, aware of your quirks and always knowing your next move. Pretty soon you develop a kinship where you can play off one another and feed on each other’s energy to become one whole entity. Your connection is inseparable and your force unstoppable. These are the sort of character relationships that keep cinematic audiences coming back and screaming for more.
Few things in film are more satisfying than witnessing two characters on screen that are a living embodiment of chemistry. For better or worse, these 15 onscreen – and off-screen, in some cases – just wouldn’t be the same with anyone else.
Here’s Screen Rant’s take on the 15 Greatest Dynamic Duos In Cinematic History.
15. Sheriff Bart and Jim, the ‘Waco Kid’ (Blazing Saddles)
Realistically, a black sheriff wouldn’t exactly been embraced in the days of the Old West, but only Mel Brooks was willing to use that premise as a launching point for a discussion about race in Blazing Saddles. In a town that doesn’t want him, Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) finds acceptance in Jim, the ‘Waco Kid,’ (Gene Wilder), a disgraced gunslinger in need of his own other half. The two being outcasts of different sorts, they latched onto each other quickly.
Many of the movie’s funniest moments come when these two are together, namely the “Hey, where the white women at?” scene, and all of them point to the wonderful chemistry Little and Wilder shared. Additionally,given the film’s setting and premise, having a charismatic black hero and a white sidekick alongside him was a brilliant subversion of westerns — as well as most other film genres — in and of itself.
14. Wyatt and Billy (Easy Rider)
Named after a pair of iconic Western figures, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are two counterculture types riding across the country in search of a wealthy retirement. Undoubtedly, what they so relentlessly search for is a piece of the American Dream that has been sold to them like everyone else. But as they make their cross-country trek and encounter a plethora of different folks, it becomes readily apparent that their notions of the American Dream want nothing to do with them.
Only towards the end do the two find acceptance of this fact – primarily Wyatt – and perhaps that’s what makes the film and their friendship so poignant. In spite of every reason given to them to end their search, they only continue to push forward because there is no turning back. Unfortunately, those pursuits lead them to their untimely demise as a pair of rednecks takes them out, marking a clash of polar opposites.
13. Harry Monroe and Skip Donahue (Stir Crazy)
They want to be bad, but they ain’t. Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder had previously co-starred in Silver Streak four years prior to Stir Crazy, and the latter was produced with the hope that Pryor and Wilder could rekindle the same magic that brought 20th Century Fox just over $51 million. Fortunately for Columbia and audiences everywhere, Pryor and Wilder, arguably, ably surpassed their previous achievements, and it showed when Stir Crazy raked in over $100 million.
Individually, Wilder is a vibrant actor with many different sides – as was visable in both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Blazing Saddles – and Pryor is still widely regarded as one of the greatest, most subversive comedians in history. Putting both together was a naturally winning formula, and that was most apparent in moments such as the “We bad” scene. The film is plenty farcical in nature, and both actors were up to the task.
12. Marlin and Dory (Finding Nemo)
Pixar’s catalog contains some truly great duos; Woody and Buzz (Toy Story), Mike and Sully (Monsters Inc.) and Carl and Russell (Up), just to name a few. But no pairing is arguably better than every child’s favorite odd couple, Marlin and Dory (Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres). Sure, Dory is almost a one-fish show, but part of the effectiveness of her humor is achieved through Marlin’s straight-laced, no nonsense personality – and the vocal performance Brooks provided to make that possible.
For most of the film, both of them are each other’s perfect counterbalance, though Marlin learns more as far as looking on the bright side and not being a Mr. Grumpy Gills is concerned — and finding his son, of course. Memorable moments abound in this film, each often differing in their comedic styles. For example, when Dory attempts communication with a whale, Marlin asserts his overbearing parent characteristics, whereas he roles with the flow with Dory’s silliness in the trench.
11. Butch and Sundance (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
Every now and then, we like to glorify villains for the sake of explosive entertainment – especially those of the historical variety – and the Western genre is perhaps the easiest in which to achieve that. Everyone talks most about infamous outlaws and the names that gave them such distinction, but for the most part, they were lone wolves or outright leaders of a pack. In that sense, the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid features two outlaws who bucked convention.
Even though Butch was widely considered the leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang, he often leaned on Sundance for assistance and companionship. The two escape the law with each other after a botched train robbery, they travel to Bolivia together and die there together, going out in true outlaw fashion: a haze of bullets. Fortunately, the film avoided explaining how the two would come to meet, and unfortunately a prequel was made for that purpose.
10. Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman (Hot Fuzz)
All at once, Hot Fuzz is a satire, a buddy cop film, a murder mystery and a western, but it needed the tag team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to bring such an amalgamation to life. The two had previously introduced themselves as a strong comedic duo with Shaun of the Dead three years prior, but the characters they play here are a markedly different sort of pairing.
In Shaun, Pegg and Frost played two slackers forced to improvise as they went further along in the circumstances they were thrust into, whereas in Hot Fuzz, the two play capable policemen – though Nick Frost’s Danny Butterman is admittedly a bit of a ne’er do-well – who can pull off an impromptu siege of the village they are meant to protect and serve. Just the final battle between the police and the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance alone is enough reason for their inclusion.
9. Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Connor (The Fast and the Furious)
For a list that might normally have been as jovial as one might believe this is, this entry is certainly a somber one. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker had spent a significant portion of their acting lives working together on the Fast & Furious franchise as Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Connor, respectively, until a car crash took Walker’s life in 2013. In the days following Walker’s death, Diesel made a number of social media posts shedding some light on their friendship beyond the film set.
Excluding Tokyo Drift, the franchise has seen many actors come and go – even Diesel wasn’t around for 2 Fast 2 Furious. But for the most part, Diesel and Walker remained a constant presence. Both of them essentially captained a fellow crew of street racers and criminals into accomplishing some of the most unthinkably ridiculous antics ever captured on film. This only made Furious 7’s final tribute to Walker that much more bittersweet, and as much fun as the upcoming Fast 8 may be, one won’t be able to help the feeling that something – or actually, someone – is missing.
8. John McClane and Sgt. Al Powell (Die Hard)
Sure, one could argue this selection is dubious considering McClane (Bruce Willis) and Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) weren’t onscreen together until the very end, but on many occasions, Powell was McClane’s ear on the ground and confidant. Additionally, though higher-ups at the Los Angeles Police Department and Federal agents drowned him out, audiences knew who the real voice of reason was.
Perhaps more important than any information McClane and Powell could have given each about the situation at hand was the camaraderie they formed opening up to one another about their disappointments. When Powell confesses to accidentally shooting a kid and McClane acknowledges his failures as a husband, the two transcend action hero archetypes – especially McClane – of men who don’t work through their problems. The brotherhood they form is unseen, but felt, and needs no guidance as they find each other, as if on instinct, once McClane reaches the ground and embraces Holly (Bonnie Bedelia).
7. Joe and Jerry (Some Like It Hot)
In the classic Some Like it Hot, Tony Curtis’s Joe/‘Josephine’ and Jack Lemmon’s Jerry/‘Daphne’ display an infectious comedic chemistry proving them two perfect co-stars. Both of them exude a certain charm easily achieved by their performances when not sharing the screen, but when together in a scene, they display a connection almost uncommon of first time co-stars. Overall, their quick, timely precision in this case further enlivens a premise that had the courage to address subject matter taboo in 1950s America.
Unfortunately, the two only co-starred in one other film, The Great Race, which made its premiere six years after Some Like it Hot. Furthermore, its slapstick humor couldn’t stand up to the sharp wit of their previous collaboration. But, Some Like it Hot will forever be remembered as one of the most influential comedies of all time, thanks in no small part to what Curtis and Lemmon helped create.
6. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (Bonnie and Clyde)
Before 1967, most people would have known Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as two notorious criminals, committing every crime under the sun from robbery to kidnapping and murder. Arthur Penn’s biographical crime film Bonnie and Clyde introduced the pair as a different sort of star-crossed lovers, and did so at the right time, paving the way for New Hollywood to take over in the ‘70s.
The two may have had some help from three others, rounding out the rest of the Barrow Gang as they are depicted in Penn’s film, but if it weren’t for meeting Bonnie, Clyde would have still been just a petty thief, and only afterwards did their escapades escalate in violence and severity. So for better or for worse, Bonnie brought out the “best” in Clyde, and vice versa, given Bonnie’s humdrum life as a small town waitress. If anything is for certain, they went out in a blaze of glory practically unseen by this time in Hollywood.
5. Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon)
As far as cop movies go, the stubborn old timer and the young loose cannon are two of the oldest clichés in the book, yet in Lethal Weapon, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson enliven the formula as Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs. Oftentimes, these sort of brawny action flicks fail to humanize their subjects, making for a bland, routine experience. But, much like Die Hard, Murtaugh and Riggs are two people with their own baggage – though the latter’s is more dire than the other’s – trying to see the light of a new day, and it gives the audience a reason to cheer.
The relationship of these characters evolved as the characters themselves did. Murtaugh and Riggs’s contentious relationship in the first film was shaped by a natural conflict of personalities and Riggs’s suicidal tendencies, however with the second film, their continued “mismatch” points to a more light-hearted tone embodied by two people who have moved past their own issues.
Will the small screen reboot recapture the magic that Danny Glover and Mel Gibson shared? Only time will tell.
4. Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)
Two aging stars playing two aging hitmen requires some careful selection on the part of the filmmakers. Fortunately for John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, little did they know that director Quentin Tarantino was about to start building his career with nearly forgotten actors as part of his foundation. Given Pulp Fiction’s legacy, it’s clear the right decisions were made.
As hitmen, maybe Vincent (Travolta) and Jules (Jackson) aren’t the greatest – just ask Marvin and his experience with an accidentally trigger-happy Vincent. But what they, or perhaps just Vincent, lack in efficiency, they make up for with lively, intellectual conversations that range from the observational (the little differences in Europe) to the philosophical (what constitutes an act of God). It’s a word oft used on this list, but ample chemistry between the two is required for such dialogue, and through their respective performances, Travolta and Jackson re-launched their Hollywood careers.
3. Thelma and Louise (Thelma & Louise)
These two feminist icons may have stirred up a bit of a storm among some upon its release, but the titular Thelma and Louise are well deserving of their place here. For one thing, the film’s detractors believed that its depictions of men were unfair and rather harsh. What these people fail to realize, however, is that these two women were reacting against their own lives where the men had become overbearing in their own way, and that these men are representative of the domineering patriarchal system of authority that all too often works – and has worked – against them and many other women.
Thelma and Louise’s rebellion really begins to blossom around the film’s midpoint, and as they dig themselves deeper and deeper evading the law and putting obscene men in their place, one begins to realize that the evolution each of them experiences is only possible with the other. This is arguably among the things they realize when the authorities do finally corner them and they decide to go out on their own terms, making for one of cinema’s most bittersweet and triumphant conclusions.
2. Han Solo and Chewbacca (Star Wars)
Solo and the Wookie have been charming audiences all over the world ever since A New Hope became a surprise hit in the summer of 1977. The cool customer that is Han carries a charisma reminiscent of many loveable jerks before him, and Chewbacca was his loyal sidekick, because few beings could have dealt with his acquired taste of a personality on a daily basis. Han would supply the banter, and Chewie would be the voice of reason only the characters could understand.
From A New Hope to Return of the Jedi, that was the formula of their friendship, and while Han retained a healthy modicum of his old self in The Force Awakens, his older age naturally imparted some wisdom and grace, which certainly contributed the impact of his death. Han’s death was a painful shock for Star Wars fans everywhere, but it was more painful for Chewbacca, who went on a cathartic rampage not moments afterwards.
1. Doc Brown and Marty McFly (Back to the Future)
When your mad scientist friend tells you to come around to a shopping mall parking lot in the middle of the night, you listen. Robert Zemekis’s Back to the Future trilogy is one of the most beloved trilogies of all time, and its primary characters and everyone’s favorite time travelers Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) make a colorful pair.
Their journeys are as wacky as Doc’s hair, traveling back to the ’50s, a dystopian version of the ’80s, the Old West, and even this current decade – if perhaps an understandably, mostly incorrect view of this decade. Marty is pretty much your regular teenager, who just so happens to be friends with an aging genius, and as the young McFly, Fox will be forever beloved. Much of the same can be said about Lloyd and his portrayal as the livewire Doc Brown. “Great Scott” will forever be engrained in the vocabulary of those who’ve seen a least one film.
Was there anyone we left out? Let us know in the comments!
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