The history of cinema is littered with fantastic on-screen duos. The hero’s journey becomes even greater when they have a sidekick or, better yet, someone who is equally important and has just as much to gain from their gallant quest.
Chemistry between the two lead actors is key in these kinds of movies. Poor chemistry is painfully obvious, but good chemistry is endlessly enjoyable.
The actors have to be well-cast and hit it off as friends in real life if we’re going to believe that they’re best friends on film, like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, and Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. So, here are the 15 best duos in film history.
15. Kirk and Spock
Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise is one of the greatest and noblest protagonists in all of fiction. Mr. Spock, on the other hand, is his loyal confidant and sidekick (in a more literal sense, he’s his science officer). Like all the best movie duos, Kirk and Spock are like honey and vinegar.
Kirk acts on impulse and allows his emotions to dictate his actions, while Spock is a far more logical dude. Obviously, the Star Trek duo is more iconic for their appearances on television, where they originated, but they have starred in some of the greatest science fiction movies ever made.
In fact, the quintessential moment that shows the love between Kirk and Spock is the moment at the end of The Wrath of Khan, where Kirk has to watch his best friend die.
14. Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne
For a movie about stupidity, Dumb and Dumber has one of the smartest scripts ever written. For instance, take the scene where Lloyd tells Harry, “I’ll bet you twenty bucks I can get you gambling before the end of the day,” and Harry agrees to the bet and they shake on it. Then Lloyd says, “I’m gonna get you. I don’t know how, but I’m gonna get you.”
It’s so brilliant, because he just made a bet and neither of them even realize it. The movie is full of little things like that, but it would all be meaningless if it wasn’t for the friendship that Lloyd and Harry share, thanks to the chemistry shared by the brilliant Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
The bond between the two actors was so great that when the studio tried to get rid of Daniels, the filmmakers fought tooth and nail to keep him on board, and luckily, they succeeded.
13. Jay and Silent Bob
Real life friends Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are the link between Smith’s so-called “View Askewniverse,” the interconnected cinematic universe that predated the MCU, the DCEU, and all of those others. They appear as weed dealers Jay and Silent Bob in pretty much all of them, like Clerks, Mallrats, and Dogma, and whenever they show up, they always brighten the screen.
Silent Bob is, of course, silent, while Jay is always spouting off and it’s difficult to get him to ever shut up. In Clerks II, he sings a little musical number featuring only curse words and the price of pot. But it’s Silent Bob, when he ever does speak, who comes out with the profound stuff.
His crowning achievement is the speech at the end of Chasing Amy that powerfully explains what the title means. The characters will be back in Smith’s next movie, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, which will satirically tackle the trend of Hollywood reboots.
12. Bill and Ted
With the two Bill and Ted movies, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves made strange cinema history as a pair of stoned, idiotic teenagers who travel across time and space. They’re best friends and they’ll always have each other’s backs.
Fans have been waiting for a third movie for years and years, with new information about it coming out every couple of years or so. Winter has confirmed that Bill and Ted will be married with kids and in their forties in the threequel, and Reeves has described the script, which now has a title: Bill and Ted Face the Music.
Bear in mind, it seems very similar to the Rick and Morty episode “Get Schwifty.” As Reeves describes, “Basically, they’re supposed to write a song to save the world and they haven’t done that.
The pressure of having to save the world – their marriages are falling apart, their kids are kind of mad at them – and then someone comes from the future and tells them if they don’t write the song, it’s just not the world, it’s the universe. So, they have to save the universe because time is breaking apart.” Sounds fun!
11. Brennan Huff and Dale Doback
Boats ‘n’ hoes! The pitch from Adam McKay and Will Ferrell when they called up John C. Reilly to tell him about their new movie Step Brothers was that they were writing a weird, absurdist comedy that they expected to lose money but that they thought would be fun to make. Of course, Reilly was immediately on board.
McKay had seen a miraculous chemistry between Ferrell and Reilly in their movie Talladega Nights and he didn’t want to squander it, so an entire movie was built around their easy chemistry.
The outcome of this experiment was a wildly successful movie – one of the team’s most successful, actually – and one the greatest, best-loved, and most quotable comedies in recent memory. Like a lot of great movie duos, these two begin the movie as enemies, but eventually, as they face a common adversary and move toward a common goal, they become brothers who will “ride into the mists of Avalon” together.
10. Wayne and Garth
This duo is…excellent! Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar are not the only pair on this list who originated on Saturday Night Live, and that’s because the iconic, long-running NBC sketch show is a terrific breeding ground for comedy talent. It is also a really great community for cast members to work together and see who they gel with.
Dan Aykroyd found John Belushi, and Mike Myers found Dana Carvey. Together, they came up with the ultimate pair of best friends, heavy metal fans and public access TV show hosts Wayne and Garth.
Wayne’s World was an unexpected box office smash back in the early ‘90s, which is a testament to the power of Wayne and Garth’s chemistry and the sweet, treacly, undying bond of friendship they share that we can all relate to on some level.
9. Johnny Utah and Bodhi
Point Break is often credited with giving cinema its first ever bromance. It is a very romantic story, but it gets away with not being a full-on romance by also being an action-packed thrill-ride. Keanu Reeves played Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who is tasked with going undercover as a surfer and infiltrating a gang of bank robbers, led by Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi.
Utah gains Bodhi’s trust and manages to get evidence against him that he could use to bring them down, but by then, he’s become so close to him and cares about him so much that he doesn’t want to turn him in. This dynamic has since been ripped off by The Fast and the Furious, but the bond of Utah and Bodhi can’t be replicated. It’s one of a kind.
8. Mike and Sulley
Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan aren’t the only Pixar duo on this list, and that’s because Pixar creates great duos by virtue of their fantastic storytelling, spot-on casting, and heart-warming sense of humor.
Billy Crystal and John Goodman are, in their own right, two of the greatest and funniest actors on the planet, so to pair them up as best friends taking on a giant corporation was a genius idea on director Pete Docter’s part.
The review of Monsters, Inc. in Empire magazine called the terrific partnership of Mike and Sulley a pair of “bickering buddies in the Eric and Ernie mould,” who are “funny, lovable, and above all, inseparable.”
7. Jake and Elwood Blues
They’re on a mission from God. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were genuinely the best of friends in real life, and so when they teamed up for their greatest achievement, The Blues Brothers, you can really feel their connection and the sense of brotherhood that they share.
Originally conceived for a musical sketch on Saturday Night Live and then simply a band releasing real albums, Aykroyd decided to make a Blues Brothers movie. He had never written or even read a screenplay before, but none of the SNL writers wanted to help him do it, so he just went and wrote it anyway.
Incidentally, it turned into a comedy classic, helped in no way by Belushi’s drug binges, napping on the set, and missing unit calls. But still, the performances of Aykroyd and Belushi stand up as one of the greatest on-screen duos of all time, described by Empire magazine as “almost an updated Hope and Crosby reinterpreted via the Three Stooges.”
6. Han Solo and Chewbacca
It was tragic to see Chewbacca’s devastated reaction to watching his buddy Han Solo get slain by his own son, Kylo Ren, because as we have come to learn over the past forty years, those two love each other. There’s a deep devotion to their bond. It’s an interspecies bromance. Han and Chewie always stuck by each other, through thick and thin.
Even when Han owes money to crime bosses or gets frozen in carbonite and hung on their wall, they don’t leave each other’s side. It’s like Lost: live together or die alone. Han and Chewie were always just a pair of inseparable buds flying through the farthest reaches of outer space with no one but each other, just them versus the galaxy. It’s awesome.
5. Tyler Durden and Narrator
Does this movie duo really qualify as a duo? They’re presented as two separate people on screen, but they’re really (SPOILER ALERT!) the same person. Fight Club was not only one of the most popular and influential movies of the 1990s – it also has one of the most famous (or infamous) twists in any movie.
The Narrator (whose name is never revealed in either the book or the movie, although the movie does suggest that it’s Jack with all the “I am Jack’s (insert organ here)” business and the fact that screenwriter Jim Uhls referred to him as Jack in the script, but still, it’s unconfirmed), portrayed brilliantly by Edward Norton, has spent the whole movie coming out of his shell after meeting a mysterious stranger named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and then he finds out that Tyler is actually just him.
They were the same person the whole time. But the fact that they were the same person the whole time gives them an interesting and unique dynamic as a duo. And the easy chemistry of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt doesn’t hurt.
4. Jules and Vincent
When Quentin Tarantino was writing his groundbreaking screenplay for Pulp Fiction and created the characters of Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega, he based their mindless conversations about French Quarter Pounders and hash bars in Amsterdam on the conversations between Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza.
It’s this kind of banter that keeps the characters likeable even when they accidentally blow people’s heads off or say things like, “Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again. I dare you. I double dare you, motherfucker! Say ‘what’ one more goddamn time!”
Tarantino’s casting of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in the roles was perfect. At first, it seemed strange, as the star power of Travolta had died out and Jackson wasn’t yet the huge star he is today. But Tarantino knew what he was doing as he created one of the most iconic duos in cinema history.
3. Riggs and Murtaugh
Buddy cop movies are a dime a dozen these days: two mismatched police officers are forced to work together on a case and through some (usually male) bonding, they become the best of friends. But it didn’t come in the handbook when the Lumière brothers invented cinema.
Someone had to create it, and that someone was Shane Black when he wrote Lethal Weapon in 1987. Martin Riggs is an unstable lunatic who doesn’t like following orders, but dammit, he gets the job done. And Roger Murtaugh is a straight-laced family man who does things by the book.
They begin as adversaries, but later become best friends. So much so that throughout the sequels, Riggs is considered a part of Murtaugh’s loving family. None of it would work if it wasn’t for the great chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
2. Doc and Marty
A partnership for the ages, the friendship of Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly doesn’t exactly make sense. How on Earth did an old coot and a 17-year-old boy become best friends? But they sure do love each other. They would quite literally break the space time continuum for one another. Together, they’re unstoppable.
With Doc’s scientific know-how and Marty’s determination in the field, they are able to set any timeline straight, no matter how skewed it has become thanks to Libyan terrorists or a sports almanac.
Back to the Future ranks among very few masterpieces of cinema. It is perfectly crafted from start to finish. The endearing chemistry of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd made a it so memorable that Adult Swim replicated it in animated form and created their most successful series ever: Rick and Morty.
1. Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody
Toy Story is the quintessential story of a pair of characters who begin their journey as adversaries and end it as best friends. Tom Hanks plays Woody with the perfect amount of whining and moaning without making him annoying or unlikable.
Meanwhile, Tim Allen plays the lovable naivety of Buzz with the determined conviction that he brought to his other iconic characters like Tim Taylor and Jason Nesmith. And the two actors play off each other brilliantly, both as enemies and eventually as the best of friends.
Toy Story is a beautiful tale for the ages, and the progression of Woody and Buzz’s relationship provides its warm center. If you want to get some idea about the bond that the two characters share, just listen to their theme song — Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”