With the release of All Saints Day looming, we here at The Film Stage were left to wonder: what makes the perfect on-screen duo? Obviously, chemistry is the primary factor. But what else is there to the pairings we’ve been offered, time and time again, on the silver screen. In an attempt to find an answer, we’ve compiled a list of the top 20 duos of all time. In no particular order:
Fight Club is so much more than a mind-bender film. It contains elements that are embedded deep within the male psyche. Among everything else it does so well, it gave us one of the most complex duos of all time, adding a twist on the idea of a duo i.e. the duo as one person. Add to the formula top-notch performances by Brad Pitt and Edward Norton and you’ve got an American classic.
Few times has such an auspicious star-pairing worked out so well. There remain only a handful of examples, one of which is Robert Redford (Sundance) and Paul Newman’s (Butch) other duo movie, The Sting. These two epitomize movie stardom in both films, playing off of each other like old friends, while never stealing the other’s thunder.
Like the Boondock brothers, these two have become an indie phenomenon thanks, in part, to their well-delivered vulgarities. Coming from the mind of comedy genius Kevin Smith, Jay and Silent Bob don’t try to pander to a societal norm. It isn’t because they are trying to be rebels but rather because they just have no clue. They are the comedic representation of the Gen X culture that defined the 1990s – think a far less serious version of Norton and Pitt from Fight Club. That is what makes them nothing but a fun team to watch.
Despite being divided by a clear wall and only having less than 10 minutes of actual screen time together, Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling have become one of the greatest duos in film history. Again, like Fight Club we see a twist put on the idea of a duo and what it means to act as a team, redefining the term “necessary evil.”
These two put Pixar on the map, shaping the minds of an entire generation to learn the true meaning of imagination and wonder. Above all else the fact that such chemistry was created with two completely computer-generated characters is mind-boggling. With the third chapter in their journey looming it seems only fitting that they sit high with so many other great film teams out there.
Every Halloween you always see at least 10 Chewys on the same street and another five Hans. Considering one of the characters can only speak in growls it’s amazing how far they have come. Between Han’s on-liners and Chewy’s unintelligible retorts, these two have gone down in history as one of the greatest teams to ever hit celluloid.
Continuing on our Harrison Ford kick is this duo. Though they only shared one film together out of the entire series, Indiana Jones and his father Henry Jones Sr. come to represent the lynchpin connection that drives most adventure heroes: the desire to make his father proud. Henry Jones Sr. added a much needed back story to the character of Indy and at the same time managed to define himself and the chemistry he shared with the famous archeologist is both funny and believable.
The two funniest characters in, arguably, the funniest movie of all time. Gene Wilder has never been better and Cleavon Little made a name for himself. These two, instead of out-acting each other, play off their respective timing perfectly, finding laughs where they might be harder to catch. The Butch and Sundance of the western-spoof.
Probably the most well-known buddy cop duo of all time, Murtaugh and Riggs are above all else funny and enjoyable, a slightly less zany, modern-day version of Bart and Jim. They are the constant clashing of two very different people. Always memorable with some of there famous lines like “I’m getting to old for this shit” and “Maybe we’ll stay alive long enough for me to buy you a present” Murtaugh and Riggs helped redefine a genre that many thought was set for nothing more than a doomed existence.
If Murtaugh and Riggs defined the buddy cop duo, then Hammon and Cates created it. The chemistry between these two is phenomenal on each and every viewing and ALMOST makes you forget about the sequel. These two are a laughable, witty and bad-ass duo all at the same time. These guys aren’t given enough credit for starting a phenomenon in the action genre.
While on the running subject of buddy action-comedies, let us not forget the ingenious smart spoof Hot Fuzz. Taking all of the silly and some of the serious, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make fun of the sub-genre by following all of its ridiculous rules down to a T, all the while creating an extremely memorable team of their own.
Who knew time travel could be such a funny, and action-packed, plot device? These two helped an entire generation re-experience what it means to be an explorer. Sitting somewhere between Abbott and Costello slapstick and Butch/Sundance camaraderie, these two ooze the kind of timeless teamwork only written for the movies.
With one of the first and most prominent examples captured on film, Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan portray a tender relationship full of timely themes in this 1921 classic. As the death of Chaplin’s first infant son occurred right before filming, one can see his feelings carried directly over to the production. As Chaplin finds the abandoned child in the film and they go on a adventure personal and social themes of poverty are deeply explored through this unforgettable pairing.
Whether they’re meeting Frankenstein or Dracula or the werewolf, this odd couple did slapstick when slapstick was the thing to do – and they did it best. Who’s on first?
If Abbott and Costello did the odd couple thing to slapstick, these two did the odd couple thing for petty realism, i.e. anal vs. carefree living spaces. This film has been duplicated hundreds of times, but never with the amount of precision these two play with.
These two fight, and make up, as much as the next set of brothers, only they rock out in between, and during, their feuds. One of the few completely successful SNL big-screen adaptations, this thing is stock full of cameos (James Brown and Ray Charles, mind you) and absurdest comedy. Sure, it’s not much of a story, but damn if the music isn’t good.
There were never two better looking man killers in the history man killing. And to think this thing was directed by a man. These two lovelies make driving off into a canyon seem almost worth it.
Two complete strangers opposite in every way finding common ground in the roots of their circumstances and form a bond stronger than blood. A bond that transcends race, class, age and everything in between. When the movie ends you are doing nothing but rooting for the two characters’ lives outside of the walls in which they became brothers.
Pixar took a huge gamble back in 2008 by giving us a duo with the dialect capabilities of a Pokemon. Finding chemistry between two toys would appear hard enough, yet the studio managed to find it between two robots. It’s amazing how powerful the connection between WALL•E and Eve is. It is some of the best acting put to screen, surpassing many of that done by living, breathing actors.
What do you think of this list? Any duos we missed?
Welcome to the latest episode of our official podcast, The Film Stage Show. This week, Danny King, Amanda Waltz, and I discuss Don Hertzfeldt’s new short film World of Tomorrow, which will be released on March 31st on VOD. Then we dive into a feature review of David Robert Mitchell‘s horror film It Follows, which is now […]
Since any New York City cinephile has a nearly suffocating wealth of theatrical options, we figured it’d be best to compile some of the more worthwhile repertory showings into one handy list. Displayed below are a few of the city’s most reliable theaters and links to screenings of their weekend offerings — films you’re not […]
Latest posts from The Film Stage