Cinema has given fans a multitude of compelling lead performances that were heightened by the addition of a trusted companion. Whether part of a buddy cop outfit like in Bad Boys, a romantic comedy in When Harry Met Sally, or a budding bromance in Step Brothers, the central relationship between the two lead characters in a film often leads to cinema gold. Here are some of the most iconic duos to hit the big screen that have provided us with an endless stream of classic movie scenes.
20. Cheech & Chong
Cheech & Chong are an award-winning comedy duo consisting of Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong who first found a following in the 1970s through their stand-up routines and stage skits. The duo went on to release several albums throughout the 70s and won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album for 1974’s Los Cochinos. Cheech & Chong’s shtick was based on the 1970s hippie and free love movement and the central theme of their passion for cannabis.
Many of their stand-up routines made their way to the big screen including the famous “Dave’s not here” bit which was featured in their first film, Up In Smoke (1978). The hilarious duo had some excellent chemistry and played the roles so well that it made you wonder how much they were actually acting. Cheech & Chong went on to star in a long list of low budget cult classics that continue to entertain audiences today.
19. Tyler Durden & The Narrator – Fight Club
The 1999 film Fight Club, based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk, features one of the most intriguing duos on this list. Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt and “The Narrator” played by Edward Norton are on opposite ends of a dissociative identity disorder and serve as the film’s central antagonist and protagonist, respectively. For those unfamiliar with the film or the disorder, our two main characters are actually the same person.
During the day, our lead is depicted as an average middle-class man known only as the Narrator, while at night he becomes the chaotic and charismatic Tyler Durden during bouts with insomnia. While The Narrator and Tyler Durden are often at odds with their motivations, their fate is naturally tied to each other which makes for some compelling interactions between the two characters. Heightened by the wonderful performances of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, this “duo” will go down as one of the greatest in film history.
18. Mathilda & Leon – Léon: The Professional
The 1994 classic action film Léon: The Professional, directed by Luc Besson, follows professional hitman Léon (Jean Reno) as he reluctantly steps in to help 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) after her family is murdered by a corrupt DEA agent (played by Gary Oldman). This was the first role in Portman’s storied career and she played the resilient orphan to perfection.
Léon and Mathilda get off to a rough start but eventually find their stride as Mathilda convinces the simple-minded yet highly skilled hitman to train her in order to get revenge on the men that killed her family. The pair form one of the most unlikely but highly effective duos in action film history as the 12-year-old Mathilda acts as the brains of the operation, while Léon carries out the dirty work with surgical precision. Léon: The Professional is recognized today as one of the best action films of the last few decades, powered by strong performances from Reno, Portman, and Oldman.
17. Woody & Buzz – Toy Story
This animated duo first hit the big screen in Pixar’s first feature film, the buddy-comedy Toy Story, released in 1995. The film takes place in a fictional world where anthropomorphic toys pretend to be lifeless when humans are present, but come to life when they leave the room. The film’s central plot focuses on the relationship between Woody, an old-fashioned pull-string cowboy doll (voiced by Tom Hanks), and Buzz Lightyear, an advanced spaceman action figure (voiced by Tim Allen).
The two lead characters’ relationship evolves from rivals competing for the affections of Andy, their owner, to friends who work together to reunite their family of toys with Andy after being separated during a move to a new home. The film spawned two sequels with a third in the works and made the duo household names in the late 90s and early 2000s.
16. Peter Klaven & Sydney Fife – I Love You Man
Peter Klaven a.k.a. “Pistol Pete” played by Paul Rudd and Sydney Fife a.k.a. “Jobin” played by Jason Segel are the two lead characters in the hilarious 2009 comedy I Love You, Man. Peter, a Los Angeles real estate agent proposes to his fiance Zoey (Rashida Jones) and after she accepts he quickly realizes that he doesn’t have any close friends that step in as best man at the wedding.
After being set up with several potential best friends, lightning strikes after a chance meeting at an open house when Peter is swept off his feet by the cool and carefree Sydney Fife. The two hit it off instantly and their bromance blossoms through a shared love the classic Canadian rock band Rush. I Love You, Man went on to see some modest success in theaters, but the chemistry between Rudd and Segal is undeniable.
15. Bonnie & Clyde
The groundbreaking 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway paved the way for many of the other duos featured on this list. Based on the real-life story of iconic bank robbers Clyde Barrow (Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Dunaway), the film broke many cinematic taboos including sex and extreme violence, and was very popular with younger audiences.
The film takes place in the middle of the Great Depression when the pair meet as Clyde tries to steal Bonnie’s mother’s car. Bonnie, who is bored by her simple life, is intrigued by Clyde and decides to join up with him and become his partner-in-crime. The two start off small with some quick holdups, but the excitement and payday aren’t enough to satiate their lust for adventure and riches. The film was considered unique for its mix of comedic, romantic, and violent tones that made it one of AFI’s Top 100 films of all time and established Warren Beattyy and Faye Dunaway as household names for decades to come.
14. Riggs and Murtaugh – Lethal Weapon
Possibly the most well-known buddy cop film of all time, Lethal Weapon features a pair of mismatched LAPD detectives in Martin Riggs (Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Glover). The wildly unstable Riggs and the traditional 50-year-old veteran of the force Murtaugh are polar opposites, and their contrast in styles of policing leads to some great on-screen moments between the duo.
The success of the film, mostly due to the on-screen chemistry between the two leads, spawned a series of sequels and led to a recent television adaptation. Above all else, the duo of Riggs and Murtaugh are as funny and enjoyable as any other included on this list, helping redefine a genre that many thought was headed for nothing more than a mediocre existence.
13. Andy & Red – Shawshank Redemption
Released in 1994, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following decades, he develops a friendship with a fellow prisoner, contraband smuggler Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman).
Andy and Red’s relationship is the catalyst for what makes this film one of the greatest of all time. The duo share comradery shows that even when facing life in prison, friendship can be a light at the end of the tunnel. The film went on to earn seven Academy Award nominations and to this day, fans envision Andy and Red growing old together on a beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
12. Jay and Silent Bob – Clerks
The hilarious comedic duo of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are fictional characters in Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse and have been featured in several films beginning with the low budget indie film Clerks in 1994. As far as the duo’s lore goes, Jay and Silent Bob were born in Leonardo, New Jersey, in the 1970s, and met as infants in front of Quick Stop Groceries.
The pair of slackers went on to spend the better part of two decades out front of that Quick Stop and have provided an endless stream of laughs for moviegoers over that same time-span. Like a modern day Cheech and Chong, Jay and Silent Bob share a love of marijuana, women, and music and have appeared in a long list of films since 1994.
11. Thelma and Louise
The trailblazing, titular duo of Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise (1991) played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, proved that women could also fill the role of badass criminals on the run from the law. The two leads find themselves in hot water after Louise shoots and kills a man who tries to sexually assault Thelma at a bar. Louise decides to flee to Mexico, and Thelma joins her on the journey.
Thelma & Louise features comedic, dramatic, and romantic elements wrapped up in a Bonnie and Clyde story that features some great action and adventure. The film was a huge critical and commercial success, receiving six Academy Award nominations including Best Actress nominations for both Sarandon and Davis. The fantastic chemistry between the two lead actress elevated the film to cult status and gave us one of the most iconic duos in movie history.
10. Elwood and Jake Blues – The Blues Brothers
The musical comedy classic The Blues Brothers (1980), directed by John Landis, stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as brothers Jake and Elwood Blues, respectively. The characters were developed from a Blues Brothers musical sketch that aired on Saturday Night Live in the late 70 and the film’s story is a tale of redemption, with paroled convict Jake and his brother Elwood setting out on “a mission from God” to save the Catholic orphanage where they grew up from foreclosure.
In order to raise the $5,000 needed to pay the orphanage’s property tax bill, the duo reunite their R&B band and organize a performance. As the movie plays out, they are targeted by a destructive “mystery woman”, Neo-Nazis, and a country and western band while being simultaneously pursued by the local police force. The film features some great action, comedy, and music, and the duo of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd have some hilarious on-screen interactions.
9. Batman and Robin
This dynamic duo first appeared in early DC Comics issues but their first film appearance came with Batman: The Movie in 1966 after completion of the first season of the Batman television series. Batman and Robin are the prototypical crime-fighting duo and have become the archetype of crime-fighting teams throughout the history of film.
With Batman in the lead and the eager Robin by his side these formidable crime fighters battle Gotham City’s most powerful villains in The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and The Catwoman. The Batman and Robin roles have been played by many different actors over the years but most fans still have Adam West and Dick Ward come to mind when this dynamic duo is mentioned.
8. Brennan Huff and Dale Doback – Step Brothers
“Did we just become best friends?”, “Yep!”. Step Brothers follows Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Dobeck (John C. Reilly), as two immature forty-something men who are forced to live together as brothers after their parents marry. The two founding of members of Prestige Worldwide begin their relationship as bitter enemies vying for the affection and attention of their parents, but soon realize that they have much in common.
One of the absolute greatest buddy comedies ever made, Step Brothers sees its central duo team up to battle local bullies, as well as Brennan’s evil brother Dereck (Adam Scott) as the two fight to keep their laidback and carefree lifestyle intact. Farrell and Riley are a great team, providing countless classic scenes on-screen and are responsible for some of the most memorable one-liners in recent memory.
7. Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling – Silence of the Lambs
Released in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs features a memorable performance by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector. The iconic Lector is not, however, the film’s central antagonist, as that honor goes to the serial killer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill.” While this may be one of the most unconventional choices for an outstanding movie duo highlighted on this list, FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and Hannibal Lector, in fact, work together as a team in order to capture the villain.
The pair get off to a rocky start with some chilling interactions between the two but as the film progresses, Lector acts as a mentor figure to Starling, providing insight into the mind of the criminally insane. While not your prototypical duo, the team of Starling and Lector are an effective pair that has a knack for tracking down serial killers.
6. Doc and Marty – Back to the Future
This time-traveling duo has appeared in three films together and were a staple among moviegoers in the 1980s. Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, and his eccentric inventor pal Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) use a heavily modified DeLorean powered by stolen plutonium to travel back and forward in time. Whether it’s being teleported to the past or future, the duo is forced to combine their efforts to restore the damage they’ve created for their future selves.
The young and enthusiastic Marty and the wacky Doc may be an unlikely duo but the pair has some great on-screen chemistry and infectious energy that elevate each film in the trilogy to the level of instant classic. Surprisingly, Michael J. Fox was not the original actor slated for the lead role, as Eric Stoltz was cast as Marty but was removed shortly after production began. It’s hard to imagine Back to the Future without the pairing of Fox and Lloyd filling the roles of Doc and Marty.
5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Taking place in Wyoming in the late 1890s, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a classic western film with Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the titles roles. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) is the clever and affable leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang and by his side is the charismatic dead-shot, “Sundance Kid” (Robert Redford). Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is considered one of the greatest films of all time and features some great action and iconic set pieces.
This notorious train robbing team only helps to establish one of the most formidable on-screen duos in the Western film genre. Although the film released to mixed reviews, it went on to earn over $100 million domestically and was the top-grossing film of 1969. The film featured two masterful performances from Newman and Redford and the roles have become synonymous with iconic action film duos.
4. Jules and Vincent – Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino that is famous for its excellent dialog and story, which is presented out of chronological order. Although the film featured several iconic characters, the duo of Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) arguably steals the show. The two hitmen work for notorious Los Angeles crime boss Marsellus Wallace and effectively use intimidation and the threat of violence to exert their will.
The suave and soft-spoken Vincent is contrasted by the aggressive and outspoken Jules, who has a habit of quoting the bible before acts of extreme violence. The pair’s contrasting styles complement each other well, with the simple-minded and heroin-addicted Vincent relying on the more intelligent Jules to run the show. The duo of Travolta and Jackson work well together and are responsible for some of the most iconic scenes in Tarantino’s storied history of filmmaking.
3. Harry and Lloyd – Dumb & Dumber
This iconic duo is part of the 1994 comedy classic Dumb and Dumber. The film was written and directed by the Farrelly Brothers and stars Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas and Jeff Daniels as Harry Dunne. The chipped tooth limo driver Lloyd and the dimwitted dog groomer Harry are best friends and roommates living in Providence, Rhode Island. When the beautiful Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) leaves her briefcase in Lloyd’s limousine, the pair embark on a cross-country road trip to return it to her.
This road trip buddy comedy is packed full of memorable scenes, as this is arguably Jim Carrey’s and hands down Jeff Daniels’ funniest project to date. The duo’s on-screen chemistry is undeniable, so much so that Harry and Llyod are considered by many to be the greatest comedic team in the history of film. Dumb and Dumber went on to find huge success at the box office and made the Farrelly Brothers a household name on the backs of this duo’s performance.
2. Kirk and Spock – Star Trek
Kirk and Spock are the prototypical sci-fi movie duo. Kirk is the charismatic lady’s man and headstrong adventurer who doesn’t mind steering the Enterprise into imminent danger if it means “boldly going where no man has gone before.” Spock, on the other hand, is calm and logical, and remains unshaken throughout all of Kirk’s interstellar exploits.
Despite being polar opposites, this odd couple still became the best of friends, as they’ve traveled through time, space, and alternate realities in search of adventure. The roles of Kirk and Spock have been filled by a new generation of actors, but the roles will always be synonymous with the actors who first portrayed them. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were a part of six Star Trek feature films and will be forever remembered for their iconic portrayals of Kirk and Spock.
1. Han Solo and Chewbacca – Star Wars
Star Wars is one of the most beloved franchises of all-time and features the iconic duo of Han Solo and Chewbacca. who have been an inseparable pair since they were first introduced in 1977. The two first met when Chewbacca was freed from slavery by Han Solo, swearing a life debt to the smuggler and eventually becoming the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon and a trusted companion to Han as they traveled the galaxy in search of intergalactic adventure.
It’s hard to imagine one without the other, one of the many reasons why Han’s death in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was so heartbreaking. The duo are two of the most beloved and popular characters in the entire franchise, making them ideal candidates for their own spinoff – the 2018 film Solo: A Star Wars Story.