Buddy movies are a staple in Hollywood. These are movies that usually feature two main characters who are opposites thrown together by circumstance that gradually come to like and respect one another. The movies frequently involve a road trip and characters who are on the run from the law. Elements of comedy and action are often mixed in equal measures. But what makes these films succeed is almost always the chemistry of the actors involved. When the two actors work well together, the results can be magic on the big screen. Here we look at 10 of the best buddy movies of all time.
10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
One of the greatest onscreen pairings in cinema history, 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stars actors Paul Newman (Butch) and Robert Redford (Sundance) as real-life Western outlaws who rob banks and then flee to Bolivia when the law closes in. Expertly directed by George Roy Hill, this movie features a number of great action sequences and scenes of comedy. It also has some strong 1960s anti-establishment messages and a wonderful title song with Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head.” But it is the chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford that makes this movie a classic. When the movie’s finale comes people genuinely feel the kinship between these two actors and their characters.
9. Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are a classic pair of buddies in this 1994 comedy gem. About two dimwits with nothing going for them who travel to Aspen, Colorado, to return a woman’s suitcase and find themselves embroiled in a kidnapping, Dumb and Dumber was the breakout comedy film for writer/director brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly. The movie features plenty of laughs as the characters Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) set out on a road trip across America driving both a van decorated as a dog and later on a tiny motorcycle. Bathroom humor and one idiotic situation after another transpires in this movie which keeps things stupid right up to the very end. But Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have great chemistry together and they come across as real-life buddies. You can’t really imagine one without the other.
8. Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Actors Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are one of the great comedy teams in movie history. They appeared together in several films beginning with 1968’s The Odd Couple and their chemistry together is undeniable. In the 1993 movie Grumpy Old Men, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau play bickering neighbors whose feud escalates when they both vie for the affection of the same woman, played by actress Ann Margaret. The pranks the two pull on each other and their bickering is a lot of fun to watch, and through it all audiences can see the two have genuine affection for one another. The movie is also hilarious for the scenes involving a foul-mouthed Burgess Meredith who plays Jack Lemmon’s father. His dialogue is fall-out-of-your-seat funny, especially coming from such an old man. There’s also a sequel, 1995’s Grumpier Old Men, that is worth seeing as well.
7. Thelma & Louise (1991)
One for the ladies, the 1991 movie Thelma & Louise, directed by Ridley Scott, adheres closely to the buddy movie formula. It is about two women played by actresses Geena Davis (Thelma) and Susan Sarandon (Louise) who are on the run from the law after they shoot a man who was trying to rape Geena Davis’ character. Along the way there are plenty of car chases and snappy dialogue as the two women get to know each other and come to understand their predicament. A touchstone for the feminist movement, Thelma & Louise also has a lot to say about modern society and the way women are treated by the men in their lives. It also marks the big screen debut of actor Brad Pitt who makes an indelible impression as a thief who seduces Geena Davis’ character along the way. Definitely worth watching.
6. Swingers (1996)
The movie that catapulted actors Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau into the A-list ranks of Hollywood, Swingers is about two friends who are struggling to make it as actors. Largely based on Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau’s real life at the time, the movie features the pair’s friendship at its center. And while there are many other actors in the movie, the film is ultimately about friendship as Vince Vaughn’s confident Trent helps Jon Favreau’s insecure Mike find the courage he needs to meet girls and go on auditions. Funny, sweet and with a number of memorable oneliners, Swingers is a cool movie that gets better with age. It also has a great soundtrack. Vegas baby!
5. Lethal Weapon (1987)
You can’t have a list like this without including Lethal Weapon on it. About two mismatched Los Angeles police detectives who start out hating each other, but grow to understand and respect one another after taking on a drug syndicate, Lethal Weapon is one of the best action movies from the 1980s. And the pairing of actors Mel Gibson as the burned-out cop Martin Riggs and Danny Glover as the straight-laced officer Roger Murtaugh, who is nearing retirement, proved perfect as the two have among the best chemistry ever on screen. A critical and commercial success, Lethal Weapon spawned three sequels and has been copied by several other movies. But what distinguishes this buddy cop movie from others is the strong relationship between the characters played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
4. Superbad (2007)
The 2007 movie Superbad is literally about two high school buddies who are trying to score with the girls they worship before separating and going off to college. Starring actors Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, Superbad hilariously explores the bonds between lifelong pals from high school and how their relationship is the most important one in their respective lives. The movie is also a laugh-out-loud funny teen party movie with great dialogue and supporting performances from Emma Stone and Seth Rogen, who also wrote the film. At times the movie threatens to spill over into homoerotic territory as Jonah Hill and Michael Cera express their feelings for one another. But always played for laughs, this movie keeps the hearfelt friendship of the two main characters at its core.
3. Midnight Run (1988)
This movie could arguably serve as the template for the buddy movie genre. It has it all—two characters who are complete opposites from one another, a road trip, running from the police, plenty of car chases and action sequences, lots of humor and a sweet ending. About a bail bondsman played by actor Robert De Niro who has to transport a white collar criminal and mafia snitch, played by actor Charles Grodin, across the U.S. to Los Angeles, Midnight Run is a great movie and a great time. Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin set out hating each other but gradually warm to one another as they run from the Mafia, who want Charles Grodin’s character dead, and the police, who are trying to catch up to Robert De Niro’s cynical bondsman. Directed by Martin Brest, who previously made Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run is filled with awesome action, humor and heart.
2. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
The ultimate road movie and one that has stood the test of time, 1987’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles is one of the best buddy movies ever made. About an uptight advertising executive (Steve Martin) who finds himself stuck traveling home for Thanksgiving with an obnoxious shower curtain ring salesman (John Candy) after bad weather strands the two together, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy classic and one of the best movies of the 1980s. Directed by the late, great John Hughes, the movie focuses squarely on the two main characters and their struggle to understand one another. As they bumble from one mishap to another, Steve Martin and John Candy cement their friendship and a real bond grows between the two. There are also plenty of airplane trips, train rides and car travels galore. The scene where Steve Martin confronts a rental car agent is one for the ages.
1. 48 Hours (1982)
The ultimate buddy cop movie and still the best, 48 Hours, starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, is the best of the bunch. An action comedy classic, 48 Hours is the very best movie about two opposite characters who must work together and gradually come to admire one another. Nick Nolte plays the rough, no-nonsense cop to Eddie Murphy’s fast-talking thief in this movie directed by Walter Hill. And while 48 Hours wasn’t the first movie of its kind, it is one of the best and spawned a whole generation of similar movies after it, including the aforementioned Midnight Run and Red Heat, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Belushi, to name only two. The key to 48 Hours‘ success is the chemistry and relationship between Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Audiences believe these characters and their relationship. Watching Murphy and Nolte go from trading punches to helping each other in the end is a trip worth taking. A great example of the classic buddy movie.