There’s just something great about a character team-up. When done well, a duo with a bond that transcends their social situations can represent the best of humanity.
Throughout cinema history, there have been many examples of two people putting their differences aside and coming together to serve the greater good—or sometimes evil.
Whether that bond is forged in combat or through shared emotional turmoil, the dynamic of two people brought together has a real-world pull to it. It’s something that’s relatable for many people across all cultures, which is why buddy films remain so popular.
Here are our picks for the best buddy teams and character duos in movies and why they’re so great.
8. Jake and Elwood Blues
From The Blues Brothers.
For a pair of characters who began their lives on Saturday Night Live, John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd’s beloved musical brothers eventually starred in their own film: 1980’s The Blues Brothers. To this day, it’s one of the most influential comedy movies of all time.
Together, Jake (played by John Belushi) and Elwood (played by Dan Ackroyd) have shortcuts into each other’s minds. They know what the other wants or needs in the moment, and they use their brotherly power to play the blues all over America.
The nature of their humor and the dedication of their mission to save the orphanage—a task duly handed to them by God—make the film and the eponymous pair a duo for the cinematic ages.
7. Bill and Ted
From Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
A pair of characters who exude brotherhood and the bohemian magic of the 1980s, Bill and Ted are iconic for the opposite reason that most other pairings are: they’re slackers who aren’t brave, yet they’re pushed into their adventures—and end up as heroes anyway.
So, while they might not be traditional movie good guys, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves’ characters are wholly lovable, and that’s why the duo continues to inspire such loyal devotion over the years.
The enduring fandom led to a long-awaited third film—29 years after the second one—called Bill & Ted Face the Music. It just shows how much they mean to people and movie-lovers everywhere.
6. Andy Dufresne and Red
From The Shawshank Redemption.
Of all the greatest movie buddies, Andy Dufresne and Ellis Boyd Redding are perhaps the most complex. Their dynamic takes place within the confines of a prison, in which one is innocent and the other guilty.
However, despite the reality, Andy knows when he’s sent to Shawshank Prison that he must escape—and through that desire, he bonds with Red on an extraordinarily profound level.
The pair are lost without each other. Andy’s handling of the outside world and Red’s knowledge of prison life has each operating within two societies that neither believes they can endure.
But, through their mutual bond, Red and Andy survive their trauma and reunite in one of cinema’s most evocative endings.
5. Thelma and Louise
From Thelma & Louise.
Thelma and Louise have the chemistry of two women who wish to be free. They yearn to express themselves in ways unburdened by routine life. In that way, Thelma and Louise’s story makes them the most tragic.
As Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon’s characters are chased through the South by police—for murdering a man who attempted to rape Thelma—they’re liberated from everything they know about life.
To see them truly free for that short time when they have only the road and the gas tank to worry about, both the audience and the pair are together in their enjoyment. But, of course, life does catch up in the end.
4. Woody and Buzz Lightyear
From Toy Story.
This is a rare example of a cinematic friendship that had a true beginning, middle, and end. Thank you, Pixar!
Woody and Buzz Lightyear are total opposites. One is a stuffed cowboy doll while the other is a spaceman made of plastic—and yet, they develop an inseparable bond that takes them to infinity and beyond.
Their first interactions suffered from Buzz’s delusions and Woody’s jealousy. But from that came the opportunity to bond when they were imprisoned by the evil Sid, and they forged an undying friendship.
When the time came for Woody to choose between his purpose or his heart, Buzz told Woody to choose his heart—even knowing that it’d send Woody away from him for good.
It’s something only a true friend would do, and that’s why Woody and Buzz Lightyear are icons of friendship and loyalty who helped many people believe in more than just toys coming to life.
3. Riggs and Murtaugh
From Lethal Weapon.
Murtaugh is sitting on the toilet with a bomb ready to detonate as soon as he leaves the seat. Riggs is next to him, ready to pull his partner from the seat into the bathtub before the bomb can detonate. They look at one another—and they know what they mean to each other.
If they were to die now, they already know the depths of their bond without having to say it out loud.
Riggs and Murtaugh are the ultimate buddy cops of the big screen. They’re two men who complement one another with their swagger and charm, while pulling the trigger whenever they see the bad guy.
It’s a bond formed of pure 1980s action cinema. But where many other action stars failed to launch buddy cop movies, Riggs and Murtaugh (played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) succeeded because of their chemistry that lights up the screen.
2. Butch Cassidy and Sundance
From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
An iconic duo that existed alongside the actors who played them, Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s performances as the eponymous outlaws is a staple of Western cinema—and their chemistry is indicative of the bond the two shared off-screen.
The pursued outlaw gunslingers, Butch Cassidy and Sundance, have a place in cinema history for that mesmerising final shot in which they break cover to shoot it out one last time, knowing they won’t survive.
They’re an example of two buddies who help make each other into more rounded people. Sundance’s recklessness and Butch Cassidy’s level mind bring them to the edge of their lives, and at the same time that’s what makes it so thrilling for us to watch.
1. Doc Brown and Marty McFly
From Back to the Future.
Here’s a movie friendship that transcends time itself. Doc Brown and Marty McFly’s adventures together are some of the most iconic in cinema, and a lot of that is due to the bond that exists between actors Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox.
The many ways in which the pair differ only serve to bring them closer together, with the scientist and the cool kid forming a team that will endure the history of Hill Valley forever.
What makes them unique is that they shouldn’t be friends at all. They’re more than polar opposites, yet it never gets in their way. And, of course, we all wish we were part of a duo that has as much fun and cares for the other as deeply as Doc Brown and Marty do.