With this week's release of THE OTHER GUYS, Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell have fun with the time-tested genre of the buddy film. What follows is a list of our picks for the Top Ten Buddy films of all time. All chosen as archetypes of what to do (and in some cases what not to do) we hope you enjoy this week's buddy smorgasboard.
10. 48 HOURS
Many point to this 1982 comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte as the first "cop buddy" film. With predecessors like IN THE HEART OF THE NIGHT, and FREEBIE AND THE BEAN, that's definitely debatable, but one thing is for sure, 48 Hours did mark a turning point in Hollywood's commitment to the buddy genre. From that point forward studios would attempt to repeat this formula, often to great box office success, again and again. Directed by Walter Hill (THE WARRIORS, CROSSROADS) 48 Hours also marked the breakout of Eddie Murphy as a bonafide film star and mixed comedy, witty repartee and light action, to the delight of audiences everywhere.
9. LETHAL WEAPON
Director Richard Donner's LETHAL WEAPON premiered in 1987. Emphasizing action over comedy, it injected more testosterone into the genre and managed to sustain a loyal following through an ever weakening string of sequels. While Gibson and Glover had fun and good chemistry, it's perhaps the fine tuning of the genre towards an emphasis on action over comedy, that's most remarkable about LETHAL WEAPON as a buddy film. Glover's irascibly muttered, I'm getting to old for this shit, catchphrase has to go down in history as the number one quintessential buddy movie tagline.
8. DOUBLE IMPACT
In 1991, John Claude Van Damme upped the ante by casting Jean Claude Van Damme with the unlikely buddy of, you guessed it, Jean Claude Van Damme (hence the double impact). In this opus to himself (he also co-produced and co-authored), Jean Claude plays twin brothers separated at birth by a murderous gang of thugs, who return to Hong Kong to reclaim their birthright and avenge the deaths of their parents.
Terribly acted, (Van Damme proves he can even lack chemistry with himself) and ludicrously written, the film is worth seeing for a few reasons. 1. It uses some of the most hackneyed buddy movie-isms ever, like dropping a cargo shipping crate over the lead villain for the vaunted final death scene; 2. The liberal use of lines like, "Are you ready to talk, or are you ready to scream"; and most importantly 3. For the clothes. Some of the outfits Van Damme, wardrobes himself in are, well, quite gay. Note his flying to Hong Kong ensemble (an aqua blue polo shirt and hot pink pleated short shorts) his Vuitton garment bag or his opalescent spandex and cut-collar Flashdance shirt, which he playfully dons for his requisite stretch into a split sequence.
7. STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT
Easily the worst of all buddy pairings, even worse than Van Damme and Van Damme, is the unfathomable combo of Sylvester Stallone and Estelle Getty, in this now legendary early nineties bomb. With a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and three Golden Raspberry Awards (Stallone as Worst Actor, Getty as Worst Supporting Actress and of course Worst Screenplay), it's really a must see for those that can't turn away from a horrible accident and wish to study the very bottom of the buddy genre barrel.
Director Roger Spottiswoode, something of a buddy film auteur, with such classics as TURNER AND HOOCH and ANOTHER 48 HOURS under his belt, must have been a no-brainer for studio execs, to direct this butterball, which even Stallone subsequently dubbed, "the worst film he ever made." The stench of the film's tagline pretty much says it all, "Detective Joe Bomowski's mom is in town for a visit. She did the laundry, washed the windows and scrubbed the floors. Now, she's gonna clean up the streets." Yeesh.
6. BILL AND TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY
Believe it or not, director Peter Hewitt's sequel to the cult classic, BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE is a very funny film. William Sadler's hilarious portrayal of the Grim Reaper alone, is worth the price of a rental but there are other fun cameos here by Pam Grier, Joss Ackland, George Carlin and Taj Mahal. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter's portrayals of the affable morons in this genre defining "idiot buddy" franchise, were clear inspirations for future cult favorties like, DUDE WHERE'S MY CAR?, WAYNE'S WORLD and HARLOD AND KUMAR. It's truly funnier and more conceptual than the original. Don't expect Raging Bull, but do expect some surprisingly big laughs.
5. THELMA AND LOUISE
Are buddy films really restricted to male/male relationships? Can't women be buddies too? We think so and it's why this groundbreaking film from director Ridley Scott is on our buddy list. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon (as the title roles) showed that women could deliver the same banter, drama and edginess as male protagonists and even more importantly to studios, one of the highest grossing films of 1991. Aside from its six Oscar nominations and empowering social message, the film also introduced the world to a then unknown, soon to be superstar--Brad Pitt.
4. MIDNIGHT RUN
Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin are delightful as the heroes in this classic buddy comedy from 1988. Directed and Produced by Martin Brest (WAR GAMES, BEVERLY HILLS COP, SCENT OF A WOMAN) the film features brilliant comedic sparring between DeNiro and Grodin throughout, as well as laugh out loud supporting performances from veteran character actors like Joe Pantoliano, Dennis Farina, Yaphet Kotto and John Ashton. DeNiro earned a golden globe nod for his performance in this often overlooked classic of the genre.
3. NATURAL BORN KILLERS
Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) are the buddies in this film dubbed "the 8th most controversial film of all time," by Entertainment Weekly. In many ways this is an "anti-buddy" film, which challenges the very idea of the genre by casting the main buddies as disturbingly violent and merciless murderers. But there are two additional buddies to Mickey and Mallory in this film--the media and the viewing audience.
It's this buddy relationship, (the cycle of violence perpetuated by those that commit heinous acts and those that sensationalize and patronize them via the mass media) that's at the heart of this provocative and often incendiary film. It's worth noting that the film's eerie soundtrack was composed and mixed by Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor, and that it plays beautifully against Stone's hypnotic and often gruesome imagery.
2. THE KILLING FIELDS
Based on a true story, this multiple Oscar Award Winning film directed by Roland Joffe (THE MISSION, FAT MAN, and LITTLE BOY) explores the complex and heart wrenching relationship between New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg and his friend and partner, Cambodian journalist Dith Pran.
Set during the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 70s, the film follows the journeys of Schanberg and Pran, together as correspondents in the field and as individuals struggling through the harrowing experiences following their tragic separation. The film is a tour de force by both lead actors, Sam Waterston and Haing S. Ngor, who was awarded the best supporting actor Oscar for his performance, but it's truly Dith Pran's unfailing love and loyalty that is the transcendent hero in this elegy to the human spirit.
While this may not fall in the classic buddy category, we think it's the most authentic, nuanced story of friendship on the list and warrants mention amongst the rest of the fictional relationships dominating the genre.
1. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
Nominated for four Academy Awards in 1969, including Best Picture, Director George Roy Hill's classic starring Paul Newman and Sundance founder Robert Redford, is not only one of the all-time great westerns but it's also our choice for all-time best buddy film. (Perhaps we're not completely unbiased here) but the chemistry between real life buddies, Redford and Newman, is truly electric in this classic work.
BUTCH AND SUNDANCE deftly weaves comedy, action and drama together all the way through to its stirring final frames. William Goldman's award winning screenplay literally became a textbook example for screenwriters (see Goldman's now legendary book ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE) The tagline for the film sums it up beautifully "You've never met a pair like Butch and The Kid." We agree completely.