We take a look at ten "bromances" that shine a light on male friendship on film and how it compares to the real thing
Male friendship is a funny thing. Unlike women, who are accustomed to opening up with their pals, men are famously less demonstrative, with feelings masked by assumptions, strategic elisions and—oh, God—banter.
And yet male friendship has been a cinematic staple since the year dot. Indeed, the best relationships in movies are generally those between buddies—romances are usually much more precarious than mateship.
Here are ten of our favourite "bromances" on screen.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The obvious first choice, and many people's pick of the best partnership in pictures. Butch'n'Sundance didn't invent the buddy movie but they surely influenced all that followed. Without it we'd have no 48 Hrs, no Bad Boys, no Hot Fuzz and that would be a shame, probably.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Yes, these might be amongst the most overrated films ever (science has established this as fact) but fair play: beneath all the boring quest stuff, it has one lovely element—the friendship of the two Hobbits, Frodo and Sam. It shows what's really important in a film, and that it isn't CGI trees.
Howard Hawks was Hollywood's king of male bonding and Rio Bravo sees him at something like his best. It's a Western, and here the best buds are John Wayne and Dean Martin, the latter who's become a hopeless drunk after getting ditched by a dame. It's up to The Duke to dry him out so they can take on the bad guys, helping his friend re-discover his dignity as they go.
The Nice Guys
Shane Black is the modern master of buddy movies and has been since he penned Lethal Weapon back in the day. The Nice Guys, which he also directed, isn't as famous but gets included here because not enough of you have seen it yet.
That absolutely must change, because it's ACE. Our heroes are Holland March and Jack Healy (Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe respectively), two extremely stupid yet over-confident detectives on the trail of a missing woman. Their relationship—fractious, familiar, is a joy; it's very much to be hoped a sequel will be forthcoming.
The Lady Vanishes
A film that introduced the greatest chaps ever to stride upon British cinema screens. Charters and Caldicott (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne) are two doughty Englishmen bound by a duty to their country and a love of cricket. They have the silent understanding all men know to be a sign of true brotherhood and a shared tunnel vision (ditto): news of the test match is obviously more important than anything else. Frankly, they are an inspiration to us still.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
We could fill this list with stories about soldiers three times over but since space is tight, let's go straight to the best, even if it's not quite typical: the battles take place off screen and the friendship is not between war comrades but men who should be enemies.
One is Clive Candy, a soldier who meets the other, German officer Theo Kretzschmar-Schuldorff in 1900 when they fight a duel. This unpromising beginning begins a bond that survives decades and even war, because things like that mustn't be allowed to poison friendship.
The Lavender Hill Mob
Another atypical film, this time a crime flick where the gangsters are modest, suburban men who break the law because their ordinary lives are so boring. It's an Ealing comedy; very funny, of course, but what makes it is the bond between the meek Mr. Holland (Alec Guinness) and the more extraverted Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), two men each helping the other to finally realise their dreams. Aaah.
Jules et Jim
In American films, male friendships are often threatened when a woman gets between the guys. Jules et Jim can be seen as a Gallic riposte to this, showing a more complicated dynamic as the beautiful troublemaker Catherine hooks up with the titular twosome, upending everything. And since she's played by Jeanne Moreau in her absolute prime, it's not hard to see why.
Martin Scorsese's breakthrough film shows how hard friendship can be. Its main character is Charlie (Harvey Keitel), a stand-up guy. Trouble is, his chum (and cousin) Johnnie Boy (Robert De Niro) is a loose cannon, a danger to himself and to others.
Scorsese's great on the anthropological detail of men hanging out (“what's a mook?”), but on the wider issues too: just how much slack do you cut a mate?
And sometimes... sometimes you wonder why you're friends at all. Miles and Jack (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, respectively) certainly don't seem to have much in common: Miles is nerdy and intellectual while Jack is brash, an actor who's egotistical even by the standards of that profession. The film can't quite tell us why they stick together, but in that, it's reflecting a situation many will recognise.
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