The buddy movie represents an uniquely American genre of cinema. Instead of a male-female romantic couple being the focus of the story, buddy movies center on the relationship between two heterosexual males. Buddy movies are unabashedly about male bonding and friendship, and they all pretty much follow the same script. Two or more men with different personalities or backgrounds are thrown together. At first they don’t get along because of their differences, but by the end of the movie they work through their issues and become best buddies. For the most part, buddy movies have been comedies that use the contrasting personalities of the male leads to set up gags, but writers and directors have also used the buddy movie to explore issues of race, class, homosexuality, and religion as it relates to masculinity.
Below, we’ve listed 15 of the best buddy movies ever made. If you’re looking to do something on your next guy’s night, consider renting one of these classics that pay homage to male friendship.
There are several sub-genres within the buddy movie genre itself, including the geriatric buddy film. Grumpy Old Men is arguably the best entry in this category. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon team up to play two grizzled friends who love to hate each other. They fought since they were kids. You never know why, you only know they despise each other. Things only heat up when an attractive older woman (played by Ann Margaret) moves into the neighborhood. Despite their outward disgust with each other, the two men deeply care for one another. Filled with great one-liners and lots of charming old music, Grumpy Old Men makes a great movie to watch with grandpa.
Swingers reminds you of why it’s so important for a man to have friends. Mike (Jon Favreau) is a comedian in L.A. who has hit a real rough patch in his life. His longtime girlfriend back in Queens dumped him, he can’t land any gigs, and he hasn’t a shred of self-esteem left. Thankfully, Mike has a group of friends who rally around him and work to get him back on his feet. A svelte and young Vince Vaughn plays the fast-talking wise guy friend who peps Mike up and tries to convince him about how money he is. Mike’s friend Rob (Ron Livingston) offers more sage advice and acts as a sounding board for his downtrodden buddy. Thanks to his friends, Mike finally gets his act together and rebounds from his doldrums.
During the late 30’s and early 40’s, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope starred in a series of road movies that didn’t include much in the way of plot. I think the films were basically an excuse to get Bing Crosby to sing and Bob Hope to crack some jokes. Despite their lack of depth, the Road to… movies are a joy to watch. They’re fun, lighthearted, and don’t take themselves very seriously. Out of all the Road movies, Road to Morocco is the best. The friendship and chemistry between Crosby and Hope is legendary. Check it out.
Lethal Weapon is a perfect example of another sub-genre of the buddy movie: the cop buddy movie. Mel Gibson plays Sergeant Martin Rigs, a loose cannon maverick cop that takes risks that verge on the suicidal. Danny Glover plays the veteran, risk averse cop. For some reason, the fates bring these two polar opposites together as partners. At first, they can’t stand each other, but as the film progresses, the two develop a bond and chemistry that’s both comedic and warming. This movie has it all- classic lines like Danny Glover’s “I’m getting too old for this sh**,” an albino villain played by Gary Busey, and of course, an example of a solid male friendship.
Paul Newman plays Butch Cassidy, the fast talking wise guy friend. Robert Redford plays the Sundance Kid, the sort-of-serious friend. They were “outlaws with style in a class all their own.” Old Butch and Sundance did everything together: they robbed trains together, looted banks together, and ran away from Union Pacific security posse together. Heck, they even shared the same woman (we don’t recommend that-a clear violation of the man code). Yes, Butch and Sundance were like brothers. The final scene pretty much sums up the friendship between the two. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. Rent it and watch it today with a bud
Shawshank Redemption isn’t your typical buddy movie. While most buddy movies are comedies, the laughs in Shawshank Redemption are few and far between. Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a white banker from Maine who is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. Morgan Freeman plays Red, a black man who’s been in jail for years for a crime he committed as a teenager. In normal life, the two probably would never have been friends, but within Shawshank’s old stonewalls, they form a friendship that will last a lifetime.
Like Cosby and Hope, Abbot and Costello starred in a series of comedic buddy films during the 1940s. The Abbot and Costello Meet… films usually had Abbot and Costello confronting one of the monsters from Universal Studio’s classic monster films. Out of all of them, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein is definitely the best. Dracula and Frankenstein end up in the United States. Dracula needs to find a new brain for Frankenstein and decides that Costello’s would be a good one. Hilarity ensues. There’s nothing really deep about the friendship between Abbot and Costello; it’s just a good reminder that a best friend can make any situation fun, even when a monster is after your brain.
Making friends is difficult for the modern man. Because of work, dating, and family commitments, guys often lose touch with their buds. In I Love You, Man, Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is a young real estate agent in LA who’s about to marry his dream girl. Problem is Peter doesn’t have any male friends he can ask to be his best man. But his lack of a best man is the least of his problems. With no other males in his life, Peter has lost touch with his manliness. All that changes when he meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel). Sydney is honest, comfortable in his own skin, and relishes being a man. Sure, Sydney’s conception of manliness is a little oafish, but it’s exactly what Peter needs to shake of the wussification that has held him bound and reconnect with his masculinity. This movie is crammed with laugh out loud moments, lots of memorable quotes, and dialogue and situations that really ring true. Slapping the bass!
Cue the awesome synth music. 48 Hours inspired the cop buddy movies of the 80’s and early 90’s (see Lethal Weapon). Funny thing is, only one of the lead characters was actually a cop. Nick Nolte plays Jack Cates, a gruff, chain-smoking, by the book cop who’s out for revenge after a notorious murderer kills several of his comrades. To help him track down the murderer, Cates enlists the help of a fast-talking con-man named Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy). The mismatch, like in every other cop buddy movie, creates a comedic gold mine.
This buddy movie has two things going for it from the get go. First, it’s based off a short story by Rudyard Kipling. And second, the two leading men are Sean Connery and Michael Caine, two bad ass actors in their prime. The story follows two British soldiers who decide to leave the army and become kings of a remote place in India that no white man has set foot in since Alexander the Great. They decide it would be easier to subdue the village if they convince the villagers that one of them is a god. Daniel (Sean Connery) takes on the god role, but the power quickly goes to his head and causes the ruin of him and his friend. The ending of the film is amazing and captures what friendship is all about: unwavering loyalty.
Two inmates get an unexpected shot at escape. But alas, they’re chained together. Oh, and one of them is black (Sidney Poitier) and one’s white (Tony Curtis). And it’s the late 1950s. Can somebody say “racial tension?” During the course of the movie, the two men are able to put aside their differences and work together to become free. They even become buddies by the end. At its core, The Defiant Ones is about the ability of a man’s heart to change and the loyalty among men when faced with dire circumstances.
Don’t adjust your sets-that ain’t a couple of broads
Two out of work musicians witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and have to flee for their lives from the mobsters who want them silenced. They don’t have the money to make it to Florida, so they do what any desperate man on the lam would: put on a dress and high heels and join an all woman’s orchestra. Jack Lemmon plays Jerry (aka Daphne) and Tony Curtis stars as Joe (aka Josephine). Of course with two red blooded American men disguised as women in an all women’s review, there’s bound to be some serious sexual tension going on, especially when one of the members of the group happens to be Marilyn Monroe. Zoinks! Some argue that Some Like It Hot is cinema’s greatest comedy. Whether the movie is worthy of such a title or not, it’s certainly a great buddy film.
Why is that sometimes the person who irritates us the most ends up becoming our best friend? Well, that irony is at the heart of The Odd Couple. Felix Unger’s (Jack Lemmon) wife leaves him, so he goes to live with his long time buddy, Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau). But tension sets in as the two quickly discover their opposite personalities clash like polka dots and stripes. Felix is an uptight neat freak who’s always cleaning. Oscar is a grumpy slob who revels in his filth. You can see where this is going. The chemistry between Lemmon and Matthau is fantastic; the dialogue is hilarious. See the Grumpy Old Men before they were just plain grumpy.
While on a cross-country train ride, George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit. With the help of a thief (Richard Pryor), George sets out to clear his name and save the girl of his dreams from the villain who actually committed the crime. Wilder and Pryor are hilarious together. Of course when you have a white guy and black guy teaming up together in the 1970s, racism will be a subject of the film. But Silver Streak uses comedy to show the audience how stupid racial stereotypes and bigotry is. The most memorable scene in the movie has to be when Pryor tries to teach Wilder how to “walk black.” Of course, Wilder ends up looking like a goofy white guy trying to be hip, resulting in comedic gold.
A classic caper movie set in 1936 Chicago. Two Chicago con artists (Newman and Redford) set out to avenge the murder of a mutual friend, only to find themselves in a high-stakes game against the master of all cheating mobsters (Robert Shaw). The rapport between Newman and Redford in The Sting is similar to the one they had in Butch Cassidy: easy-going, light-hearted, but fiercely loyal.
Know of any other good buddy movies that didn’t make our list? Share them with us in the comments!