We certainly have seen some stellar double acts over the decades. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Woody and Buzz. Jay and Silent Bob. But we’re about to narrow it down for you. For the release of Central Intelligence, starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, we’ve compiled a list of cinema’s top 10 double acts. This doesn’t necessarily refer to just the best comedy pairings (of which there have been many). No, the beauty of the double act spans every genre, and it doesn’t have to refer to just humans either – so without giving too much away, let’s get started!
10. Turkish and Tommy in Snatch (2000)
It doesn’t seem like the obvious choice for number 10 on the list. But Turkish and Tommy embody the essence of a great double act. Snatch is the epitome of Guy Ritchie’s early work, following in a very similar vein to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels two years before. It’s dry, it’s violent, and it’s inherently convoluted in plot. With a mere 72% on Rotten Tomatoes, this would never be considered one of the best films of all time. It wouldn’t even make most Top 10s. But credit where credit is due, this is potentially Jason Statham’s best performance (given, that’s not a mean feat), and it makes a perfect pairing to Stephen Graham’s Tommy. Most of their interchanges rely on Turkish’s deadpan insults to Tommy’s intelligence – who, like a loyal puppy, keeps coming back for more. And as the events of Snatch unfold, you realise that this film wouldn’t be quite the same without them. Congratulations, Guy Ritchie. Much like the caravan Tommy picks up, it’s a “tip top” pairing. It’s just we’re not sure about the colour.
9. Red and Andy in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Now let’s go in a completely different direction. The beauty of this double act is the fact that their friendship is an oasis in the depressing desert that is the entirety of The Shawshank Redemption. This is an inherently dark film that depicts the horror of imprisoning an innocent man. The friendship between Red and Andy saves their sanity, their compassion, and their belief that there is something beyond the darkness of Shawshank. Andy Dufresne is played with quiet modesty by Tim Robbins, while Red boasts the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman. They’re both completely opposing forces – Red brings Andy out of himself, and Andy shows Red that while the guards can treat them like animals, they can’t take away what makes them human. And it’s this that offers the heart and soul of the film. Without one another, it’s hard to see how Red and Andy would ever would have survived. And let’s face it, the film would have been almost unwatchable without the glimmer of hope that their friendship offers.
8. Charlie and Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man (1988)
From minute one, Charlie Babbitt is just the worst kind of person. But that’s what makes this double act so enticing. Rain Man follows Charlie as he travels to reunite with his autistic savant brother, Raymond (played beautifully by Dustin Hoffman) who has inherited his deceased father’s estate. Having no prior knowledge that his older brother exists, Charlie fully intends to (for want of a better word) rip him off and take control of the multi-million dollar estate. What’s interesting is that Charlie completely lacks understanding of Raymond’s disability, thus making this double act so fascinating to watch. Watching the initial disdain Charlie feels for Raymond grow into love and respect is enough to melt your heart. And this is counteracted by Raymond’s inability to connect emotionally – yet there’s a deeper acknowledgement here that is oh-so-subtly portrayed throughout. Charlie and Raymond’s friendship is moving, and for the most part very funny, truly earning their place in the Top 10.
7. Freddie Benson and Lawrence Jamieson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
1988 was a great year for film. Though Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one of those films that never made into the archives of classic comedy, the partnership between Michael Caine and Steve Martin is the stuff of legends. Martin plays wannabe con artist Freddie Benson, who teams up with Caine’s Lawrence Jamieson so that he can teach him the ways of the truly prolific con. Cue a series of hilarious mishaps, puns, and stupidity. But the true success of their partnership is the way they bounce off each other – this is the shining star of over-the-top comedy, gaining a lot of their laughs through ‘training’ montages with Caine taking Martin back to basics in learning how to walk, talk and interact like an ‘upper class’ gentleman. And by halfway through, they are a force to be reckoned with, screwing women over left, right and centre. Notable moments include Freddie Benson’s portrayal of ‘Ruprecht,’ and a scene which leaves Caine attempting to make Martin break his paraplegic character by whipping his knees with a cane – after all, he needed something “a little more stringent.” It’s a shame we didn’t see these two coupled in more films – Caine’s straight-laced exterior combined with Martin’s brash and extrovert acting style creates a beautiful and original concoction.
6. Wall-E and Eva in Wall-E (2008)
There were many great Disney/Pixar double acts we could include with some comfort in this top 10, but the most endearing of these has to be Wall-E and Eva. The ‘space dance’ scene is alone to propel these two into the list. Set post-apocalypse, Wall-E has spent thousands of years single-mindedly clearing a devastated earth of the debris of the fallout. Enter Eva, a more futuristic robot sent to find biological life on an otherwise destroyed planet. What she finds is her soulmate. If there was a film that confidently displayed emotion in robot form, this is it. Two completely contrasting entities, Eva thrives on order, driven to complete her mission – while Wall-E, on the other hand, adorably takes great pleasure in showing Eva his sentimental trinkets, the best of which is the remnant of the 1969 musical, Hello, Dolly!. Although the standalone plot is strong, the sentimentality of the film derives from its central sweethearts. While Wall-E and Eva undoubtedly compete with some of the most famous love birds throughout history, Romeo and Juliet this is not. What it is, is charming, adorable, and oozing subtext like nobody’s business.
5. Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett in Bad Boys (1995)
For all intents and purposes, Bad Boys shouldn’t work. And in many ways it doesn’t – let’s face it, the critical reviews of this film haven’t been great over the years. This could be due to Michael Bay’s shaky direction – and he certainly hasn’t improved as the years have passed (apologies, Transformers fans). It could even be that the action sequences are wildly overstated. But one, and possibly the only, success of Bad Boys is the comedy duo at its core. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence play Mike and Marcus, best buddy cops tasked with protecting a murder witness whilst attempting to bring down an entire drug cartel. Sound familiar? It should; this has been the formula for every buddy comedy since. But Bad Boys did it best, the witty repartee between Smith and Lawrence becoming the bestselling feature of this classic. What you gonna do when they come for you? Probably have a mighty fine time.
4. Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn in Dumb and Dumber (1994)
What can you say about one of the best and most beloved comedies of all time? It goes without saying that these two utter fools were going to make it into the Top 10. While Dumb and Dumber To was a bitter disappointment, you can’t discredit the career-making performances of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in this initial outing. But what makes them so compelling? Not only do they annoy each other, but they annoy the audience even more. Yet at the end of the day, it’s obvious that Harry and Lloyd would do anything for one another, including driving halfway across the country in the wrong direction on a road trip to deliver a suitcase to Lloyd’s wannabe girlfriend in Aspen. Endearing to say the least. The best moment? There’s too many to choose from – but there’s a lot of love to be found in the ‘getting ready for the ball’ montage to the tones of Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman.’ Perfection.
3. C3PO and R2D2 in The Star Wars Saga (1977 – 2015)
There will be naysayers that thought we should have entered Han and Chewie if we were going to go with a Star Wars double act. Even possibly Han and Luke, or Luke and Leia. But let’s face it, none of these compare to the loyalty and mutual respect that exists between R2D2 and C3PO. Ignoring the obvious fact that only C3PO seems to understand what R2D2 is putting down, they’re just brilliant. There’s not a lot to be said here. They’ve been the ultimate double act since as long as we can remember – we grew up with the bleeps and bloops, alongside C3PO’s sarcastic wit. And this places them firmly in our hearts forever. Much like Wall-E and Eva, it’s amazing how much of an emotional connection we feel with two robots. And maybe this is what makes them even more special – the pure skills required to portray emotion, loyalty and humor when they lack basic human facial features. Either way, the Star Wars films wouldn’t have been the same without them. The human race wouldn’t have been the same without them. OK, maybe that’s an overstatement.
2. Mathilda and Léon in Léon: The Professional (1994)
A young girl fresh from witnessing the slaughter of her entire family. A highly skilled lone-wolf assassin. What couldn’t work about this most beautiful and contradicting match-up? The Professional’s double act of Mathilda and Léon is the ultimate example of opposites attracting. Mathilda rounds off Léon’s hard edges, whilst Léon hardens Mathilda against the harshness she’s already witnessed in her short life. The whole film is driven by the unusual and unexpected friendship between these two characters. Where it could be sinister, Léon’s inherent vulnerability gives us one of the best story arcs ever committed to the screen. Without these two, arguably there wouldn’t be a film. We’ve all seen the crooked cop spiel before – but it’s a stunning breakout turn from Natalie Portman and an underplayed and bittersweet performance from Jean Reno that gives Léon its heart. It’s a character study of the very best kind.
1. Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction (1994)
Stepping in at number 7 on IMDb’s Top 250 rated films of all time, Pulp Fiction is widely considered one of the best, most original films to grace our screens. So it stands to reason that it would also offer us the number one double act of all time. Much like many of Tarantino’s other films, Pulp Fiction relies upon witty exchanges and winding monologues to steer the plot. Roger Ebert described the film as being “constructed in such a nonlinear way that you could see it a dozen times and not be able to remember what comes next.” And that’s what’s so great about these two characters: their convoluted exchanges and naturalistic style of conversation makes their relationship seem real to the audience and, in this respect, all the more engaging. If you’ve watched the film five times, they will still surprise you upon the sixth viewing. Whether Vincent and Jules are discussing the ethics of eating pigs, arguing over who cleans up the brains, or sauntering out of a restaurant while tucking guns into their loose-fitting Hawaiian shorts, these are two of the coolest (baddest) motherfuckers ever committed to the big screen.