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It Takes Two: Top 25 Best Buddy Comedies

From mismatched cops on a job to teenage best friends going out in a blaze of glory, we count down the

buddy comedies

Two mismatched partners — maybe one's a cop and the other's a Fed, or a cop and a crook, or a by-the-book detective and the precinct's resident loose cannon— have to work together to solve a crime. Two friends see their close bond tested by misadventures, misunderstandings and one-crazy-night obstacles. Two folks embark on a road trip — maybe they're running from the Mob, or maybe they're just in search of White Castle burgers — and encounter wacky and/or dangerous characters along the way. The specific details differ (and mileage may vary) for each story, but you could tack on the same three-word-phrase to the end of each description: "with hilarious results."

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They call 'em buddy comedies, and with the Channing Tatum-Jonah Hill double act 22 Jump Street hitting theaters, we've taken the opportunity to rank the 25 best buddy-comedy movies. There were a few ground rules: The films had to qualify as comedies, which meant a few great buddy-cop movies didn't make the cut (no, Mel Gibson's Moe-from-the-Three-Stooges mugging does not make Lethal Weapon a comedy); and we narrowed the field down to movies focused primarily on a pair of buddies (very sorry, The 40-Year-Old Virgin). So grab a friend — or someone who you can't stand but, by the time you get to the end of this list, will have forged a begrudging mutual respect for — and see what made the cut.

 

Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection

17

‘Sideways’ (2004)

A frustrated writer named Miles (Paul Giamatti) and a semi-successful actor pal Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) don't have much in common but disappointment; rather than serve as a crash course in bachelor bonding, the guys' wine-country weekend before Jack's wedding serves as a primer in just how far they've drifted apart. Alexander Payne's intoxicating road movie/vino-soaked tale of late-age romance may be best known for blowing up the Merlot market and reminding everybody that Giamatti is an American treasure, but it's really an incredible portrait of a frayed friendship. Jack is a big part of the life that Miles needs to close the door on — and by Sideways' open-ended final shot, the writer finally seems ready to do just that.—SAM ADAMS

IFC Films

16

‘The Trip’ (2010)

There are plenty of buddy comedies where the main characters don't start out liking each other — but not many where they finish the same way. Actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (playing metafictional versions of themselves) have a shared history, enough that when Coogan's girlfriend drops out of a food tour of Northern England, he taps Brydon to take her place. But as they move from one lavishly photographed meal to the next, their perpetually barbed interactions never soften into congeniality (although their duet on Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" is kinda sweet). The movie's iconic scene — one duly replicated in the forthcoming sequel The Trip to Italy — finds them swapping Michael Caine impressions, a playful competition that quickly turns into a pistols-at-dawn duel. Only the fact that Coogan and Brydon are friends in real life keeps it from coming off as the story of two people who (amusingly) hate each other.—SAM ADAMS

New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

15

‘Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle’ (2004)

Bound together by an intimate knowledge of the New Jersey Turnpike, a shared history as the offspring of neighboring nations, and their common desire for gnarly but undeniably seductive hamburgers, Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) spend an increasingly insane night getting baked and nearly cooked by a rampaging Neil Patrick Harris. Over the course of two successive movies, the two have grown farther apart as Harold gets his life together and Kumar keeps hitting the bong, but the little things — like a greasy sack of piping-hot sliders — still keep them together.—SAM ADAMS

Rogue Pictures/Everett Collection

14

‘Hot Fuzz’ (2007)

You could have put any of the films that British director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have done together on this list — but we have a particular soft spot for the trio's pitch-perfect parody of buddy cop flicks. When London's most badass police officer is reassigned to a sleepy English hamlet, he's partnered with a hopeless, action-film-fanatic constable who's main goal in life is to fire two guns whilst jumping through the air. If this were nothing but a send-up of Lethal Weapon, Stallone movies et al, it would still be impressive; the pairing of Pegg and Frost, as dynamic a comedic double act as any duo working today, is what makes this work like gangbusters even if you've never seen a single movie they're referencing.—DAVID FEAR

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

13

‘Men in Black’ (1997)

Loosely based on Lowell Cunningham's comic about an organization dedicated to monitoring paranormal activities and extraterrestrials on Earth, this summer blockbuster went directly to the surefire recipe for buddy-comedy success: coolness meets cantankerousness. Specifically, the film pairs human charm machine that is Will Smith and everyone's favorite grumpy old coot Tommy Lee Jones, gives them a bunch of techno doohickeys and sets them loose on more CGI aliens than you can shake a memory-erasing pen at. The concept and, specifically, the combo works way better than you think it would; to paraphrase Smith's Agent Jay, these guys look good next to each other.—DAVID FEAR

New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

12

‘Dumb and Dumber’ (1994)

Which is the "dumb" and which is the "dumber" in this Farrelly brothers' comedy, you ask? Your guess is as good as ours: Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey both seem to be competing for the second part of this hit movie's title, and damned if it's not a two-way tie. As Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas, Daniels and Carrey instantly earned themselves prime real estate in the Idiocy Hall of Fame — that they annoy, drive crazy, blithely offend, and/or enrage everyone they come into contact with, yet still come off as likable despite having single-digit IQs, is a testament to the actors' rapport. The sequel can't come soon enough.—DAVID FEAR

Universal Pictures

11

‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (1998)

As Don Quixote had his Sancho Panza, so Johnny Depp's Raoul Duke has his Dr. Gonzo, Benicio Del Toro's paunchy, pill-popping Man Friday. (Gonzo was based on author Hunter S. Thompson's lawyer, Oscar Zeta Acosta.) They're an ugly pair, pushing each other to ever more precarious and far-out heights of drug-addled debauchery — but when you're exploring the boundaries of consciousness, it never hurts to have a wingman. In theory, it's Dr. Gonzo's job to get Raoul Duke out of the occasional jam; in practice, they're like men trying to extricate themselves from quicksand using each other as handholds. The only way for one to go up is for the other to sink.—SAM ADAMS

Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

10

‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ (1987)

Traveling during the holidays is bad enough; add in snowstorms, cancelled flights and chirpy-but-ineffectual rental car agents, and it might make you a little uptight. But throw in an unwanted companion who's a little boorish, smelly, emotionally needy and overall irritating to the infinite power, well…it might drive a man like Steve Martin's buttoned-up salesman around the bend. John Hughes' beloved comedy is many things: a holiday movie, a road movie, a tribute to modes of transportation (see title) and an ode to the healing power of the Flintstones' theme. But first and foremost, it's Exhibit A in making a case for giving two great comedians — Martin and the peerless John Candy — great material to work with and letting them do what they do best. P.S.: No, those aren't pillows.—DAVID FEAR

  

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

9

‘Tommy Boy’ (1995)

After five years on SNL, Chris Farley and David Spade took their partnership to the big screen, and, in the process, proved that the key to any successful buddy comedy is the camaraderie of its co-stars. The friendship between the two is apparent throughout this 1995 cult classic, which follows a lunk-headed lump (guess who?) and a sycophantic suit on a cross-country sales trip, and it probably explains why each lets the other shine: Farley provides the physical comedy, Spade delivers the snarky one-liners, and Holy Schnikes, is this film better because of their friendly competition.—JAMES MONTGOMERY

Mark Seliger

8

‘Step-Brothers’ (2008)

Plenty of Hollywood comedies are about the tribulations of perpetual adolescents. The conceptual masterstroke of Step Brothers, though, was the decision to take the concept of the manchild near literally — and double it. Will Ferrell, playing 39-year-old Brennan Huff, and John C. Reilly, as 40-year-old Dale Doback, are the Brando and Olivier of emotional retardation, going from a violent pissing contest over a treasured drum kit to a friendship that blossoms over doing karate in the basement. They're spoiled tweens in schlubby middle-aged bodies, and at each step of their non-coming of age, the actors match each other for sheer absurd commitment. Their thinning hair and jiggly paunches show their age, but you 100% believe these two crybabies will never really grow up, and even more impressive, they make it admirable —  and, of course, hilarious.—DAVID MARCHESE

Handmade Films / The Kobal Collection

7

‘Withnail and I’ (1987)

Some good times don't seem so good in retrospect — like, say, the destitute, alcoholic meanderings of Paul McGann's unemployed (and unnamed) actor and his perpetually soused companion, Richard E. Grant's Withnail. Part Dylan Thomas and part John Barrymore, Withnail is a self-willed icon, a cult figure waiting for his cult, which Withnail and I's release ironically provided. (Try "I'm not drunk, I've only had a few ales" and "There must and shall be aspirin" on any Brit of a certain age and wait for the spark of recognition.) The misdaventures of writer-director Bruce Robinson's onscreen avatar and his hedonistic partner-in-crime initially seem like an elegy for a freewheeling era, but McGann and Grant's bond is toxic in more ways than one. Although the Withnail drinking games and such frame the movie as a celebration of excess, it's more like a description of a time you're glad to have lived through and put behind you: a supposedly fun thing you'll never do again.—SAM ADAMS

Courtesy Everett Collection

6

‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959)

Nothing brings men together like running for their lives — especially when they're doing it dressed as women. After Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis' Jazz Age jazzbos witness a gangland massacre, they're forced to lay low, which they do by stepping into drag and joining up with an "all-girl" orchestra. Unfortunately for their little ruse, said orchestra includes Marilyn Monroe's Sugar Kane, whose lingerie-clad girl talk makes suppressing their manly urges rather difficult. In spite of its vaguely softcore premise, Some Like It Hot —directed by Billy Wilder, who co-wrote with frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond — feels almost shockingly contemporary, in large part because the emphasis is less on leering voyeurism than male, and female, bonding. As in a Shakespeare romance, Lemmon and Curtis woo others while in disguise, and then discover their false personas are more true to life than they ever intended.—SAM ADAMS

Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

5

‘Wayne’s World’ (1992)

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Mike Myers' Wayne Campbell and Dana Carvey's Garth Algar is just how utterly familiar these two suburban heshers are. You knew guys like this: They dressed alike (band tees and ripped jeans), they spoke their own language (Schwing!) and they obviously had a deep and abiding affection for one another ("Party on, Wayne"; "Party on, Garth"). It would've been easy to play, or see, these two as losers, but Myers and Carvey, who allegedly butted heads on-set, made you feel like you were on the right side of Wayne and Garth's inside joke on the world.—DAVID MARCHESE

Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

4

‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980)

It's not entirely clear how much DNA John Belushi's Jake and Dan Aykroyd's Elwood share, but it doesn't matter: Blues is thicker than water. When the nun-run orphanage in which they were raised is threatened with closure, the brothers set out to get their proverbial band back together in order to keep it open. Naturally, no amount of bazooka-toting ex-girlfriends or Illinois Nazis will stand in their way. John Landis' movie celebrates the ad hoc community between musicians, pulling James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles into a story centered around a pair of white comedians to show that music can make a family of those who have nothing else in common. But this is still Belushi and Aykroyd's show, and the sibling-like bond these guys forged on Saturday Night Live and over many after-hours late nights is on full display.—SAM ADAMS

Courtesy Everett Collection

3

‘Up in Smoke’ (1978)

A decade into their comedic partnership, Mssrs. Cheech and Chong ground up their best bits, rolled 'em tight, and set the world ablaze with their film debut — the archetypal stoner comedy of our time. Watching these best buds (heh, heh) share a spliff the size of a baby's arm, outfox the cops, pilot a "fiberweed" van through customs and somehow still win a battle of the bands is the stuff of dopehead dreams, proof that you don't need to leave the couch to achieve greatness. Kinda grabs ya by the boo-boo, don't it?—JAMES MONTGOMERY

Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

2

‘Midnight Run’ (1988)

Odd couples don't come much odder than Robert De Niro's tempestuous bounty hunter and Charles Grodin's fugitive accountant, thrown together as they travel cross-country and try to avoid mobsters and the Feds. Apart from a handful of movies early on in his career and a cameo in Brazil, De Niro hadn't much of a chance at that point to show audiences how funny he could be. But after spending much of Midnight Run trying not to blow his top over Grodin's obsessive-compulsive futzing around, there was no question he could do slow-burn comedy as well as intense, you-talkin'-to-me dramas. Martin Brest's direction hits the requisite Eighties action-movie marks, but it's De Niro and Grodin, sparring and eventually softening like Bogart and Bacall in The African Queen, that give the movie a surprising sweetness.—SAM ADAMS

SNAP/Rex / Rex USA

1

’48 Hrs’ (1982)

One of them was a fortysomething actor who'd gone from TV-miniseries heartthrob to Hollywood iconoclast in record time; the other was a promising young comedian, best known for playing Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live. Their roles — a gruff detective and a con-man convict — were originally supposed to go to Clint Eastwood and Richard Pryor, respectively. But damned if Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy didn't make this film completely their own, turning the story of  a cop and a crook chasing a killer into a huge hit and creating the template for the modern buddy-comedy action movie. The film may have made Murphy a star (that redneck-bar scene still makes you feel like you're mainlining screen charisma), but it doesn't work without the both of them, their chemistry and their friction — the weary seen-it-all guy and the street-smart dynamo. Just because the duo couldn't repeat the feat in the 1990 sequel Another 48 Hrs doesn't make their duet here any less impressive.—DAVID FEAR

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