On this day 10 years ago, Dale Doback and Brennan Huff became best friends. But it wasn’t until a year or two later that viewers and critics alike came to see the eponymous Step Brothers for what they truly were: one of the 30 greatest fictional comedy duos ever conceived, which we’ve ranked here today for your edification.
No other twosome could’ve realized these doughy, hairy, developmentally arrested “jagaloons” quite as believably as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Just like there could’ve been no other Jake and Elwood. Or Wayne and Garth. Because the funniest partnerships are products of not only superb writing and direction, but also superb chemistry. It’s why so many of the greats — from Laurel and Hardy to Akroyd and Belushi to Spade and Farley — have often spent large chunks of their careers signing up for projects as a packaged duo.
As for where they all fit into the pantheon, though? Read on to find out.
Editor’s note: Think we’re guilty of a glaring omission? Join the conversation on Facebook to tell us who we missed.
30. Bam Margera and Ryan Dunn
Jackass Number Two (2006)
While Jackass may seem like a group of kids who discovered a way to monetize their half-baked stunts in adulthood, the group was for the most part assembled later in life, with Bam and Ryan bringing a longtime friendship that boosted the entire cast’s camaraderie. So even when Ryan, say, sears a penis onto Bam’s ass with a red-hot brand, there’s a childlike goading that reminds viewers of the pranks they pulled with friends growing up.
29. Harry and Marv
Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2 (1992)
Whether you prefer their exploits as the Wet Bandits or the Sticky Bandits, no one bests Harry and Marv in the hapless-villain department. It’s their gleeful taunts to little Kevin McCallister — shocking by today’s kid-movie standards (“Nothing would thrill me more greatly than to shoot you”) and intensified by Joe Pesci’s cinematic-gangster pedigree — that keep their booby-trap beatings fresh year after year.
28. Han Solo and Chewbacca
Star Wars (1977)
There’s really no single quote or scene that can summarize Han and Chewie’s bond. Whether firing up the Falcon or trying to escape Jabba’s desert jazz palace, they always fall into those old, rhythmic routines; Han bristling like he’s been served the wrong plate at dinner, Chewie howling like the big-hearted, easily spooked spaz he is. Together they bring a sarcastic, unmistakably human humor to an otherwise chaotic and cruel galaxy.
27. Greg Jenko and Morton Schmidt
21 Jump Street (2012)
What’s not to love about this odd couple-meets-buddy-cop bromance special? Jonah Hill nails the nerdy, slightly manic foil to Channing Tatum’s jock-in-recovery, secretly sensitive persona. It’s a high-school movie with the angst wiped away, replaced instead by a snarky riff on the ever-changing face of youth culture.
26. Harold and Kumar
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
While owing their origins to many other duos that came before them (looking at you, Cheech and Chong), Harold and Kumar brought the buddy comedy to a historically underserved demographic: that of Asian-Americans, who are too often typecast as studious rule followers or zany foreigners. Here, we see two characters who are exceptional only for their loyalty — to one another, but also to their muse: weed.
25. Lee and Carter
Rush Hour trilogy (1998-2007)
Since the genre’s auspicious beginning with 48 Hours in 1982, buddy-cop films have thrived on the friction between two individuals who have a singular purpose but just cannot seem to get on the same page. Lee and Carter are the fullest extension of that, not only wildly differing methodologies, but a vast cultural and language dissonance as well (it’s been reported that when Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker met, both informed the director that they couldn’t understand a word their co-star was saying). Misunderstanding and aggravation make for great comedy to begin with — layer on Chan’s martial arts acrobatics and Tucker’s mile-a-minute mouth and you’ve got box-office gold.
24. Veronica and J.D.
Tragic lovers? Sure. Psychopaths? Yes. Like-minded, tortured souls with great banter? That’s what all great relationships are built upon. How very, indeed.
23. Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
You know how everyone has that one friend who’s just a bad influence? The one who greenlights all your worst and most irresponsible impulses, forever steering the proceedings toward utter depravity? Both of these guys are that guy. In Vegas.
22. John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey
Wedding Crashers (2005)
The word “bromance” came into popular usage in the mid-2000s largely thanks to the emergence of on-screen male relationships like this one. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson traipse, quip and one-up their way through a merry-go-round of wedding receptions, dinners, hunts and backyard football games, all the while holding one another to a sacred set of “rules” that govern not only wedding crashing, but also the obligation of a grown man to his partner in crime. This performance isn’t chemistry; it’s telepathy.
21. Reggie Hammond and Jack Cates
48 Hrs. (1982)
The year is 1978. While Cheech and Chong are minting the stoner comedy genre, writer/director Walter Hill has an idea: pair a black criminal with a white cop to bring down a couple of terrible baddies. Studio execs don’t bite. Cut to four years later, when the ascension of Richard Pryor to superstardom has Hollywood singing a different tune about black leading players: Pryor is now too big for the role, and thus it goes (via a pass by Gregory Hines) to a television improv actor who has never made a feature film before. That actor was Eddie Murphy, and he and Nick Nolte knock it out of the park, thereby creating an enduring genre of their own: the buddy cop film.
20. Hedley Lamarr and Taggart
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Shakespearean Lamarr and frontier pickaxe Taggart: two men so oblivious that they even are buddies (that’s the best sort of comedy duo) that they manage to steal a Mel Brooks classic in its first 30 seconds. Highlights include Headley shooting a man for not bringing enough chewing gum for everyone on the line and Taggart searching frantically for pen and paper while receiving explicit instructions for Headley’s evil plan to pillage Rock Ridge.
19. Ray and Ken
In Bruges (2008)
Colin Farrell (Ray) and Brendan Gleeson (Ken) take the good cop/bad cop routine to the blackest extreme, playing two Irish hitmen awaiting orders in Bruges. Ken is the former, leading family-friendly sightseeing expeditions. Ray balances him out by doing drugs, hooking up with drug dealers and eviscerating Americans, dwarves and his partner-in-literal-crime with insults that sit on the pitch-black end of the PC spectrum.
18. Bill and Ted
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Funny story: Alex Winter actually auditioned for Ted, and Keanu Reeves for Bill. That’s how in sync these two world-saving idiots were on- and off-screen. Their only source of tension? Bill’s hot stepmom. “Your stepmom is cute.” “Shut up, Ted.” “Remember when I asked her to the prom?” “Shut up, Ted!”
17. Gilbert and Lewis
Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Three decades before wearing your pants above your ankles was considered fashionable, Gilbert and Lewis were pioneering the look, as well as tinkering with computers, playing electronic music and generally casting the mold for the archetypical nerd. In 2018, they’d probably be on the cover of Wired and dating supermodels. But in 1984, they were outcasts forced to forge their own path — which they gamely did, provided they were at one another’s side to get through it.
16. Smokey and Craig
In his first starring role, Chris Tucker (as Smokey) brings the bombast and Ice Cube (Craig) brings his typically laid-back demeanor, and the pair basically do nothing all day aside from banter and try to avoid a spurned drug dealer. A single line from Smokey to Craig — “I know you don’t smoke weed, I know this; but I’m gonna get you high today, ’cause it’s Friday; you ain’t got no job … and you ain’t got shit to do.” — pretty accurately sums up the relationship in all its glory.
15. Inigo Montoya and Fezzik
The Princess Bride (1987)
Ask any true fan of The Princess Bride, and they’ll tell you the real love story is the one between Inigo and Fezzik. On their own, they couldn’t feed or clothe themselves, but once their handler Vizzini goes out in a blaze of glory, the gentle giant and the vengeful swordsman rely more on their friendship than their limited expertise to storm the castle.
14. Dale Denton and Saul Silver
Pineapple Express (2008)
It helps that Seth Rogen and James Franco are real life BFFs. That affection is apparent in David Gordon Green’s stoner classic, which isn’t so much about pot, gunfights and that one MIA song as it is about a, uh, “budding” friendship between a process worker and a drug dealer. The seeds of a great relationship are there from the very beginning (“Let me ask you something: Do you think you could pull the plug on someone? Like euthanasia?”).
13. Prince Akeem and Semmi
Coming To America (1988)
In perhaps Eddie Murphy’s most toned-down role, naive and hopeful Prince Akeem is foiled perfectly by Semmi (Arsenio Hall), who is positively disgusted by their charade of acting like poor immigrants in a strange new land. The duo’s misunderstanding of American culture and penchant for malapropism also make for chuckle-worthy moments throughout.
12. The Dude and Walter Sobchak
The Big Lebowski (1998)
What do you get when the Coen Bros. stick a salty Vietnam vet and the world’s laziest man on a bowling team-cum-private investigation unit? The world’s most memorable eulogy, for starters.
11. Reed Rothchild and Dirk Diggler
Boogie Nights (1997)
One would expect a pornographic actor to have, by nature, what is referred to as a “big dick” personality. Bring two such men together, and they will naturally be cajoled into an endless game of juvenile one-upsmanship, bringing a wonderful comedic bent to an otherwise tragic film.
10. Tommy Callahan and Richard Hayden
Tommy Boy (1995)
The anecdote that best sums up Chris Farley and David Spade’s friendship — and the indelible chemistry that followed, from the set of SNL to the three feature films they made together — is probably a story that happened off camera while filming Tommy Boy. Upon hearing that Spade had hung out with castmate Rob Lowe the previous night, Farley confronted his friend: “How’s Rob Lowe?” he barked, jealousy coursing through him like a spurned lover. The feud continued for weeks. Now that, my friends, is a bromance.
9. Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar
Wayne’s World (1992)
Through their on-camera delinquent basement banter, Wayne and Garth popularized “that’s what she said” and many other hard-hitting one-liners that defined a generation of youth humor (see also: “schwing!”). At the same time, they advance the memetic, absurdist humor that has come to dominate the internet, begging the question: Are internet forums the new cable access TV?
8. Jake and Elwood Blues
Blues Brothers (1980)
Elwood takes his white bread “dry.” Jake hates “Illinois Nazis.” Both are hellbent on getting the band back together. Both are on a mission from God.
7. Seth and Evan
Seth’s R-rated bravado and Evan’s awkward deadpan makes for a back and forth that revealed a ridiculous but believable eye into the depraved conversations that teenage boys tend toward as they try to navigate high school’s toughest challenge: feelings.
6. Jay and Silent Bob
Most Kevin Smith films (1994-2006)
Jay and Silent Bob aren’t funny because they provide an endless stream of meta and increasingly vulgar commentary. They’re funny because they’re actually like real-life buddies: one does all the talking, one sits back and steps in only when needed. Together, they get where they need to go. As Jay contemplates in Clerks 2: “You know, sometimes I wish I did a little more with my life instead of hanging out in front of places selling weed and shit … Like, maybe be an animal doctor. Why not me? I like seals and shit.” Silent Bob nods in approval.
5. Brennan Huff and Dale Doback
Step Brothers (2008)
A premise so stupid it just might work, did: take comedy’s greatest man-child and one of the best character actors of a generation and assign them roles as a pair of developmentally arrested 40-year-olds who, for all intents and purposes, believe they are still 14. Give them a common purpose: breaking up their parents (and then later, reconnecting them). Observe. And then observe again 8-10 more times, because there are nuances to these portrayals that don’t reveal themselves until you’ve sat through that many viewings.
4. Thelma & Louise
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Thelma and Louise perfected the ditzy-but-successful archetype years before Erin Brockovich or Elle Woods did it. With nothing to lose, the two women stumble through pitfalls and tragedy without a care in the world, egging each other on in true buddy-comedy fashion until they literally push themselves over the edge. That dream-like ending is what makes the girls, despite everything they did, so damn endearing (it’s also the best how-to on “retiring” a 1966 Thunderbird).
3. Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
If you take nothing else from this film, take this: move through life with the confidence of a chip-toothed, bowl-cut-coiffured, Pendleton-bedecked ex-limo driver and his bamboozled bestie as they move from one failed venture to the next, never aware of nor concerned with the perpetuity of their deficiencies.
2. Vincent Vega and Jules Winfield
Pulp Fiction (1994)
It’s not so much that what Tarantino’s iconic hit men discuss is particularly funny (unless you find the possibility of divine intervention, foregoing all worldly possessions in favor of monk-like earth-wandering or the true meaning of a foot massage particularly hilarious), it’s the way they talk about it. Vincent and Jules’s thoughtful, nuanced and often diametrically-opposed discourse has rhythm, and that makes all the difference.
1. Cheech and Chong
Up in Smoke (1978)
It’s easy to forget that the two lovable cheeba hounds in Cheech and Chong’s debut feature film actually had names (Pedro De Pacas and Anthony “Man” Stoner, for anyone keeping score at home), as the longtime comedy duo’s wacky countercultural odyssey not only spawned six more movies, but made their real monikers the kind of cultural shorthand that comedy writers dream of. Here we are 40 (!!!) years later, and if you needed to describe two easygoing dudes just looking for a good time (and possibly willing to smoke a little dogsh*t to find it), you’d be hard-pressed to do better than a C&C name check. Additionally, few would deny that many of the pairs on this list (looking at you in particular, Dale and Saul) would not exist without the marijuana-scented path cut for them back in ‘78 — Up in Smoke is the gift that keeps on giving, long after the joint has burned down to the roach.
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