The scenario is familiar, but alluring: two very different people are forced to work together and their initial feelings of loathing, distrust and resentment give way to friendship and trust — enemies become buddies.
In Laurel and Hardy’s The Flying Deuces (1939) two eternally fighting buddies, one meek, the other deluded and overconfident, join the French Foreign Legion, and survive against the odds because of their haphazard teamwork. And in The Odd Couple (1969) two different men share an apartment, facing life’s ordeals together.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) combines a buddy movie with a road movie — but in this fast paced, and dark, reimagining of the buddy movie, rather than ending on a light plateau their friendship is cut short by a tragic event. Likewise, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (1969) includes male bonding, as two men experience elation, and misery together, and — like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot — their story comes to a dramatic, and jolting conclusion. The cycle of friendship reaches a sudden, and finite end.
The 1970’s saw the advent of a new kind of buddy movie, a story where the protagonists were not just different people but different ethnicities. These new Hollywood buddy movies saw black and white teams working together to fight injustice. A maverick policeman and a bank robber team up in 48 Hours (1982). Other cop-based buddy teams include, Lethal Weapon (1987), Die Hard (1988), and Rush Hour (1998).
In Trading Places (1983) a rich, white, financial trader swaps roles with an impoverished, black street con-artist — their initial adversity changes after they join together to fight the people responsible for playing games with their fate. It’s not just race and class that gets the buddy story treatment. In Thelma and Louise (1991) two women go on a road trip; a calamitous experience sees their whole lives turned upside down, and they forced to go on the run.
The buddies in Silver Streak (1976) are opposites, a quiet, white, affluent, middle class book editor, and a loudmouthed, black, working class, poor, thief. But they are able to team up and foil a master criminal.
In the science fiction film Enemy Mine (1985), two sworn enemies one human, the other alien, learn to work together to survive a harsh alien planet, with the human eventually becoming the guardian of the alien’s child. Closer to home, in Turner and Hooch (1989) a police Detective forms a team with Hooch, a homeless dog. Other man and canine partnerships include Hachi (2009), and Marley and Me (2008).
The message of the buddy story is a positive one: we are better off working together — it’s a celebration of forgiveness, understanding, and how collaboration helps us to defeat a common enemy.