Movie History’s Greatest Mismatched Pairs


In The Guard, out in theaters Friday, Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a provincial Irish cop partnered with the straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. Boyle is confrontational and racist, neither of which endear him to the by-the-book, African-American Everett. The unlikely alliance between these two very different men has inspired MovieMaker to pay tribute to five of movie history’s most mismatched pairs. They may not like each other, they may not get along, but they’ve been thrown together to achieve a common goal, and dammit, they’ll just have to manage.

To even the playing field a bit, yes, we intentionally excluded other mismatched cop movies like Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour and The Other Guys.That’s a list of its own.

The Defiant Ones (1958)
directed by Stanley Kramer

After their prison van overturns, convicts Joker (Tony Curtis) and Noah (Sidney Poitier) decide to make a break from their chain gang. The problem: The racist Joker is handcuffed to the African-American Noah. The two men must work together to navigate swamps and avoid capture until they can break their chains and go their separate ways. Surprisingly, the two begin to respect each other, which leads to more problems as they encounter prejudice in the deep South. Both Curtis and Poitier were nominated for Best Actor Oscars for their powerful performances in this black and white (no pun intended) classic.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
directed by John Hughes

In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”) reigns supreme. When a snowstorm grounds all flights from New York to Chicago, the taciturn businessman Neal Page (Steve Martin) has to figure out another way to get home. He reluctantly adopts a talkative, outgoing traveling shower ring salesman named Del Griffith (John Candy) as his traveling companion. Though Del has the best of intentions, his terrible travel arrangements prolong the duo’s disastrous journey. Throughout their misadventures in (as the title suggests) planes, trains and automobiles, these unlikely companions slowly form a friendship that can weather any (snow)storm.

Willow (1988)
directed by Ron Howard

When Willow (Warwick Davis), a Nelwyn (little person) farmer and wannabe-sorcerer, comes across an abandoned baby named Elora, he takes her in, not knowing that the child is being hunted down by the evil Queen Bavmorda, whom Elora is prophesied to one day overthrow. When the infant’s presence causes chaos in his village, Willow is pressured by his tribesman to find a Daikini (tall person) to take care of Elora. The man Willow unwisely entrusts with this very important task is a self-interested former warrior named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer). Regretting his decision to give up the newborn, Willow tracks Madmartigan down, only to find that Elora has been kidnapped. To make amends, Madmartigan teams up with Willow to defeat Queen Bavmorda and return Elora to her rightful place on the throne. Their task is not an easy one–the mismatched duo has to deal with fearsome warriors and a three-headed dragon, not to mention Madmartigan’s growing affection for Bavmorda’s daughter–but they manage to succeed in their quest. Madmartigan even gets the girl.

Heart and Souls (1993)
directed by Ron Underwood

When Harrison (Charles Grodin), Penny (Alfre Woodard), Julia (Kyra Sedgwick) and Milo (Tom Sizemore) are killed in a bus accident, their souls latch onto a baby named Thomas, who was born at the same moment they all died. As Thomas grows older, they become his imaginary friends, but after realizing that their presence disrupts Thomas’ life, they decide to fade away and watch their young companion from a distance. Twenty-five years later the quartet is told that they were supposed to have used that time to resolve their unfinished business, for which they need Thomas’ help. Problem is, Thomas (Robert Downey Jr.) has spent years in therapy convincing himself that he’d imagined his childhood friends, and when they reappear, he wants nothing to do with them. The tide turns when the four spirits figure out that they can inhabit Thomas’ body. To get them out his hair, Thomas agrees to help. As the five begin to work together, Thomas realizes how much impact the guardian angels have had on his life. Even though all five have very different personalities (and only one body between them), Thomas does his best to help his ghostly friends right their wrongs, find their loved ones and make their unfilled dreams reality.

Passion in the Desert (1997)
directed by Lavinia Currier

Rather than being about clashing personalities, Passion in the Desert is about two characters who should clash but don’t. French soldier Augustin Robert (Ben Daniels), tasked with escorting the painter Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis on a tour of Egypt, gets lost in the desert and is separated from Venture. After having to run for his life after offending a local tribe, Robert takes shelter in some nearby mountains, where he is cared for by a leopard, whom he names Simooom. Simoom protects Robert and helps him find food and water; over time, Robert begins to act like a leopard himself. He moves and hunts like a leopard, paints black spots on his skin and even gets jealous when Simoom mates with a male leopard. When a French regiment marches through Robert’s new home, Robert must decide whether to stay with his four-legged friend or turn himself in to the army to avoid charges of desertion. MM doesn’t want to spoil the ending, but we will say this: Robert’s decision results in some tragic consequences.

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