The importance of friendships has been exacerbated over the past twelve months. Where our own walk along the train tracks or trip to The Prancing Pony has been replaced by a Zoom quiz, or shouting match with multiple windows full of people holding a wine glass. All struggling to find a new way to tell you what they’re having for dinner, ten months into the same conversation.
And so cinema has been there when we needed it most. A holding card for the real world, a place to find comfort while hanging out with the best friendships forged on film. Whether that’s chasing One-Eyed Willie’s treasure, or dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’.
While we’re on the subject of ‘Time’, and the fact we’ve had plenty of it on our hands, it has afforded us the opportunity to make some new cinematic acquaintances, all in the hope that one day they’ll endure in the same way as the friendships mentioned below.
There’s Mike and Kyle from cycling buddy flick The Climb (which is available to rent on Digital today), who risk years of friendship over an affair. Or the kids from Sarah Gavron’s terrific coming-of-age drama Rocks, whose bond is intrinsic to their own survival. Who knows if one day we’ll wistfully reminisce about them in the same way Richard Dreyfuss does with Chris, Teddy, and Vern, as Ben E King kicks in over the credits?
Stand by Me is an ode to friendship like few others. It feels achingly real, perfectly capturing the most indelible and painful of unions; those which we no longer have. We’re privy to this briefest of time in the lives of these four friends. One which runs the full gamut of emotions, and that we’re conditioned to believe by the magic of the movies will endure forever. Only it doesn’t. “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” still hits hard to this day.
You may think that by making a Disney offering our next example of friendship it might be leading us into more light-hearted territory; Timon and Pumbaa, Lilo and Stitch, or maybe Pooh and Piglet? While they’re all memorable in their own right, its 1981’s The Fox and the Hound which left the most indelible impression.
Much like Stand by Me, it’s the story of friends from different sides of the track, Todd the Fox and Copper the Hound Dog. Can’t see any problems there, can you? It’s the innocence of youth which shines through in Disney’s 24th animated feature film. These two animals, that nature and society dictates cannot be friends, defying the conventions because they’ve not been indoctrinated by those around them. As kids you watch it and cry because they’re “the best of friends, having so much fun together” but as a grown up, setting aside the logic of Mufasa’s Circle of Life speech, there’s a whole new level of sadness to their separation.
John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood brought an entirely different perspective to big-screen friendship. A coming-of-age story in which trying to survive beyond your childhood forged a connection between four kids whose path to adulthood was beset with prejudice, inequality, and the dangers of urban L.A. Tre, Ricky, and Doughboy have their differing paths in life dictated by circumstances beyond their control, but they always find their way back to the front porch. They support each other, they fight for each other, and ultimately they grieve for each other.
How about we lighten the mood with a dance? BFFs before that was even a thing, Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) drag their post-it lie across the country in order to prove to the old high school crowd that they were wrong about them all along. Theirs is a depiction of platonic affection and a dedication to friendship, no matter what, that has informed the strong female friendships in everything from Bridesmaids to Booksmart.
Romy is the driving force for their told-you-so trip to Tuscan, but that doesn’t mean that her best friend won’t be there to catch her when she falls, or even better, take her hand for one of the most ridiculously memorable dance scenes committed to film.
A road trip which doesn’t end as well as that, but remains arguably one the most powerful depictions of friendship on film, is the one taken by Thelma & Louise. The duo free each other from the confines of their respective lives and go on a journey which culminates in the ultimate gesture; the two of them driving into The Grand Canyon, holding hands while an army of angry men point their guns at them. Iconic.
Two friends who would’ve easily made the leap across that ravine, heck – they did the The Kessel Run in 12 Parsecs, are Han and Chewie. When Kylo Ren removed his crossguard lightsabre from the body of his father, sending him toppling into the bottomless chasm of Starkiller base, the cries of pain from Chewbacca and the audience alike were built upon a relationship that had played out for almost 40 years.
Through the original trilogy and countless VHS re-watches, to the imaginations of every child who played out their own adventures with the Kenner action figures, Han and Chewie’s friendship is one of an unspoken bond, a life well-lived, that we’re only getting a glimpse at. Their most powerful moments are the small ones built on that largely untold history. Han telling Chewie to “Save your strength. They’ll be another time” before being frozen in carbonite, is just as effective as his cocksure declaration of love to Leia.
Bill and Ted, Sam and Frodo, Buzz and Woody, Cher and Dionne, Enid and Rebecca, Harry and Lloyd, Shaun and Ed, or Harry, Ron, and Hermione. As they do in the real world, movie friendships resonate differently with each viewer. This particular collective is simply a selection of those that have affected this writer in a way best summed up by my personal favourite friendship on film. You remember that moment where E.T. points to the chest of Elliot right before departing in a symphony of John Williams joy and tears? He tells him “I’ll be right here”. And that’s exactly where all of these friendships live in me.