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30 Great Movies That Celebrate Unlikely Friendships

01 April 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Rhea Shuten

Good Will Hunting (1997)

The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means “family.” The connotation suggests a deep bond shared between people (or even animals) equivalent to that of blood – to kinship.

This list not only takes this idea or feeling into consideration, but specifically praises the most out of the ordinary examples of such an idea. The following films are built on a foundation of such curious circumstances that serve to originate extraordinary friendships.


30. Lilo & Stitch (2002)

Lilo & Stitch (2002)

This newer Disney classic has been welcomed with tender, warm arms since it’s initial release in 2002. Lilo & Stitch is one of many films that are great fun for the whole family, telling the story of a young Hawaiian girl who adopts a very unusual pet. Of course, she doesn’t realize that “Stitch” is actually an alien fugitive.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Outside of the obvious that Stitch is an extra-terrestrial… The two offer each other important lessons in life, the both of them desperately in need of companionship and understanding. Lilo lives a very difficult life, as not only an oddball, but also because she and her older sister have lost their parents.

Stitch, on the other hand, is an orphan of a different kind and needs Lilo’s help discovering compassion. The two work together, against all odds, to redefine the meaning of family. Their journey together is heartfelt and memorable.


29. The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

the secret world of arrietty (2010)

This Hayao Miyazaki and Disney family fantasy is another film that’s wonderful for people of all ages. Based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton, Arrietty tells the tale of a tiny family that lives secretly under the floor of a family’s home. Focusing mainly on a young girl borrower that befriends a human boy who’s very ill.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Arrietty and the boy develop a friendship under circumstances that are forbidden, let alone unheard of. Both eagerly curious about the others strange world and the very different lives they lead, their friendship grows into a mysterious and magical affection. This loving tale teaches the timeless lesson that love comes in all packages, sometimes in the most unlikely of sizes.

The Secret World of Arrietty is a wonderfully animated and touching film for everyone.


28. Zombieland (2009)


Directed by Ruben Fleischer, this American zombie apocalypse comedy stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. The film follows several apocalypse survivors on an extensive road trip cross-country searching for a refuge free of zombies. Zombieland has a marvelously comedic take on the commonly gruesome zombies that showcase so many horror films.

What’s unique about their friendship:

It certainly isn’t the most irregular thing to find a new companion during the apocalypse, for survival alone, but the friendship that emerges from this chance meeting is both amusing and endearing.

“Columbus” (Eisenberg) is an antisocial, phobia-stricken, irritable bowel syndrome suffering dork who joins forces with “Tallahassee,” a joyfully violent, loud character with an affinity for Twinkies. When these two polar opposite personalities join together in hopes of survival, the audience finds themselves also following rule 32 – “Enjoy the little things.”


27. Turner & Hooch (1989)

Turner & Hooch (1989)

American comedy-thriller Turner & Hooch stars Tom Hanks and Beasley the dog, the eponymous characters Turner and Hooch respectively. The film follows the story of obsessive neat-freak detective Scott Turner who ends up adopting a dog Hooch that witnessed the murder of his owner. The two team up to solve the case and, as to be expected, run into some conflicting behaviors.

What’s unique about their friendship:

The audience finds themselves pretty agitated, along with Turner, after Hooch destroys his home for the first time after being adopted, but soon we all forget that anger and simply fall in love with this drooling, giant dog. The two develop an amazing companionship that, not only reeks of love, but releases Turner from his long debilitating obsessive behavior.


26. The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Giant (1999)

Based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughs, this family science fiction comedy stars Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald, and John Mahoney. This animated film takes place October 1957 in Maine, during the height of the Cold War. Telling the story of a lonely boy, being raised by his mother (the widow of an air force pilot), who discovers a giant iron man that fell from space.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Hogarth, having lost his father, needs a friend more than most children already do. When he finds that missing companionship in a giant robot from space, audiences watch a witty, beautiful, and engaging friendship unfold. Although the two face many challenges, their love only continues to grow and offers a valuable lesson for people of all ages.


25. Analyze This (1999)

Analyze This (1999)

Directed by Harold Ramis, this gangster comedy stars Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. The film follows Paul Vitti (De Niro), a mob boss, who begins suffering from panic attacks and seeks medical help from a psychiatrist named Ben Sobel (Crystal). De Niro and Crystal both have an uncanny talent for comedy – when the two paired up for Analyze This, as well its sequel Analyze That, hilarity ensued.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Paul and Ben’s friendship was something neither of them planned for – coming from entirely different backgrounds as well as having completely juxtaposing personalities and lifestyles, the two emerge with a very odd relationship. Although odd and unexpected, their relationship is heartwarming, especially for a comedy. Not only is this film packed with laughs, but filled to the brim with endearing and adorable exchanges between two polar extreme men finding compassion in one another.


24. Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies (2013)

American romantic zombie comedy Warm Bodies takes the done and redone zombie apocalypse plot in a comical and innovative new direction – creating an endearing and empathetic look at a zombie’s inner monologue. Based on the novel of the same name by Isaac Marion, the film is directed and written by Jonathan Levine and stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry and John Malkovich.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Warm Bodies doesn’t only focus on the lingering emotional capacity of zombies, but also on the healing power of love. The film follows a growing relationship between zombie “R” (Hoult) and Julie (Palmer), as well as the friendship between “R” and fellow zombie “M” (Corddry) – these two relationships are practically the definition of “unlikely.”

Not only does it contradict the common jaded opinion of zombies, but it preaches a larger statement on open-mindedness and acceptance. Warm Bodies is great for a laugh while also oddly warmhearted.


23. The Help (2011)

The Help (2011)

Based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, this American period place drama stars an ensemble cast and was written and directed by Tate Taylor.

The film stars large cast Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O’Reilly, Chris Lowell, Sissy Spacek, Mike Vogel, Cicely Tyson, LaChanze, Allison Janney, Mary Steenburgen and Anna Camp. Set during the Civil Rights era in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi, the film follows a journalist’s relationship with two maids and her decision to write a book exposing the racism and struggles they face working for white families.

What’s unique about their friendship:

The inspirational story of understanding and fellow-feeling in a time of extreme racism and strife, journalist “Skeeter” (Emma Stone) not only befriends, but defends two maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, working for local white families.

Skeeter’s desire for change and shedding light on the realities of life go above and beyond just inspiration. She offers more than change – she offers love. This is another in a series of friendships that offer an enormously important lesson for people of all ages and generations.


22. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)

Directed by Steven Spielberg while written by Melissa Matheson, American family sci-fi film E.T. The Extra Terrestrial remains one of the most memorable stories ever to hit family movie screens.

Starring Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, and Peter Coyote this American classic tells the story of an extraterrestrial, stranded on Earth, that befriends a young, lonely boy named Elliott (Thomas). He and his siblings work together attempting to keep E.T. (the extraterrestrial) hidden from their mother and the government.

What’s unique about their friendship:

It’s fairly simple that a little boy befriending a stranded alien, and consequentially attempting to avoid the government, would make an appearance on a list showcasing “unlikely friendships.” But, the relationship shared between E.T. and Elliott goes much deeper than subsequent strangeness – the two grow together, learning to understand one another as well as appreciate their extraordinary differences.

Elliott risks it all trying to keep E.T. safe from harm, that act alone shows a degree of bravery and compassion that all would do well to learn from.


21. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

driving miss daisy

Adapted from the play of the same name by Alfred Uhry, this American comedy-drama was directed by Bruce Beresford while starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. The film follows Miss Daisy (Tandy) from her point of view through 25-years of life, focusing on her home life, friends, family, peers, synagogue, fears, and concerns. After Miss Daisy can no longer drive herself around, Hoke Colburn (Morgan) is hired as her driver.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Miss Daisy is more than reluctant to accept Hoke into her home – not out of prejudice, but pure stubbornness. However, her stubbornness is no match for his persistence and the two finally share even a simple car ride, neither realizing that a friendship was founded in that very moment. Over time, they grow closer and more accepting of the others idiosyncrasies. Their adoringly difficult and unconventional friendship is just as exceptional today as it was in 1989.



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  • Javiera

    how about Marty Mcfly and the Doc Brown

  • Richard McLin

    So happy to see “Lost in Translation” on this list. Such a powerful movie. My all time favorite film.

  • Tarun Raj

    Cast Away was directed by Robert Zemeckis not by William Broyles Jr. He was the screenplay writer.

  • Bicentennial Man, The Blind Side, and Driving Miss Daisy are fucking crap. They’re Oscar-bait films at their worst. All of them are overly-sentimental. One is badly overlong. The other is just about white people being saviors. And then you have a movie where a black man takes orders from a cranky old lady. And they’re better than Lost in Translation and Up? FUCK THIS!

  • Zuza

    Seriously, no Harold and Maude?

    • Pica Lima


  • Simina

    Where’s Let the Right One In?

  • John Davidsson

    How about Gimli and Legolas, Simba and Timon & Pumbaa, Terminator and John/Sarah Connor =)

  • Grace Skerp

    Frodo and Sam. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

    • Brian Lussier

      Not sure it was an unlikely one. I think Legolas and Gimli were more unlikely, and to a certain extent, even Frodo and Gollum.

  • Grace Skerp

    One more: Hiccup and Toothless

  • marcel

    Every time there has to be a group of ungrateful bitches complaining about what’s good and what’s not.
    Why don’t YOU start writing your own articles here and yhen wait to be rewarded with sharkbites?

    Thanks for the article! Some of those movies bring me good memories.

    • Dixie Cowboy

      read all the comments and didnt see any compianing so far. just some of us adding our own favorites. how is that wrong? there are more than 30 great movies about the plot written about and we just happen to express other stuffs we’ve come to like. [ok so there’s one at the bottom that doesnt make it a group of whatever.]

  • Brian Lussier

    Yes!!! Ratatouille has finally made it onto a Best Of list! Love that movie!

  • Elisabeth White

    just a beautiful list of movies.. many on my list of favourites.. thanks for the memories.. there’s many that could be added as it’s such a common theme in films.. Good Moning Vietnam…All about my mother.. but still .. a wonderful selection .. boy in the striped pajamas.. what a sad, powerful film. 🙂

  • Mariana Lois

    Intouchables was the first I remembered when I saw the title

    • andrewklynsmith

      Me too.

    • Pica Lima

      Of course.

  • Robert Jones

    Thank you for this great list of a sometimes overlooked film genre, one that has produced some of the most moving stories in movie history. Allow me to suggest another, mostly unknown film to this listing: “Paper Man”, starring Jeff Daniels and Emma Stone. I came across it recently purely by accident and was captured immediately. Stone and Daniels are magnificent as a damaged teenager and a disconnected middle-aged writer who bond during a lonely winter on Long Island. The last ten minutes are as touching as any of the films on this list.

  • “Capote” (Truman & Harper Lee); “Billy Elliot” (Billy & Julie Walters); “Dallas Buyer’s Club” (Matthew McConaughey & Jared Leto); “Dead Man Walking” (Susan Sarandon & Sean Penn); “Rhinestone” (Dolly Parton & Sylvester Stallone); HAROLD & MAUDE???

  • Dave Teves

    Look at all those Pixar movies!

  • Dixie Cowboy

    Cant believe there’s no Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino and Chris O’donell. Great movie. Beautiful friendship.

  • Dixie Cowboy

    Cant believe there’s no Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino and Chris O’donell. Great movie. Beautiful friendship.

  • Miguel Valdez-Lopez

    Would Central Station (Central do Brasil, from Brazil) fit the bill?

    The Eight Day (Le huitième jour, from France) would too.

    And so would Made In China (Hecho en China, from Mexico).

  • Luka Bosnić

    Scent Of A Woman?

  • Colm

    Kikujiro is a brilliant film by Takeshi Kitano about a young boy who goes in search of his mother, he finds an unlikely friend/protector in a cranky old man. Well worth a watch, a film that has real heart.

  • Cygnifier

    Babe !

  • Parham Sedaghat

    Intouchables ? Scent of a woman?

  • Frankie

    I don’t belive that you not consider ” God Morning, Vietnam”, ” Intouchables”,” Cinema Paradiso” or ” In America” but is your list. Anyway great list

  • Klaus Dannick

    John Woo’s The Killer and Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game come to mind, but this list is very solid, nevertheless.

  • Pica Lima

    Very poor and limited list…

  • Pica Lima

    The Shawshank Redemption? What’s unusual about that? Because one was white and the other was black? Realy?