30 Great Movies That Celebrate Unlikely Friendships

20. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

The Boy in The Striped Pajamas

Directed by Mark Herman, the Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a British historical-drama based on the novel of the same name by John Boyne starring Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Amber Beattie and Rupert Friend. The film, a Holocaust drama, explores the horrific realities of a World War II extermination camp from the point of view of two 8-year-old boys – one of the boys is a son of the camp’s Nazi commandant and the other a Jewish inmate.

What’s unique about their friendship:

The forbidden friendship shared between a young Jewish inmate and the son of a commandant surely has its consequences, terrifyingly so as a matter of fact. But through the eyes of innocent, unrealized children such a taboo relationship doesn’t seem so strange anymore, in fact it seems exceedingly natural and appropriate. Their virtuous, controversial, and overwhelmingly emotive relationship sheds a new light on the forever remembered horrors of World War II.


19. Finding Nemo (2003)


Pixar and Disney team up to offer families yet another instant classic that will be adored for many years to come. This computer-animated comedy-drama adventure stars Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Alexander Gould. Telling the adventuring and moving tale of a clown fish named Marlin traveling the ocean in search of his son, named Nemo, who was taken by divers. Along the way, he meets Dory and unsuspectingly discovers a partner to share his long journey.

What’s unique about their friendship:

There are many friendships that develop throughout the movie, all of them unlikely and unforeseen by any of the characters involved – from forgetful fellow fish to sharks, sea turtles, and pelicans – every exchange audiences witness are amusing and delightful. But, the most important friendship from the movie is certainly that shared by Marlin and Dory.

Their relationship is very difficult, considering Dory suffers from short term memory loss and Marlin is eagerly searching for his son, but no matter the hardships the two remain together and become very close. They each help the other overcome their struggles, discovering that they needed one another all along.


18. Midnight Cowboy (1969)


Based on the 1965 novel of the same name by James Leo Herlihy, this American drama is written by Waldo Salt, directed by John Schlesinger, and stars Jon Voight alongside Dustin Hoffman. The film revolves around a naïve Texan prostitute (Voight) that moves to New York City and befriends a sickly Bronx-born man (Hoffman) hoping to help each other survive in the New York streets.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Midnight Cowboy explores sexuality, desperation, and the exhilarating freedom of success strangely through the friendship of Hoffman and Voight. The two find themselves relying on one another to not only survive, but con their way into successful prostitution. Their story is utterly uncommon and endearing, the audience finds themselves rooting for their good fortune as if it were their own survival.


17. Toy Story (1995)


This computer-animated buddy-comedy, released by Pixar and Disney, is a common childhood favorite – perfectly depicting friendship from the opening credits which coined “you have a friend in me.”

Telling the story of a cowboy doll named Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) who finds himself fighting for attention after a new Space Ranger toy named Buzz (Tim Allen) is introduced to the family. Woody has become very used to being Andy’s favorite toy and doesn’t take the rejection of a new toy well, the film focuses on their relationship.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Rejection is difficult for anyone, but you can imagine being a toy and your entire life revolving around the attention of a child, and it was Andy’s cold shoulder that initiated Woody’s distaste for Buzz. While much of the film largely focuses on the conflicts between Woody and Buzz, the two ultimately find themselves caring for one another and realizing that they were meant to be friends all along.


16. The Odd Couple (1968)


Written by Neil Simon, based on his play of the same name, this American buddy black comedy was directed by Gene Saks while starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. The film is the story of two divorced men who are also best friends – fun-loving and easy-going slob Oscar and neat-freak hypochondriac Felix.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Lemmon and Matthau were long time friends on and off the screen, so it comes as no surprise that one of their many cinema buddy appearances would appear on a list about friendship. But, the film that took the cake was The Odd Couple – its relevance on the list is perfectly summed up in the name.

When Felix moves in with Oscar hilarity ensues – they butt heads and drive each other to the edges of sanity, both practically built to push the others buttons. Despite their obvious differences, the two have clear unconditional love for each other throughout the film.


15. Up (2009)

Up (2009)

In another appearance by Pixar and Disney, this computer-animated comedy-adventure drama tells the heartwarming story of an elderly widow named Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner) setting off to keep his childhood promise to the love of his life. By tying thousands of balloons to his house, he embarks on an adventure to South America, mistakenly taking along a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai).

What’s unique about their friendship:

Carl had become increasingly bitter and antisocial since the death of his beloved Ellie, which causes him to initially treat Russell badly upon their first meeting, when he arrives on his porch in hopes of receiving his final Wilderness Badge. What he doesn’t expect is that he and Carl would spend a great deal of time stuck together, and that, not only would they become friends, they would grow to love one another as if they were a family unto themselves.


14. Finding Forrester (2000)

Finding Forrester (2000)

Directed by Gus Van Sant while written by Mike Rich, American drama Finding Forrester stars Sean Connery and Rob Brown. Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Pitt, April Grace and Busta Rhymes all also star in supporting roles. The film tells the story of an incredibly gifted African-American teenager Jamal (Brown) who befriends a recluse, aging writer William Forrester (Connery).

What’s unique about their friendship:

Jamal and William challenge, propel, infuriate, and fascinate each other to the point of more than mere friendship – they become family. Although, their initial meeting was rather unorthodox, William quickly discovers the unrecognized brilliance in Jamal and takes him under his wing as a writing prodigy. Their friendship is astounding, moving, and entirely irregular. Finding Forrester is a film built on friendship in the most unlikely of places.


13. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

the shawshank redemption

Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, written and directed by Frank Darabont, this American drama stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

The film follows the story of Andy Dufresne, a man who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover, although he claims innocence. While serving his sentence in prison, he befriends fellow inmate Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, and finds himself protected by the guards after he’s being used for a money laundering operation that the warden runs.

What’s unique about their friendship:

“Red” didn’t think much of Andy when he first saw him, in fact he made a bet that he’d “kick it” first. But, after meeting the two develop a strange and endearing friendship. They bond over many years, creating an uplifting friendship in dire times. Red smuggling comforts from the familiar, yet fleeting, outside world for Andy is one of many uplifting exchanges that remains in hearts long after seeing this film. Freeman and Robbins dominate the screen with their extraordinary and enduring friendship.


12. Gran Torino (2008)

Gran Torino (2008)

Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who also starred in the film – this was Eastwood’s first starring role since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. Gran Torino is an American racial drama co-starring Christopher Carley, Bee Vang and Ahney Her. The film follows a recently widowed Korean war veteran, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), who’s faced with his Hmong neighbors after they steal his prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino. To Walt’s surprise, he develops a friendship with his ethnic neighbors, after many years living as a racist.

What’s unique about their friendship:

Mr. Kowalski rarely speaks a word without offending an ethnicity of some kind, yet finds himself watching over his Hmong neighbors. At first, he’s reluctant – he acts only out of selfishness, mistakenly helping them by doing so. He quickly realizes that, not only does he respect them, he has more in common with these people than his own family. His friendships with Thao and Sue are emotive, unexpected, and courageous.


11. Lost in Translation (2003)

lost in translation pic

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, this American comedy-drama stars Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris, and Fumihiro Hayashi. Lost in Translation was Sofia Coppola’s second feature film following the Virgin Suicides. The film revolves around a recent college graduate Charlotte (Johansson) and an aging actor Bob Harris (Murray) who develop an unorthodox relationship after a chance meeting in a Tokyo hotel.

What’s unique about their friendship:

In spite of a rather dramatic age difference, the two find themselves facing similar struggles, both philosophically and emotionally. Bob and Charlotte are both in unhappy marriages, attempting to cope with the lack of intimacy and compassion that the both deal with from their significant others. But, their relationship isn’t only unique due to their similarities, the connection they share resonates with many and stays with you long after the film reaches a close.