If a screenplay writer or any kind of storyteller wants to captivate us for the duration of their story, one of the key elements they must incorporate into their word play is: characters we can relate to and care about. These characters have to be flawed and in desperate need of change, especially in their relationships with each other. The reader must find these characters interesting and captivating. After that is taken care of, when a film is made, the actors in the film have to take the writer’s words and turn them into natural, real people we can see and believe. The relationships in the film have to be complicated, enthralling and real. The performers must play off of one another seamlessly in order to take us on an emotional roller coaster that will have us coming back for more.

Some actors in our time have had such addicting on screen chemistry that their characters deserve to be on a list. So, here are ten silver screen relationships that will live on forever.

To make this list clearer, I organized it by category.

Comedic Love Relationship

Harry and Sally from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (1989)

When-Harry-Met-Sally
Nora Ephron has to be on this list because when it comes to building unforgettable and entertaining on screen interactions through dialogue, her screenplays are second to none. “When Harry Met Sally” is one of those films that comes on television and the next thing you know, you’ve watched the entire picture again without even noticing. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s complicated “friendship” through the years in this film is timeless. They have such a beautifully awkward chemistry that we are slamming our fists on the sofa pillows, frustrated that they won’t just get together. Harry and Sally teach us a thing or two about our own friendships.

Family Relationship

Tom Joad and John Casy from ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (1940)

The-Grapes-of-Wrath
This one is a bit of a no brainer as far as I am concerned. John Carradine’s performance as the spiritually confused reverend Casy hits hard in John Ford’s vision of the Steinbeck novel. His relationship with Henry Fonda as Tom Joad evolves so beautifully on screen that we not only see the friendship evolve through the impossible times the film depicts but we feel it, too. In all honesty, Jane Darwell and the rest of the cast that makes up the Joad family take the screenplay and put so much humility and love into their roles that we might as well be in the old jalopy with them; one big struggling family in the depression.

Relationship with a Volley Ball

Chuck Noland and Wilson the Volleyball from ‘Cast Away’ (2000)

Cast-Away
 
When was the last time you recall crying over a lost volley ball after the age of ten? It is almost impossible not to get choked up when Chuck desperately tries to swim for the friend he, quite literally, made, stranded on that tiny Island in Zemeckis’ “Cast Away.”.

Hats off to Tom for putting so much life into an inanimate object that we care so much for its wellbeing. Well-done Mr. Hanks, there is a reason you are one of the most important actors today.

Old-Yeller

Man and Animal Relationship

Travis and Yeller from ‘Old Yeller’ (1957)

This is still one of the hardest films for me to watch. There is something about relationships with animals that puts my insides in an extremely fragile state. The bond between Tommy Kirk and Spike the dog (Old Yeller) is one of the most legendary movie duos of all time. This is the most widely received movie of man’s best friend that we have and it is over 50 years old.

Mother and Daughter Relationship

Little Edie and Big Edie from ‘Grey Gardens’ (2009)

Grey-Gardens
“Grey Gardens” (2009) was made for HBO and stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. Never have I seen a film go so deep into the complicated inner workings of the mother and daughter dynamic. Possibly, Drew Barrymore’s best performance to date, her and Jessica Lange carry this film into legendary. The story of Jackie Onassis’ odd aunt and first cousin hiding away in their estate as it falls down around them is interesting as it is, but the way we care for little Edie and can relate the fears of Big Edie to our own families is all accredit to these two actresses. They shine on screen, together.

Relationship out of Necessity

Ratso and Joe Buck from ‘Midnight Cowboy’ (1969)

Midnight-Cowboy
 
Talk about a strange pair. Jon Voight, in his first film, and Dustin Hoffman in John Schlesinger’s “Midnight Cowboy” are definitely a case of opposites attracting.

This is a film that, in my opinion, if it were not for the amazing performances could have been overlooked. Ratso and Joe are two men you would never expect to become such close friends but their companionship drives this story of two guys not fitting the mold but surviving together. Hoffman and Voight make this one a classic.

Complicated Working Relationship

The-Silence-of-the-Lambs

Detective Starling and Dr. Lector from ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)

As terrifying as the majority of this film is, the most gruesome and unnerving parts are the exchanges between Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector. Five Oscars and a seat as one of the scariest films ever made, Clarice and Dr. Lector’s relationship was responsible for our understanding of pure evil, served with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Employer/Employee Relationship

Driving-Miss-Daisy

Hoke and Miss Daisy from ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ (1989)

“Driving Miss Daisy” is another case of opposites attracting but in a time when opposites were extremely segregated. Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, who won an Oscar for her role, play two characters from different worlds coming into the sunset years of their lives. Come to find out, they still have a lot to learn and a lot to teach each other. Their time together makes us laugh, think and grow over and over again.

Timeless Love Relationship

Isla and Rick from ‘Casablanca’ (1942)

Casablanca

What can I really say about this film? Africa, Nazis, espionage, and Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart smack dab in the middle. This, one of the most famous stories of all time, is certainly relationship driven. “Casablanca” will never be forgotten and film nerds like myself will probably be going on and on about it for the next fifty years or longer. Isla and Rick are the lovers we all want to be and we feel every bit of their pain and frustration throughout the duration of the film. “Here’s looking at you, awesomeness.”

Much Needed Father Figure Relationship

Lt. Col. Frank Slade and Charlie Simms from ‘Scent of a Woman’ (1992)

Scent-of-a-Woman
You want to be educated on how to live as a man lives? There is no one better to take notes from than Al Pacino. If you want to up the stakes, make him blind and have the vessel on the journey to adulthood a pretty-faced, innocent, Chris O’Donnell when he still had a promising career ahead of him. A surprise from director Martin Brest, “Scent of a Woman” is THE quintessential coming of age tale of a good to do boy who falls in with a worldly, but jaded and cold Colonel and their growth as human beings, together. This is certainly one I can watch again and again and it is Al and Chris’ fault.

There are my picks for the most important on screen relationships. There are plenty more amazing examples of actors portraying families and friendships that are remarkable and I know I have missed most of them. This list is just to start the conversation with some, widely known, ones.

Relationships are the main focus of movies because they are the main focus of human life. We like to watch films that we can relate to and take something from and the movies with the best characters are the ones we latch onto and immerse ourselves in. When it stops being a movie with actors and a script and starts being life, unfolding on screen, in front of our eyes, is when we know we are watching something truly magical.

OTHER GREAT FILM RELATIONSHIPS

Ms. Scarlett and Rhet Butler from ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939)
Ben Quick and Clara Varner from ‘The Long, Hot Summer’ (1958)
Thelma and Louise from ‘Thelma and Louise’ (1991)
Hannah and McCauley from ‘Heat’ (1995)
Garp and his family from ‘The World According to Garp’ (1982)
Anna and the King from ‘The King and I’ (1956)
The Joker and Batman from ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
Will and Dr. Maguire from ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997)
Forrest and Lt. Dan from ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994)
Tyler and Caroline from ‘Remember Me’ (2010)
James and Sarah from ‘Children of a Lesser God’ (1986)
Jon and Esther from ‘Don Jon’ (2013)

Who would make your 10 Timeless Silver Screen Relationships or be an addition to the list of Other Great Film Relationships, and why? Tell the world all about it in the comments section (below the Author’s box).

 

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THAN NILES

THAN NILES

Writer, producer, filmmaker, videographer, co-founder & partner at Big Balloon Productions (bigballoonpro.com) |
Likes: Making friends with werewolves |
Dislikes: Smiley fish. So... creepy

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