I know, I know, you can’t take it anymore (jump to the 1:31 mark; © Squintz).
It’s been a week of flipping through channels and biting nails, anxiety flooding through you as you wondered whether your theatrical bromance would be worthy of the top 10.
Well who am I to keep you waiting any longer? Nobody really, but I’m going to do it anyway because I wanted to give some qualifiers and some honorable mentions first.
Qualifiers: any list worth its salt needs some ground rules. Here’s my mostly arbitrary list.
- Spawn: You can tell the strength of a good bromance (or any movie for that matter) by the repetitive rip-off of the formula. So, I’ve included those movies with similar plot lines in the same spot on the list with the award going to the best of the group. I hope you’ll agree that the best are often the least spawn-able.
- Love is the Answer: As I selected these bromances I was reminded of John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I think that the best bromances always deal with characters who are challenged to lay down their lives for their friends.
- Man of a Certain Age: I’m only 31, so I realize I am leaving out approximately 70 years of great movies and that most of ours will be from the ‘80s and ‘90s. That said, all the emails I got seemed to fall within that same span, and maybe it’s just the case that the bromance has emerged, like a beautiful orchid, within the past 30 years.
- Watchability: Last but not least, we have to include the likelihood of this movie in question preventing us from going to bed until 2:07 AM (7 minutes added to brush tears from eyes and chips from shirt) to finish watching. On to the honorable mentions!
Honorable Mentions: all of these were hard to leave out for one reason or another. But listen, it’s a prestigious list, and Jake and Elwood shouldn’t feel bad about missing out on the top 10.
- Dumb and Dumber
- Tommy Boy
- All the Super Hero-Buddy Movies like the Avengers, the Batman movies (the ones with Robin especially), and all the X-Men movies
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- The Blues Brothers
- The Sandlot
Thanks for participating and congrats on your honorable mentions, you guys – but now it’s time for the headliners.
10. Three Men and a Baby (1987) – Terrible. Movie. The hi-jinx wasn’t that hi-jinxy and the plot was a little silly (yeah, you’re right, it was a lot silly). The director? Best known for playing Spock. And yet I remember seeing this movie in the theaters with my mother (dang nostalgia) when I was seven. That alone means it makes the list. To this day, if it is on I’ll watch the first half hour with no regrets (ok, with some regrets).
Bromantic Moment – It’s all about the bonding between Tom Selleck, Tom Selleck’s mustache, Ted Danson, and that other guy. It happens when these 3 bros demonstrate their incompetence while trying to change a diaper, and it’s a moment that makes this a mandatory inclusion on any bromance list. They grow from boys to men in one tender, poop-filled moment in time. Still gets to me.
9. Ferris Buehler’s Day Off (1986) – A movie best known for Matthew Broddrick’s hi-jinx (fake sickness, singing danke-schoen, the Cubs game) became a bromance for me when our editor-in-chief, Paddy Gilger, SJ, pointed out bond between Ferris and Cameron. In a sappy, nostaligic way, it reminds me of my friendship with this guy.
Bromantic Moment – Pick one: Cameron debating whether to acquiesce to playing hooky. Cameron on the phone with the Principal trying protect Ferris. But, as Gilger points out, something happens to Cameron at the Art museum, and that something is finally made manifest in Cameron’s most famous line. Standing in front of his dad’s car he proclaims: “I am not going to sit on my [butt] as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.”
I always think that good bromances push me to be a little more AMDG-esque. Ferris shoves Cameron off the ledge of comfort and Cameron smacks his head against every branch on the long fall down to being a man. In a not entirely dissimilar way I got shoved (err… discerned) into thinking more seriously about being a Jesuit. In my Cameron-esque way, I have John Hughes, Ferris, and, of course, Gilger to thank for the nudge.
8. Lethal Weapon (1987) – Cop buddy movie featuring a pre-crazy Mel Gilbson and the great Danny Glover! I’m in. Plus it’s about blowing up stuff and catching bad-guys. This has bromance all over it.
Bromantic Moment – Nothing says vulnerability like permitting your BFF to pull you off a toilet laden with C41. But the moment that drives home the bromance is when Riggs reveals that he’s thought of committing suicide (54 second mark). No joking about that. And it’s only when Riggs lets someone into his life that the trust, and bromance, really builds.
7. Roommates (1995) – Not to put too fine a point on it, but the relationship is the story. Set in Pittsburgh, Roommates stars Peter Faulk and DB Sweeney, and deals with a 12-year-old orphan being adopted by his grandfather. Way more watchable than Three Men and a Baby because the relationship feel more organic, and we can all relate to a cantankerous old grandfather and a precocious kid.
Bromatic Moment – It’s the moment when the Grandfather moves in with Grandson while he’s off at medical school. That’s when the movie shifts from a role model movie to a bro-model movie. After marital-jealousy (sure sign that we’re in bromance territory) threatens to break their bond apart, the Grandson’ wife dies suddenly. It’s then that Grandpa pulls through by helping to raise his great-grandchildren. I’m never comfortable with the ”jealous of the new woman” routine, but I love this intergenerational bromance that teaches us to put everything aside for the ones we love.
Its Spawn – Up, which is actually a better movie… wait a minute, why didn’t I choose that? Oh well, moving on.
6. Dead Poet’s Society (1989) – Thanks to Dr. Ziad Khoueir for the suggestion. It’s a great one.2 I’m sure all of you alums of Jesuit high schools had this one on your personal lists as well. Because we all know that there is nothing like the bromantic relationship between a student and his mentor.
Bromantic Moment – Three very poignant scenes that build on each other:
- Carpe Diem.
- Robin Williams convinces Ethan Hawke that he has the heart of a poet.
- O Captain, My Captain. Every teacher dreams that they can have the sort of impact on their students that Williams did in this movie. He taught them to dream, to love, and, most importantly, “to live deeply and suck out all the marrow of life” (© Henry David Thoreau). These are the essentials of a good bromance.
Its Spawn – Good Will Hunting, Scent of a Woman, The Emperor’s Club, Swing Kids, School Ties and Mona Lisa Smile (Obviously not a bromance, but it carries the same vibes… maybe it’s DPS for women? Am I out of line here?)
5. Scent of a Woman (1992) – Another mentor-student movie in the Good Will Hunting/DPS vein, this seems like it’s in a class of its own. With a plot that centers on a prep-school boy who faces an ethical decision regarding his future and the relationship he builds with a blind, retired army lieutenant, this is a movie I just cannot turn off no matter how tired I am.
Bromantic Moment – Too many to name. Because I’m feeling generous (actually because I love writing this because it means I get to watch awesome YouTube videos for four hours), here are two for watching, and one more for thinking about.
- Al Pacino dances the tango with Gabrielle Anwar (you’ll recognize a young Chris O’Donnell as the wingman).
- Chris O’Donnell helps a blind Pacino drive a Ferrari.
- The speech. Of course it’s the speech. This is when Pacino offers a thunderous defense of O’Donnell’s character. While very few friends are ever asked to give a public character testimony for their BFF, Pacino rose to the occasion when it was demanded of him. Not even Peter (or Judas for that matter) had the stones to publicly vouch for their buddy Jesus. In this profound act of valor, Pacino cracks our calloused hearts open to the love story that is the bromance.
Its Spawn – Similar to DPS and its spawn. And it might be a stretch, but I’ll include Karate Kid here too.
4. The Mission (1986) – I know what you’re thinking: you knew this was going to be on here because I’m a Jesuit. But I didn’t even pick this one! I was sent in by Mr. Quang Tran (who may or not also be a Jesuit…). Regardless, this movie is set in the 18th century, and tells the story of missionary Jesuits working amongst the native Guarani in what is present-day Peru. Robert DeNiro plays a converted slave trader who, after letting his wrath get the best of him, has a conversion of heart, joins the Jesuits, and tries to reorient his life to the service of others and of Christ.
Bromantic Moment – I think Quang captured the moment of friendship perfectly when he sent along this clip. The most authentic bromances integrate the relationship between two bros with their respective relationships to God. It’s the kind of bonding that allows for fear, joy, pain, and forgiveness. My Mom (amongst other experts) claims that that’s the secret to a great marriage. I believe her, and think that the same holds true for a legendary bromance.
3. Brian’s Song (1971) – An all-time classic, and it’s no surprise because we’re getting into heated competition in the top three. Brian’s Song is the true story of the friendship that emerged between Chicago Bear’s running backs Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers as Piccolo succumbs to cancer. Their bromance is incredible. Not only did it transcend the color barrier, it also models Sayer supporting Piccolo as he approaches the moment of death. This movie even gets extra bromance points for featuring one of the baddest dudes of all time: this guy.
Bromantic Moment – I hardly ever cry, but I cried through this whole movie. I mean c’mon! Just watch this scene. Or this one. Both are endearing and enduring, but for me it’s the hospital scene that most typifies the bromance because it brings up all the similarities with those who’ve had to carry on after the death of a great friend (not to belabor the point, but Peter and Jesus anybody?). My advice: Just watch it already.
Its Spawn – Remember the Titans (especially the relationship between Bertier and Campbell), and the famous Rocky & Apollo montages in both Rocky III and Rocky IV. Don’t worry, I found both the Rocky III and Rocky IV montages for you.
2. Field of Dreams (1989) – If you think it’s a movie about baseball, then I am sorry to say that you are mistaken. This is really a movie about trust and risk. It revolves around an Iowa farmer who risks everything (family, home, farm) on the command of a mysterious voice, the trust his wife puts in him, and his quest to find (and create) something bigger than himself.
Bromantic Moment – They come “so thick you have to brush them away from your face.” And it’s because Ray Kinsella’s bromance is not with just Terrence Mann or Shoeless Joe Jackson or even Moonlight Graham. Instead, the whole movie leads to the culmination of that one bromance moment that every boy yearns for: playing catch with your father. So much is said without needing to be said in that back and forth toss that I feel like I need to shut up for a second.
But before moving on I’ve got to say that this movie can also be read as one man listening to the way that God is asking him to build the kingdom of heaven – not coincidentally it’s a slice of heaven that helps his dad find redemption as well.
Its Spawn – It’s an original. And thank God.
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – I get a little verklempt just writing the word Zihuatanejo, and we all know why. I think that Shawshank is the most sophisticated presentation of male friendship even seen on the silver screen. When banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is imprisoned for allegedly killing his wife he befriends Red (Morgan Freeman). Dufresne and Red have 20 long years to build their friendship before Andy completes his tunnel through the walls of the prison and escapes through a “river of $#!^ smelling foulness.”
Bromantic Moment – Even in a movie that won’t spawn imitators because it’s just too difficult to imitate, only one moment is the the one. It’s when the camera slowly pans out to show Red walking barefoot, his pants slightly rolled, along the bone white beach toward Andy. Every time I am overwhelmed at that shot. It’s an experience where the calm joy of reunion with a best friend and the promise of an extraordinary journey on the high seas are rolled into one. A perfect moment. A moment when hope is realized and world of possibilities still stretches out ahead. I think all great bromances hang on that combination of hope and adventure.
In fact, I think Andy’s letter to Red says it best: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
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