I thought about doing a list of the best characters, but realized that so many of the great characters this year came in pairs. Whether it was for comedy purposes, romantic, or dramatic purposes, this year really gave us a bunch of fantastic character duos to sink our teeth into. By the way, there will be no Batman or Superman on this list…you’re welcome.
This list will just focus on the films that were released in the US in 2016. Now, on to #10….
10. Nadine & Mr. Bruner – The Edge of Seventeen
Some great character duos aren’t necessarily the main focus in a film, but provide the best moments and biggest laughs. That was certainly the case with our main protagonist Nadine and her history teacher Mr. Bruner. Nadine is going through a lot in this surprisingly great high-school dramedy, and she tends to go to her history teacher for guidance much to his neglect. Mr. Bruner just wants to be alone, but Nadine keeps annoyingly bothering him with her problems. Played brilliantly by both Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, the two actors really light up the screen. Their back and forth jibber-jabber is very amusing to watch and provide some of the biggest laughs in the entire film. Even though Mr. Bruner was very cruel to Nadine, you can tell he really cared for her.
9. Ben & Trevor – The Fundamentals of Caring
In one of the most underrated films of 2016, Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts anchor a film that could have easily been bland and forgettable into something much more wonderful and charming. Roberts gives one of my favorite performances of the year as an 18-year-old handicapped kid with muscular dystrophy, and Rudd gives one of his best performances in years as a former writer turned caregiver with a dark past. Both actors are able to embrace the sorrow in their characters, but still able to provide enough dry wit to really create a steady amount of humor when they’re together. These characters both needed each other for completely different reasons and with that earned them a spot on this list.
8. Tony Stark & Steve Rogers – Captain America: Civil War
The MCU films have teased the political differences between these two characters ever since The Avengers, and in Civil War we finally got this on full display. The great thing about their disagreements were there’s never a clear side on who to root for who was right. The Russo Brothers allowed you to decide on who was right, and in the process created a lot of intrigue that lasted all the way to the heart-pumping grand finale. This character duo was more against each other than my previous two finalists, but was still fascinating and intriguing to behold. I am interested to see more from these two characters in the following installments of the MCU franchise.
7. Judy Hopps & Nick Wilde – Zootopia
Zootopia was certainly a big surprise. An animated film released early in the year, but with its brilliant script and gorgeous animation, has since only gained momentum toward awards season. The heart of the film was the infamous duo of Judy Hopps, a rookie police officer, and the sly con-man (con-fox?) Nick Wilde. Almost like Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, this duo began as enemies, but ended up as best buddies. I loved every second these two characters were on-screen. They almost felt like an elder married couple at times continuing to nag on one another. If there’s gonna be a Zootopia 2, than I hope these two characters will be front and center together.
6. Moana & Maui – Moana
From one great animated film to another. Moana was another beautifully animated film that offered fantastic music and two great lead characters. This is a duo that wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but nevertheless was still very enjoyable and a treat to watch on-screen. These two characters are very memorable and voiced perfectly by Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. They were more like a brother-sister relationship than the standard male-female love interests that we see in a lot of Disney movies which is something I really respected.
5. Lee & Patrick – Manchester by the Sea
What I loved so much about this duo was, much like the duo in The Fundamentals of Caring, how unlikely they were, but really needed each other for different reasons. They kind of were just accidentally thrown together after an unfortunate incident, but their bond slowly became something beautiful to behold. I thought their relationship was the heart and soul of the film, and that’s why it landed at #5 on my list. Also two career-defining performances from an experienced actor in Affleck, and an up-and-coming actor in Hedges.
4. Richard & Mildred – Loving
Loving is based on the real-life civil rights case Loving vs. Virginia, that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. It is a beautiful film directed by Jeff Nichols, and performed perfectly by both Joel Edgerton and Ruth Nega as the influential interracial married couple. Their relationship is very inspiring on how throughout all the obstacles and setbacks, they were still able to stay true to their love for one another. At times heartfelt and at times heartbreaking, this is one character duo that deserves a spot on this list, and more importantly is a real life event that deserves to be remembered throughout American history.
3. Holland March & Jackson Healy – The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys is a great film directed and written by the one and only Shane Black. Like a lot of his films tend to do, the movie revolves around an unlikely pair of misfits. This is easily the best comedic duo of the year, and the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is so fun and exciting to watch. Not only is the dialogue being said by the two so fantastic, but the physical comedy between one another is what makes them stand out. I could see a whole television series with these two as the leads. The best duo Black has written since Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon series.
2. Hec & Ricky – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Much like the previous selection, if this duo did not work than the whole movie would have failed. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is another underrated gem written and directed by Taika Waititi. I would say this is the most unexpectedly great duo I’ve seen this year. I was very surprised how great the two actors were in the roles, and how well they jelled as a duo. Much like my #5 selection, these are two characters who were kind of forced upon each other after an unfortunate incident, but the movie really evolves into something special when they are together and forced to carry the rest of the film. Their relationship offered the perfect balance of comedy and drama and I adored every second they were together on screen.
1. Sebastian & Mia – La La Land
It really says something when, even though I’ve only seen this movie once, I still remember the two character’s names without having to look on IMDB. This film is so well-made and memorable, but when it all comes down to it, its main focus was the relationship between our two leads. These two characters are very likable, relatable, and fleshed out. Because of the great chemistry between Gosling and Stone this movie really worked on many different levels. They made a great comedic, dramatic, and of course romantic duo. Here’s to Sebastian & Mia, and other dreamers everywhere!