Jon Land’s Picks: The 10 Best Pairings in the History of Film and Pop Culture

in Fiction by

When Heather Graham and I decided to team up to write The Rising for Tor, we had no idea how the process would work or how well they would be mesh.  But our collaborative effort proved seamless to the point where neither of us is exactly sure who was responsible for what in the finished product. It got so we could finish each other’s sentences. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of the best pairings in the history of film and pop culture in general.  See what you think and then ring in on what else should make the list.


Huckleberry Finn’s “freeing” of his friend the slave Jim, and their subsequent raft-bound trip down the Mississippi, remains the gold standard against which all such pairings should be judged.  Learning from, and sacrificing for, each other defines friendship and love in a way that ushered in the modern age of the novel, even as it signaled the end of innocence for a still young America.


The quintessential buddy movie dominated by the relationship between Paul Newman’s Butch and Robert Redford’s Sundance, as they’re chased through the not-as-old West by a relentless posse.  That relationship strikes all the right notes and lends the movie a light tone that belies the looming darkness personified by the oft-repeated line, “For a minute there, I thought we were in trouble.”


Lethal Weapon basically served up a modern day version of Butch and Sundance here in this pairing of an old-school detective with a younger, unhinged partner.  Their witty banter and byplay highlight Mel Gibson’s Riggs rising from his suicidal funk to become the hero Danny Glover’s Murtaugh needs him to be for both of them to survive.  Their relationship inspired scores of would-be carbon copies and ushered in a new heyday for the cop movie form.


Redford and Newman again dominate this even more classic pairing from THE STING defined by Redford’s young Johnny Hooker luring Newman’s past-his-prime grifter Henry Gondorff out of retirement to con a crime boss out of a fortune.  Male bonding has never been done more effectively, as our two heroes swap secrets and stories in helping to make this one of the best films ever made.


The black-suit clad, hitman duo, so ably played by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, are featured in the two tales that bracket the brilliant PULP FICTION.  In a movie with no heroes, they lend a crass morality and sense of nobility to an ignoble world.  Look, they’re not nice guys, but everything’s relative and the way they judge the world and each other keeps us from judging them.


What can I say?  Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis hit it out of the park in their portrayal of the title characters in a movie way ahead of its time, given that sexual assault is the catalyst that sets everything in motion.  It also defines a relationship that establishes the benchmark for the power of friendship and a love that has nothing to do with sexual attraction.


Speaking of (alleged) sexual attraction, the ultimately tragic friendship between two friends coming of age at a New England prep school remains one of the most enduring in literary history.  A SEPARATE PEACE daringly explores the boundaries between love and that friendship, in crafting a relationship for which our two heroes employ entirely different standards and expectations.


The Director’s Cut of the James Cameron classic ALIENS restored the fact that, by the time the tortured Ellen Ripley got home from clashing with a monster in the original film, her own young daughter had grown old and died.  Returning to the planetary scene of the original crime unites Sigourney Weaver’s classic female bad ass with a surrogate daughter she’s cast with saving, forming both the film’s primary relationship and emotional catalyst.


From quasi-mother and daughter to quasi-father and son in James Fenimore Cooper’s classic Leatherstocking Tales about seeking respite in an American frontier roiled by violence.  Natty Bumpo’s white boy, essentially adopted by a Native American man, was centuries ahead of its time, but right on point in making their relationship a harbinger of hope for an American future that turned out to be remarkably prescient.


Modern crime fiction is chock full of hero-sidekick pairings, including the likes of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell, or Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and Win.  But Hawk’s street wisdom makes for the perfect complement to Spenser’s more esoteric view of the world to the point where they seem both the same, and different, sides of the same coin.  Their friendship, when contrasted against Spenser’s relationship with Susan Silverman, actually seems closer to a marriage.


Did your favorite pairings make the list? Let us know in the comments. You can also read a preview of Jon Land’s latest book, Strong to the Bone below.


Want to be a published writer? Enter our writing contest, where you could become a BookTrib Contributor! Deadline for submissions is January 31, 2018.

Be a BookTrib Ambassador! 
Sign up NOW for our weekly newsletter.



Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels. He graduated from Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude and continues his association with Brown as an alumni advisor. Jon often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research as well as a twenty-five year career in martial arts. He is an associate member of the US Special Forces and frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing. Jon is the Vice-President of marketing of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and is often asked to speak on topics regarding writing and research. In addition to writing suspense/thrillers Jon is also a screenwriter with his first film credit coming in 2005. Jon works with many industry professionals and has garnered the respect and friendship of many author-colleagues. He loves storytelling in all its forms. Jon currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island and loves hearing from his readers and aspiring writers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Go to Top