Great friends are like fresh air, or the first sunny day after months of gloom. We don’t necessarily notice the feel-good hit they bring – but neither could we live without them. On top of that, we have different friends for different seasons. Work pals; travel buddies; the rock-solid lifers; they all play a role in sustaining us.
Given friendship occupies this intangible space – a type of lifeblood that’s hard to describe – it’s hardly surprising that the screen world doesn’t always get it right. Historically, films have relied on frustrating tropes: women fighting in wedding aisles over men; competitive men who get smashed or murder together, but minus a deeper bond.
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However, thank the screenwriting gods that be: because with streamed TV setting a new standard in originality and pathos, certain shows are finally nailing what this friendship lark is all about. With drama series – and cinema, too – reaching fresh heights, we’re starting to see more friendships on-screen that we can actually relate to. And, of course, there are a few golden oldies that have got it right all along, too.
Here are just a few of our favourite on-screen pairings that reflect the spark, the stoicism and the sheer unhampered silliness of life’s greatest friendships.
Tom and Donna – Parks and Recreation
Treat. Yo. Self. isn’t just a widely popular meme – it’s also the essence of what draws Tom and Donna together, in the beloved series Parks & Recreation. If you haven’t seen it yet, this show is like soup for the soul; it’s brimming with beautiful, and unlikely, friendships. And Tom and Donna’s annual ode to all things luxury – massages, mimosas, fine leather goods – has to count among the top all-time of genius friendship rituals.
Lorelai and Sookie – Gilmore Girls
One’s a whip-smart single mum and hotel manager, the other’s a hapless, but hugely talented, chef. Lorelai and Sookie’s bond in Gilmore Girls is the kind of non-judgemental friendship that dreams are made of. They know each other inside out, and Sookie can always distract Lorelai from her stressier moments with her infamous peach sauce, her mud pies or (our personal fave), her jalapeno-chipotle macaroni and cheese. Even on the rare occasion when they’re mad at each other – which is hard, as Sookie’s so damn chilled and kind – they always sort it out.
Agents Murphy and Peña – Narcos
One of the world’s most dangerous cities at the height of Pablo Escobar’s reign is hardly an ideal stage for friendship; not least because life is cheap. But then again DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Peña are no ordinary agents, in this dark and gripping Netflix series. Between hunting down Colombia’s most violent cocaine traffickers, these two have each others’ back – with mutual respect, and a deep affection that lasts through thick and thin.
Cher and Dionne – Clueless
Given they’re both Bettys, and both totally bitchin’, it makes sense that Cher and Dionne go together like high school and a yellow plaid skirt. As Cher herself says, these two are pals “because we both know what it’s like to have people be jealous of us”. The struggle is real. Whatever life throws at them – loqued-out Jeeps, toe-up new girls, a ruined Alaïa dress – Cher and Dionne are in (mostly) perfect synchrony. Even sex – read: going from technical to non-existant virginity – isn’t enough to get between these girls for long.
Annie and Lillian – Bridesmaids
Let’s face it, once you’ve pooed in front of your best mate in a wedding dress, you’re pals for life. Bur Annie and Lillian were buddies way before things went down the pan (quite literally) in Bridesmaids. Everything about their friendship in this irresistible comedy is relatable and joyous, from their hilarious one-night stand replays to their goofy 90s dance routines. The film even gets it spot-on when it comes to friendship jealousy; and how an argument with your best bud can make it feel like the world is falling apart.
Phoebe and Joey – Friends
Granted, all the friends are amazing friends in Friends (how many times can we say it in one sentence? The contest begins). But Phoebe and Joey have some of the best – and most underrated – chemistry of the lot. She teaches him French and tries to be his agent. He gives her the perfect kiss and even gives up meat for her (OK, it doesn’t last – but that’s a big ask from steak-loving Mr. Tribbiani). Even their personalities are weirdly complementary. They’re both laid-back and loveable. They have their values – Phoebe’s a hippy, Joey’s kinda lazy – but neither take themselves too seriously. Could they *be* any more perfectly imperfect?
Miriam and Susie – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Little Ms Perfect, aka Miriam Maisel, isn’t an obvious friend for straight-talking Susie. The two come opposite sides of the track, with Miriam’s Upper East Side sheen anathema to someone like Susie, who struggles to make rent and has zero interest in clothes. But give these two a bottle of whiskey in a West Village haunt come midnight, and they’ll be buddies for life. From the moment they meet when Susie bails Miriam out of jail after a drunken bender, this is a friendship rooted in all the best things in life: filthy humour, breaking rules, and a grudging respect for what the other does best. An agent-talent relationship has never looked sweeter; especially with their shared desire to not just smash ceilings, but create bloodied carnage in the process.
Thelma & Louise
The greatest test of friendship is surely a pal who’s willing to take a bullet for you; which Louise all but does when she signs her own death sentence in this cracking cult classic. Louise unwittingly helps Thelma out of a dead-end marriage, and saves her from a rapist en-route. Thelma repays the favour by robbing a convenience store, as well as teaching Thelma a little bit about living in the moment. Suffice to say, it’s a bit too guns ‘n’ petrol for a conventional friendship. But who needs normality when you can have a bond forged on feminism, fun – and the fresh scent of revenge? Someone grab us a Thunderbird convertible…
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