SPOILER WARNING: This retrospective of rivals-turned-right-hands gives away the endings of several movies and crucial details from various TV shows, so we recommend you proceed with caution as you read on.
Is there anything more satisfying in a movie or TV show than when the hero catches the villain? How about when the foes, instead, join forces?
We looked back on some of our favorite examples of when a “good guy" (or at least the main protagonist) combined efforts with a rival they were pitted against (or personally despised) to amazing effect. While many of these epic enemy team-ups come from classic action movies or in great superhero movies, for instance, some come from more surprising genres, but are no less thrilling.
Ah Jong And Li Ying (The Killer)
In 1989’s The Killer, hitman Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) takes one more assignment to afford an operation for a lounge singer he accidentally blinded in a shootout, while Inspector Li Ying (Danny Lee) is hot on his trail. However, after discovering the assassin’s moral character, the cop chooses to help him fight off the gangsters who want him dead, costing him his job, but earning our approval in John Woo's intense action thriller.
Batman And Catwoman (The Dark Knight Rises)
The live-action Batman movies have depicted the vigilante's relationship with Catwoman as -- in addition to flirtatious -- either adversarial (Batman Returns) or advantageous (The Batman), but 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises gives us a mix of both. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) initially catches Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) robbing him, but would have never prevented Gotham’s destruction at the end of Christopher Nolan’s finale without her help.
Billy Butcher And Homelander (The Boys)
Antony Starr’s Homelander may be just the worst and Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher is a bit reckless, but both look pretty good when compared to Jensen Ackles’ Soldier Boy, whom Butcher initially recruits to kill Hoemlander. But, when he harms Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) -- Homelander’s son with Butcher’s late wife -- the end of The Boys Season 3 turns into a stand-off with Soldier Boy at the receiving end of their laser blasts, whose brief alliance puts Solider Boy back in cryo-sleep.
Blade And The Bloodpack (Blade II)
Blade (Wesley Snipes) was born with abilities similar to a vampire, but also an intense grudge against them that he would be forced to set aside in director Guillermo del Toro’s second installment of the Blade movies from 2002. The Marvel character begrudgingly collaborates with a crew of vampires originally formed to kill him called the Bloodpack in order to stop a worse threat feeding on both humans and bloodsuckers known as Reapers.
Blondie And Tuco (The Good, The Bad And The Ugly)
In, arguably, Sergio Leone’s best western movie, 1966's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the “good” refers to Clint Eastwood’s Blondie; the “ugly” refers to Tuco (Eli Wallach), whom Blondie personally delivers to a sheriff at the beginning; and the “bad” is a hitman known as Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef). Each wants to get their hands on buried loot first, but the lawman and the outlaw come out on top after forming an uneasy alliance against the sadistic killer.
Butch Coolidge And Marsellus Wallace (Pulp Fiction)
In the second segment of, arguably, Quentin Tarantino’s best movie -- 1994's Pulp Fiction -- Marsellus (Ving Rhames) chases Butch (Bruce Willis) after he wins a boxing match he promised he would lose, until they both find themselves at the mercy of rapists Zed (Peter Greene) and Maynard (Duane Whitaker). Butch manages to escape, but soon returns with a samurai sword to kill Maynard and interrupt Zed’s violation of Marsellus, making things “cool” between them again.
Clarice Starling And Hannibal Lecter (The Silence Of The Lambs)
In the terrifying Best Picture Oscar winner, 1991's The Silence of the Lambs, FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is certainly intimidated and often intentionally belitted by cannibalistic former psychologist Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), but I would not necessarily called them “enemies." In the end, he is cooperative in assisting with her search for Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) and even she admits he would consider it “rude” to come after her when she learns about his escape.
Daniel LaRusso And Johnny Lawrence (Cobra Kai)
It took decades for Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence's (William Zabka) fierce rivalry in the Karate Kid movies to end. The third season of the acclaimed sequel series, Cobrai Kai — also its first as a Netflix exclusive — saw the martial artists’ common foe, John Kreese (Martin Kove) join the titular dojo, which eventually led them to become partners and even friends.
Danny Ocean And Terry Benedict (Ocean's Thirteen)
Even after stealing $160 million from him, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) convinces Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) to finance his latest scheme in Ocean’s Thirteen. Yet, the casino magnate conspires to do some double-crossing of his own, which Danny, luckily, anticipated from the beginning, leading to a comical twist ending with Danny donating Benedict’s cut of the loot to charity.
Darth Vader And Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi)
The sixth movie in the Star Wars franchise (in order) is less a story of enemies becoming allies, but a family reuniting — namely Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. At the climax of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, Darth Sidious’ (Ian McDiarmid) cruel abuse of the young warrior (Mark Hamill) convinces the Sith Lord to renounce the Dark Side, remove his helmet (revealing Sebastian Shaw as Anakin Skywalker), and have one moment of peace with his son before his death.
Willis Davidge And Jeriba Shigan (Enemy Mine)
In one of the most underrated sci-fi movies of the ’80s, Dennis Quaid is a futuristic space explorer stranded on a dangerous planet with a member of an alien race his people have been at war with for years, played by Louis Gossett Jr. But, Davidge and “Jerry's” relationship evolves from hateful, to a forgiving truce and, eventually, to brotherly in Wolfgang Peterson’s timelessly and heartwarmingly poignant parable, Enemy Mine.
Frank Abagnale Jr. And Carl Hanratty (Catch Me If You Can)
In one of Steven Spielberg’s best movies of the 21st Century so far, Catch Me If You Can, FBI's Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) chases after young con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the 1960s. After their cat-and-mouse game finally ends, Hanratty realizes Frank’s expertise in check fraud would make him a great agent — an offer that comes with a promise of friendship from his former pursuer.
Godzilla And Kong (Godzilla Vs. Kong)
Kong was the clear victor of his first big screen battle with Godzilla, but it was harder to predict who would win in director Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021. By the end of the blockbuster, both won against Mechagodzilla by forming an alliance that will continue in the forthcoming 2024 follow-up, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.
Luke Hobbs And Deckard Shaw (Fast And Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw)
The Fast and Furious movies are, essentially, a series about enemies becoming allies -- especially Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). The former DSS agent and rogue MI6 agent became the stars of their own spin-off in 2019, in which they are thrown together as partners to stop a cybernetically enhanced terrorist (Idris Elba).
Jack Sparrow And Hector Barbossa (Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End)
Seeing Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) join forces with Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) in a last bid for piracy itself seemed like a perfect way to end the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in 2007. However, At World’s End was not that, nor the last time these rivals became reluctant allies — having also searched for the Fountain of Youth together in 2011’s On Stranger Tides and for Poseidon’s Trident in Dead Men Tell No Tales in 2017.
Jerry And Newman (Seinfeld)
Most of Wayne Knight’s funniest moments as Newman on Seinfeld involve his attacks of the eponymous comedian, but Jerry Seinfeld once sought to help his nemesis for a chance to say, “Goodbye, Newman.” Jerry tries to increase Newman’s chances of transferring to Hawaii by taking over his route, which backfires when those people receive more mail than normal.
Captain Kirk And Commander Kang (Star Trek)
Starfleet joining forces with Klingons is nothing surprising today, with Michael Dorn’s Worf as chief of security in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Yet, it was almost completely unheard of on the original series before Season 3's “Day of the Dove,” in which James Kirk (William Shatner) and Commander Kang (Michael Ansara) must work together after their crews are both affected by a conflict-inciting entity.
Scar And Alexa Woods (Alien Vs. Predator)
In the presence of the Alien movies' Xenomorph, you would want a more complex and, overall, totally badass extra-terrestrial like the titular hunter from the Predator movies on your side. "Lex” Woods (Sanaa Lathan) had that advantage in 2004's Alien vs. Predator after earning the respect of visiting Predator, Scar.
Professor X And Magneto (X2: X-Men United, X-Men: Days Of Future Past)
Some of the best X-Men movies see Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (reluctantly) playing for the same team, such as when the telepath (James McAvoy) breaks his former friend (Michael Fassbender) out of prison in 2014’s Days of Future Past. Also, in 2003’s X2, the metal-bender (Ian McKellan) helped the X-Men take on anti-mutant extremist, Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox), who sought to use Professor X (Patrick Stewart) to exterminate others like him.
Raylan Givens And Boyd Crowder (Justified)
U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and career criminal Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) have shared many great moments on Justified that prove they do care for one another. For instance, in the first season finale, the frenemies become embroiled in a woodland shootout that ends with Raylan being saved by Boyd, who calls the lawman “his only friend" before leaving scot free.
Rey And Kylo Ren (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Despite its polarizing fan reception, 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi boasts great lightsaber battles pitting Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) against the slain Snoke's (Andy Serkis) Praetorian Guards. While the Jedi trainee discovered this truce was meant to coerce her into leading the First Order with him, at least they would make-up to take on Palpatine at the end of The Rise of Skywalker.
Rocky Balboa And Apollo Creed (Rocky III)
The first two Rocky movies were all about the rivalry between the eponymous boxer (Sylvester Stallone) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), but everything changed in the third chapter. With Creed’s much-needed help, Rocky regains his title against Clubber Lang (Mr. T), sparking a friendship tragically cut short in the next film, but revived vicariously when Rocky trains Apollo’s child, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), in the Creed movies.
Peter Parker And Harry Osborn (Spider-Man 3)
Harry Osborn (James Franco) as the New Goblin is not quite one of the best Spider-Man movie villains, mainly because most would prefer his heroic turn near the end of Spider-Man 3. Having forgiven Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) for his father's death, he aids him against Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace) and even puts himself in the way of his bladed glider to save his life.
Det. Del Spooner And Sonny (I, Robot)
As a technophobe, I understand why Del Spooner (Will Smith) was quick to suspect the “unique” robot known as Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk) might be a murderer in 2004's I, Robot. Yet, by the end of this underrated futuristic thriller, I actually found myself warmed by the sight of man and machine coming together against the real enemy: a tyrannical A.I. named KIKI.
The Terminator And Sarah Connor (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
Despite being one of the best '80s movie villains, Arnold Schwarzengger's time-traveling killing machine would be seen in a whole new light in 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is, at first, understandably hesitant to trust a duplicate of the cyborg sent to kill her years earlier, which has been programmed to protect her and her son (Edward Furlong).
Thor And Loki (Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok)
The real heart and soul of the Thor movies might actually be Loki (Tom Hiddleston) -- who might also be the first great MCU villain, but the times he aided his brother (Chris Hemsworth) have been equally satisfying. Their truce made for a heartbreaking supposed death for the God of Mischief in 2013’s The Dark World, but their alliance to save Asgard from Hela (Cate Blanchett) in 2017’s Ragnarok spawned some of the most memorably fun moments for either Marvel character.
Walter White And Hector Salamanca (Breaking Bad)
In order to defeat drug kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), meth manufacturer Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was forced to turn to another person who despised him, Hector Salamanca (the late Mark Margolis). Lucky for Walt, Hector hated the Los Pollos Hermanos founder enough to let him rig his wheelchair with an explosive he could detonate when Fring came to visit him in one of the best Breaking Bad episodes, “Face Off."
Marquis Warren And Chris Mannix (The Hateful Eight)
From the moment they meet, it seems that Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) will make up the central rivalry of Quentin Tarantino’s visually remarkable 2015 western. However, in one of the many dazzling twists from The Hateful Eight, the unlikely pair end up being the only ones who can trust each other among the loathsome lot of people they are forced to take shelter with, let alone the only survivors.
Wendell "Bud" White And Edmund "Shotgun Ed" Exley (L.A. Confidential)
This masterful period crime thriller puts an amusing spin on the “good cop, bad cop” dynamic by pairing aggressive "Bud" White (Russell Crowe) with straight-laced Ed Exley (Guy Pearce). While not being able to stand each other for multiple reasons, they end up being the only ones who can get to the bottom of an insidious case of corruption in the LAPD in Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential.
Woody And Buzz (Toy Story)
The groundbreaking animation style of the first, and arguably best, Pixar movie, 1995’s Toy Story, is not all that made it a hit. Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear's (Tim Allen) evolution from bitter rivals of Andy's attention to friends desperate to escape a sadistic toy abuser together is a beautiful, captivating story, no matter the medium.
Sometimes friendship (or, at least, mutual respect and understanding) can come in the most unlikely places, and these 30 pop culture enemy team-up are solid proof.