When most men hear about the latest Katherine Heigl film or see an ad for a film like The Vow, they know that the only way they’re likely to see those films is if dragged to it on a date. Yes, we know, it can be a cliché to say that “real men” don’t like these movies; that said, many of the most popular “guy” movies of all time are secretly – or not so secretly – the stories of one man’s love and respect for another. So for this Valentine’s Day, let’s give credit to films that embrace how men can love other men–yes, the bromance film.
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love
One of the most interesting things about 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love is how it subverts some expectations about the romantic comedy. Here Steve Carell’s Dan Weaver starts the film learning that his wife (Julianne Moore) wants a divorce and recently had an affair. To cope with being newly single, Dan goes to a bar and keeps seeing Ryan Gosling’s Jacob Palmer, and eventually asks for help in trying to meet women. Though both have sex with other ladies, Jacob has his eye on Hannah (Emma Stone), and eventually they start dating. But that’s not the end of the film, as the film has a third act reveal that complicates Jacob’s relationships with both Hannah and Dan. Crazy, Stupid, Love’s plot hinges on the relationship between Dan and Jacob, and the third act misunderstanding is the classic “break up” scene of a romantic comedy. It’s their bond that is more important (in cinematic terms) than their respective relationship dramas. But with the end hinging on the two of them returning to a friendship, the “romance” has more to do with them than the women of their lives.
4. The Killer
Though John Woo’s film is often celebrated as one of the greatest action films of all time (deservedly so), it’s worth noting that though the main character Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) has a love interest, the movie is not about the two of them forming a loving bond, but between the killer Jong, and the cop (Danny Lee) who’s chasing him. The two start the film at odds, and both become impressed with each other during their multiple encounters until they’re forced to work together. And, at the end, when one is shot to death, it’s the other who’s so gripped with emotion at their loss that they kill in cold blood. These two understand each other in a way that no one else can.
3. The Shawshank Redemption
In a film with very few women in it to begin with, it’s easy to attach too much significance to overt overtones (which Frank Darabont masterfully avoids). That said, it’s worth noting that Shawshank is about the friendship and love between Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman). The two grow old together, come to count on each and have certain rituals. And when Andy is sent into the hole, Red makes sure he has a lot of presents for him when he gets out. If the two of them reuniting on the beach isn’t the happy end to a love story, I don’t know what is.
2. Rocky III
In the third installment of the Rocky Franchise, our main character Mr. Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has to team with his old rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to train to beat Clubber Lang (Mr. T), here the film becomes about their partnership after Rocky loses his corner man Mickey (Burgess Meredith). As the film concludes after the two have trained and run on the beach together, the two enter the ring again for fun to have a final contest to see who is the better man/boxer. One could argue the first three films are a trilogy to see the two finally coming together.
1. The Wild Bunch
In westerns, the men (whether good or bad) live by a code and The Wild Bunch’s Pike Bishop (William Holden) and Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine) want to – in Peckinpah’s terms – go to their house justified. But these gang members love each other, as they decide the only way they can go out is a hail of bullets. When former gang member turned forced-lawman Deke Thorton (Robert Ryan) finds their bodies, all he wishes is that he could have been there with them. He wanted to – as they did – live as they died, together.
What films that are typically called “manly” do you think are really about love?