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Classic Ten – Greatest Sidekicks


Heroes get all the glory, or so they say. But the movies’ long, rich history of scene-stealing sidekicks would suggest otherwise — some heroes just wouldn’t be the same without a constant companion right behind them to save their skin, offer advice or make them look so good. Here are the best of the second bananas:

Duckie.jpg10. Phil “Duckie” Dale
This is what happens when your sidekick is also in love with you: He’s fun, but sometimes too fun because he’s always out to impress. The Duckster (Jon Cryer) is Molly Ringwald’s cross to bear in the ’80s teen classic Pretty in Pink, but he’s ours to cherish. As the film’s goofy, wisecracking, Otis Redding lip-synching dweeb whose crush on Ringwald may be unreciprocated, he still remains true as a friend, no matter how endearingly annoying.

Ratso.jpg9. Ratso Rizzo
Full name: Enrico Salvatore “Ratso” Rizzo. Occupation: Lowlife. Best Friend: Joe Buck, a struggling wannabe hustler. As played by the brilliantly possessed Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (his famous “I’m walkin’ here!” line was ad-libbed at a set-violating cab driver), the short, nervy Ratso seems an unlikely ally for the tall, naïve bumpkin stud, but these two only have each other.

thelmaritter.jpg8. Birdie
From 1950, when she garnered her first Academy Award nomination for Birdie in All About Eve to 1959, when she earned her fifth for Pillow Talk, tough, Brooklyn-accented Thelma Ritter staked her claim as a woman’s best ally on the big screen, a nurse/maid/housekeeper with sass, smarts, and a knowing cynicism that saw right through her charges and into their true desires. Though she never won an Oscar, Ritter will always be in our memories as the reliable “other” woman. Birdie’s her best because it’s her breakthrough.

TonyRandall.jpg7. Jonathan Forbes
Tony Randall, the male counterpart to Thelma Ritter, perfected the shoulder-to-cry-on friend in the Doris Day-Rock Hudson screwball comedies from 1959 to 1964. As Jonathan Forbes in Pillow Talk (probably the greatest of the bunch which just happens to co-star Ritter), he may be the comic relief, instead of the leading man, but as the third wheel he made movies that were already funny that much funnier.

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6. Cato Fong
The history of movies is unfortunately dotted with racist stereotypes, often embodied in the form of buffoonish, inept sidekicks. As bumbling Inspector Clouseau’s manservant/sparring partner in the Pink Panther movies Cato Fong veers dangerously close to Asian caricature, and yet there’s a strange dignity to Cato. Never simply Clouseau’s lackey, he’s a person with his own personal ethic, even if that ethic involved taking more pleasure than necessary in his instructions to catch Clouseau off guard with his kung fu moves.

Robin.jpg5. Robin
There can be no sidekick list without Robin, Batman’s ward and literal wing man, and probably the most famous superhero sidekick of all. Too bad the sole film bearing his name, Joel Schumacher’s universally reviled Batman and Robin, can hardly be considered classic. Instead, we have to return to the 1966’s Batman: The Movie, which featured the cast of the terrifically campy television show. While a debate rages over the “best” Batman, Burt Ward is undoubtedly the iconic Dick Grayson by day, young crime avenger by night.

ShortRound.jpg4. Short Round
“No time for love now, Dr. Jones!” yells Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), Indiana Jones’ youngest but most memorable sidekick from a cycle of films that have seen more than their share of memorable confederates, including John Rhys-Davies, Sean Connery, and Shia LeBouef. The Temple of Doom‘s miniature aide-de-camp manages to keep his rakish boss in line not only with the ladies, but also in his adventures with the baddies, even when he’s being used as rope in a tug of war between two speeding mine cars.

Garth.jpg3. Garth
Yes, it is called Wayne’s World, but what would it be without shy metalhead and scifi geek Garth, Wayne’s best friend and local cable access television show sidekick? Not much, that’s for sure. Every suave extrovert (even one who still lives with his parents) needs an awkward, occasionally hyper introvert to balance the scales, and with his straw-blond mane, old lady glasses and twittering mouth, Dana Carvey’s Garth fulfills the job requirements and then some.

Chewbacca.jpg2. Chewbacca
A furry Wookiee resembling a cross between Bigfoot and an enormous mangy dog (in a suit worn by Peter Mayhew), Chewbacca is the most widely loved of Star Wars‘ diverse universe of supporting species, outclassing Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, and yes, even Jar Jar Binks. Why the fan devotion to a character who communicates only in a language of roars? Well, any friend of cool as a cucumber Han Solo is a friend of ours. Who else gets to say “Chewie is my co-pilot?”

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1. The Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion
It might seem unfair to pit the singular sidekicks of the rest of this list against a virtually indomitable group of three, but The Wizard of Oz‘s trio of lovable losers — each lacking a trait so essential for becoming a well-rounded individual — are the most enduring friends in film history and are unthinkable separate from one another. As interpreted by Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr, respectively, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion pledge their loyalty and are in turn awarded with the very virtues they seek, making their adventure as meaningful as the heroine’s.

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