The best pop culture duos of 2017
Pop culture is nothing without the sparks that fly between characters – whether we’re talking about the glowing embers of an old friendship, the electric crackle of a new romance, or the destructive blaze of a longtime grudge.
But the very best of these pairings are more than the sum of their parts. The characters in them push each other to new heights, or illuminate new depths.
Some of them are fun to watch, and some of them are horrifying to behold (but, you know, still in a fun way). All of them earned a special place in our hearts and stayed there long after the credits rolled. Behold, the best pairings of 2017.
1. Batman & the Joker (The Lego Batman Movie)
Like everything else about The Lego Batman Movie, the Batman-Joker dynamic feels both familiar and fresh. We’ve seen this twisted co-dependence in almost every version of their story, but it’s never been so sweet before.
2. Madeline & Celeste (Big Little Lies)
Everyone needs a Madeline – that friend who’s maybe a little bit too eager to get all up in your business, but that you also know will go to bat for you without hesitation when the time comes.
3. Logan & Charles (Logan)
These two have been through hell and back together, and it shows in their relationship, which is as rough and worn as Logan’s sun-baked skin – and just as impossible to break. There’s real love between them at the core. It’s just buried under layers of regret, resentment, and disappointment.
4. Hobbs & Deckard (The Fate of the Furious)
Cute isn’t a word you’d probably think to apply to two beefy bald badasses. But there’s really no other word for the little bond they develop. They’re so cute together, in fact, that there’s already a spinoff in the works about them – and if we’re being really honest, we’re already more excited for it than we are for Fast 9.
5. David & Walter (Alien: Covenant)
It’s not every day you get a movie in which Michael Fassbender makes out with himself after telling himself he’ll “do the fingering.” These android doppelgangers are fascinated and repulsed by each other in equal measure. The biggest point of disconnect? Their differing opinions on whether the human race deserves to survive. (Gulp.)
6. Diana & Steve (Wonder Woman)
A superhero movie romance that’s actually worth rooting for? Believe it. Wonder Woman cast two perfectly matched leads in Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, and then gave them time and space they needed to fall in love – and to make us fall in love with them, too. Which, of course, just made that bittersweet climax all that more devastating.
7. Jimmy & Chuck (Better Call Saul)
There are toxic families, and then there are the McGill brothers. Whatever affection Chuck and Jimmy once shared has long been burned away by years of jealousy and resentment, leaving each man’s soul immeasurably worse for the wear. This year, their mutual antagonism finally came to a full boil, with devastating and definitive consequences.
8. Mija & Okja (Okja)
Never mind that Mija and Okja are two different species. These two share a mutual understanding that’s one of the rare pure things in a world that’s short on empathy and long on suspicion. Theirs is an unbreakable bond that transcends distance and language, and feels worth every sacrifice they’re forced to make along the way.
9. Kumail & Emily (The Big Sick)
The details are soap-opera dramatic from a distance: the cultural divide, the disapproving parents, the life-threatening illness. The real appeal, though, lies in how cozy and lived-in this onscreen courtship feels – probably because the film was drawing from Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with the real Emily.
10. Issa & Molly (Insecure)
Even with a rotation (“ho-tation”) of men on the hella L.A. millennial comedy, Insecure‘s beating heart is the friendship between Issa and Molly. They disagree plenty on life goals and singledom, but each day they learn how better to respect and support each other. What can we rely on in our twenties if not the companionship of a true bestie? – Proma Khosla
11. Matt & Jessica (The Defenders)
The only thing better than the cat-and-mouse game that occupies these two in the early episodes of The Defenders is the spiky friendship that develops between them in the later episodes. Apparently, lone wolves can learn to hunt together.
12. William & Elizabeth & Olive (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women)
Yes, we said “pairings.” However, William, Elizabeth, and Olive refused to be bound by the rules so we won’t worry too much about them either. Professor Marston upended the usual “lonely asshole genius” biopic formula to center on a romance so powerful, it gave rise to a superheroine who’s basically the personification of love itself.
13. Randall & Beth (This Is Us)
When we grow up, we want a marriage like Randall and Beth’s: supportive, playful, sexy, and – above all else – honest, even when the truth hurts. Neither one of them is perfect or puts the other up on a pedestal, and they’re not afraid to call each other on their BS, creating one of the most realistic, loving and aspirational relationships on TV. – Laura Prudom
14. Claire & Jamie (Outlander)
There’s probably no relationship on the big or small screen more tumultuous than Claire and Jamie Fraser’s. After a 20-year separation, the two found their way back together in Season 3 of the Starz drama and are trying to relearn each other after decades of distance, navigating their own jealousy and insecurities while still maintaining the trust and respect that made us fall for them in the first place. They may have gotten older, but their love — and passion — still give us #couplegoals. – Laura Prudom
15. Janet & Michael (The Good Place)
We were going to say something about how touching and funny it is to see two non-human characters engage in that most human of pursuits, building a genuine emotional connection. But the show already boils it down into four perfect words: “The reason is friends.”
16. Dustin & Steve (Stranger Things)
In a season full of fan-favorite pairings – Eleven and Hopper! Will and Mike! Dart and nougat! – this may have been the liveliest and unlikeliest duo of all. Steve doesn’t go around sharing his hair secrets with just anyone, you know.
17. Mario & Cappy (Super Mario Odyssey)
Mario and his iconic hat have always been inseparable, but this was the first game that gave the hat a mind of its own, strengthening the bond between the two like never before. “Cappy” is like an extension of Mario’s own self as the two work together, exploring the world and beyond to rescue their respective love interests, who don’t actually seem too interested in them. – Kellen Beck
18. Jake & Amy (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine always set up Jake and Amy as endgame, but their romantic pairing was hardly the be-all end-all of the show. They quietly built chemistry through the first couple seasons and switched seamlessly to dating, never taking away from the show’s primary focus: the squad. This year, Jake and Amy’s fourth Halloween bet ended with the perfect proposal for our favorite Nine-Nine couple. – Proma Khosla
19. Lady Bird & Marion (Lady Bird)
Lady Bird is all about relationships – romantic ones, platonic ones, familial ones. The one that packs the biggest emotional wallop, though, is the one between Lady Bird and her mom. One minute they’re bonding, the next minute they’re sniping at each other … and the minute after that, you’re left with an urgent drive to call your mom and tell her that you love her.
20. Elio & Oliver (Call Me By Your Name)
This year’s actually been a pretty good one for romances, but the most swoon-worthy of all might be Elio and Oliver’s in Call Me By Your Name. It pulses with the urgency of life and burns with the intensity of first love, and at the end of it all, each man is left forever changed.