Total Recall

Total Recall: Superstar Duos

With The Tourist hitting theaters, we run down some notable flicks featuring pairs of big stars.

by | December 10, 2010 | Comments

The Tourist

What’s better than a movie with one huge star? A movie with two huge stars, of course — and this weekend, when Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie give filmgoers a double shot of celebrity charisma with The Tourist, they’ll become the latest in a long line of superstar duos who have combined their talents (and box office power) to make Hollywood history. Naturally, we couldn’t fit them all into this week’s feature, but the ten pair-ups listed here include some of cinema’s biggest hits (and at least one truly noteworthy miss). It’s time to double your pleasure, double your Total Recall!


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Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, Catch Me If You Can

Hanks and DiCaprio may not have shared many onscreen moments, but Catch Me if You Can offered filmgoers the chance to see a movie anchored by a pair of honest-to-goodness screen titans — and in a Steven Spielberg project, to boot. Taking the true story of legendary con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by DiCaprio) and the FBI man who doggedly pursued him (Hanks), this Christmas Day release earned more than $350 million, multiple Academy Award nominations, and the admiration of critics like Ben Schwartz of the Chicago Reader, who wrote admiringly, “Catch Me if You Can is one of those deceptively slight offerings that manages to reveal more about its maker than the intended masterpieces often do.”


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Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut

Cruise and Kidman met on the set of 1990’s Days of Thunder, married later that year, and collaborated again in 1992’s Far and Away — but by the time they made their third movie together, Cruise wasn’t the only superstar in the family. The real-life spouses’ casting in the dark, heavily sexualized Eyes Wide Shut made headlines and subjected the film to intense tabloid scrutiny even before director Stanley Kubrick died, and their notoriety helped propel it to more than $160 million at the box office. A number of critics were left cold by Shut‘s glacial pace, but most scribes echoed the sentiments of Variety’s Todd McCarthy, who called it “A riveting, thematically probing, richly atmospheric and just occasionally troublesome work, a deeply inquisitive consideration of the extent of trust and mutual knowledge possible between a man and a woman.”


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Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, Gigli

We’ve included a lot of successful superstar duos on this list, but we couldn’t leave out one of the most notoriously toxic combinations in recent memory. In 2002, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were a perpetual tabloid frenzy machine, and the public seemed like it’d never tire of hearing about their impossibly beautiful exploits — but by 2003, Bennifer was passe, and it definitely didn’t help that their cinematic debut, Gigli, was an unqualified dud. The golden raspberry on top of Affleck’s annus horriblis, Gigli brought an abrupt end to director Martin Brest’s award-winning career, and inspired almost universal loathing from critics such as Film4’s Richard Luck, who called it “a sickening exercise in smugness and self-love.”


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Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Katahrine Hepburn could get her own Superstar Duos list — her filmography boasts collaborations with Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, and John Wayne — but she worked with Spencer Tracy most (and best) of all. Hepburn and Tracy made nine movies together, and we really could have chosen any of them for this list, but ultimately, we settled on 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — partly because it was an important film about race relations that won two Academy Awards (against an impressive eight nominations), and partly because they made it knowing Tracy didn’t have long to live. While it hasn’t aged particularly well, most critics are still willing to look past Dinner‘s flaws, including Roger Ebert, who asks, “It would be easy to tear the plot to shreds and catch Kramer in the act of copping out. But why? On its own terms, this film is a joy to see, an evening of superb entertainment.”


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Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, Heat

De Niro and Pacino had shared film credits before, for The Godfather Part II, but they didn’t share any screen time — which is why it was such a big deal when they finally got around to an actual co-starring gig for 1995’s Heat. The two acting titans only ended up trading a few lines, but maybe it was just enough of a good thing, judging from 2008’s wretched Righteous Kill; with just a single tension-wracked scene in Heat, they helped anchor what Chris Barsanti of Film Threat called “one of the greatest crime films of all time.”

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Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, Men in Black

The success of The Fugitive catapulted Tommy Lee Jones from “distinguished character actor” to “leading man” status, and after Bad Boys, the mid-to-late 1990s pretty much belonged to Will Smith — so Men in Black wasn’t just your average action/comedy/sci-fi summer blockbuster, it was an Event Movie with almost $590 million in ticket sales (and a pair of sequels) waiting to happen. It didn’t win any awards for storytelling depth (although it did win a Best Makeup Oscar), but its unapologetic popcorn thrills, fueled by Smith and Jones’ easy interplay, entertained a whole lot of people — including Slate’s David Edelstein, who called it “The smartest, funniest, and best-looking sci-fi comedy since the movies learned to morph.”


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Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, The Mexican

Pitt and Roberts had their eyes on a co-starring project for some time — and they wanted to work together badly enough that they eventually settled on The Mexican, an erstwhile indie project whose script didn’t even call for its male and female leads to spend much time together. The result was a curiously disjointed film, badly mismarketed as a Pitt/Roberts romantic comedy, whose $147 million box office take wasn’t enough to keep it from feeling like one of 2001’s more unexpected disappointments. Christopher Smith of the Bangor Daily News spoke for the majority of critics when he queried, “Habla usted mediocre movie?”


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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Ms. Jolie’s turn in The Tourist isn’t her first blockbuster duo pairing — her 2005 team-up with Brad Pitt for the rapid-fire action rom-com Mr. & Mrs. Smith united two of the biggest stars in the Hollywood firmament for a $478 million hit that not only thrilled audiences, but kept the paparazzi busy for months, and served as our introduction to the globetrotting, child-adopting celebrity mashup known as Brangelina. All things considered, critics weren’t as impressed as filmgoers, but the movie had its fans, including Ken Tucker of New York Magazine, who said “Mr. & Mrs. Smith works on almost every level and against all odds.”


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Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood, A Perfect World

Yeah, we know, we know — Kevin Costner makes movies with Ashton Kutcher now, and Clint Eastwood directs Matt Damon movies. But trust us: In 1993, a movie starring Costner (who had just made The Bodyguard) and Eastwood (coming off In the Line of Fire) was a very big deal, even if you wouldn’t know it from A Perfect World‘s paltry $31 million gross. Its meditative pace was a bit of a shock for audiences expecting more popcorn fare from its leads, but this drama about a Texas Ranger (Eastwood) pursuing an escaped convict-turned-kidnapper (Costner) gave the Robin Hood star a chance to play against type — and impressed critics like ReelViews’ James Berardinelli, who called it “evidence that Hollywood is still capable of producing the kinds of moving, intelligent movies that have increasingly become the province of independent film makers.”


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Paul Newman and Robert Redford, The Sting

Newman helped solidify Redford’s leading man status when they teamed up for the first time with 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but when they met again for The Sting, Redford had come into his own as a marquee-topping star in his own right — and the result was not only a seven-time Academy Award winner, but one of the all-time standard bearers for the heist caper genre. “The film is so good-natured, so obviously aware of everything it’s up to, even its own picturesque frauds,” confessed Vincent Canby of the New York Times, “that I opt to go along with it.”


Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for The Tourist.

Finally, here’s a duet from two musical superstars — John Lennon and Paul McCartney — from the oft-bootlegged documentary Let It Be:

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