Pop Culture

The Dudes Rock Movie Canon

The ten best films that feature rad bromances and wholesome camaraderie.
Matt Damon Brad Pitt and George Clooney
Getty images; Photo Illustration by C.J. Robinson

Like any good internet meme, the history and usage of “dudes rock” already has a life of its own. The phrase originated in 2018 as a semi-ironic, self-aware way of embracing the boys-will-be-boys-mentality by celebrating stereotypically masculine behaviors like drinking a beer (or five) and gaming for hours at a time. When the meme spread further in 2020. With that came inevitable, often more satirical, variations, but at its core, the expression remains an indicator of harmless male activity.

Of course, “dudes rock” can be easily applied to pop culture and, specifically, movies—bro-beloved films like Heat or Goodfellas are obvious choices. But let’s look deeper, with a canon of ten “dudes rock” films that detail wholesome camaraderie between male protagonists. These movies involve rad bromances, a brotherly love affair between characters, or they’re they’re “hangout movies” that lean heavily on chemistry between the characters over complicated plots—think films from the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman, and Richard Linklater, to name a few. There’s also overlap among the actors who appear in these movies—certain stars naturally lend themselves to being a good hang, no matter the premise. So grab a cold one and link up with your favorite bros to watch these movies. After all, dudes do rock.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, 2019.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Andrew Cooper for Columbia Pictures

Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood Sincerity probably isn’t the first theme that springs to mind when considering the works of Quentin Tarantino, but the friendship between actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt man/driver/go-for/handyman buddy Cliff Booth (Rick Dalton) in Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood is basically a love story. The relationship between Rick and Cliff, as the film so aptly describes it, is “more than a brother and a little less than a wife,” and most of the movie’s charm comes from just watching the duo shoot the breeze. The scene at the end of the second act with them watching Rick’s latest episode of TV is a sublime distillation of their brotherhood in just three minutes, as both men sit in the enjoyment of one another’s company after a long day. The vibes, as they say, are immaculate.

Matthew McConaughey and Snoop Dogg in The Beach Bum, 2019.Everett Collection  / Courtesy of Neon

The Beach Bum While Harmony Korine’s underseen 2019 stoner dramedy is still waiting to obtain the cult status it so richly deserves, The Beach Bum will just have to settle for being one of the critical pillars of the Dude Rock temple of films. As Matthew McConaughey’s Moondog drifts through his booze-soaked and bud-heavy version of The Odyssey, he intersects with a colorful cast of characters — played by the likes of Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Martin Lawrence, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Buffett (!) — each of whom is more than willing to play ball in Korine’s askew view of Floridan paradise. Moondog’s journey is often met with all kinds of threats, but he never feels threatened, choosing instead to delight in the pleasures of life with each of his companions, helping to be a distraction — mostly by getting them so high or so drunk that all the troubles of the day fall away until you’re just laughing at the absurdity of life itself. The denizens of The Beach Bum’s world would tell you that a day spent with Moondog is a true gift, due in part to his gracious and generous heart; the film’s spirit certainly reflects that.

Kevin Nash, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Manganiello, Channing Tatum, and Gabriel Iglesias in Magic Mike XXL, 2015.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Claudette Barius for Warner Bros.

Magic Mike XXL Technically speaking, there are some stakes to Magic Mike XXL — the Tampa-based crew of “male entertainers” are road tripping up the southern coast to a stripping convention in Myrtle Beach — but the stripping isn’t even a contest. Rather, the Channing Tatum-led sequel is more interested in exploring the dynamics between Mike and his former crew after the titular character’s three-year absence from the club scene. Mike’s time away serves as a catalyst causing each of his peers (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodríguez) to examine how stuck in their routines they are. As the movie progresses, Mike functions like an empathic cheerleader, encouraging each man to be their individual best self as they hit the road, party late into the morning on a beach, take molly, and, of course, strip. The remainder of the film unfolds as each man finds a way to support and champion one another along their journey. The result is just as pleasurable for the audience as it is for the women Mike and the fellas entertain.

Glen Powell, Blake Jenner, Temple Baker, and Wyatt Russell in Everybody Wants Some!!, 2016.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Van Redin for Paramount Pictures

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater’s spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused is so full of bro-y testosterone that it’s almost overwhelming. The underrated 2016 film tracks a group of college baseball players as they arrive on campus and begin the process of training for the upcoming season — which involves each guy jockeying to prove they’re the best. As a result, anything and everything becomes a competition — from drinking to playing bloody knuckles. Sure, some of this antiquated alpha male behavior belongs in the 1980s era in which the movie is set, but under Linklater’s steady hand there’s an affectionate air to the proceedings. The director slowly and steadily strips back the jock archetype, revealing something deeper and more compelling along the way. Yet as much as they jostle for the role of top dog, they’re all united by the fact they’re a team, working towards one goal — lovingly pushing one another to get there together.

Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney in Ocean’s Twelve, 2004.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Oceans’ Trilogy It might be cheating to put all of Steven Soderbergh’s happy heist films together, but the triumvirate of Ocean’s movies stand as one of the most entertaining ensemble casts ever assembled. Sure, there’s George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts, but once you add in Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould, Andy Garcia and Al Pacino, it simply can’t miss. Think too much about the logistics of the respective heists (especially in the latter two films) and the plot starts to fall apart, but these movies glide on sheer superstar wattage and there are few things better than watching Clooney and Pitt absolutely cook from scene to scene. Even now, almost two decades later, it’s a thrill to drop into this world time and time again to see these characters and their crackerjack dialogue bounce off of one another.

Mr. T, Carl Weathers, and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III, 1982.Everett Collection / Courtesy of MGM

Rocky 3 There are few better tropes than the Heel-Face Turn, and Rocky III’s execution of it is about as sublime as you could ask for. Reeling after a brutal loss, Rocky’s (Sly Stallone) biggest foe, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) makes the Italian Stallion an offer he can’t refuse: Creed will train him to defeat Clubber Lang (Mr. T), granting them both a victory — assuming they can pull it off. The scene in which Apollo makes his initial offer jolts the film to life and it only gets better from there, culminating in a fantastic training montage in which both men hug it out for a stirring representation of what brotherly love really means.

Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969.Everett Collection / Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Pairing two icons together in one movie is an old move, but Hollywood is still trying to recapture the electric chemistry between Robert Redford and Paul Newman in this one. Redford and Newman are perhaps one of the first documented cases of a very public bromance. Newman fought hard for Redford to be cast and the two grew close throughout filming and beyond; their on-set shirtless ping-pong photos are immortal. William Goldman’s all-timer of a script quickly establishes Butch and Sundance as raucous, charming, and charismatic thieves with years of shared history. It’s no wonder that Etta Place (Katharine Ross) was willing to risk her life to spend a day with them.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys, 2016.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Daniel McFadden for Warner Bros.

The Nice Guys As entertaining as the central plot and overall setting of Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is, the real hook is the relationship between Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling). The pair start out on rough ground, but grow closer over the course of the film as they realize they share a similar sadness: Healy is looking for a reason to be useful to the world in his late life and March is looking to prove he’s a worthwhile father to a daughter who desperately needs him. It may sound overly morose on paper — and some of it certainly is — but Black’s script posits Healy as the straight man to March’s manic energy and the result is chemistry that would make Abbott and Costello proud, with the strength of Gosling and Crowe’s performances making up for some of the movie’s shaggier story beats. In a just world, we’d have a trilogy of these movies already.

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, 2012.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Phil Bray

The Master Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is an exploration of a Scientology-like organization, and it’s also a twisted love story. Leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman in arguably his best performance) and drunken disciple Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) strike up a co-dependent relationship after Quell finds structure amongst Dodd and his followers, while Dodd desperately yearns for Quell’s freewheeling independence. The mating ritual between the two takes the form of late-night drinking sessions, roaring motorcycle rides through the desert, and a push-pull-desire to find meaning in a meaningless world. However, nothing gold can stay, and the duo’s eventual dissolution feels inevitable from the start.

Barbara Ruick, George Segal, and Elliott Gould in California Split, 1974.Everett Collection

California Split The meet-cute between Bill (the late great George Segal) and Charlie (Elliott Gould) happens at a poker hall and is consummated over drinks. It’s a platonic love story about the thrill of the chase, the anticipation of what’s next, the emotion that lingers when a single piece of paper can change your entire fortune, and what it means when all that excitement comes to a halting crash. As Bill and Charlie dive deeper into their shared connection over gambling, the two respond to its ebbs and flows in decidedly different ways, with director Robert Altman placing the audience squarely in the middle as the unseen third party, privy to every single one of their high highs and lowest lows. The movie almost feels like a documentary, thanks to the believable and compelling friendship at its core.

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