When it comes to appearing in films, not all siblings are what we’d call, you know, “cool.” In fact, they often live in that no-man’s land somewhere between “tolerable” and “awful.” We needn’t look further than the Olson Twins or the Wayans Brothers to hammer this point home. Fortunately, the occasional sibling-based team slips through the cracks and is actually a pleasure to watch. Some examples…
The Movies: Donnie Darko, Homegrown, A Dangerous Woman
Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal have carved out impressive careers for themselves over the past decade. Jake as the brooding hunk with some actual depth of character, Maggie as the versatile, thinking man’s sex symbol. They started out together in Homegrown and A Dangerous Woman, a couple of movies directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (a.k.a. dear ol’ dad). But their most memorable on-screen time together (to date) is as the bickering siblings in cult favourite Donnie Darko. Something tells the scene below (Totally, completely NSFW, by the way) was likely inspired by Jakey and Mags’ real-life moments spent at the family dinner table.
The Movies: Igby Goes Down, Lymelife
Macaulay Culkin may have reached rock star status a couple of decades back, but it’s hip younger bros Kieran and Rory with the more intriguing bodies of work (Signs and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, anyone?). Their fraternal on-screen chemistry is charming, genuine, and hella fun to watch. Plus, with Igby Goes Down having raked in a boatload of award noms (including two Golden Globes), it’s more than apparent them wee Culkins are the real deal acting-wise.
The Movies: Good Will Hunting, Chasing Amy, 200 Cigarettes
Sure, Ben Affleck has been the Hollywood big boy since his breakout role in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. But younger bro Casey’s been holding his own in recent years with dramatic fare like Gone Baby Gone (directed by Ben!), Gerry (co-starring Matt Damon!), and The Assassination of Jesse James Etc. (the title’s too long to finish writing out, so I’ll just write about how long it is instead). And with three shared acting credits to their name, the Brothers Affleck certainly have no aversion to playing off each other — quite awesomely, I might add. Plus, the fact they don’t look much alike has prevented them from being locked into those “siblings only” roles. Case in point, the below (NSFW) clip from Good Will Hunting, which is several shades of entertaining.
The Movies: The Royal Tenenbaums, Around the World in 80 Days, Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Wendell Baker Story
And on the topic of cool brothers that don’t need to be cast as brothers, nobody holds down such honours like Luke and Owen Wilson. Simply put, they look nothing alike. At all. Which makes it all the less jarring when they show up in each other’s films. Heck, The Royal Tenenbaums was all about siblings, yet Owen opted to play one of the movie’s few non blood-related characters — love it. Of course, this “we don’t have to play relatives” shtick was even more impressive in their debut film Bottle Rocket, courtesy of bonus third Wilson brother Andrew! (check out the first minute from the clip below.) Yep, three Wilson boys playing three characters from three separate families. Top that, Hollywood.
The Movies: High Fidelity, Sixteen Candles, Grosse Pointe Blank, Say Anything, War, Inc., Class, Cradle Will Rock, Martian Child, Broadcast News, Grandview, U.S.A.
John and Joan Cusack: the gold standard when it comes to sibling film actors. They’re cool and occasionally quirky, their names are practically the same, they’re critical darlings, they’ve been starring in movies since the ’80s, and dear Lord have they done a bunch of them together. Seriously — look at that list. And although John tends to command the larger roles, some of his films’ best scenes tend to involve Joan stepping up and working her older sibling magic. Hey, what are sisters for, right?