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Sibling Rivalry: The Top 10 Fictional Siblings in Film

 

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It is not really difficult in coming up with cinema siblings and assessing their impact on the films they graced with humor, horror or hedonism. Whatever the combination–brother and sister, brother and brother, sister and sister–the big screen has always produced some of the most compelling siblings to entertain or shock us as the lights go dim at the local cinemaplex.

So who do you favor as your all-time favorite movie siblings? Perhaps you wouldn’t mind brothers Michael and Sam from 1987’s The Lost Boys? Or how about sisters Drizella and Anastasia from the 1950 animated film Cinderella? Maybe you could go for the transformation of television’s Brady kids into the film version of 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie?

In Sibling Rivalry: The Top 10 Fictional Siblings in Film we will take a look at a group of handful brotherly/sisterly personalities in the world of movies and see how they stack up in consideration to the theme of sibling rivalries. Some selections may be obvious while others may be a bit of a surprise. In the long run it is all relative, right?

Sibling Rivalry: The Top 10 Fictional Siblings in Film are (in alphabetical order according to movie title):

1.)    “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues from The Blues Brothers (1980)

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They were on a mission from God…at least that is what Elwood’s philosophy was as The Blues Brothers immersed themselves into musical mayhem en route to trying to save the Catholic home where they were raised from closing down. Both Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) are determined to get their band assembled one more time to do some gigs that financially benefit their childhood hangout.

The ex-con musicians manage to ruffle feathers all around their hometown of Chicago as they tangle with everyone from the American Nazi Party to raging rednecks to Jake’s former scorned girlfriend (Carrie Fisher). The Blues Brothers were not just on a mission from God to save the charity home of children–they were also on a mission to tap into our funnybone as well as snap our fingers to the musical melodies that persisted.

2,) Clyde and Buck Barrow from Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

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Now who is not familiar with the infamous bank-robbing brothers in Clyde and Buck Barrow (Gene Hackman and Warren Beatty) in Arthur Penn’s riveting period piece crime caper Bonnie & Clyde? Both Beatty and Hackman received Oscar nominations playing the outlaw siblings as they rob and roam all over the countryside trying to duck and dodge the authorities.

The brothers were ruthless in their treacherous trade of emptying bank vaults and leaving bodies left and right in their attempts to thwart law enforcement officials. Clyde and Buck may have been notorious to the outside world but to each other they were blood brothers both literally and figuratively.

3.) Michael, Frederico “Fredo” and Santino “Sonny” Corleone/Tom Hagen from The Godfather (1972)

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Either swim with the fish or agree that the Corleone brothers are the best bad boy brothers in cinema. It is not hard to argue this point as young Michael (Al Pacino) and eldest Sonny (James Caan) belonged to New York’s top crime family headed up by the Don in patriarch Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Middle son Fredo (the late John Cazale) served as somewhat of a disappointment in comparison to his other brothers in the business of busting heads. As for Tom Hagen (William Duvall), he was the “adopted” brother and trusted “consigliere” of the Corleone clan.

Indeed, one would visit an early grave should they be in serious debt to any of The Godfather’s sinister sons. Try wearing those pair of cement shoes and liking it!

4.) Stuart and Brent Tarleton a.k.a. “The Tarleton Twins”from Gone with the Wind (1939)

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Stuart and Brent Tarleton (George Reeves and Fred Crane) may not have been major players in the classic Gone with the Wind but they made enough impact as the Tarleton Twins whose bid for Scarlett O’Hara’s (Vivien Leigh) affections was notable.  The Southern siblings were dashing but would not prove to be a match for the defiant Scarlett as we know who the real man would be to tame this Dixie diva (calling Rhett Butler anyone?).

Of course the well known of the Tarleton Twins is George Reeves who would go on and find fame as Superman in the 1950’s on television before a mysterious suicide would cloud him in controversy. Fred Crane would pass away in 2008 but did not do much in later years as far as a movie career was concerned (he did star in 1949’s The Gay Amigo).

5.) Hannah, Holly and Lee from Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

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Ah, the trials and tribulations of Woody Allen’s angst-ridden sisters in Hannah (Mia Farrow), Holly (Dianne Weist) and Lee (Barbara Hershey) in the observational romantic comedy Hannah and Her Sisters. Let’s just say that the Thanksgiving holiday will never be the same when these sisters and their men get involved in each other’s passion for another not of their own. Huh? Yeah, it’s complicated but craftily witty.

Successful actress Hannah’s current hubby Elliot (Michael Caine in his Oscar-winning role) yearns for his wife’s sister Lee while her paranoid ex-hubby Mickey (Woody Allen) hooks up with Holly. Lee still lives with her much older painter boyfriend Frederick (Max Von Sydow) but dumps him anyway. Holly’s lovey-dovey routine with Mickey does not stop her from desiring Dave (Sam Waterston) who in return fancies being with April (Carrie Fisher). Got it? If not then who can blame you!

6.) Amy, Beth, Jo and Meg March from Little Women (1949)

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Little Women is the creation of novelist Louisa May Alcott that tells the story of four New England-based sisters during the Civil War undergoing impoverished times. The March sisters–Amy, Beth, Jo and Meg (Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret O’Brien, June Allyson and Janet Leigh)–are cuddled together under the supervision of their mother “Marmee” (Mary Astor) in Concord, Massachusetts. The head of the household in Mr. March (Leon Ames) is off to war so the March siblings and their mother must cope with getting by on minimal finances and learn to be thankful for what they do have as opposed to what they are lacking.

Naturally, the March sisters have diverse personalities as well as expectations, hopes and dreams to fulfill during their stagnation especially around the Christmas holiday. Relationships, heartache, tragedy…all will be stirred within big pathos-making pot of drama in this vintage story of hardship.

7.) Raymond and Charlie Babbitt from Rain Man (1988)

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Autistic savant Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning role) was left a three million dollar inheritance from his late father. This seems all too convenient for unknown brother Charlie (Tom Cruise) to pop up and suddenly decide to get to know his unknown sibling by taking him on a cross country trip. Charlie is a self-centered and infuriating soul as caused much headcases for his deceased estranged father. So what better way to challenge the monetary snubbing of his will than to tolerate his “special needs” bro Raymond as he hopes to sniff closer to that loot that the seemingly unaware brother has at his feet. Of course Charlie learns to embrace his brother affectionately as Raymond has become more than just a hearty meal ticket for the taking. Finally…some genuine brotherly love!

8.) John, Tom, Matt and Bud Elder from The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

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It is not the wisest thing to mess with The Duke under any circumstances because…well…he’s John “The Duke” Wayne for goodness sake! In the mid-sixties western The Sons of Katie Elder Wayne is the older brother John that heads up the the late Katie Elder’s bunch of rag tag offspring. John is the capable gunman, Tom (Dean Martin) is the professional gambler. Matt (Earl Holliman) is a failed businessman and youngest Bud (Michael Anderson, Jr.) is a student.

Although Katie was loved by everyone in town that was saddened by her passing her sons served as an embarrassment because where she was honest and hard-working her boys–particularly John and Tom–were a negative stain on her integrity. Well, the Elder boys want to do right by her memory in their return to town as they promise to do right by their dearly departed mother and that includes ensuring that baby boy Bud stays in school and does not because the infamous souls they ended up being in life. Brothers-in-arms and firearms go hand-in-hand in this underrated frontier fable headed up by big screen big-shots Wayne and Martin.

9.) The von Trapp siblings from The Sound of Music (1965)

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The hills are hopefully alive when considering an enormous brood of the Austrian siblings known as the von Trapp family in the classic movie musical The Sound of Music. Director-producer Robert Wise and star Julie Andrews are the instrumental components that give The Sound of Music its festive pulse. However, the seven kiddies definitely serve as the notable backdrop.

When Maria (Andrews) is asked to undertake the role as governess watching Captain Georg von Trapp’s (Christopher Plummer) brood she immediately makes a profound impact on the children and their military-disciplining widowed papa. From governess to stepmother Maria von Trapp now sings along in harmony with her offspring that includes Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Marta, Brigitta and Gretl. Ladies and gentlemen…the von Trapp Family!

10.) Baby Jane and Blanche Hudson from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

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To say that former child star Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) became delusional and demented is probably the understatement of the century. Her crippled and suffering sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) would agree with the diagnosis of Jane’s unstable tendencies. Poor Blanche…she is at the mercy of the sadistic Baby Jane and can do nothing to escape her warped sister’s wrath.

Whether Jane is making Blanche a prisoner in her own bedroom or serving her a robust dead rat on a silver platter these sisters have some deep-rooted issues that need resolving. Baby Jane is a total terror…an aging diabolical diva trying to relive her childhood stardom from yesteryear as her psychological grudge for sister Blanche festers on beyond repair. Long before 80’s rocker Dee Schneider and his bandmates assumed this label it was Davis’s Baby Jane Hudson that was the original Twisted Sister.

HONORABLE MENTION

Olive and Dwayne Hoover from Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

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Never has growing pains and dysfunction been so fun when watching the familial wackiness of half brother-sister tandem Olive and Dwayne Hoover (Oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin and Paul Dano) in the husband and wife directorial efforts of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris in the infectious comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine. 

Struggling motivational speaker Richard Hoover (Greg Kinnear) takes his flaky family on a road trip en route to a beauty pageant where his daughter Olive is to compete in “The Little Miss Sunshine” pageant. With an older Dwayne who refuses to speak until he is accepted into the U.S. Air Force Academy and a free-spirited Olive whose hopes of winning a pageant with her spunky and chubby self seems unlikely Little Miss Sunshine was refreshingly poignant and off-the-wall in its tale of sibling confinement within a funny fragile family unit.

Michael, Elliot and Gertie from E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982)

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Yes, E.T. stole the show as well as everyone’s heart in the process. But remember cinema’s favorite 80’s-era alien would not have thrived on earth if it were not for his earthling hosts in minor siblings Elliott, Michael and Gertie (Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore and Robert MacNaughton).

The trio of siblings accommodated the lovable flat-headed, Reese’s candy-loving visiting alien with unconditional love and nurturing as the wide-eyed E.T. simply wanted to “phone home”. The kids were as equally endearing as their “honorary” brother E.T.

–Frank Ochieng

 


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