BMD Picks: Our Favorite Team Up Movies

In honor of JUSTICE LEAGUE, we present to you a cavalcade of collected badasses.

They're men on a mission. Women on a rampage. A collection of dynamite heroes, ready to do battle with whatever forces oppose them. The Team Up film has been a tried and true formula throughout the whole of cinematic history, often offering up a union of icons that are here to save us all from certain doom. From Marvel to Quentin Tarantino to Patrick Donahue, artists have ensured that legions have been amassed, and are here to kick ass, simply for our primal enjoyment. 

Justice League is merely another entry in a long line of Team Up movies (read our review), and in honor of the DCEU's superpowered heroics, we here at BMD thought it'd be fun to share our favorite big screen alliances, who have arrived just in time to rescue us from utter boredom...

Inglourious Basterds [2009] (d. & w. Quentin Tarantino)

In the lead-up to its release, Quentin Tarantino always referred to Inglourious Basterds as his "men on a mission" film. That's not inaccurate, but - as anyone who's ever seen Tarantino's '09 war epic can attest - it's so much more than that. 

In addition to being one helluva team-up picture, Inglourious Basterds is also a showcase for its wall-to-wall brilliant cast, the movie that introduced millions of people to the incomparable Christoph Waltz, a platform for one of the best scripts Tarantino's ever written (I'd only put it behind Pulp Fiction), an intense thriller (that opening scene still makes me burst into a sweat, no matter how many times I've seen it), and - perhaps most importantly - a very welcome piece of alternate-history catharsis. Just try not to cheer when Eli Roth and Omar Doom use machine guns to turn Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels into ground beef, I dare you. - Scott Wampler

Spice World [1997] (d. Bob Spiers, w. Kim Fuller & Jamie Curtis)

When was the last time you watched Spice World? Was it 1997? Was it...ever? Well, the fun-loving, mind-blowingly surreal story in which a British girl-pop group fights back against male corporate greed and corruption feels like it deserves a revival in this year of our dark lord 2017. But don't let that high-minded praise fool you - Spice World is astonishingly, magnificently brainless, in the most pleasant and energetic way possible. It's pink and fluffy and silly and fun, and it still manages to make you feel like, with a little girl power, you can take over the world. - Meredith Borders

The Dragon Lives Again (a/k/a Deadly Hands of Kung Fu) [1977] (d. Chi Lo, w. Shek Ke, Wei Liang & Chi Lo)

No film can compare to the copyright-busting audacity of The Dragon Lives Again. A 1977 entry into the “Brucesploitation” subgenre that sprung up in the wake of Bruce Lee’s death, it stars Leung Siu-lung (a/k/a Bruce Leung) as the deceased Lee, as he descends into the underworld. It only gets wilder when he starts making friends. In one restaurant visit, he befriends Fang Kang, the One-Armed Swordsman, Caine from Kung Fu; and Popeye the Sailor Man. But even Bruce's team is nothing on the gang of assholes wreaking havoc upon the underworld’s population.

To free the afterlife from the grip of evil, Bruce and company have to defeat (deep breath) Dracula, James Bond, the Man with No Name, Zatoichi, the Exorcist, Emmanuelle (!!), and the motherflippin’ Godfather - all also deceased, and all angry they don’t have as much influence dead as alive. From there, Bruce sets up a martial arts school to build up support, while the bad guys enact a series of bizarre assassination attempts - pretty standard martial-arts fantasy-comedy stuff, but rendered utterly insane by the inclusion of such a diverse roster of pop-culture icons. Even the score is a team-up, with imitation Morricone, Lalo Schifrin, Lerner, and Norman themes accompanying the various characters. You ain’t seen a team-up as broad or unforgettable as this one. Trust me. - Andrew Todd

Sabotage [2014] (d. David Ayer, w. Skip Woods & David Ayer)

Many of the most beloved and classic team-up movies (Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen, etc.) start off building a team and end with most if not all of that team getting annihilated by their mission. Sabotage does things differently, which makes sense because this movie is absolutely insane.

Sabotage begins with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gritty DEA task force already assembled and then puts them through a horror film structure of watching them get offed one-by-one. It’s like watching the last act of a team-up movie played out over the course of nearly two hours. It’s an ugly, amoral, gross movie - probably the most violent film of Schwarzenegger’s career - and I can’t help but adore it.

I’m not sure I would call any of Arnold’s crew good people, but they certainly are colorful. A cast like Sam Worthington, Josh Holloway, Mireille Enos, Joe Manganiello and Terrance Howard all doing Ted Nugent impressions will have that effect. While I’m happy with the film we got, I also would have watched a more typical action film with these wackos. Instead we got Suicide Squad. - Evan Saathoff 

Double Impact [1991] (d. Sheldon Lettich, w. Sheldon Lettich & Jean-Claude Van Damme) 

Believe it or not, Double Impact was a huge moment in Jean-Claude Van Damme's career. While he'd concocted the story for Kickboxer ('89) and co-wrote the screenplay for Lionheart ('90), Double Impact was a moment of self-realization so grandiose it's somewhat icky. Instead of teaming up with another action hero (after only headlining a handful of B-Level actioners) he thought "why don't I just give the audience two of me?" What resulted was this oddly ambitious instance of fisticuff twinning, where there's a "good" JCVD (clad in pastel polos and teaching aerobics) and a "bad" JCVD (hair slicked as to indicate his shadiness), who team up in order to track down their parents' killers. 

The result is a rather ludicrous act of revenge, that brings back Kickboxer badass Bolo Yeung and lets Jean-Claude perform his usual array of splits and spin-kicks, nearly knocking mugs off at twice the rate of speed. JCVD has always been a gifted performer, but here he's also allowed to showcase his rather deft comedic timing, demonstrating why he's always been the Buster Keaton of B-Action. Double Impact isn't one of his best movies, but it's certainly one of his most entertaining; a key bit of evolution, as he was embracing his newfound stardom (not to mention stroking his ego as he punches multiple bad dudes in the face). - Jacob Knight 

The Lord of the Rings [2001] (d. Peter Jackson, w. Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson) 

If we're talking team-up movies, is there any better, weirder, more heartwarming team than Fellowship? At two and a half hours in length (three if you watch the definitive Extended Edition), The Fellowship of the Ring not only lays the groundwork for an industry-reshaping saga, but for a sprawling epic of a story that may as well be a multi-tiered heist film, culminating at a Wagnerian volcano. 

Well before we get to the slopes of Mount Doom, we're introduced to our unwitting Hobbit heroes: Frodo, who accepts a burden he knows will change him, Sam, whose undying loyalty keeps Frodo afloat, and Merry & Pippin, imps whose comedic antics give way to genuine selflessness. Of course, the Fellowship wouldn't be complete without its wizards and warriors. Gandalf brings his wisdom and magic, Aragorn brings humility in the face of regal heroism, Boromir brings vulnerability and urgency, Legolas brings safe passage and and eagle-eyed foresight, and Gimli brings his axe. What's more, it's a film that not into features landmark production design, bringing to life the otherworldly-yet-familiar realms of Tolkien's Middle Earth, it's also a milestone for the use of forced perspective with a camera in motion, using rigs that move two or more actors and their immediate surroundings in relation to each other and to the moving lens, always keeping the bizarre nature of this Fellowship central. These Hobbits are tiny. These Wizards are gigantic. But they have to exist in the same space and seem like they meet each other's gaze for them to feel like a team, moving forward together to save their peoples while leaving the comforts of home behind. - Siddhant Adlakha 

Kill Squad [1982] (d. & w. Patrick G. Donahue) 

Don’t listen to these other people - Kill Squad is better than all the other movies on this fucking list. The poster for Patrick G. Donahue’s '82 actioner bears the words “12 hands… 12 feet… 24 reasons to die” - and unbelievably, the movie lives up to that amazing tagline. Telling the story of six estranged Vietnam vets who reteam to get revenge on the gang that crippled and widowed their squad leader, it’s an all-action, all-the-time series of roundhouse kicks to the face that strips the team-up movie to its purest essence.

Kill Squad is repetitive - and satisfyingly so - to the point where you’ll cheer every repeated narrative step. The squad leader seeks out an old squaddie, fights said squaddie, wins, and gets them to rejoin the squad; the new squaddie then demonstrates their abilities in a lineup; and together, they seek out the next team member and/or bad guy. Even the dialogue and shot choices line up. It’s incredible. Each hero represents a different action archetype - the blaxploitation guy, the kung-fu guy, the bodybuilder guy, the comic relief guy - and while it’s entirely based around caricatures, the camaraderie between them is nearly on par with that of Miami Connection.

Kill Squad is hot, smoky trash - it’s the absolute pinnacle of the form. Sporting stupid stunts, strange dialogue digressions, 'Nam flashbacks, and the dumbest final twist in cinema, it’s unmatched as a work of entertainment. Assemble the squad. Watch Kill Squad. - Andrew Todd

Related Articles

Comments