9 Powerful Friendships in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

We look at some of the most powerful (non-romantic) bonds in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy.

We all know how amazing it is to have a bestie. Someone who’s there for you when you want to celebrate – and when you need a shoulder to cry on. Powerful friendships have made our favorite shows and movies even more poignant.

Here are a few of sci-fi and fantasy’s most memorable BFFs.

Frodo and Sam

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Frodo takes on the task of returning the One Ring to Mordor so it can be, in the words of Elrond, “cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came,” largely because he’s seen as having an ability to resist its corrupting effects. But even the pure-hearted hobbit can’t do it alone. It’s Sam who keeps Frodo going.

Sam is the one who bolsters Frodo’s courage on the occasions when he starts to feel he can’t go on, and when he gets close to succumbing to the ring’s power. In all likelihood, Frodo never would have made it to Mount Doom without Sam by his side. Sam’s loyalty to Frodo is demonstrated repeatedly throughout the films and books.

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One moment that stands out comes in The Return of the King. When the ring has weakened Frodo to the point that he finds it difficult even to walk, Sam literally carries him onward, saying, “I can’t carry it [the ring] for you, but I can carry you.”

Xander and Willow

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Yes, Buffy and Willow have an amazing friendship and are the greatest of gal pals. But truthfully, it’s Willow’s friendship with Xander that’s the most powerful. The two of them have a ton of history – they’ve known each other since early childhood. They go through a rocky almost-romance together (which is not good for their preexisting romantic commitments) and come out the other side.

And when Willow has gone off the deep end as a result of losing her girlfriend Tara to the murderous goddess Glory, it’s Xander who talks her down from the edge and prevents her from destroying the world. In the season six finale, when Willow is about to use her magic to bring catastrophic destruction to the Earth, it’s not Buffy’s physical strength that stops her – it’s Xander telling her he loves her and reminding her of how much they’ve shared as friends.

Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons

Agents of SHIELD

These two have been besties ever since their academy days. They’re both adorable science geeks, and when they get together, it’s like they’re speaking their own private language. They even have a cute combined name – Fitzsimmons.

Plus, their friendship has withstood more than its fair share of hardship. Fitz at one point suffers brain damage and, during season two, is struggling to regain his sense of self. Although Jemma isn’t always certain how to help him, she never stops supporting him (even when she’s working as a double agent for Hydra and Fitz thinks she bolted because he told her he has feelings for her).

During the finale of season two, Gemma is suddenly teleported to another planet and everyone believes her to be dead – except for Fitz, who tirelessly works to find a way to bring her home. When she tells him in episode five of season three that she wasn’t the only human stranded on the alien planet – that she found an astronaut who had been secretly sent there 14 years ago and developed feelings for him, Fitz doesn’t bat an eye. His immediate response is that he wants to help Jemma rescue him.

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Katniss and Rue

The Hunger Games

Katniss’s relationships with Gale and Peeta of course get most of the attention, but her friendship with Rue is something special. When the two meet as competitors in the Hunger Games, they’re “supposed” to be trying to kill one another. Instead, they join forces and, although Rue is eventually killed, their friendship — and Rue’s death — is so powerful it becomes an important symbol of the revolution against the Capital.

The significance of the friendship between Katniss and Rue is probably most poignantly illustrated after Rue’s death. In Catching Fire, when Katniss and Peeta visit District 11 – Rue’s home district – the people in the crowd spontaneously hold up three fingers to solute them, in recognition of Katniss’s attempts to protect Rue during the Games (a man in the crowd is even shot for whistling Rue’s four-note tune). Katniss and Peeta salute the audience in return, and the gesture is seen as one of the catalyzing moments leading up to the revolution.

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop

Hawkeye, Young Avengers, etc.

We all know about Clint’s relationship with Natasha Romanoff – which is awesome. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Clint and his wife even name their baby Nathaniel in her honor. But in the comics, there’s another important woman in Clint’s life (actually, there are a couple).

When he’s on hiatus from the Hawkeye mantle, it’s Kate who takes it over. Clint and Kate develop a teacher-student relationship, but it’s not a one-way street. Clint needs Kate, as well, and she helps him out of some tight corners.

For example, in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye #4, Kate takes it upon herself to impersonate the formidable Madame Masque in order to try and protect Clint (and reclaim a tape with some pretty sensitive footage). Though their friendship has not been without its bumps in the road, the two seem to get each other, and they make a great team.

Mulder and Scully

The X-Files

While Mulder and Scully ultimately become romantically involved, their romance is based on one of the most solid friendships in TV history. The Cigarette Smoking Man and his ilk initially intend to pit Scully against Mulder, expecting her to use her belief in demonstrable science to debunk his theories about extraterrestrials and the paranormal. But in fact, her scientific background proves to be an invaluable tool in advancing the cause of the X-Files.

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The two save each other’s lives on countless occasions and they have an unshakable respect for one another. Although they’re not without other allies, for much of the series, it seems to be Mulder and Scully against the world. When there’s no one else they can trust, they know they can count on each other implicitly.

Mulder and Scully’s commitment to each other may actually best be demonstrated throughout season eight, during much of which Mulder is missing, after his abduction in season seven. Scully’s single-minded determination to find Mulder drives a lot of the season’s action – she wants him back, and she won’t let anyone stand in her way. Agents Doggett and Reyes understand this, and we’re given the opportunity to see the depth of Mulder and Scully’s relationship through their eyes.

Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes

Plenty of Marvel Comics, but especially Captain America: The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier

This is a friendship whose limits have truly been tested. Steve (Captain America) and Bucky were old friends back in the 1940s, and the lasting strength of their friendship can be seen both in films but especially the comics, where Bucky’s death haunted Cap for many years before his return as The Winter Soldier.

During a vicious fight scene between the two near the end of the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve stops, drops his shield, and says to Bucky, “I’m not going to fight you. You’re my friend.” Bucky, who has been brainwashed and turned into a HYDRA operative known as the Winter Solder, responds by saying, “You’re my mission,” and attacks Steve. But when Steve replies, “Then finish it, cuz I’m with you ‘til the end of the line,” Bucky pauses, as if he can’t bring himself to kill his friend. After the helicarrier the two are aboard collides with SHIELD’s headquarters and the two are thrown into the Potomac River, Bucky is seen pulling an unconscious Steve out of the water, saving him from drowning. Neither the passage of time nor years of brainwashing could erase their bond. 

In the post-credits scene in Ant-Man, we see that Steve and Sam Wilson (Falcon) have tracked down Bucky, whose whereabouts had been unknown. In the comics, a rehabilitated Bucky takes over the Captain America mantle when Steve is presumed dead. It’s exactly the kind of redemption Steve would have wanted for his friend.

Han Solo and Chewbacca

Star Wars

During Han’s pre-rebellion, smuggling days, Chewbacca is his loyal co-pilot. Han at this point is largely a lone wolf, with the notable exception of Chewy. The strength of their friendship is evidenced by the fact that, in A New Hope, Chewy sticks by Han’s side when he decides to throw his hat in with the rebels, putting the pair in even greater danger and an end to their carefree space pirate lifestyle.

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It may be Han who ultimately makes that call, but Chewie gives him a hard time about leaving their new friends behind, and then loyally follows his friend into battle against impossible odds.

Kirk and Spock

Star Trek

Perhaps the quintessential sci-fi friendship. Kirk and Spock seem to be diametrically opposed in a lot of ways. Spock is exceedingly logical and deliberate, whereas Kirk is loud, brash, and sometimes impulsive. Yet this is, of course, part of what makes their friendship work so well – they both complement and challenge one another.

When Spock is dying in The Wrath of Khan after sacrificing his life so that the Enterprise that could survive Khan’s obsessive need to rid the universe of James T. Kirk, he famously tells his commanding officer, “I have been – and always shall be – your friend.” If that doesn’t make you reach for a box of tissues, you have a cold heart of stone.