Ten of the Greatest Working Duos in Film

What are the greatest working relationships in film? We look at ten of the most prolific team-ups between actors, directors, producers, writers, and other types of film makers. 

In all trades there are legendary duos who have teamed up to combine their talents and create something potentially greater than each of them could have otherwise done alone. Film is no different, and there is a long history of talented filmmakers working together on projects. These collaborations, when successful, usually inspire additional opportunities. As a result, we have seen many filmmakers with a working relationship which has spanned decades. As a team, they become more familiar with their partner(s), and so they begin to trust each other, which has a positive impact on the quality of the work. In this article, we consider ten of the greatest working relationships in film, and look at their accomplishments.  

In order to be considered, the work of the duo has to be considered the best of both partners. They can be considered famous and successful on their own, but together their work needs to be what we associate most (or second-most) with each partner. For the purposes of this article, I am also ignoring people who are related, either by blood or by marriage. So the Wachowskis, the Russos, the Coen Brothers by themselves, Emma Thomas/Christopher Nolan, and the Shaw Brothers are out. The partnership must have two people with different job titles who are contributing different work types of work towards the same production. 

I’m absolutely sure I must have missed some major working relationships in film. Unlike many other attributes of film production, it is hard to keep track of who works with who. So, for this reason I am not calling this the “Ten Best” working relationships in film (they are organized by number of films), but I am sure many of these could be part of such a list. Below are ten of my picks for the greatest working relationships in film. Which are your favorites? Which other collaborations should be on this list? 


Nathan Crowley & Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan has a long list of people he collaborates with, and perhaps his greatest collaboration is with his wife, Emma Thomas, who has worked as producer on all of his films. But per the rules, I had to overlook that working relationship, and so I selected the next best thing. Nathan Crowley worked as an art director before making a splash with Nolan as a production designer. As I described in this article, Nolan/Crowley doesn’t have a style which necessarily stands out, but once you recognize how he approaches his films, you see how important the production design is to the finished product. Because of the massive amount of success Nolan and Crowley have achieved working together, I had to include them on this list. 

Relationship: Production Designer/Director

Number of Films: 8

Insomnia

Batman Begins

The Prestige

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight Returns

Interstellar

Dunkirk

Tenet

Awards: 

1 Oscar Nomination – Best Motion Picture of the Year

1 Oscar Nomination – Best Achievement in Direction

2 Oscar Nominations – Best Achievement in Production Design

2 Oscar Nominations – Best Achievement in Art Direction

1 Golden Globe Nominee – Best Director

4 BAFTA Nominations – Best Production Design

1 BAFTA Nomination – Best Direction

1 BAFTA Nomination – Best Film

6 Art Directors’ Guild Nominations – Excellence in Production Design


Bill Murray & Wes Anderson

Is there a duo whose style goes together better than Murray and Anderson? It’s true that Murray’s most memorable work may have happened before he began his working relationship with Anderson, but all of his most famous work over the last two decades has been with Anderson as director. Anderson’s whimsical style just works perfectly with Murray’s understated comedy chops. Even if Murray’s work in an Anderson film is in a cameo or small supporting role, he still makes a very favorable impression.

Relationship: Actor/Director

Number of Films: 9

Rushmore

The Royal Tenenbaums

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The Darjeeling Limited

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Moonrise Kingdom

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Isle of Dogs

The French Dispatch

Awards:

1 Oscar Nomination – Best Picture

2 Oscar Nominations – Best Animated Feature Film

1 Oscar Nomination – Best Director

2 Oscar Nominations – Best Original Screenplay

1 Golden Globe Nominee – Best Actor in a Supporting Role

1 Golden Globe Nominee – Best Picture

1 Golden Globe Nominee – Best Screenplay

1 BAFTA Awards Win – Best Screenplay

1 BAFTA Awards Nomination – Best Film

1 BAFTA Awards Nominations – Best Animated Film

1 BAFTA Awards Nomination – Best Director

1 BAFTA Awards Nominations – Best Screenplay

1 Director’s Guild of America Award Nomination – Outstanding Achievement in Direction


Robert De Niro & Martin Scorsese

While both Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese have gone on to make brilliant films without the other, one could argue that their best and most iconic work is when they are collaborating together. Just look at the list of films they have both worked on and you will see one of the most successful and longest working (47 years!) relationships in Hollywood. There are few partnerships in film which have as strong a connotation as De Niro and Scorsese do. Their styles just work so well together, they elevate each other. 

Relationship: Actor/Director

Number of Films: 9

Mean Streets

Taxi Driver

New York, New York

Raging Bull

The King of Comedy

Goodfellas

Cape Fear

Casino

The Irishman

Awards:

1 Oscar Win – Best Actor

1 Oscar Nomination – Best Picture

2 Oscar Nominations – Best Actor

3 Oscar Nominations – Best Director

1 Oscar Nomination – Best Screenplay

1 Golden Globe Win – Best Actor

3 Golden Globe Nominations – Best Actor

4 Golden Globe Awards Nominations – Best Director

1 Golden Globe Award Nomination – Best Screenplay

1 BAFTA Awards Win – Best Picture

1 BAFTA Awards Win – Best Director

1 BAFTA Awards Win – Best Screenplay

4 BAFTA Awards Nominations – Best Actor

3 BAFTA Awards Nominations – Best Director

4 Director’s Guild Awards Nominations – Outstanding Achievement in Direction