Sometimes, all it takes to solve a problem is a little teamwork. But unlike sports teams or volunteer firefighters, not everyone always has the best incentive to band together and do what’s right. In fact, sometimes the people involved don’t even share the same interests or goals, but find themselves in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. And sometimes, they’re in it for the money. Whatever the case, pop culture is full of unexpected—and unexpectedly great—team-ups, in both film and television. In the following Inventory, we celebrate a few of the more noteworthy groups of people who united in a common cause to achieve something extraordinary.
Dan Harmon’s late, great sitcom followed the exploits of a tight-knit study group at a small community college—someplace where money was so tight, sometimes students had to be reminded that frequent flyer miles were not an acceptable form of payment. Introduced in season five, the Save Greendale Committee reconvened most of the study group, plus a new addition or two along the way, in order to pull off a seemingly impossible task: Keep Greendale relatively peaceful and solve problems ranging from the mundane (rehanging a board in the cafeteria) to crucial (save the school from being sold to Subway). It pulled off most of its duties with aplomb, and even when it failed, we were entertained by the efforts.
Captain Malcolm Reynolds helmed Serenity, a low-rent but beloved Firefly-class spaceship, in Joss Whedon’s sci-fi/Western genre hybrid Firefly (and again in the big-screen follow-up, Serenity). Though it ran for less than one season, the series has become a massive cult hit, engendering profound love among its fan base for the unusual collection of loners, outcasts, and rebels who make up the crew. And in the movie, they band together to try and reveal a government conspiracy, a secret so massive, we’re prevented from even alluding to it here. But they never surrender, and for that, we love them.
Ex-members of an Army Special Forces Unit, the guys in the A-Team were framed for a crime they didn’t commit and went on the run, working as soldiers of fortune wherever they could. Each week during the series’ five seasons (and a later movie reboot), the squad—made up of John “Hannibal” Smith, Templeton “Faceman” Peck, H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, and Bosco “B.A.” Baracus for most of its existence—took on cases of people or groups in need, and helped them beat the odds and overcome the bad guys. As the opening narration says, “If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… the A-Team.”
Who knew it would take a gang of roughneck oil drillers to save the world from an asteroid? Thanks to Armageddon, the entire world found out. The film, made by Michael Bay and starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, was a massive hit in 1998, telling the story of a group of oil drillers recruited by the U.S. government to fly to an asteroid, drill into it, and blow it up with a nuclear weapon. Think that sounds ridiculous? You’re not alone—even Ben Affleck agrees that you have a good point. But that silliness is why the film still has dedicated fans today. Plus, a roster of great character actors like Steve Buscemi and Owen Wilson making up the crew doesn’t hurt.
A great sitcom can even find comedy in a World War II German POW camp. Hogan’s Heroes, the CBS sitcom that ran from 1965 to 1971, took a seemingly impossible premise and made it work. The idea was that American prisoners of war were actually using their prison camp as a base of operations for an organized underground resistance movement to commit sabotage and espionage agains the Nazis, while also helping other Allied soldiers and POWs escape Germany. Led by Colonel Robert Hogan, the show combined the tropes of war stories, spy stories, and camp comedies, in a strange and popular mix. And hey, they helped us win the war! That’s quite a team-up accomplishment.
It’s said that living well is the best revenge, but for an even better revenge, why not do something incredibly impressive and beneficial to the world, and get your crappy ex-husbands to pay for it? That’s the plan adopted by Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton in The First Wives Club, a movie that follows three college best friends who reunite decades later and learn that they were all treated badly by their former spouses, and team up to get back at the men. But their real achievement is ending the film by establishing a new crisis center for women, something that the world—both in reality and cinema—sadly need.
Burt Reynolds always had an anti-authority streak about him, but in the 1970s, he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. And this 1974 football comedy is one of his better films (ignore the Adam Sandler remake), where his disgraced ex-pro football player goes to jail, and is pressured into coaching a team of fellow convicts in an exhibition game against the guards. We won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, this motley crew of prisoners becomes a real team, in every sense of the word, and the film itself is a touchdown.