Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life Siblings

Top 10 Films takes a look at ten examples when siblings helped create cinematic magic including The Royal Tenenbaums, Good Will Hunting & Donnie Darko

The film industry has a long tradition of familial nepotism whether it’s father and son (e.g. Donald and Kiefer Sutherland), mother and daughter (e.g. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher) or husband and wife (e.g. Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers/Nicole Kidman/Katie Holmes). Perhaps no relationship is more fraught with potential problems however than those involving siblings. Saying that, not all relationships are based upon the type of rivalry perfected by the Crane brothers. Here are ten examples of when siblings have created magic.

Donnie Darko (Kelly, 2001)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsBrother and sister Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal starred in the strange story about prophetic visions and giant rabbits. Directed by Richard Kelly, the film originally received little attention at the box office but soon garnered a cult following when released onto home cinema. A fine example of independent filmmaking, the story has kept people talking to this day and everybody has their own interpretation on just what it all means.

Young Guns (Cain, 1988)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsBrothers Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen (born Carlos Estevez) kick up a storm in the story of Wild West child rebel Billy the Kid. A great cast really embody the characters so familiar to anybody with a love of Westerns and each one of them seem to be having a hoot of a time. Spawning a sequel that really holds up well, the film is often lauded for being an accurate portrayal of the life of the famous gunslinger.

High Fidelity (Frears, 1999)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsJohn and Joan Cusack starred in the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel in 2000. An instant hit with cool kids and critics alike the film takes us through one man’s disastrous relationship history. The real magic and focus of the film however is music and its importance in life. With a soundtrack featuring The Kinks, The Velvet Underground, The Beta Band, Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan as well as many, many more it manages to evoke memories of first love and broken hearts with perfection.

A Night at the Opera (Wood, 1935)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsGroucho, Chico and Harpo Marx (Julius, Leonard and Arthur respectively) appeared for the first time without their fourth brother Zeppo (Herbert) in this 1935 MGM film. One of the Marx Brothers absolute classics, the film contains the famous ‘Stateroom’ scene, sort of like Sardines in a ship’s cabin, and contains some great Groucho one-liners “Hello, room service? Send up a room.” Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones provided the opera of the title performing pieces from Pagliacci and Il trovatore.

The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2002)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsWes Anderson’s comedy-drama features performances from brothers Luke and Owen Wilson. Nominated for an Academy Award, the film is concerned with the lives of three siblings and the effect of family life upon them. With typical Andersonesque motifs and ingenuity the film is an early example of the genius behind The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Home Alone (Columbus, 1990

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsBoth Macaulay and Kieran Culkin appeared in the Christmas family favourite. An instant hit at the box office the story had an element of Warner Bros. cartoons that took an edge off the incredible violence inflicted upon hapless burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Several sequels were made but none quite lived up to the original which still fills the TV schedule each festive period. Macaulay was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in what was unfortunately to be the peak of his acting career.

The Fabulous Baker Boys (Kloves, 1989)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsReal life brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges played fictional brothers in the genre crossing (romance/comedy/drama/musical) 1980s The Fabulous Baker Boys. Nominated for several Academy Awards, the film is often cited as the one that sent Michelle Pfeiffer’s star into orbit. Mixing smooth jazz with 80s grit, the film is about relationships, not just between brothers but also between an artist and the constant battle between staying true and staying alive.

Good Will Hunting (Van Sant, 1998)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsThe film that famously made Matt Damon and Ben Affleck also featured Ben’s now Academy Award winning brother Casey Affleck. With a magnificent performance from the late, great Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting grabbed the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Damon and Affleck. The story of a genius, caught up in a life where there is a constant struggle to stay out of trouble and above water, captured the imagination of the public and the critics who applauded it in turns.

The Departed (Scorsese, 2005)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsMartin Scorsese’s remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs featured Mark and Robert Wahlberg as law enforcement officers. With a stand out cast including Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Sheen the film tells the story of police corruption and those who wish to expose it. A cat and mouse tale where both main characters are the cat and the mouse, the film’s levels of suspense had audiences guessing and digging their nails into cinema seats in their hoards.

Supersonic (Whitecross, 2016)

Top 10 Films Featuring Real-Life SiblingsFeaturing the infamous music legends that are the Gallagher brothers, 2016’s documentary Supersonic charts the rise of the indie band Oasis through the 1990s. Directed by Mat Whitecross with producers Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees (the Oscar winners behind Amy 2015’s documentary about Amy Winehouse) the film provided behind the scenes footage and backstage access to one of the most important bands in recent history. With controversy never far away, Liam and Noel Gallagher never fail to entertain and neither does this documentary.

Written & Compiled by Steve Shepherdson

Over to you: what are your fave films featured above? What siblings would you add to the list?

About the Author
Steve Shepherdson started writing professionally during his time at university where he studied BA Creative Writing & Film Studies. Specialising in film, theatre and entertainment, he has worked for such publications as Om Yoga, Sardines Magazine and The Hollywood News. He is currently working on his first novel, a science fiction story called Revolution Island. Click here to connect with Steve on LinkedIn. Also found out more at:

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    Fulmer Reply

    Certainly The Long Riders (1980) which featured 4 sets of siblings; Quaids, Carradines, Guests & the Keach brothers all playing character siblings.

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    Callum Reply

    It was several years after seeing Sheen and Estevez in a film together that I learned they were brothers. I like Men at Work too – Estevez directed that one as well as starred alongside Sheen. Young Guns is great fun though.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Great list. You pretty much covered all the really good ones. I’d add Grosse Point Blank. Although they didn’t have any screen time together, Cusack and Cusack were really good in that one….and maybe it’s kind of cheating a little bit but I thought the Hamilton sisters were fun to watch in Terminator 2.

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    Courtney Reply

    Great post! I fully love the exchange between Jake and Maggie at the dinner table in Donnie Darko. They’re hilarious together!

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      D Reply

      They really are, aren’t they? When I always watch that scene, I think – that is EXACTLY how real siblings behave. You just cannot imitate something like that.

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    Mark Fraser Reply

    Keith gunning down a maggotted David Carradine in Mean Streets was a funny touch.

    Also, Sean and Christopher Penn in At Close Range ….

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