Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed
Before they became besties in "Rocky III," the fictional Balboa-Creed rivalry was as compelling as the real-life Ali-Frazier drama back in the '70s. And it took place at around the same time. The original "Rocky" was released in 1976, the year after the Thrilla in Manilla, the third and last Ali-Frazier fight. The flamboyance of World Heavyweight Champion Creed was actually based on Ali. Note: Creed (Carl Weathers) won the first bout, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) won the rematch.
Fast Eddie Felson vs. Minnesota Fats
The first time Fast Eddie (Paul Newman) goes up against the legendary Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) in 1961's "The Hustler," he gets rolled, leaving the pool hall with just a couple hundred bucks to his name. The next time the two men play pool, it's for $3,000 a game and Fats is ultimately forced to quit. Fun fact: A real-life pool player known as both "New York Fats" and "Chicago Fats" adopted the name "Minnesota Fats" after the film was released, claiming to be the inspiration for Gleason's character.
Adam vs. Amanda Bonner
Adam (Spencer Tracy) is a prosecutor trying to put a woman away for shooting her adulterous husband. Amanda (Katharine Hepburn) is Adam's wife—but she's also the defendant's lawyer. And she gets her off. The courtroom rivalry in 1949's "Adam's Rib" gets pretty heated; at one point, Amanda humiliates her husband by having a female weightlifter pick him up off the ground just to prove a point. The Bonners wind up on the verge of splitting, though they decide to call off the divorce in the end—after Adam sheds some calculated tears.
Popeye vs. Bluto
We're not sure what's so crazy-special about Olive Oyl, but she sure does drive these two characters to distraction. Popeye and Bluto have been fierce rivals for Olive's affections forever. Bluto's modus operandi usually involves kidnapping the fair Olive—to do with her God only knows what! But then old Popeye cracks open a can of spinach (guess there were no bags back then) and voila, the lady is back where she belongs. Ain't love grand? Fun fact: "Popeye" wasn't the original name of the comic strip; it was first called "Thimble Theatre," and the Olive Oyl character predated Popeye by a decade.
Mozart vs. Salieri
If we are to believe the fictionalized account of the 18th century composers Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in "Amadeus," then this rivalry was a doozy. Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) is so blinded by rage at the superior genius of Mozart (Tom Hulce) that he murders the younger composer, thinking that God gave the wrong man such extraordinary gifts. In the end, Salieri unsuccessfully attempts suicide and is destined to a life of mediocrity. (Psst: There's absolutely no evidence that any of this is true.)
Sam Spade vs. the Fat Man
"The Maltese Falcon" (1941) may have been John Huston's first film, but the director gave us one of the most memorable movie rivalries ever. Private eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Kasper Gutman (aka the "Fat Man," brilliantly played by Sydney Greenstreet) both are searching for the priceless black bird—and will do anything to get it first. Neither winds up with the statue, but Huston's screenplay brings the characters in Dashiell Hammett's novel to life in a way that's increasingly rare.
Jets vs. Sharks
"West Side Story," Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's 1957 take on "Romeo and Juliet," centers around two rival Manhattan street gangs—one white (the Jets), the other Puerto Rican (the Sharks). Somehow love is supposed to triumph in this turf war. But in the end, the bitter rivalry claims the lives of three of the four main characters: Jets leader Riff, Sharks leader Bernardo and Tony, a former Jet who was in love with Bernardo's sister Maria. The 1961 film version, starring Natalie Wood, won 10 of the 11 Oscars it was nominated for.
Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty
Though the character only appeared in a couple of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works, the criminal mastermind Moriarty rose to be Holmes' single greatest rival in the many "adaptations" of the author's works. In "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (1939), Moriarty (George Zucco) and Holmes (Basil Rathbone) share a cab from the courthouse after Moriarty has been acquitted of a crime he likely committed. Fourteen Holmes movies were released between 1939 and 1946, and many of the plots were concocted by screenwriters. Rathbone was replaced by Tom Conway in 1947.
Al Capone vs. Elliott Ness
Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables" (1987) followed the real-life rivalry between federal agent Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) and gangter Al Capone (Robert De Niro) in the 1930s. In his 1957 book by the same title, Ness details his efforts to nail Capone for distributing alcohol during Prohibition; when that failed, Ness famously put Capone away for tax evasion instead. Capone was imprisoned for nine years, during which he was diagnosed with neurosyphilis. His health steadily declined until his death in 1947, at 48. Ness died in 1957 at age 54, just a month before his book was released.
Captain Ahab vs. Moby Dick
Rivalries don't get more bitter than this: A peg-legged sea captain who's out for revenge against—you guessed it—a great white whale, which had evered his leg at the knee. In this classic tale by Herman Melville, Captain Ahab and all but one of his crew (the narrator Ishmael) are killed hunting down the whale, which is wounded but swims away. John Huston's 1956 film adaptation of "Moby-Dick" starred Gregory Peck as Ahab. Huston had planned to cast his father, Walter Huston, in the role but the latter died before the film was made.
Hannibal Lecter vs. Clarice Starling
What happens when a young FBI trainee seeks out the advice of one serial killer to track down another? A pretty intense psychodramatic rivalry, that's what. Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) needs Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to help track down "Buffalo Bill," who's been killing generously sized women for their skins in 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs." Being a brilliant psychiatrist and master manipulator—as well as a cannibalistic killer—Lecter quickly turns things into a cat-and-mouse game as Starling sets out to solve the crime. In the end, she gets Bill, but Lecter escapes to kill another day.
Quint vs. The Great White
When the locals on Amity Island run out of ideas to kill the great white shark that's been feeding on summer tourists, they turn to a professional shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) in Steven Spielberg's 1975 summer blockbuster "Jaws." Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) sail off with Quint on his boat, the Orca, to hunt down the shark, but in the end it is the shark that hunts down Quint—and eats him. Brody succeeds in killing the shark, and he and Hooper head back to shore in an ending that evokes "Casablanca" in the bromance department.
George Bailey vs. Henry F. Potter
Bedford Falls' two financial pros couldn't be more different. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) owns the bank and is the richest, greediest man in town. George (Jimmy Stewart) runs his family's Building and Loan; he's anything but rich but has a heart of gold. Potter will do anything to put George out of business and George would like nothing more than to see Potter lose his hold over the town. We're talking Frank Capra's 1946 classic "It's a Wonderful Life," of course, though the theme of greedy banker seems remarkably current. In the end George winds up being "the richest man in town"—or at least that's what his brother Harry says.
Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral
War Admiral was the top racehorse in the country at the time, feared by anybody with a stake in thoroughbred racing. The stallion was the offspring of Man o' War, winning 21 of 26 starts. In 1938, the horse had its one and only race against Seabiscuit: the Pimlico Special in Baltimore. It was a huge event in racing—and Seabiscuit won by four lengths. The 2003 film "Seabiscuit" chronicles the fascinating rivalry. Fun fact: Seabiscuit was actually War Admiral's nephew.
Bart Simpson vs. Sideshow Bob
Ever since Bart got him sent to prison for armed robbery, Sideshow (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) has vowed to have his revenge on the little punk. Actually, he's been trying to kill Bart since Season 3 of "The Simpsons," which is 20 years ago now. Season 5's brilliant "Cape Feare" episode (a spoof on the thriller "Cape Fear") casts Sideshow in the ex-con role. After Sideshow is released from prison, Bart and the family enter the Witness Relocation Program and flee to Terror Lake so that Sideshow Bob can't harm them. He finds them, terrorizes them and sings (at Bart's request so as to buy time) the entire score of "H.M.S. Pinafore," but in the end is apprehended by the cops and imprisoned yet again.
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