4. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, Hope Springs
Take note: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones aren’t actually married. But anyone watching Hope Springs could be fooled into believing they were watching one of those off-screen couples agreeing to collaborate on a film, like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in Jersey Girl. Playing a long-time married couple seeking assistance from a sympathetic counselor (Steve Carell), Streep and Jones dig into the warts and rough patches that plague any relationship, holding up a magnifying glass to the insecurities and fears many couples face after decades living under the same roof. They’re so in tune, we honestly believe they’ve been at it together for the bulk of their natural lives, instead of simply actors reading the words written for them on the page.

3. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt, Looper
This one’s kind of a cheat, as Looper fans know Willis and Gordon-Levitt play the same character, just at different stages of his life. Time travel allows such on-screen trickery, sending older Joe (Willis) back to face young Joe (JGL) in a battle of wills – and brawn – that could define the fate of our planet’s future. No big deal, right? The diner scene writer-director Rian Johnson penned for his head-strong leading men, though, was a big deal, and one of the most memorable exchanges of 2012. These two actors didn’t get enough screen time together, but as that table talk proved, when they were able to share the spotlight, they made the most of it, and Looper managed to shine.

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