Top 10 Mentor-Protégé Relationships in Movies

Imagine you are in a theater, watching an engrossing movie..it is the final confrontation between the noble hero and the evil villain..and suddenly, our hero is down on the ground..barely breathing. You are on the edge of your seat waiting in agony.. All hope seems lost..only a miracle can save the hero now…when all of a sudden –

a booming voice echoes..it is the voice of reassurance..it is the sage advice of his mentor that the hero recalls..And then, the hero finds his courage..picks himself up and defeats the villain. Good triumphs over evil as the audience hoot and cheer.

It is cinematic moments like these that lead to an unforgettable experience. These stories uplift the spirit, bring back memories of our own struggles and can be a source of encouragement when we most need it. Below are 10 movies that beautifully captured the magic of mentorship and have been forever etched in  our memory.

10. Leone Montana and Mathilda Lando in ‘Léon: The Professional’ (1994)

Directed by : Luc Besson

Main Cast : Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman

Genre : Action-Drama

Plot : Twelve-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) learns that her entire family has been murdered by a corrupt DEA cop (Gary Oldman). Seeking to avenge the death of her innocent little brother, she has a chance encounter with a reclusive ‘cleaner’ named Leon (Jean Reno) who may be the solution to her problems.

This movie boasts of stellar performances from the entire cast. Natalie Portman as a precocious teenager gives us a glimpse of her talents which have now made her one of the most sought after female actors of her generation. Yes, the story may seem hackneyed by today’s standards but its the relationship between Mathilda and Leon that forms the heart of the story. This is also one of my favorite Gary Oldman movies. He is the absolute personification of malice in this role and truly shines in this over the top villainous performance.

9. Mufasa and Simba in ‘The Lion King’ (1994)

Directed by : Roger AllersRob Minkoff

Main Cast : James Earl Jones , Jonathan Taylor ThomasMatthew BroderickJeremy Irons

Genre : Adventure-Drama, Musical

Plot : Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick) is the successor to Mufasa (James Earl Jones) – the lion king of the Pride Lands. As a young cub, he constantly looks up to his father who is both noble and just. Through his journey, he realizes that being a king is not just about ruling the lands but also about confronting your fears and taking charge during adversities.

With a story that is reminiscent of Shakespeare‘s  ‘Hamlet‘, The Lion King is one of Disney’s highest grossing movies of all time. The brilliant score by Hans Zimmer and songs by Elton John add to the movie’s enduring charm. It also boasts of strong supporting characters such as the king’s adviser Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), the wise old mandrill Rakifi (Robert Guillaume) and the comic wisecracks Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella).

8. Narrator and Tyler Durden in ‘Fight Club’ (1999)

Directed by : David Fincher

Main Cast : Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

Genre: Action-Thriller

Plot:  We are introduced to an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) who works a routine job and suffers from insomnia and depression. He visits support groups for various diseases posing as a victim possibly with the intent to feel good about his life. But his hatred for his mundane lifestyle and consumerism only grows. While returning from a business meeting one day, he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and is instantly drawn to his charismatic appeal and ideology. Together they start an underground fight club which serves as a therapeutic escape for the narrator.

Based on the equally brilliant novel –Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, this movie classic went highly unnoticed when it was first released. The cult status it has reached today is due to the advent of home media and its many memorable dialogs. David Fincher’s crisp storytelling captures your attention from the get-go as you witness the narrator transform from a confused and awkward salesman to a ruthless fighter.

7. Genie and Aladdin in ‘Aladdin’ (1992)

Directed by : Ron ClementsJohn Musker

Main Cast : Robin WilliamsScott WeingerJonathan FreemanGilbert Gottfried

Genre: Adventure, Musical

Plot:  Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) is the vizier to the king of Agrabah. He seeks a magical lamp buried in the Cave of Wonders that can give him immense power to overthrow the king. But when told that ‘only a diamond in the rough’ may enter the cave to retrieve the lamp, he seeks out Aladdin (Scott Weinger) – an orphan street child to fulfill this task.

Another product of Disney’s Renaissance period, this rags-to-riches adventure reached cult status due to the inimitable Robin Williams. A master of stand-up comedy before making a successful foray into into Hollywood, his vocal talents shine as the lovable Genie who serves as both mentor and friend to Aladdin.

6. Gandalf and Frodo Baggins in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy (2001 – 2003)

Directed by : Peter Jackson

Main Cast : Elijah WoodIan McKellenViggo MortensenCate BlanchettAndy Serkis

Genre: Fantasy-Adventure

Plot: In the fictional land of Middle Earth, the Ring of Power has resurfaced and holds the potential to resurrect the evil Sauron. The elves, men, dwarves, and hobbits are forced to put their differences aside and unite to thwart this evil. When a young hobbit named Frodo (Elijah Wood) takes it upon himself to destroy the One Ring, the Fellowship is created to assist him in this quest.

One of the first modern movie franchises to enter the billion-dollar club at the box office, there is little that hasn’t already been said about this epic tale. Based on the book of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien, the success of LOTR led to the birth many copycat franchises towards the turn of the millennium. With an engaging story and all round great performances across the board, it’s hard to imagine that each movie clocks well above the 3-hour mark!

5. John Keating and his students in ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ (1989)

Directed by : Peter Weir

Main Cast : Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke

Genre: Drama

Plot: Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) joins an elite prep university for his high school senior year. He befriends the school’s star student Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) and finds the approval of his friend circle which includes the constant troublemaker Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) and the love-smitten Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles). They are assigned a new English teacher – John Keating (Robin Williams), who is an alumnus of the school. Over time, his unconventional teaching methods help Todd and his friends realize their true potential and stand up for what they believe in.

Fun trivia for my Indian readers – the Bollywood superhit and Shah Rukh Khanstarrer ‘Mohabbatein‘ is loosely based on this movie. Robin Williams makes a second appearance on this list for this well deserving Oscar-nominated role. Far from his usual comic fare, Williams is remarkably subdued as John Keating, a teacher who wants his students to strive for excellence and not merely conform to what is expected of them. With a storyline that one can relate with even now, this coming-of-age drama is a must watch.

4.  Master Shifu and Po in ‘Kung Fu Panda’ (2008)

Directed by : John StevensonMark Osborne

Main Cast : Jack Black, Dustin HoffmanIan McShane, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan

Genre: Action-Adventure

Plot: Po (Jack Black) is a panda who works at his father’s restaurant. He is a Kung Fu fanatic and dreams of being a Kung Fu master like the ‘Furious Five’. When news breaks in the valley about the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escaping from jail, the Grand Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), an old tortoise foresees that only the one known as the ‘Dragon Warrior’ possesses the power to stop him. Circumstances lead the Grad Master to declare Po as the Dragon Warrior and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) must now work with Po to help him master the ancient ways of Kung Fu.

This underdog story caught everyone by surprise and went on to be the biggest success for DreamWorks Production after the ‘Shrek‘ trilogy. Who knew that Jack Black’s genre of American slapstick comedy would work so well for a Chinese panda! The camaraderie between Master Shifu and Po is both funny and heart-warming. The movie also boasts of an A-list supporting cast comprising of the fierce Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross).

3.  Mr. Miyagi and Daniel LaRusso in ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984)

Directed by : John G. Avildsen

Main Cast : Ralph MacchioPat MoritaElisabeth Shue

Genre: Action-Drama

Plot: Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) moves to Reseda, California with his mother when he is to begin his senior year of high school. He falls in love with Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), much to the ire of her ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Being a karate student, he proceeds to bully Daniel on a regular basis. One day, after a Halloween party, the reclusive Mr. Miyagi saves Daniel from Johnny’s henchmen. After much coaxing, he agrees to train Daniel in karate so that he can participate in the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament and fend off the bullies for good.

The present generation may be more familiar with the Jaden Smith remake of the same name. But the 1984 version was the one that started it all. Ranked as one of the best coming-of-age tales of all time, the story effortlessly balances elements of action and humor with aplomb.

2. Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone in ‘The Godfather’ (1972)

Directed by : Francis Ford Coppola

Main Cast : Marlon BrandoAl PacinoJames CaanRobert DuvallDiane Keaton

Genre: Crime-Drama

Plot: Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), a former army veteran returns home to attend his sister’s wedding where he meets his estranged father, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) who is the ‘Don’ of a crime family. Circumstances force Michael to join the crime business as he vows to avenge the attack on his father’s life.

Considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, The Godfather influenced innumerable movies in the gangster genre in subsequent years. Judging by the cult status that Marlon Brando’s performance in this movie has reached today, it’s hard to imagine that Francis Ford Coppola had to fight tooth and nail to convince the executives at Paramount to get him onboard. A relative unknown until then, this was also Al Pacino’s star-making role. Together with a brilliant score by Nino Rota, Michael’s transformation from a dutiful son to a ruthless crime boss is unsettling and engaging to watch at the same time.

1. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker in ‘Star Wars – Original Trilogy’ (1977-1983)

Directed by : George LucasIrvin KershnerRichard Marquand

Main Cast : Mark HamillHarrison FordCarrie FisherJames Earl Jones

Genre: Science Fiction, Action-Adventure

Plot: The evil organization known as ‘The Empire’ led by the menacing Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) wants to crush the last of ‘The Resistance’ that is lead by the noble Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). Her paths cross with a farmer, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who aspires to be a pilot and a dubious smuggler named Han Solo (Harrison Ford). They join forces to thwart the Empire’s plans to bring the universe under it’s tyrannical rule.

You know this was coming! No list can ever be complete without the series that is revered as the epitome of student-mentor relationships. At the heart of the story is Luke Skywalker’s journey from a simple farmer to a Resistance pilot and ultimately a powerful Jedi. At first, Luke is the archetype of the young and confused man who seeks guidance. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) introduces Luke to ‘The Force’ and Yoda (Frank Oz) helps him achieve his mastery. With iconic characters like Darth Vader, Yoda, and Han Solo, this timeless classic continues to capture the imagination of viewers across generations even today.

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Dumbledore and Harry Potter in the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise (2001-2011)
  2. V and Evey Hammond in ‘V for Vendetta’ (2006)
  3. Dr. King Schultz and Django Freeman in ‘Django Unchained’ (2012)
  4. Dr. Sean Maguire and Will Hunting in ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997)
  5. Henri Ducard and Bruce Wayne in ‘Batman Begins’ (2005)

This was my list of classic mentor-protégé movies. Which is your favorite?  Share your comments!

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Author: The Entertainment Lister

Hello there! I am a Software Developer by profession but a Pop Culture enthusiast at heart. When not contemplating my next career move, I find solace in watching, discussing or thinking about movies, music and TV shows. If you share the same enthusiasm, follow my musings for your viewing/listening pleasure. Happy Reading!

7 thoughts on “Top 10 Mentor-Protégé Relationships in Movies”

  1. I never thought of Genie and Aladdin as a mentor-protege relationship before, but it does kind of fit. Robin Williams really did make the show for that one. ‘Prince Ali’ still pops up in my head from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Goodness, when you mentioned the “Lion King” I had to stop and read, that is my FAVORITE movie of all time and as a kid, I remember watching it all the time, It was always the first movie I would choose. Still til this day, it is a movie that will always be close to my heart! I am so happy you added it to the list. The music alone was beautifully done and all the actors did amazing jobs! I always cry when Mufasa dies, breaks my heart every time. Such an amazing movie!

    Shay-lon

    P.S there were some other movies on the list that I liked as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This is wonderful! I am happy I stumbled upon another blogger who has enjoyed the movie as well. Just reading your blog post on it, made me want to watch the movie , lol. You’re welcome, have a wonderful Wednesday 😀

        Like

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