Male bonding in movies is still a relatively rare subject for the cinema to tackle. If it’s not one of the new crops of movies exploring gay relationships, cinema usually doesn’t know how to portray the love, admiration and affection between men.

Here are three very different films that I’ve enjoyed over the past year. They explore unique approaches to the subject of male bonding. It’s probably interesting to note that each is set in a predominantly all-male environment. See what you think. Enjoy.

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The Sergeant (1968)

This exceptional movie on male bonding caught my adolescent imagination on British TV late one night. I was about 14 years old at the time. As a keen film buff, I’ve tried to seek it out time and time again. Without remembering the actor, director or even the title of the film, it was hard to find. It’s taken years to discover a clip of The Sergeant on YouTube, but the full movie is there in eleven parts, and that’s where I’ve just watched it again.

Another boundless performance from Rod Steiger of course, but this time as the lovelorn Master Sergeant Albert Callan, obsessed with one of his men. The inevitably tragic ending is typical of its time. However, The Sergeant feels much more like a modern documentary drama set against a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the army than a piece of Hollywood fiction more than half a century old.

The silent opening sequence alone with its mournful jazz score and the blend of B&W and colour footage is still masterly cinematography. Still hard to find on DVD or for sale anywhere on the net, the storytelling is as good today as it was back then. You’ve just got to love the Internet for helping to find things!

Cell 211 Celda 211

You might expect some male bonding in a prison movie, but this is no Shawshank Redemption. It’s like being grabbed by the throat for 104 minutes. Cell 211 takes a stranglehold on your consciousness and never let you go, even after the credits have rolled, and the screen has turned to black.

It tells the claustrophobic story of a young prison guard who gets caught up in a riot in his first day on the job. He must pretend to be an inmate to survive the ordeal. A friendship soon develops between him and the hard-headed riot leader, but as usual, life always has a way of changing the game and upping the stakes.

One of the best recent non-Hollywood films soon to be remade as a Hollywood film. Do yourself a favour and watch the original.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

The male bonding in Tae Guk Gi is between two brothers. These two are forcibly drafted into the South Korean army to fight against advancing Communist forces in the early 1950s. In so doing, they find themselves in emotional and ideological conflict. Jin-Seok is the younger of the two for whom, his brother, Jin-Tae, has sacrificed to provide an education. As the two brothers battle conflicting experiences of war and grow apart; what follows is probably the most gruesome anti-war film you will ever see.

So realistic and bloody are the battle scenes that it’s almost like being there. Under Je-Gyu Kang’s spectacular direction, we too are dodging bullets and shrapnel on the battlefield. This film is a fantastic opportunity to see the Korean war from the POV of Koreans for a change. What remains as the credits roll is an epic tale of the love between two brothers in which the casualties of war lay bare for all to see. Superb in every way, and highly recommended.

So what’s your favourite male-bonding movies and why do they appeal? Tell us about your gay-friendly film choices in the comment form below.


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