The aim of this paper is to give an extensive treatment of bipartite mean field spin systems, pure and disordered. At first, bipartite ferromagnets are investigated, and an explicit expression for the free energy is achieved through a new minimax variational principle. Then, via the Hamilton-Jacobi technique, the same structure of the free energy is obtained together with the existence of its thermodynamic limit and the minimax principle is connected to a standard max one. The same is investigated for bipartite spin-glasses. By the Borel-Cantelli lemma we obtain the control of the high temperature regime, while via the double stochastic stability technique we also obtain the explicit expression of the free energy in the replica symmetric approximation, uniquely defined by a minimax variational principle again. We also obtain a general result that states that the free energies of these systems are convex linear combinations of their independent one-party model counterparts. For the sake of completeness, we show further that at zero temperature the replica symmetric entropy becomes negative and, consequently, such a symmetry must be broken. The treatment of the fully broken replica symmetry case is deferred to a forthcoming paper. As a first step in this direction, we start deriving the linear and quadratic constraints to overlap fluctuations.