Romance movies are brilliant, aren’t they? I mean, lapping up love like there is no tomorrow is an audience favourite. People just love going all mushy when Channing Tatum kisses the girl (or Jonah Hill) and swoops her up in his abs declaring that whatever plot device they had to get over, doesn’t matter. The problem is that when it comes to the actors, they have to have the right amount of chemistry for it to work. Sometimes, whether they like each other or not, you’ll find that if you can’t fizzle on screen or entire romantic shtick will go off without a bang.
But what about those actors who can hit the right notes? For Valentine’s Day, let’s look at those
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in The Cornetto Trilogy
“Hang on a minute, that’s not a romantic film?” Well, actually Shaun of the Dead has been called a romantic zombie comedy so how’s that for a slice of fried gold? And apart from the ladies Liz and Sam, it is actually less about wooing a lady and more about wooing your mate. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, best pals in real life, transform their comedic energy on the big screen and create a series of films centred on their bromance. It’s hard to pick just one epic scene between them but the one that springs to mind is in the Winchester where Shaun says “Thanks Babe” with a wink after declaring “he’s not my boyfriend.” Sure, Shaun, sure.
Paul Rudd and Alicia Silverstone in Clueless
I would argue that Paul Rudd has chemistry with anyone because he is just that sublime at humanistic comedy. His history of ladies include Leslie Mann and Lisa Kudrow, portraying two very believable couples. One of his earliest roles was in that 1990’s adaptation of Emma, Clueless. As (ex) stepbrother Josh, Rudd plays opposite Silverstone’s seemingly superficial but generally sweet natured Cher and it works. Their constant sparring is in good spirits and it is clear that underneath it, lust and love are blossoming unequivocally. As it blossoms into romance, the whole coupling feels natural and real.
Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer
Let’s be clear, this is film is definitely not a love story. But from the word go, the sparks are flying across the 500 days that you’ll be like Tom, actually begging them to get together. The pair scintillate with their quirky hipster likes and loves, instantly hitting it off despite her protests. What works between Deschanel and JGL is their mutual understanding between the pair that unravels and is regained throughout the broken narrative. The film is much a testament to how people can still bustle with energy and it not work. Through the centric performances, this is told splendidly.
Patrick Dempsey and Amy Adams in Enchanted
It was a pleasant surprise to see a live-action movie from Disney that isn’t afraid to take a few self-deprecating jokes. The entire affair of Prince and Princess pursued by Wicked Witch is turned on its head when the girl falls into a hole and winds up in our Universe. Exploring New York City, she bumps into cynic Robert and the pairs ideals clash. Though predictably they fall in love, their romantic charge is clear from the beginning. One scene is brimming with this chemistry, when they are dancing together at the ball and he sings a song with words meant just for her – because that’s how you know he loves her….that’s how you know he cares.
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic
Any time you thrust these real life best friends on screen, you’ll almost certain to get a great performance out of the pair. Heck, even off screen there are billions of people who just wish they’d tie the knot because they have a fantastic dynamic. Their first screen companionship, and definitely the most famous, was Jack and Rose in James Cameron’s overblown sea epic Titanic. Sure, the film has lost its bearings over the past few years but still standing strong (like a Celine Dion epic) is the ice melting love between these characters and subsequently, the actors. Despite her letting go in the end, their chemistry is so strong here that Rose forgets her entire marriage after Jack’s death… (that has nothing to do with the actors’chemistry but, well, I had to say something).
Emily Blunt and Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau
Carrying on a love story that transcends time and space may seem like something only The Doctor can do but with the smart film The Adjustment Bureau, the filmmakers were able to capture the urgencies of soulmates and how meeting someone can change your entire world. The premise that our hero David is trying desperately to keep Elise in his life, opposing the ruling by these “fixer uppers” who control the universe is strong when you have the divine Blunt and the excellent Damon gifting the pair with a fiery attraction.
Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in West Side Story
Musicals have different levels of chemistry that you have to hit in order to make your love seem realistic. For example, you have to have all the singing on point. It has to match and harmonise with emotion and talent. Then you have to dance well too, every foot has to fit in with excellence. And when you aren’t can-canning or yodelling, you have to make the relationship believable. Which is exactly what Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer do as Maria and Tony in West Side Story. Ok, ok, they don’t exactly sing (that’s the job of Marni Nixon and Jimmy Byrant), but their love is so believable that you cannot stop blubbing at the tragic end.
Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in Romancing The Stone
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. And when the romancing makes love, the love gets loving – wait, what? Ok, so that was a terrible link into this entry but during the eighties, you’d be hard pushed to find an adventure film that didn’t titillate with the core performances and romance. As with most writers, wishing that their action-packed hero would come to life is a dream come true for Joan as she winds up on a jungle journey with exotic bird smuggler (you read that right) Jack. Here, the almost ridiculous plot is helped with the pairing and it makes for a funny yet affectionate relationship
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Noteboook
They reportedly hated each other. Then they started dating each other. Which apparently sent a load of confusing signals to the director Nick Cassavetes. The minute you see Allie run soaked into Noah’s arms as he bellows “I wrote you a letter everyday”, you’ll forget about all the behind the scenes hatred. They ooze this melodrama romance that connects immediately the first time they see each other. And if you wanted some more chemistry in The Notebook, then James Garner and Gene Rowlands as the older versions of the characters really gift the film with this elderly chemistry too, however heart-breaking it is in the end.
Colin Firth and Renee Zelwegger in Bridget Jones’ Diary
“What a minute, nice guys don’t kiss like that?”
“Yes they fucking do.”Actually, we’ll happily say that Firth is, again, one of those actors who is so good that you’ll believe his romance with everyone including Helena Bonham Carter and Matthew Goode. Apart of the soaking gorgeousness he was as Mr Darcy, one of his most famed roles was as Mark in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Look, we didn’t believe Hugh Grant and Renee to begin with (we were always suspicious of his adulterous ways). However, the first awkward conversation between Mark and Bridget oozed with this awkward tension that was so well acted you couldn’t help but want them to end up together.
Steve Oram and Alice Lowe in Sightseers
So love comes in all these strange shaped boxes but none of them is as weird as Tina and Chris in Sightseers. Developed by the pair of actors themselves, with helpful guidance from director Ben Wheatley, the character actors are simply divine in their murderous ways that seems at odds with the rest of the world. As they tour the peculiar sites of Britain, from the pencil museum to Stonehenge, Lowe and Oram really connect in this amazing cult classic. They even have a better sex life than most and though hilarious, there are some very emotional moments too.
Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride
“As you wish” screams Westley as he tumbles down the grassy knoll and the whole entire audience swoons along with Buttercup. This cult movie does so much for romance and humour that it is really hard not to see these characters as a couple in real life. The passion between the main characters comes at you like a Rodent of Unusual Size and it is helped along by stories of set harmonies. Knowing that everyone has fond memories of The Princess Bride just enhances the love story and makes Elwes and Wright vibrant on screen.
Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in Love Is Strange
There is something so engaging about Molina and Lithgow’s performances that you’ll be made not to see it. They play an ageing couple, Ben and George who are forced apart when they marry and one of their employers lets them go. Staying with family is difficult, but it is more of a strain on the pair. The honesty and swan song to ageing couples in Love Is Strange is strong in the earnest performances from Molina and Lithgow that’ll have you screaming for a real life wedding for the pair!
Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
Taking a prostitute and giving her all your riches so you can pass her off as a debutant may seem strange and strained in this day and age. However, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere were so wonderful as the pair that you’d believe this happens on a regular basis. Edward and Vivian shine and it departs happily from the first tension into this endearing love. The famous scene is the one where he snaps the jewellery box at her. The laugh and reaction is believable and warms your gullet so much that your heart will burst. Gere’s and Roberts romance were so great that they tried to rekindle it with the Runaway Bride – good but never quite as stellar as this.
Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser in The Mummy
The rambunctious Rick and the book-smart Evelyn may look as though they are at opposite ends of the Egyptian expert spectrum. But as usual, despite being at odds, their animal magnetism draws them in. One and two of The Mummy series really works at showcasing how great Fraser is as a rougher Indiana Jones whilst Weisz compelled us like the English rose she is. What works here is how they shape their differences around their romances and never compromise either, the pair of actors have fun whilst similarly conveying an ultimate couple.
Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in True Romance
Often missed by people when they look back at Quentin Tarantino’s back catalogue, True Romance was one of the first feature films that the young Tarantino penned that wasn’t a cult classic. Slater and Arquette bring youthful energy to this crime drama that contrasts the terrifying Gary Oldman in hot pursuit. There are many scenes here that, despite their criminal tendencies, makes you believe that romance and love has no boundaries. “You’re so cool” is a repeated line that sums up their Bonnie and Clyde romp across L.A that is so compelling.
James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s A Wonderful Life
Even when George is down and out, Mary is still there for him. He may feel like a burden by Mary has loved him since he lassoed the moon down for her. Honestly, the draw here comes from Stewart and Reed for effervescence even on the downtrodden moments. As sparks fly at the beginning of their relationship, a poignant dance scene that has them falling in the water, the pair are able to delicately unravel with the sadder moments. Not a dry eye in the house when they rekindle in the end either, and that’s down to the believable romance.
Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!
Nicole Kidman has had many leading men who have worked well with her acting. Sam O’Neil and Tom Cruise are just highlights of her great romantic career (obviously the latter, being her husband at the time, is engaging too.) However, in Baz Luhrman’s musical, Ewan McGregor’s bright eyed boy is matched sublimely to her courtesan ways. As they go on a secret affair, all set to tunes, the pair express freedom, beauty, truth and love. Between their pitched duets and their declarations of love, their ill-fated relationship is only enhanced by the beautiful actor and actress who connect definitely.
Tom Cullen and Chris New in Weekend
Here is a film that works on so many levels. It is a brilliant and astute portrayal of a fleeting love that develops over only a few days. As Russell and Jamie meet on a random night out, their initial morning after is so poignantly done that it connects with the audience straight away. As they tend to their emotions and feelings, getting more intense with each passing day, the pair bring a humanistic tone to their characters that will have you sobbing when they depart on the train. This is a beautiful and endearing film helmed by two men who gleam brightly in this wonderful on-screen pairing.
Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars
You stinking Nerf-herders didn’t think we’d leave this off the list, right? Well, the intergalactic space series Star Wars produced one of our favourite chemistries that bounces to a land far, far away. The minute Han Solo pops up cockily on screen and the minute the burning petty arguments begin, you just know that they are going to end up together. Even though Han is not our main protagonist, the creepy scene between Leia and Luke didn’t work before they found out they were related. However, how can you not get dreamy eyes at the late Carrie’s desperate “I love you” with Ford’s smoky, “I know.”
What do you think? Who are your favourite on-screen couples?