Top 10 movie couples of all time
In celebration of true love, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 best movie couples of all time.
Okay, maybe not of all time. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, so this list is heavy on films from the last 30 years. Some of the couples I chose are from movie classics, some are sappy, some funny, and a few are completely cheesy — I couldn’t help myself. There are singers, superheroes, sports stars, ordinary folk, dancers, and a writer, among others. All of these couples will make you swoon in one way or another.
Here are my 10 favorite movie couples (in order of movie release date).
Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund from Casablanca (1942)
Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) not only experience love at first sight, but they do it with such style! Such class! They are both beautiful, idealistic, altruistic, ready to risk all for love, even if it can’t last. Add the fantastic score as a backdrop and those famous, swoon-worthy lines—from Rick: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world she walks into mine”; and Ilsa: “Kiss me. Kiss me as though it were the last time” — you can’t help but sigh over them.
Maria and Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music (1965)
Oh, how many times I’ve watched this movie! (There had to be a musical couple, right?) Maria (Julie Andrews) and Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) are the unlikely love story — the unconventional governess of the children who first annoys then charms the widower, bringing life back to his home through song. As a couple they complement each other: she reminds him why life is worth living, why it’s wonderful and beautiful; and he sees behind her eccentricities only to fall madly in love with all her quirkiness, not to mention her ability to mother his beloved children. They risk everything to keep their family together. Who can watch them without crying? Who can hear their songs without tearing up?
Oliver Barrett IV and Jennifer Cavalleri from Love Story (1970)
Radcliffe girl Jenny (Ali MacGraw) nicknames Harvard boy, Oliver, “Preppy” (Ryan O’Neal) from the get-go, and it isn’t long before they are in love. Oliver is rich enough to have campus buildings named after his family, and Jenny is of a different class, so the preppy’s Daddy is less than thrilled with their match. The best part about them as a couple is that Oliver loves Jenny for her smart mouth, her fearless way of approaching the world, and the fact that she could care less about his money — she’s such a spunky, intelligent young woman, and he really plays the romantic. That Oliver loves her no matter what and ’til death do them part is tragic, yes, but what a worthy hero he makes as a result.
Rocky Balboa and Adrian Pennino from Rocky (1976)
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, never mind that it’s a romance wrapped in a Cinderella sports story that gives you the chills whenever you watch it. Rocky, “The Italian Stallion” (Sylvester Stallone) is the inspiring, blue collar, local Philly boxer, who is the ultimate underdog. Not only do you root for him in the boxing ring, but you can’t help hoping that the girl he pursues, shy Adrian (Talia Shire), will fall for this unlikely, gruff hero. And when she does, she falls hard, and supports him unfailingly on the road to face Apollo Creed in the World Heavyweight Championship. They are the picture of the working class couple whom you want to see make it work.
‘Baby’ Houseman and Johnny Castle from Dirty Dancing (1987)
So what if this film is dripping with cheese? Watching Baby (Jennifer Grey) learn to dance with bad-boy-with-a-bad-reputation Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) is about as good as movie couples get. They are a great match because of chemistry, of course, but most of all because they can dance together in a way that gives you chills. As a couple they represent the romantic ideal of taking chances and risking everything for love (and dancing). Baby and Johnny give us a couple of hours to live out that secret falling-in-love-with-the-hot-dance-teacher fantasy.
Sally Albright and Harry Burns from When Harry Met Sally (1989)
The best friendship-turned-complicated-romance movie ever. Sally (Meg Ryan) and Harry (Billy Crystal) represents such a classic relationship situation, it’s almost impossible to find someone in real life who can’t relate to their dilemma about whether or not guys and girls can be friends. On top of the relatability factor, the sense of humor shared by this movie couple has to be one of the best we’ve ever seen. Equally endearing is watching their “I can’t stand you” turning to longterm friendship turning to lifelong love. They get the longevity award — we know that Sally and Harry will make it through thick and thin. There’s no way they’d ever give up on each other.
Viola De Lesseps and Will Shakespeare from Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Don’t you wish that this version of Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) — and his love life — was for real? Will is passionate, idealistic, poor, certainly, but he has a way with words (of course) and is about as romantic as a gorgeous guy gets. Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) is much like Will: passionate, idealistic, beautiful, smart, and talented, though rich as can be. Unfortunately, this complicates things for these two young lovers. Regardless of all the barriers between them, they risk everything for love — a love that turns out to be impossible. To watch this couple fall in love on stage and off is more than a treat.
Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona from 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
There had to be a high school couple on this list. While I’m a John Hughes devotee from the ’80s, the fierce, snarky Kat (Julia Stiles) and gorgeous, angsty, and mysterious Patrick won the Best Couple crown in this film, loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Plus, this was one of the late Heath Ledger’s earliest screen incarnations, as Patrick Verona, the troubled bad boy, who gets involved with the difficult, uninterested Kat for all the wrong reasons. But watching him woo this girl-band loving, guitar-playing feminist wins our forgiveness, never mind watching Kat as his reluctant, hilarious, target. Patrick is clearly a romantic, and by the end we know that Kat is as well. They are irresistible together.
Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar from Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Watching two beautiful, rugged men, Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), fall in love — however forbidden they believe their love to be — is gripping. This is a classic story of star-crossed love. As spare as the movie’s prose is, it never fails to elicit strong emotions as Ennis and Jack’s love leads them down the road to tragedy. You can’t help feeling their anguish and pain as they struggle with their relationship and with the lifestyle that keeps them apart. You experience their happiness when they are together again and intense anger at the outcome brought about by an intolerant world and culture.
Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker from Spider-Man 1 (2002), 2 (2004), & 3 (2007)
Everyboy Peter Parker (Toby Maguire) — humble, sweet, awkward, idealistic, and lovesick for MJ (Kirsten Dunst), the girl next door — is a must-love guy, and when he inherits the powers and responsibilities of a superhero, we not only can forgive him the luck, but we want him to be a winner in every way. MJ is ambitious, beautiful, talented, and fierce, yet sweet at the same time. The working class backdrop of their neighborhood, combined with the glamour of Spider-Man’s New York City, is the perfect setting to watch Peter (Spidey) and MJ fall in love and figure out how to make the not-so-ordinary girl and the superhero boy romance work out. Then there’s the chemistry between them — that upside down kiss in the rain might be cheesy, but it has to be one of the top 10 movie kisses ever.
Donna Freitas has a Ph.D. in spirituality and is the author of many nonfiction books and two young adult novels, “The Possibilities of Sainthood” and “This Gorgeous Game,” due out this spring from FSG.
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