1. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) & Leia Organa — SW 4-7 (Carrie Fisher)
The definition of iconic, both of the actors involved were sex symbols at the time and carried on with that status well after the film released. The relationship was featured in the three original films and was a main feature of the first film of the sequel series. Perhaps what made the two so endearing as a couple was the classic rough man and princess tropes being turned around by the time their relationship had any merit. By The Empire Strikes Back Leia was already acting as a general in the resistance and was on the ground beside Han in just about every skirmish they were a part of. This was a relationship that was brought back 32 years later back in The Force Awakens.
2. Mrs. & Mr. Smith — Film of the samename (Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt)
Speaking of sex symbols, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were pretty much par for the course. The film was iconic for featuring the real life budding relationship between the two that for some memorable scenes while the two tried to off one another in the spy thriller. The film had a swirling controversy around it but the chemistry was second to none. It left the film feeling completely genuine when it hung the question of will they/won’t they over your head. Brad and Angelina may have fallen out recently, but from 2005 to 2016 they dominated the celebrity couple dialogue and became the go-to Hollywood romance.
3. Danny Ocean and Tess Ocean — Oceans 11 (George Clooney & Julia Roberts)
An odd example – for the majority of the film Danny and Tess are old flames who have since divorced following Danny’s year long stint in jail. However, in a scene that will forever come to my mind when I think of movie romances in which Danny joins Tess for a surprise dinner the dialogue is as biting as their romance. Ocean’s 11 features a lot of characters who have known each other for decades, but only ever alludes to their history. However, here it is done masterfully in two lines of dialogue. “You love him, huh? Does he make you laugh?” Danny asks, leaning closer to Tess. She looks shocked for all of two seconds before composing herself and firing back with “He doesn’t make me cry.” The relationship might not be the healthiest, or most romantic. But it feels like the realest depiction of old forgotten love.
4. Mitsuha and Taki — Your Name (Mone Kamishiraishi & Ryunosuke Kamiki)
Your name is special in that it is the only animated film on this list, rightfully so, in my opinion. While I don’t believe the hype that the director, Makoto Shinkai is the next Hayao Miyazaki – he is clearly a master of the romance genre (something Miyazaki of Ghibli fame rarely touches). He had two films that I considered but I settled on Your Name as the couple actualize themselves by the end of the film, whereas Garden of Words features an incredible depiction of one-sided romance. But Your Name succeeds in something that is undervalued in film romances. It makes our two protagonists fall in love, but by the time either of them are willing to acknowledge their feelings to one another it is far too late. Perhaps it was always too late, and perhaps that’s the point Shinkai is trying to get across. Sometimes, there was no right time.
5. Adonis and Bianca —Creed (Tessa Thompson & Michael B. Jordan)
Adonis ‘Donny’ and Bianca are an amazing example of how a romance B-plot can bolster an already great movie when done well. The reason it feels to welcome in Creed is due to the nature of their relationship. It feels like the movie could really go either way. It doesn’t feel like the plot by nature forces the two together. It is really a test of character for Adonis – after his time in prison and his inability to comply with his mother’s wishes to not pursue a life of boxing he has lost many of the relationships he once had. Because of this Bianca is a sort of clean slate, will Donny sink back into his old ways and distance himself either through his abrasive attitude or boxing, or will they be able to stick it out. And for a while, it doesn’t work. Sure they have fun at the beginning of the film – but eventually it all becomes too much for Bianca after Donny gets in a fight with a producer at a party she’s attending. They distance themselves from each other until they’re ready to give it another try. There’s an ebb and flow that feels far more considered than most relationships in film.
6. Ennis and Jack — Brokeback Mountain (Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal)
Perhaps the single most iconic line out of any couple on this list belongs to Ennis in the film. “I wish I knew how to quit you.” The film is a character study on two men who have obvious sexual and romantic feelings for one another but don’t have the confidence to articulate it. The audience watches as not being able to acknowledge these feelings tears the two apart from the inside out. Jake Gyllenhaal is quite good in the film but the best performance, often forgot underneath all the praise for his time as Batman’s nemesis is Heath Ledger. Ledger, who also delivers the aforementioned line sells every single pained stare at the man he wants to spend his life with. The film is about what happens when star-crossed lovers aren’t romanticized and it plays like nothing before it. There’s something inherently tragic once the premise has been set up in the film as you immediately realize this doesn’t get to end well for either of them.
7. Joel and Clementine — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jim Carrey & Kate Winslet)
In another somber tone Joel and Clementine’s journey through the former’s mind is as tragic as it is hopeful. The film takes the notion of giving a relationship another try to its ultimate extreme as the two characters attempt to savor some memory of one another but fail to do so. Eventually once both of the characters have forgotten about one another and they are able to truly, more so than any couple would ever actually be able to, start over. It is a fantastic notion of taking a fairly normal concept albeit somewhat rare of a couple trying once over. But it makes you want more than anything else for them to succeed. Joel’s desperation to try and spread his initial love of Clementine that he only remembers by being forced to relive memories of the beginning of their relationship to the rest of his memory in an attempt to save something of their relationship is one of the best allegories for failed and fleeting love ever put to film.
8. Sook-Hee and Hideko — The Handmaiden (Kim Tae-ri & Kim Min-hee)
The Handmaiden is a fantastic film about forbidden love – but it’s much more complicated than that. At the beginning of the film Sook-Hee is seducing Hideko in order to steal her inheritance. But by the end of the picture the two have teamed up to destroy the patriarchal rulers of Hideko’s household and share the inheritance, running away together. It is almost like a political espionage version of Bonny and Clyde and it couldn’t have worked without Kim Tae-ri and Kim Min-hee’s palpable chemistry together. It helps that the film is an erotic psychological thriller, and as such not much is left to the imagination. But this isn’t an instance that is like Blue is the Warmest Colour, in which the scene being as graphic as it is serves no ulterior purpose other than showing lesbian sex. However, in this film, due to the nature of all of the lies, seduction, and actual intrigue the explicit scene serve a real purpose – as there is a tension to them as if someone was holding a gun.
9. Aditi and Hemant — Monsoon Wedding (Vasundhara Das & Parvin Dabas)
Mira Nair is an actual master of making an audience believe in a relationship. I think she’s capable of doing this with just about any pair of actors, as her three films Kama Sutra, Mississippi Masala, and Monsoon Wedding. The romance of it all comes at the cost of the sanity of just about everyone involved. But once the moment finally happens, it is a massive relief. Both Parvin and Vasundhara are electric once they’ve decided to be together and the final scene and the title of the film, the monsoon weather during the wedding is somehow both romantic and cathartic. It just feels like an accomplishment that everyone present in the film’s massive ensemble can take credit for.