Love is a perennial staple of films, dating back to the very beginning of the medium. While there are literally thousands upon thousands of movies that center on the romance between two or more people, love stories permeate even the least romantic films. For better or worse, perceptions of love and romance have been created and reinforced on the silver screen across the decades.
But there’s only so much that can be done to convey the complex realities of falling in love and building a romantic relationship in a two hour film. While there are plenty that have gotten romance right on film, there are countless more that are truly terrible.
The following 10 romances are terrible in one way or another. Some are misguided attempts to portray romance in a fashion that is actually quite destructive to the real life ideas of love. Others are honest looks at how the love between two people can turn sour, both on its own and due to the fallible nature of the people involved.
In any case, don’t look to these love stories for inspiration or good examples for how your relationships should be in life.
Jack and Rose – Titanic
James Cameron’s Titanic is one of the highest grossing movies of all time and is filled with moments that are burned into the memories of moviegoers everywhere. At the center of it all is Jack and Rose, two passengers from completely different worlds who find love on a doomed cruise. Too bad their romance is absolute rubbish.
Jack and Rose barely know each other at all and aren’t really that interesting of people on their own. Yet Titanicshoves their love down audiences’ throats. Even worse, Rose considers her time with Jack the greatest moment of her life, even after decades of marriage to someone else and the birth of children and grandchildren. Worst of all, after they’re both dead, everyone is forced to spend eternity cheering them on as they dance in the afterlife. That’s way worse than having to watch this three hour movie!
Bella and Edward – Twilight
The poster children for obsessive and abusive relationships everywhere, the romance from the Twilight series is wrongheaded in so many ways. But what hasn’t already been said about the horror that is writer Stephanie Meyer’s vampires and werewolves series? The books and movies insist that Edward and Bella have an amazing relationship, yet he’s controlling and manipulative while she simpers and kowtows to his abusive whims.
And competing love interest Jacob may be even worse! He’s a fool and an impulsive brat whose efforts to win Bella only put her in more danger. Then he falls in love with her baby. There is nothing redemptive about this love story, which was wholeheartedly embraced by teens and their parents for some time. The sooner it’s completely forgotten, the better.
Edward and Vivian – Pretty Woman
Pretty Woman is one of those romantic comedies that has stayed in the mainstream consciousness ever since its debut in 1990. But the truth is that it’s a film focused on how a prostitute finds love with one of her Johns on a paid weekend. That’s not romantic at all. In fact, it’s destructive. There’s nothing real about this story at all, but the movie elicits enough feelings to convince viewers it’s real. The truth is, pimps show Pretty Woman to prostitutes to delude them during their abuse.
Fun fact, the original draft of Pretty Womanwas very different and much darker. At the end of the film, Edward takes off, leaving a devastated Vivian crying in the gutter with the $3000 he promised her for the weekend, but nothing more. It’s way more realistic than the final movie.
… On to lighter fare.
Bennifer 1.0 – Gigli
Creating an entire movie around two people just because they are a big Hollywood couple is simply a terrible idea. When those two people are Jennifer Lopez and a then-terrible Ben Affleck, it’s an especially terrible idea. Affleck is Larry Gigli, a slick L.A. mobster, and Lopez is Ricki, a lesbian mob enforcer. They fall in love over the course of kidnapping a mentally handicapped young man.
How did this movie ever get greenlit based on that synopsis alone? Somehow Gigli turns Ricki straight by the power of his pure masculinity and somehow this movie was made by the power of the then-star couple at the center of it. Both ideas insult humanity.
Anakin and Padme – Star Wars Episode II & III
There are plenty of things wrong with George Lucas’ Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. But if anything can be worse than trade negotiations, Jar Jar Binks, and midichlorians, it’s the romance between Princess Padme Amidala and Jedi Anakin Skywalker. While young Anakin had a crush on the older Padme in Episode I, it wasn’t until Episode II that the future parents of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa would begin their romance. That’s when things took a turn for the worse.
As it is, director and writer George Lucas created some of his worst dialogue ever for these two together (“Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo”), but then he managed to coax horrible performances from both actors and prevent any chemistry from ever forming between them. By the end, the romance between the two not only became the worst parts of the movies, but worsened the Star Wars series as a whole!
Snow White and The Prince – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
She’s a fair maiden from a fantasy land. He’s a handsome prince who spies on her from afar. Sure, Snow White is put in mortal danger multiple times from the Evil Queen and must constantly be saved by the seven small men she lives with, but this Disney movie makes it seem like they’re destined to be together.
But the fact is that Snow White and The Prince spend a total of 5 minutes together throughout the movie, with her being unconscious for much of it. But in the end, they go off to live seemingly happily ever after. Ladies, let this be a lesson to you. Just because a guy wakes you up from a coma doesn’t mean you owe him the rest of your life.
Annie and Alvy – Annie Hall
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) looks back on his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) and wonders where it all went wrong. But the truth is, it was never meant to last in the first place. The couple had something special for a little while, but their differences meant that they eventually had to fall out of love with one another. The pain comes from their realization, which they both reach at different times.
Both Alvy and Annie are looking for something in their relationship with one another. But love means something different to both of them, with Alvy struggling to understand what it all meant while Annie is able to grow and move forward in a healthier manner. In the end, Alvy notes, “Love is essential, especially if it’s neurotic.”
Romeo Montegue and Juliet Capulet – Romeo + Juliet
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a quintessential romance and tragedy that has not only survived but thrived over centuries. The great thing about The Bard’s classic tale is that it can be interpreted in many different ways by different viewers. While it may seem like some beautiful romance to love-struck teens, it’s a story about the insanity of young love to an older audience.
The truth is, Romeo and Juliet are a cautionary tale about obsession and raging hormones. These two teenagers fall madly in love in no time and become so obsessed with one another that they destroy their lives and die. While it’s been done countless times, it’s Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet that really expresses the madness of their love. This is not a relationship that people should be hoping to emulate. Nevertheless, it’s an amazingly told story that manages to twist the knife in the ribs of viewers while still making them love it.
Ben and Elaine – The Graduate
Continuing the focus on great stories with a purposefully terrible couple, The Graduate centers on two young people who fall in love but have no idea how to handle it. Without direction in life, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) begins an affair with Mrs. Robinson, only to eventually start dating and falling in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). But it’s a love that’s based on little more than frantic searching for meaning, leading to drastic and damaging decisions.
Elaine and Ben frequently break each other’s hearts and are forced into bad decisions by their parents, who disapprove of them being together. So they fight against the odds to end up together, even to the point of Ben disrupting Elaine’s hasty wedding and running away. But just because they fight to be together, doesn’t mean they should be together. The final shot of Elaine and Ben on a bus with their expressions turning into complete uncertainty after they run away from her wedding speaks volumes on the flawed nature of their love.
Justin and Kelly – From Justin to Kelly
If forming a movie around a real life Hollywood couple is a bad idea, creating a movie about the two final contestants from a reality singing contest TV show has to rank among the worst ever ideas for a film. Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini stars as characters with their exact same names, who fall for each other during spring break in Fort Lauderdale in the most chaste way possible. And by fall in love, I mean that they just stumble around the beach with their friends and sing bad songs for an hour and a half.
It’s the type of romance that would happen in real life if everyone in the world had suffered repeated massive undiagnosed head wounds and had some sort of mystical musical connection. Possibly from an entire town being drugged badly. This movie happened, people. Never forget, lest history repeat itself.