Summary

  • Chemistry between lead actors can make or break a romance movie, as seen in movies like A Star is Born and Casablanca.
  • Some on-screen pairings, like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling or Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, have such electric chemistry that they’ve been cast opposite each other in multiple movies.
  • Believable on-screen chemistry can sweep viewers up in a touching love story, as demonstrated by movie couples like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic and Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer.

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From Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born to Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, there are many movie couples with such great on-screen chemistry that the love story rings true. The chemistry between the lead actors can make or break a romance movie. A romantic comedy or drama can have the most perfectly crafted script ever written in the hands of one of the world’s most visionary filmmakers, but it’ll fall flat if the audience doesn’t believe that the characters are really in love.

Some on-screen pairings are so electric that they’ve been cast opposite each other in multiple movies, like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling or Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. If romantic movies like Dirty Dancing or When Harry Met Sally had been cast differently, they wouldn’t be nearly as effective. From comedic duos like Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore to more dramatic duos like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, there are plenty of great movie couples with believable on-screen chemistry that sweeps viewers up in their touching love story.

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15 Richard Gere & Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman)

Edward and Vivian at a polo match in Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman’s premise of a wealthy businessman falling in love with a sex worker was pretty radical for 1990, but Richard Gere’s heartwarming chemistry with Julia Roberts made it work. Edward and Vivian bring out a different side of each other, and help each other see the world in a whole new way. Gere’s irresistible charms and Roberts’ girl-next-door magnetism combined to create an on-screen pairing for the ages.

14 Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet (Titanic)

Jack and Rose embracing on the Titanic

James Cameron’s blockbuster epic Titanic tells a fictional Romeo and Juliet-style star-crossed love story in the midst of the real-life tragedy of the sinking of the ship. The twinkly-eyed youthfulness of a young Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly matched with the magnetic elegance of a young Kate Winslet in this heartwarming culture-clash romance. When DiCaprio and Winslet’s eyes meet, there’s a tangible connection between them that sells Jack and Rose’s affection for one another.

13 Jennifer Grey & Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing)

Johnny and Baby kissing in Dirty Dancing

Audiences had the time of their lives watching Jennifer Grey fall for Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Frances “Baby” Houseman leaves behind her sheltered W.A.S.P.-y existence to take a walk on the wild side with the working-class staff of the upscale Catskills resort she visits with her parents. Johnny Castle introduces Baby to a different world as they prepare for a big dance performance, and their resentment eventually blossoms into mutual attraction (as is often the case in Hollywood romances).

12 Adam Sandler & Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer)

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore grinning in The Wedding Singer

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have co-starred in a few romcoms together, but their first collaboration is still their best. Sandler’s title character in The Wedding Singer, Robbie Hart, makes his living by underscoring other people’s love, but ironically struggles in his own love life. Barrymore’s Julia is a bride-to-be engaged to an obnoxious, philandering jerk. It’s clear from the get-go that Robbie and Julia have a real connection and are meant to be together, so audiences spend the movie waiting for them to realize it.

11 Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)

Jack and Ennis embrace in Brokeback Mountain

Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist adore each other in Brokeback Mountain, but the prejudiced society they live in won’t allow them to be together. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal throw themselves wholeheartedly into these characters and the love that they share. The tragedy of Brokeback Mountain hits so deep because Ledger and Gyllenhaal make the characters’ love feel so real.

10 Jodie Turner-Smith & Daniel Kaluuya (Queen & Slim)

Josie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya in the back of a car in Queen and Slim

The title characters in Queen & Slim are a Bonnie and Clyde-type duo with a timely sociopolitical context; they have to go on the lam together after killing a racist cop in self-defense. This powerful exploration of police brutality makes Queen & Slim a thought-provoking thriller, but the emotional core of the story is the eponymous pair’s relationship. Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya really convey just how much these characters mean to each other, bringing a real sense of love to a story about the destructive nature of hate.

9 Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a movie theater in La La Land

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling had co-starred as a couple in Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad before appearing in La La Land, but Damien Chazelle’s Golden Age-style musical masterpiece is the pinnacle of their on-screen chemistry. Mia and Sebastian’s relationship starts out as an idealized Hollywood fantasy before real-world emotions start getting in the way. Through both the ups and downs of their relationship in La La Land, Stone and Gosling ring true as a real couple.

8 Robin Williams & Nathan Lane (The Birdcage)

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane sitting on a bench in The Birdcage

There are three couples at the center of The Birdcage: drag club owner Armand and his life partner Albert, Armand’s son Val and his girlfriend Barbara, and Barbara’s ultra-conservative Republican Senator father Kevin and his wife Louise. Armand has to pretend to be in a relationship with Val’s mother Katharine to hide the fact that he’s gay from Kevin and Louise. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane share really touching chemistry as two characters who love each other dearly and have to pretend they don’t for most of the film.

7 Kara Hayward & Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom)

Sam and Suzy in a field in Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s coming-of-age romance Moonrise Kingdom revolves around two troubled kids, Sam and Suzy, who run away to be together. This is a heartfelt “us versus the world” storyline about the external forces trying to keep these two young lovers apart. Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman’s on-screen chemistry captures the magic of first love, and the naively optimistic feeling that anything is possible.

RELATED: How Moonrise Kingdom Reinvents Romance Tropes (& Why It’s Still A Great Love Story)

6 Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara (Carol)

Cate Blanchett talks to Rooney Mara in Carol

In the 1950s-set Carol, Cate Blanchett’s title character falls for young photographer Therese while going through a messy divorce. Their forbidden affair is a ticking timebomb as they’re followed around by Carol’s husband’s private eye, who’s looking for evidence that her husband can use against her in their legal battle. Blanchett and Mara’s chemistry is so heartbreakingly authentic that there’s a real feeling of dread around their inevitable breakup.

5 Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally)

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally

Meg Ryan co-starred in many romantic comedies with Tom Hanks, and they share a great dynamic, but her best-matched romcom co-star is Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. Harry and Sally initially can’t stand each other, but they keep bumping into each other and eventually bond over their respective breakups and become good friends – which, naturally, evolves into a romance. Ryan is a hilarious foil for Crystal’s antics, and their dramatic chemistry is just as strong as their comedic chemistry.

4 Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga singing together in A Star is Born

Bradley Cooper’s authentic on-screen chemistry with Lady Gaga made his version of the well-trodden A Star is Born story feel fresh and unique. As with all the previous versions, this is a movie about a washed-up star guiding an up-and-coming young talent on her astronomical rise to fame. But Cooper and Gaga’s chemistry puts more focus on romance than showbiz. Jack and Ally are madly in love with each other, which makes their doomed romance all the more heartbreaking.

3 Noémie Merlant & Adèle Haenel (Portrait Of A Lady On Fire)

Marianne and Heloise embrace in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Céline Sciamma’s beautiful every-frame-a-painting romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire stars Adèle Haenel as Héloïse, an aristocrat, and Noémie Merlant as Marianne, the painter commissioned to paint her portrait. Although Héloïse has been arranged to marry a Milanese nobleman, she and Marianne end up falling for each other and entering a passionate affair. The fact that Marianne and Héloïse ultimately can’t be together is made even more devastating by the genuine connection shared by Haenel and Merlant in these roles.

2 Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy (Before Trilogy)

Jesse and Celine in Vienna in Before Sunrise

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy share such incredible chemistry in the roles of Jesse and Céline that their chemistry alone sustained three whole movies. Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight all revolve around Jesse and Céline just walking around town, idly chatting to each other, but their on-screen dynamic is so captivating that it could’ve sustained three more films. There’s no gimmicky high-concept premise in the Before trilogy; it’s just a story about two people bonding, enjoying each other’s company, and falling in love.

RELATED: 10 Ways The Before Trilogy Is One Of The Greatest Love Stories Ever Told

1 Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca)

Rick talks to Ilsa in Casablanca

Casablanca is often named as one of the greatest movies ever made, and a big part of its emotional impact is the on-screen chemistry shared by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as former lovers who might still carry a torch for one another. The story takes place against the backdrop of World War II, but this love story is the most explosive and exhilarating thing in the movie. Bogart and Bergman’s chemistry was so palpable that Bogart’s then-wife Mayo Methot suspected they were having an affair off-camera (via /Film).

Source: /Film

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