The 14 Greatest Cinematic Couples From Outside the Romance Genre

In Culture, Featured, Sam Hendrian by Samuel Hendrian

–By Sam Hendrian–

Valentine’s Day is here once again, and cable TV channels will likely be flooded with romantic dramas and comedies. Harry and Sally, Rick and Ilsa, Noah and Allie, and countless other couples will be generating sentimental tears in many a living room. But what about great cinematic couples who are not from romances genre-wise? Do not they deserve to be in the Valentine’s Day-spotlight as well? Here are fourteen movie couples who also deserve some attention from cable TV on February 14th.

1. Carl and Ellie, Up (2009)

Enough has already been written about the tear-jerking opening sequence of Up, but what people often forget is that even after Ellie dies ten minutes into the film, her relationship with Carl continues in beautifully mystical ways. Take, for example, the scene in which Carl starts talking to Ellie after firmly telling Russell that he cannot let the multicolored bird Kevin tag along with them on their adventure. Curious about the invisible person whom Carl is talking to, Russell proceeds to ask Ellie if he can bring the bird along and then asserts that she wants Carl to let him. “But I told him no!” Carl immediately retorts at the generous spirit of Ellie, humorously and poignantly illustrating how his better half is still very much alive.

2. Marion and Indiana, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

While it is implied that Marion and Indiana had a less-than-stable relationship ten years before the events of the movie, they prove that maturity has finally made them the perfect couple (“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage”). Whether they are working together to escape a pit of snakes or outwit Nazis, they bring out the best in each other and provide a nice romantic balance to an often gruesome film.

3. James and Vesper, Casino Royale (2006)

Vesper Lynd just might be the only woman whom James Bond views as more than an object in the history of the character, and his affection for her is both endearing and ultimately heartbreaking. The scene where they first meet each other on the train to Montenegro arguably exhibits some of the best romantic chemistry ever seen in an action film, and a later scene in which James tries to console a troubled Vesper is perhaps the most tender 007 moments of all time. It is too bad that more James Bond films could not portray a romantic relationship this effective.

4. Han and Leia, The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Strengthened by lush John Williams music and a witty screenplay, Han and Leia’s romantic relationship in The Empire Strikes Back is truly a cinematic treasure. Their banter is classic, especially when Han is about to be frozen in carbonite (“I love you!” “I know.”), and they are a perfect illustration of the old adage that opposites attract.


5. Jeff and Clarissa, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

While their relationship is not revealed to have romantic leanings until the end of the film, the naïve senator Jefferson Smith and his cynical but good-hearted secretary Clarissa Saunders have a humorous, touching, and believable friendship that deftly balances out all the trademark “Capra-corn” to be found in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The scene in which Clarissa explains to Jeff the complexity (and practical impossibility) of passing a bill through Congress is an indispensable piece of American cinema, and the way she acts as a cheerleader for him during his stressful filibuster never fails to put a smile on the face.

6. Evelyn and Lee, A Quiet Place (2018)

Played by real-life married couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, Evelyn and Lee Abbott are one of the sincerest and most dynamic onscreen couples in recent years. The sacrificial love they have for each other and for their children is inspiring, and the scene in which they silently dance with their unborn child is indescribably touching. Other real-life Hollywood couples could certainly learn a lot from the devoted relationship of these two people both on and off the screen.

7. Golda and Tevya, Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

This timeless musical drama has many tear-jerking scenes, one of which is when Tevya melodiously asks Golda, “Do you love me?” For years, this strong Jewish man has taken his arranged marriage for granted and never thought it necessary to consider whether any romantic affection was involved. But now that his daughters are rejecting the status quo and choosing spouses under their own free will, he cannot help but wonder if his wife Golda loves him beyond the constraints of obligation. Her answer is immeasurably beautiful and caps off one of musical history’s greatest moments.

8. Desmond and Dorothy, Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Based on an inspiring true story, Hacksaw Ridge is an effective war film, but it is also a sweet love story. Dorothy both encourages and gently challenges Desmond when he refuses to carry any weapons as a soldier of the Second World War, and she ultimately sticks by his side when few others do. Desmond’s affection for her evolves from a schoolboy crush into something strong and steadfast, and she becomes his raison de vivre when he is severely persecuted for his convictions.

9. Terry and Edie, On the Waterfront (1954)

A superb crime drama and arguably one of the greatest films of all time, On the Waterfront is also a memorable romance thanks largely to the sincere performances of Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint. Terry is truly a lost and broken soul at the beginning of the movie, and it is predominantly Edie’s love and understanding that transforms him into a strong, courageous man ready to fight the evil dockside Mob.

10. Rocky and Adrian, Rocky (1976)

Without the romantic relationship at its core, the inspirational movie Rocky would just be an average sports drama in which the underdog rises to the top and wins. The fact that Rocky technically loses the climactic boxing match but does not care because he has Adrian at his side is what makes the film so unique and poignant. His endearing way of addressing her (“Yo, Adrian”) was voted by the American Film Institute as the 80th greatest movie quotation in film history.

11. Steve and Peggy, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America’s first cinematic outing has one of the most poignant love stories in the Marvel cinematic universe, partially because it has a semi-tragic ending. Peggy believes in Steve more than anyone else does, and Steve loves her just as much (if not more) than the good ole U.S.A. It is heartbreaking that they are unable to get married due to Steve becoming frozen in ice for several years, but at least they are briefly reunited in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

12. Clara and Doc, Back to the Future Part III (1990)

How does a crackpot scientist find true love? Just travel back in time to the Old West! Watching Marty McFly’s best friend fall head-over-heels for a 19th-century school teacher is truly delightful, and it gives this sequel a heartwarming charm that it might not otherwise have. Typically, relationships involving time travel do not work out, but Clara and Doc are fortunately an exception to this cinematic rule.

13. John and Holly, Die Hard (1989)

What does it take to save a broken marriage? Apparently, falling victim to a hostage situation and exercising some gritty heroism will do the trick. Well, that is the answer provided in Die Hard anyway. Holly realizes how much her distant husband John really loves her when he takes down terrorists to save her life. A bit extreme perhaps (after all, it is an action movie), but it works as a metaphor for self-sacrifice in marriage.

14. Steve and Diana, Wonder Woman (2017)

Similar to Captain America: The First Avenger, the love story at the crux of Wonder Woman is bittersweet (both movies end with the man sacrificing himself for the greater good), but it is this bittersweet poignancy that enables the film to transcend others in the genre. Diana may be a goddess who grew up on an island of all women, but she quickly learns the beauty of human romance. The way Steve takes care of her and acts as her guide through the human world is quite sweet and charming, and the pre-sacrifice scene in which he gives her his wristwatch is definitely a potential tear-jerker.

Well, that’s all, folks! Who are some of your favorite onscreen couples?

About the Author

Sam Hendrian is a student at JPCatholic (Class of 2019) pursuing an emphasis in Directing.