10 Problematic On-Screen Relationships We Had to Endure
Zero chemistry was the least of their problems.
1. Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Let's face it, no list of horrendous on-screen relationships would be complete without mentioning Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala's love saga from Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Their romance can be summed up in a single, infamous line: I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Sigh. The stilted dialogue, lack of chemistry, and bewildering story arc make their relationship one that fans wish they could send to a galaxy far, far away.
Anakin's transition from pouting teenager to intergalactic menace doesn't feel believable, and their union is less Romeo and Juliet, more a case study in why communication is essential in a relationship.
2. Bella Swan and Edward Cullen – Twilight (2008)
Bella Swan and Edward Cullen's relationship in the Twilight series has often been criticized for promoting an unhealthy depiction of romance. Edward, a hundred-year-old vampire, falls for Bella, a teenage human, and a whirlwind of brooding, sparkles, and angst ensues. The relationship dynamic is problematic, rife with controlling behavior, stalker tendencies, and an overall lack of healthy boundaries.
3. Pat and Tiffany – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook is an unconventional love story between two deeply flawed individuals. Pat, struggling with bipolar disorder after his wife cheats on him, meets Tiffany, a widow grappling with depression. Their relationship is volatile, at times uncomfortable, as they dance around their mental health issues, literally and metaphorically.
Although the film ends on a hopeful note, the erratic journey of their romance, punctuated by shouting matches and emotional breakdowns, makes for a painfully raw viewing experience. The way they used each other to heal their traumas felt more like a band-aid on a gaping wound rather than a true cure.
4. Martha and George – Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton portray Martha and George, a middle-aged couple whose relationship is defined by bitter arguments and emotional manipulation. The film, based on the play by Edward Albee, lays bare the toxic dynamics of their marriage, presenting a portrait of a couple caught in a perpetual cycle of resentment and retaliation.
Their exchanges, though at times witty and darkly humorous, are heavy with venom, making their relationship an excruciating exhibition of marital warfare. The raw intensity of their interactions leaves the audience feeling like they've been through an emotional wringer.
5. Paul and Holly – Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Breakfast at Tiffany's is considered a classic, and while Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly is iconic, her relationship with George Peppard's character, Paul, is problematic. Holly is a self-proclaimed wild thing, a free spirit afraid of being caged, while Paul is a struggling writer who falls for Holly's quirkiness. Their dynamic is marked by Holly's attempts to escape from emotional commitments, leading to a series of ups and downs. Even the climactic kiss in the rain feels more forced than romantic.
6. Peter Parker and Mary Jane – Spider-Man Trilogy (2002 – 2007)
In Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson's (Kirsten Dunst) relationship can be best described as a series of missed connections and poor timing. With Peter constantly grappling with his superhero alter ego, their relationship becomes a tangled web of misunderstandings, break-ups, and unfulfilled promises. Despite some genuinely sweet moments, their on-again-off-again dynamic can be tiresome. This 'will they, won't they' scenario became more of a 'please, just make up your mind already'.
7. Larry and Anna – Closer (2004)
Closer, a film adaptation of Patrick Marber's play, is a story of tangled romances and bitter betrayals. The relationship between Larry (Clive Owen) and Anna (Julia Roberts) is a perfect representation of this. Initially brought together by a prank, their relationship soon descends into a web of deceit and infidelity. Their intense exchanges are filled with raw anger and icy cruelty, making their scenes together more unsettling than enjoyable.
8. Jenny and Oliver – Love Story (1970)
The iconic line Love means never having to say you're sorry from Love Story is as puzzling as the relationship between its lead characters Jenny (Ali MacGraw) and Oliver (Ryan O'Neal). Despite coming from different social backgrounds, they fall in love and marry against Oliver's father's wishes. However, their whirlwind romance quickly turns into a cycle of arguments and reconciliations. While the film is praised for its tragic ending, their relationship often feels more like a forced plot device than a genuine connection.
9. Josie and Michael – Never Been Kissed (1999)
In Never Been Kissed, Josie (Drew Barrymore) is an adult journalist who goes undercover as a high school student for a story. She ends up falling for her English teacher, Michael (Michael Vartan). The entire premise is awkward, and the relationship is uncomfortable to watch. The power dynamic is skewed, and while the film tries to make it work by setting the final confession after Josie reveals her true age, it doesn't quite erase the initial discomfort.
10. Samantha and Theodore – Her (2013)
Her is a unique film where Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely writer, falls in love with an AI, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). While it provides an interesting commentary on our growing dependence on technology, the relationship between Theodore and Samantha is, to say the least, unusual.
Theodore's emotional dependence on an AI raises questions about the nature of love and the human need for companionship. However, watching a man fall head over heels for his operating system is still an awkward journey for the audience to endure.