They spend half the movie despising each other (or denying any possibility of romance), the other half mooning over one another (but always in secret), and the remaining moments confessing and reconciling, separating, or leaving us hanging (perhaps for the sequel). It must be human nature, but however the big climax unfolds, you find yourself cheering on any improbable couple that has overcome personal conflict and defied social convention to stay together—or has at least attempted to, in their own twisted way.
This fascination with the attraction between opposites is one we all share, and when magnified to the proportions of a blockbuster film, one we admittedly root for. Perhaps the appeal lies in a sort of democratization of love; the idea that there is someone out there for you, no matter who (or what) you are. Needless to say, the strangest and most star-crossed hook-ups have remained our favorite on-screen romances long after our off-screen relationships have fizzled. Here are 10 of the greatest and weirdest couples caught on celluloid, whose uncommon courtship kept us on the edge of our seats.
Edward Scissorhands and Kim
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
From the imagination of Tim Burton comes a crazy/beautiful love story about two completely different (and different-looking) people. Kim, played by ingénue Winona Ryder, is pretty and popular: the quintessential girl-next-door with a loving family and a perfect, albeit overbearing, boyfriend. Edward Scissorhands, whom her mother discovers by accident, is an orphan and a freak. He has scissor-blades in place of proper digits and a pale, pale face awash with scars—a dapper Johnny Depp is virtually unrecognizable under the grotesque guise. And yet the two young people, so unlike in the eye of the common beholder, are drawn to each other by gentleness, secrecy, and the shared predicament of being completely misunderstood on the basis of how they look. If Edward and Kim’s relationship teaches us anything, it is that you can never judge a book by its cover—or a boy by his hands.
(Photo c/o 20th Century Fox)
Ben and Alison
Knocked Up (2007)
Here, the leads are a poor match from the get-go (and we don’t just mean physically). Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is an out-of-shape, unemployed, party-hopping average Joe whose life consists of goofing off with his buddies and chain-smoking marijuana. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), on the other hand, is a successful, attractive, and positively anal entertainment journalist whose life is all about getting ahead. When a chance encounter at a bar leads to a drunken one-night stand and an unexpected pregnancy, Alison’s straight-laced life is disrupted by the slovenly Ben, who decides to take responsibility for his baby. As the two strangers await the birth of their child, they slowly fall in love—and we along with them, despite their situation being a somewhat comedic nightmare. It makes you realize that as long as a man is kind, supportive, honest, and willing to change the worst things about himself just for you, it can work (even if he’s a little fat and forgets to take a bath sometimes).
(Photo c/o Universal Pictures)
Louis and Claudia
Interview with a Vampire (1994)
Under any other circumstances, the romantic pairing of a prepubescent child with a 24-year-old man (even if he is Brad Pitt) would reek of pedophilia (Lolita, anyone?). But the fact that they’re both vampires—ancient, immortal beings that never grow a year older, no matter how many decades pass—does change things. Pitt plays Louis, a lonely, achingly handsome bloodsucker who is forced to “turn” a young girl named Claudia into a vampire to save her from imminent death. Claudia, portrayed by then-12-year-old Kirsten Dunst, clings to Louis like a father or a guardian—but as they spend decades together, alone and un-aging, we see an attachment of a different sort blossoming in the child. Theirs is a relationship marked by taboo and tragedy, since the love on either side is never resolved, or even of the same nature. But Claudia does get to kiss Louis at one point (Dunst’s very first on-screen kiss), so we don’t feel too bad for her.
(Photo c/o Warner Bros.)
Harold and Maude
Harold and Maude (1971)
You could call Ruth Gordon’s character the original cougar: Maude is a solid 79, while her beau Harold (Bud Cort) is 19 going on 20. Shocking, we know—but if you’ve seen the film, we’re sure you’ll understand their connection. Maude, a senior-citizen spitfire who believes in living every day as if it is your last, helps Harold overcome his obsession with death—and a nasty habit of faking his own suicides. What begins as a quirky, comical companionship transforms into a passionate May-December romance that resembles none of the sugar momma / cabana boy sordidness usually associated with unions of this kind. We won’t tell you how the movie ends, but we will say this: clearly, age is nothing but a number.
(Photo c/o Paramount Pictures)
Kong and Ann Darrow
King Kong (2005)
It’s your basic Beauty and the Beast story: the giant gorilla Kong lives free and in seclusion until he comes across a beautiful actress who is filming on his island. The actress, Ann Darrow (played by an ethereal Naomi Watts in the 2005 remake), is at first nothing more than a curiosity to Kong. But her delicate, compassionate treatment of him, in spite of his monstrous figure, strikes a chord with the creature—and he grows increasingly attached to the lady even after his capture. Surprisingly, you feel more for Kong than you do for the film’s leading (human) man, and the scenes in which the gorilla cradles Ann in his wild hand are akin to a lover’s embrace. Of course, such a bond between monster and maiden is doomed from the start. It is this bond, however, that saves the actress—and the rest of New York City—from absolute destruction, as Ann’s deadbeat director puts it: “And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty, and beauty stayed his hand. And from that day forward, he was as one dead.”
(Photo c/o Universal Studios)
C.D. and Roxanne
Steve Martin plays small-town fire chief C.D. Bales, a modern Cyrano de Bergerac (note how the initials of both characters match). His long-time love interest Roxanne (Daryl Hannah) is oblivious to his affections and infatuated with C.D.’s hunky but brainless subordinate. Because he’s insecure about his Cyrano-esque large nose, C.D. cannot confess his feelings face to face, and instead woos Roxanne through letters that she believes are from the subordinate. You’ll sympathize with C.D.’s attempts to outwit his lady love and wish Roxanne were as sharp as she thinks she is—but you’ll also shake your head at the guy for all his preoccupation with a mere facial feature. A nose is a nose is a nose—nothing more!
(Photo c/o Columbia Pictures)
Ennis and Jack
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Who can forget the heartbreaker that was Brokeback Mountain? As the first mainstream gay feature to ever hit cinemas, Brokeback broke boundaries not only in the film world but also in terms of social consciousness towards the gay community. Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, the plot revolves around two cowboys-turned-lovers who maintain a secret relationship for 20 or so years, even after they are both married—talk about defying macho stereotypes! In arguably his most pivotal pre-Joker role, the late Heath Ledger plays the introverted Ennis del Mar, who succumbs to the advances of the intense and charismatic Jack Twist, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, as they tend their flocks on the mountain one summer. A romance between two men nowadays is hardly extraordinary, but the overwhelming emotional ties and powerful physical chemistry displayed by the two characters is what takes the film, and this particular relationship, to an altogether different level.
(Photo c/o Focus Features, Paramount Pictures, and Good Machine)
Edward and Vivian
Pretty Woman (1990)
A wealthy businessman hires a hooker to play his girlfriend at corporate functions while he’s in town—now there’s something you don’t see every day! Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) cares for nothing but his business—which is probably why he’s so wealthy—and Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) can’t resist making an easy buck, so the two shack up for a week under the pretence of being a legitimate couple. Soon, however, they start to really like each other, and both are faced with the dilemma of giving up who they truly are to be with the person they love. Gere is definitely a head-turner in this feel-good film, but it is Roberts who captures our hearts as the streetwalker with a heart of gold. Their chemistry is electric!
(Photo c/o Touchstone Pictures)
Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Incarcerated serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is deemed useful to a murder investigation. He is visited by rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who hopes that his insights will aid in the pursuit of this new murderer. Although they do not exactly strike up a “relationship,” it is clear that Lecter is drawn to something in this strong young woman, and he provides her with significant information, all the while prodding her to reveal her personal secrets. The tense rapport between Lecter and Starling is compelling, and we applaud both actors for it—we can’t quite reconcile Hopkins as a leading man, though he can make the ladies swoon (for all the wrong reasons!). Just the way he says “Clarice” will make your hair stand on end!
(Photo c/o Orion Pictures)
Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle
My Fair Lady (1964)
Here’s a professor-pupil pairing for the ages. It’s not that student-teacher romances are so uncommon—they’re really not—but rather, it’s that this particular one is so amusing. The pompous, misogynistic Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) finds a phonetic challenge posed by one of his colleagues too delicious to pass up. Enter the rough-and-tumble, Cockney-accented flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn). The professor must teach her how to speak English so finely that she can be passed off as a duchess at a society ball—and he, in turn, will solidify his reputation as an ingenious instructor. The two fight like street cats, clashing at every misunderstanding and insult, wrestling over who is the boss of whom—and inevitably, they fall head over heels. Hepburn is incredible as the little waif, successfully stripping herself of her innate sophistication; while Harrison plays the big jerk brilliantly (if big jerks can be called brilliant). We wouldn’t call it the ideal relationship—but we will admit it is endearing.
(Photo c/o Warner Bros.)