When it comes to good films, it’s all about the actors’ chemistry with one another. If they don’t have any, the film is most likely going to be a dud. But if they’re a real-life couple, the chemistry’s bound to be undeniable, making the movie a stellar motion picture. (At least one would hope.)
Like most things, though, just because a couple is working together on a project, that doesn’t mean their real-life chemistry will translate onto the screen; take Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in Jersey Girl, for instance. Nothing! From good and great to bad and worse, here are some films starring real-life couples, past and present.
Bad: Jersey Girl
The 2004 romantic drama Jersey Girl is the Kevin Smith film nobody asked for, but, hey, here it is. Starring Ben Affleck as Ollie Trinke, a silver-tongued music promoter, and Jennifer Lopez playing the minor role of Gertrude Steiney, his onscreen wife, the film did absolutely nothing for the former couple’s careers.
Thankfully, the lone scene where they’re actually together is so quick that we don’t have to see their weird “not there but trying to be there chemistry” for too long. Honestly, it’s not too surprising that the film didn’t even reach 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Good: A Quiet Place
Let’s all take this time and thank John Krasinski for bringing his lovely and talented wife, Emily Blunt, into his pet project, A Quiet Place. Not only is the chemistry between the real-life husband and wife undeniable in the thriller flick as Lee and Evelyn Abbott, but the movie is a grade-A masterpiece.
Upon its release, the film was nominated for numerous awards, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay. And let’s not forget Blunt’s Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role win!
To say there was chemistry or anything remotely appealing in the 2003 film Daredevil would be a complete lie. It is famously the only movie Ben Affleck says he regrets making, and, as history would have it, he brought his ex-wife Jennifer Garner into the mix.
Starring as the title character and Garner as Elektra, the former couple fought their way through what is technically one of the first films in the Marvel universe. Thankfully, most people tend to forget it exists, and for a very good reason — the fight scene on the playground, anyone?
Good: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
At one point in time, the marriage between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was one of the most famous in Hollywood, made even more so by their portrayal of the onscreen husband and wife George and Martha, in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
Although the film makes marriage look like a blood sport and not a loving relationship between two people, it marked Taylor’s second Oscar win for Best Actress. Not only is the chemistry between the two leads undeniable, but their telling of the character’s abusive marriage resulted in an astounding 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Bad: El Cantante
Sorry, but when a dance scene featuring Jennifer Lopez makes you yawn, it’s a bad flick. In the 2006 biopic film El Cantante, former real-life husband and wife Marc Anthony and JLo star as Hector Lavoe and Puchi, a famed salsa singer and his wife.
And while a biopic about a famed singer starring two musically-inclined talents seems like it would be good, it wasn’t. One review by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian even went as far as calling Lopez’s performance bland. In the article, Bradshaw said, “There is something entirely dead about Lopez’s performance. No matter how superficially lively she makes it, she is always simply mouthing the lines.”
Good: The Big Sleep
In 1946, former real-life husband and wife Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall starred together in The Big Sleep. One year after the couple said “I do,” they portrayed Philip Marlowe and Vivian Sternwood Rutledge in what is considered to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” being added to the National Film Registry in 1997.
The chemistry the two exude throughout the film is evident, making viewers feel as though they’re peeping-toms, looking in on something personal even though it’s as innocent as eye contact. Sometimes, it takes a real-life couple to radiate that much onscreen heat.
Bad: Love Affair
The 1994 romance film Love Affair shows that no matter how big a star is in a movie, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. In this case, real-life husband and wife Warren Beatty and Annette Bening star as Mike Gambril and Terry McKay, two people who find love in an unlikely place, on an international flight.
Criticized for being way too old-fashioned for a remake, the film was only saved during the scenes where Beatty and Bening were allowed to portray their natural charms and charisma, aka not often enough; the film wound up getting nominated for the Worst Remake or Sequel Razzie Award.
Good: Eyes Wide Shut
Hot take: since the 1999 release of Eyes Wide Open, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman haven’t been part of a project allowing them to go down a strange and twisted rabbit hole of lust, fear, and doubt. Starring as Dr. Bill Hartford and his wife Alice while they were married in real life, Cruise and Kidman’s onscreen chemistry is explosive.
Upon its release, many critics and film reviewers called the movie a masterpiece, with the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Wilmington saying the film was “provocatively conceived, gorgeously shot and masterfully executed.” While Cruise and Kidman eventually went their separate ways, this movie immortalizes their romance in the best way possible.
Bad: Going The Distance
Before filming even began, stars and real-life couple Justin Long and Drew Barrymore broke up, proving they weren’t Going the Distance. Not only was there strange “we’re just friends” chemistry translated to the screen in the most awkward of fashions, but the storyline relied on way too many rom-com clichés.
Starring as characters Erin and Garrett, Long and Barrymore’s portrayal of two strangers who fall madly in love only to have a long-distance relationship didn’t sell nearly as well as the tabloids discussing the two actors’ relationship status while working on the movie.
Good: Edward Scissorhands
The year 1990 was a simpler time, one where the gentle monster known as Edward Scissorhands fell for a faux-innocent Kim Boggs in the romantic fantasy film Edward Scissorhands. The former real-life couple of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder brings the two characters to life, complementing the heartfelt story of the I-won’t-go-with-the-status-quo girl and the misunderstood guy from up the hill.
With a story full of the quirkiest characters you’re bound ever to see onscreen, the film was nominated and won a few prestigious awards, including the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
Bad: Flesh And Bone
Married in 1991, former husband and wife duo Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid starred alongside one another in the 1993 neo-noir drama film Flesh and Bone. Well, this is a perfect example that just because two people are married doesn’t mean they’re going to make great art together.
Even though the movie received a score of 65 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Ryan and Quaid drag us through their weirdly diluted relationship that doesn’t seem to have any chemistry whatsoever. Which is a weird thing considering how dramatic the story is, full of murder, robbery, and a Bonnie and Clyde-like dynamic.
Good: Husbands And Wives
While the relationship former husband and wife Woody Allen and Mia Farrow have onscreen in Husband and Wives is an intense form of chemistry, it wouldn’t necessarily be categorized as “good.” As Gabe and Judy, the two are outwardly questioning their relationship, watching it crumble after witnessing the split between their two best friends.
The 1992 movie Husband and Wives is often credited as being Allen’s best film, showcasing human interaction and the fear of being alone in the world. Ironically, Allena and Farrow wound up splitting later that very same year.
Bad: By The Sea
The Angelina Jolie-written and directed film By the Sea really should have been a standup motion picture, showcasing then trials and tribulations of marriages in a romantic drama starring real-life husband and wife, Jolie and Brad Pitt. Of course, that’s not exactly what happened. The movie is considered a flop, not quite hitting the mark or its “mysteries of marriage” message.
The chief film critic of Variety, Justin Chang, said it best, explaining that “By the Sea always offers something to tickle the eye and ear, even as it leaves the heart and mind coolly unstirred.” Scenes of Malta will only get a movie so far!
Good: That Hamilton Woman
A year after saying “I do,” Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier starred alongside one another in the wartime drama That Hamilton Woman. Garnering a solid 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the drama revolves around a doomed love affair between the real-life couple; something viewers find themselves rooting for.
Olivier’s character Nelson has a romantic flair paired that, when paired with Leigh’s character Emma’s spunky charisma, makes for an intense film. Most critics agree that the film is “delightful to behold.” It’s even cited as being former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s favorite movie!
Despite the fact that Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor were married while shooting the 2001 comedy Zoolander, their character’s strange relationship did nothing for the already weird movie. With Stiller starring as Derek Zoolander, a male model, Taylor’s journalist character does one of the most cliche things in film, falls for the guy.
The thing is, Zoolander has no redeeming qualities, so it makes for a very unrealistic relationship. But what’s one more thing that doesn’t make sense when the movie already has Will Ferrell whipping out mind control, having Zoolander doing backflips down a runway? Yea, it’s not great.
Good: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Javier Barden and Penelope Cruz began dating in 2007, three years before the 2010 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, in which they both star. Interestingly, this now-husband and wife duo doesn’t portray the typical onscreen couple whose relationship is going downhill. Instead, they’re two crazy artists, María Elena and Juan Antonio Gonzalo, who have one of those disastrous “can’t-live-together-can’t-live-apart” relationships.
Their intense love story is striking, drawing the viewer in and making them want nothing more than for Vicky and Cristina to go back to America so María and Juan can patch up their toxic marriage. Not that it’s a relationship to strive for, but it makes for good entertainment!
Considering Jennifer Connelly is an Academy Award-winning actress, one would think her portrayal of Emma Darwin in Creation would be a bit more dynamic, especially considering she was acting opposite her real-life husband, Paul Bettany. Alas, it’s a one-dimensional character that doesn’t do much to support Bettany’s main character of Charles Darwin.
Seriously, lady, your husband is literally making history writing a book about evolution, be happy for him! Either way, Connelly and Bettany’s real-life relationship didn’t translate over to the silver screen, even if they do look great together.
Melissa McCarthy and real-life husband Ben Falcone steal the show in the sole scene they are in together in Bridesmaids. Well, technically, McCarthy steals pretty much every scene she’s in during the comedy film, but the one with her husband shows just how in-sync the two are with one another.
The actress isn’t afraid to go way over the top, something Falcone just kind of goes with in stride, working off McCarthy’s intense energy to produce a one-of-a-kind climactic scene. Their on-screen chemistry was just an added bonus that complemented the other actors’ comedic lines and antics.
The 1987 romantic comedy Overboard is one of those films people love but won’t admit they love because it’s pretty horrible. Now a cult classic, the Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell-led production proves that on-screen chemistry can bring a film out of the gutter.
Well, kind of. The quirky relationship between Hawn’s spoiled rich-girl character Joanna Stayton and Russell’s blue-collar character Dean Proffitt shouldn’t work, but it does because the leads work so well with one another. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes say it best, commenting that “Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s comedic chops elevate waterlogged material, but not even their buoyant chemistry can keep Overboard’s creepy concept afloat.”
Good: Ruby Sparks
Nothing says weirdly amazing concept quite like a fictional character that leaps off the pages of a manuscript, only to fall in love with its author. Well, that’s exactly what real-life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan brought to the silver screen in the 2012 film Ruby Sparks.
Married since 2007, the movie is interesting because it’s written by Kazan and alludes to the human need to tweak and perfect the people in their life. In this case, it’s her real-life husband trying to perfect her! A critic from At A Theater Near You called the film “one of the most likable films I’ve seen all year.”
Bad: Cruel Intentions
While Reese Witherspoon’s acting career most definitely took off, no one would have thought it would happen after her performance alongside former real-life partner Ryan Phillippe in Cruel Intentions. In the film, Phillippe tries to seduce Witherspoon’s good-girl character, Annette, as a dare from his stepsister, Kathryn, for who he has a crush on. What should have been an intense and dramatic performance feels forced.
So much so that many people forget the two actors were actually dating one another for a while before filming even began. Well, the weird relationship they have onscreen/the weird plot didn’t sway the two from marrying soon after the film’s release.
Good: L.A. Story
After meeting his soon-to-be wife Victoria Tennant on the set of All of Me, Steve Martin decided to hire her as the lead in his romantic comedy L.A. Story. Lone and behold, it was a great move on his part, as the chemistry between the two onscreen was there for all to see.
Honoring the various Los Angeles stereotypes throughout the film, including the non-changing weather, Martin shows how easy it is to fall in love with a sophisticated outsider when the norm for people is superficial and cookie-cutter. The film is considering to be one of Martin’s best works, garnering a solid 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Bad: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
After their performance in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, fans were excited to see real-life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the second installment of the franchise. Alas, the relationship between Garfield’s Peter Parker and Stone’s Gwen Stacy is pretty much the only thing that kept this film afloat.
Bogged down by one too many villains, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a perfect example of a film trying to do way too many things in a two-hour time frame. Tack on the fact that Stacy dies at the end of the film, spoiler alert, and it’s almost obvious why a third film was never a thought.
Good: Blades Of Glory
Since Blades of Glory was never meant to be taken seriously, it’s hard to take the onscreen relationship between former real-life couple Will Arnett and Amy Poehler seriously. Their characters Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, are over-the-top, awkward, and hilarious enough that viewers hope they show up in every scene.
Alas, they don’t. But that doesn’t mean they’re chemistry onscreen while spoofing the world of figure skating isn’t amazing. Fans of the two comedians are still getting over their 2016 split, but at least they’ll always have this film to look back on Arnett and Poehler’s undeniable and yet lovable awkwardness.
Will Smith portrays one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali, in the sports biopic Ali. Starring alongside real-life wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, the two play the couple of Ali and Sonji Roi, a pair that loves each other wholeheartedly but can do nothing to stop their relationship from unraveling.
Even though the movie was well-received by critics, it was a box office bomb. Apparently, no one wanted to watch the steamy falling out between Ali and Roi! Regardless, Smith earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as the title character.
Good: Mr. & Mrs. Bridge
Say what you want about the subdued nature of the characters in Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, but the chemistry between one of Hollywood’s most beloved long-term couples is undeniable. Real-life husband and wife, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward star as Walter Gene and India Bridge, a family in 1930s Kansas City, Missouri.
While you might find yourself wanting to shake the television while watching this film, it’s a fantastic expose of traditional parents resisting their children’s teenage rebellion in an ever-changing society. If nothing more, it’s fun to see Newman and Woodward working alongside one another!
Bad: Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie might not have been an official couple while filming the 2005 action film Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but they most certainly were soon after! Seriously, it was clear something was happening between the two while they were fighting for their lives against their respective secret agent agencies.
How can you not fall for someone while the two of you are dressed like Tom Cruise in Risky Business? Either way, their onscreen chemistry didn’t really help the movie in the critics’ eyes, even though it was technically on box office success.
Good: The Notebook
“It wasn’t over; it still isn’t over…” Well, Ryan Gosling, the relationship between you and Rachel McAdams is certainly over, even if it was just getting started while the two portrayed onscreen lovers Allie and Noah. Even if Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t agree, The Notebook portrays love in such an intense way; viewers can’t help but root for the blue-collar worker and society gal’s relationship.
On top of the obvious chemistry between the two leads, the movie is overly quotable to the point of people saying, “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” to their partners. If that doesn’t make for good entertainment, we’re not sure what does!
Bad: Green Lantern
The real-life relationship between Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds is one of Hollywood’s favorites. Thankfully, they didn’t let the horrible film Green Lantern get between their soon-to-be relationship. Starring as Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan, the chemistry between the two actors didn’t help the film’s performance at the box office.
In fact, the movie grossly underperformed, earning $219 million off of a $200 million budget. Well, the weird CGI super-suit didn’t help matters. Then again, even a real suit wouldn’t have helped the film’s bad writing and poor production. At least one good thing came out of it, though, Lively and Reynolds getting together.
After meeting on the 1996 thriller flick Scream, Courteney Cox and David Arquette embarked on a long 11-year marriage before divorcing (sigh). Regardless of their current relationship status, the film is a classic, with their characters Gale Weathers and Deputy Dewey Riley playing key roles in capturing the killer.
One critic commented on the film, saying, “the film has an approval rating of 78% based on 74 reviews, with an average rating of 7.18/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Horror icon Wes Craven’s subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself…”