You can’t make celluloid magic without chemistry—this Valentine’s Day, we look back at the cinematic couples who captivated us most on-screen, from Bogie and Ingrid to Patel and Pinto. If we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments.
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, The Taming of the Shrew, 1929.
The original Hollywood “It” couple, Fairbanks and Pickford were silent-film stars turned real-life spouses, whose estate paid homage to their two-as-one reputation: Pickfair was the social nexus of 1920s and 30s Hollywood.
Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, Gone with the Wind, 1939.
American classic in which a manipulative woman (Leigh) and a roguish man (Gable) carry on a turbulent love affair in the American south during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Gable’s portrayal of Rhett Butler is the most romantic, charismatic male character ever in films. His chemistry with raven-haired, fiery Vivien Leigh was infallible.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca, 1942.
Everyone in this film is fabulous, but it is the chemistry of Rick (Bogart) and Ilsa (Bergman) been truly holds the film together. Perfect casting of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman delivered what for many are their finest performances as the chemistry between them flies off of the screen.
George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961.
She was a yokel gone uptown; he was bland blond arm-candy for a ritzy Upper East Side dowager. Theirs was a hedonistic romance—together, Hepburn and Peppard swan around the city in fabulous clothes, writing in library books, and slurping down mid-morning cocktails at swish cafés. When he declares his love in the back of a cab, she says, “So what?” His retort: “So plenty!”
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, Annie Hall, 1977.
Based on the stars’ real-life faded romance, Oscar-winning Annie Hall traced the relationship of Annie (Keaton) with a guy to whom this is a pickup line: “You, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps, and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right?”
Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman, 1990.
A fresh Georgia peach meets a silver fox—and her hooker heels proved just the antidote to his humorless cordovan loafers. Cue the Rodeo Drive fantasy-shopping sequences and tuxedo-ed wooing at the opera. Gere and Roberts’s chemistry was irresistible—they re-teamed for 1999’s Runaway Bride, but you never forget the first time.
Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, Ghost, 1990.
The movie that inspired the purchase of a thousand pottery wheels, Ghost showed the late Swayze’s supernatural chemistry with Demi Moore that overcame space, time, and social conventions about necrophilia. Can your true love really travel back from across the undiscovered country for one last embrace? With Whoopi Goldberg’s help, anything is possible.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Titanic, 1997.
James Cameron’s three-hour, special-effects-happy disaster film was, at its core, just a love story: Jack and Rose intertwined on the prow of the fated ocean liner—“flying!”—is about as iconic a lovey-dovey image as exists in movies.
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, The Notebook, 2004.
Young, towheaded newcomers Gosling and McAdams oozed sexual chemistry in this throbbing, pass-the-Kleenex tearjerker, based on the throbbing, pass-the-Kleenex novel. Their off-screen romance blossomed while filming, and continued for years, much to the delight of fans.
Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire, 2008.
Two young slumpuppies meet, and it’s love at first sight—until the cruelties of life in modern Mumbai rip them apart. Fortunately for our young hero, a meteoric rise to millionaire status also affords him the opportunity to use Indian television to reconnect. Top it off with a Bollywood dance number, and you’ve got all the makings of a perfect modern-love fantasy.