Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and for romantic movie fans, that means a chance to spend quality time with some great on-screen love stories. From Casablanca and Brief Encounter to When Harry Met Sally and Before Sunrise, the decades have delivered some incredible romantic movies that have made generations of viewers laugh, cry, and swoon.
But for every great movie love story, there are countless bad ones. It takes a very special combination of great acting, writing, and on-screen chemistry to deliver a convincing on-screen romance, and if even one of these elements fails, then the results can be laughable and embarrassing. Sometimes a movie tries to emulate a past love story but with totally the wrong actors, and others, unconvincing love stories are shoehorned into a film for no other reason than its writers and directors think they should be there.
And then there are those love stories that are doomed from the start, with ideas and characters that are so wrongly conceived or badly written that even the most charismatic actors can’t make them work. So for those those among you who have had enough of great movies filled with beautiful stars falling hopelessly in love, and who want to see how filmmakers can get love stories very, very wrong, here are the worst movie love stories of all time…
12. Jurassic World (2015)
The romance between Jurassic World operations manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and dino-expert Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is one of those annoying, utterly unconvincing movie relationships that exists purely because it’s expected in this sort of film. It’s established early on that the pair previously went on a bad date, and that she basically can’t stand him. They spend the next two hours either arguing or trying to avoid being eaten by dinosaurs. But because these are attractive and famous stars in a big Hollywood movie, they have to inexplicably fall in love at the end.
11. Spider-Man 3 (2006)
The first two of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies did a reasonable job of developing the romance between Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) by largely keeping them apart. But the third movie turns their love story into a bad soap opera and presents them as a mismatched couple who don’t seem particularly happy about being together. Peter dismisses her acting career and lusts after Gwen Stacy, while MJ lies to him about being fired from her show and kisses her ex Harry in front of him. A sweet moment in a web hammock is not enough to redeemed this unromantic nonsense.
10. The Mummy (2017)
As in Jurassic World, the main “romance” between Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis in The Mummy only exists because for some reason we can’t have a Hollywood action movie where the female lead doesn’t fall hopelessly in love with the male hero. In this case it’s even worse–Cruise’s character is an annoying, cowardly idiot and the fact that Cruise looks great for 55 still can’t conceal the 22-year age gap between the pair. Despite an attempt to give them a witty, screwball comedy-style banter, the pair have absolutely no chemistry. Admittedly, everything was terrible about this movie, but that’s still no excuse.
9. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
There’s much to admire about Luc Besson’s space epic–the incredible visuals, the thrilling action, the weird comedy–but the love story is not one of them. Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne play Valerian and Laureline, futuristic government operatives who not only work together but are a loved-up couple–maybe. To be honest, for most of the movie it’s not really clear exactly what their relationship is supposed to be. At times they seem like teen lovers, besotted with one another. Other times, Valerian is desperate and pushy, while Laureline refuses to acknowledge his feelings. Their flirtatious banter sounds like it has been fed several times through Google translate, and what is supposed to be a powerful, romantic climax for their characters falls utterly flat. As an imaginative space adventure movie, Valerian is great fun. As an intergalactic love story, it’s a total dud.
8. The Ugly Truth (2009)
While Gerard Butler exudes a certain burly charisma as the star of brainless action movies, a romantic leading man he is not. Nevertheless, for a while Butler was making inroads into the world of rom coms, and The Ugly Truth teams him up with genre veteran Katherine Heigl (Knocked-Up, 27 Dresses) for the worst of a bad bunch. Not only is it one of those movies which forces a totally mismatched couple together via some ridiculous plot device, the movie doubles down by making both of them utterly unlikeable. Butler is a crass, lewd, chauvinistic TV host, while Heigl is his whining, uptight, micro-managing producer. There is absolutely nothing in either character to suggest they would remotely tolerate each other outside of work, let alone fall in love, but that’s Hollywood for you.
7. Beauty & The Beast (1991/2017)
The love story of Beauty & The Beast is a such a fairy tale classic that it’s easy to forget how dark and messed up it really is. Let’s face it, the plot of both the 1991 animated movie and the 2017 live-action remake focuses on a young girl kept prisoner by a terrifying monster, who is desperate to find a partner before an ancient curse causes him to remain as a beast forever. She does eventually fall in love with him, and it has been argued that this is a result of Stockholm Syndrome, the real-life condition in which kidnap victims fall for their abductors. Emma Watson, who plays Belle in the 2017 movie, even addressed this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, admitting that it was “something [she] really grappled with.”
6. Hottie and the Nottie (2008)
It’s hard to know where to start with this deliriously terrible rom com, which is completely devoid of both rom and com and delivers one of the worst love triangles ever committed to film. Paris Hilton’s irritating perfect Cristabel won’t date moping loser Nate (Joel David Moore) until she also finds a boyfriend for her horrifically ugly best pal June (Christine Lakin). Of course, June is really a hottie herself, who just needed a quick makeover to reveal her true beauty, and inevitably ends up falling for Nate. Remember kids, it’s what’s on the outside that truly counts.
5/4. Love Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis’s romantic anthology features two absolutely terrible love stories–both bad in different ways. In one, pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln lusts creepily after his best friend’s girlfriend (Keira Knightley) and attempts to lure her away by standing on her doorstep with a series of signs that declare his true feelings. Sensibly she rejects him. In a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, Lincoln admitted that he thought his character was a “creepy stalker.”
The movie’s other bad love story is less uncomfortable, but no less stupid. This is the one in which Colin Firth discovers that his girlfriend is having an affair with his brother, so he ends up falling for his Portuguese housekeeper (Lucia Moniz). Never mind the fact that he only just met her and neither of them speak a word of each other’s language, it’s enough for him to propose. And of course, it’s yet another example of a lowly serving girl falling for her rich employer–only in this case she can’t even talk back to him. Bleeugh.
3. Passengers (2017)
This recent sci-fi drama delivered one of the creepiest “love” stories of recent years. Chris Pratt plays an engineer on a colonisation ship who is mistakenly woken early from his 240-year sleep. With 90 years to go and no way to return to hibernation, Jim finds himself falling for one of the other sleeping passengers, a woman called Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). What happens next is definitely not cool: Jim deliberately wakes Aurora up and pretends there has been another malfunction, and then uses the information about her life that he has taken from her on-board profile to seduce her. But even though Jim has essentially condemned Aurora to death on board the ship with him, the film still wants us to be moved by the love story and feel sorry for Jim when Aurora finds out the truth and–surprise!–isn’t very impressed by it.
2. Gigli (2003)
Gigli is easily the most reviled movie in the filmographies of both Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, but to be fair, even the greatest screen actors would have had trouble injecting a hint of romance into this tale of a mobster who kidnaps a mentally challenged kid and ends up falling in love with a lesbian hitwoman. Famously, J-Lo and Affleck started a relationship while making the film–presumably in an attempt to numb the pain of having to go to the set each day. The soppy, unbelievable romance is totally at odds with the tasteless comedy and bloody violence elsewhere, and the movie rightfully swept the Razzies in 2004.
1. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The love story between Anakin and Padme is a crucial part of the Star Wars prequels, but it really needed someone other than George Lucas to write it. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman struggle to generate any chemistry as the star-crossed lovers, and are forced to deliver some of the worst romantic dialogue imaginable (“When I’m around you, my mind is no longer my own”). We are never once given a clue as to why Padme falls for this petulant, immature, sulking fool, and the scenes in which they romp around Naboo are more like a parody of a bad teen romance than a crucial moment in this beloved Saga. Just the worst.