Not to alarm you or send you stumbling too quickly away from our site to ProFlowers or anything, but Valentine’s Day is Sunday. And there’s a fairly good chance that at some point over the big weekend, you and your S.O. will sit down to enjoy a romantically-inclined motion picture, putting your own loverly entanglements on hold for 90-120 minutes to invest your emotions and interests in someone else’s. But be careful; just because it ends with a Happily Ever After doesn’t mean the couple in question would actually have one.
Alison Scott and Ben Stone, Knocked Up
“Opposites attract” is one of the oldest and most durable tropes of the rom-com, but here’s the problem: in real life, opposites might attract, but eventually they realize they’re just opposites, and they drive each other crazy. And yes, sure, Ben stops smoking so much weed and gets a real job and puts an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind poster up the baby’s room, but real talk: the first time those two are up at 3:30am with a screaming baby who’s puking on everything they own, he’s gonna go find his in-case-of-emergency bong, and she’s gonna lose her shit, and they’ll both realize what a giant mistake they’ve made.
Claire Standish and John Bender, The Breakfast Club
That goodbye kiss and fist in the air is one helluva feel-good ‘80s John Hughes ending, but c’mon, who’re we kidding here: faced with the most attractive of three very limited options on a Saturday in the fresh light of a Monday morning high school hallway in the company of her goody-goody friends, all of Claire’s snobbery will come flooding back, and John will be lucky if they lock eyes, much less lips.
Diane Court and Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything
I know, I know, it’s a hard fact to come to terms with, particularly if you’re of an age where Lloyd Dobler represented some sort of ideal – either the kind of guy you wanted to be, or the kind of guy you wanted to find. But Diane Court is a genius and Lloyd Dobler is a kickboxer, and as charming and understanding and reliable as he is through that whole “finding out your dad is a felon” business, she’s gonna meet some other genius in that fancy undergraduate program, and poor Lloyd will find himself lonesome all over again, hanging out at the British version of Gas-N-Sip.
Tracy and Isaac, Manhattan
“Six months is a long time,” Ike (Woody Allen) tells Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) in the final scene of Manhattan, as she’s on her way to the airport for a half-year acting program. “Six months, you know, you’re gonna be working in a theater there, you’ll be with actors and directors, you go to rehearsal, and you hang out with those people, you have lunch a lot, and before you even know it attachments form and, and, you know, I mean, you, you don’t want to be get into that kinda, I mean, you’ll change.” And y’know what, in spite of her assurance that he should “have a little faith in people,” Ike’s one thousand percent right; there’s absolutely no way that May-December romance withstands a separation nearly as long the period from May to December. And even if it did, y’know, we’re talking about a Woody Allen character here; by the time she’s back, he might’ve already traded her in for a newer model.
Carol Connelly and Melvin Udall, As Good as It Gets
“As Good as It Gets is a compromise,” wrote Roger Ebert of James L. Brooks’ 1997 hit, “a film that forces a smile onto material that doesn’t wear one easily. Melvin is not a man ever destined to find lasting happiness, and the movie’s happy ending feels like a blackout, seconds before more unhappiness begins.” He’s not wrong – Melvin spends the entire film getting close to Carol before pushing her away, and there’s not much of a reason to think that’s going to magically end just because they took a walk early in the morning. Some have suggested that this uneasiness is purposeful, subversive even; that feels like a too-generous read for a movie that plain and simply paints itself into a corner. Some people aren’t really built for relationships – but that’s not a very popular ending for a $50 million studio star vehicle.
Elaine Robinson and Ben Braddock, The Graduate
Like As Good as It Gets, you can see the couple at the center of The Graduate careening towards unhappiness even before the end credits (though in this case, it seems considerably more deliberate). Yes, they’re riding off into the sunset together – but the awkward glance they exchange, the thick and heavy silence between them, underscores the fact that they don’t actually have much of anything to build off from, aside from their shared love of making a big, dramatic scene. Oh, and that whole thing where Benjamin slept with Elaine’s mom, which is more baggage than any reasonable relationship can withstand.
Vivian Ward and Edward Lewis, Pretty Woman
And speaking of baggage… you know how, even in the most loving relationship, you’ve got that one place where you can go in an argument, that nuclear button that you can push if you really wanna land a cheap shot and win the moment, even if it breaks your very soul and that of your partner? You got that thing, are you locked in on it? Okay, good. Now imagine that thing is that you hired your partner to have sex with you for a week, and that’s how you fell in love. Seeing how that storybook ending might not have much of a shelf life?
Andie Anderson and Ben Barry, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
This frothy, dopey, inexplicably popular Kate Hudson/Matthew McConaughey nightmare features two sunny people kissing and riding off into the sunset together, which is lovely except for one small problem: THEIR ENTIRE COURTSHIP WAS BORNE OUT OF LIES, THEY’RE BOTH LYING LIARS, AND BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP FROM THAT IS LIKE BUILDING A HOUSE ON A FOUNDATION OF QUICKSAND, IT WILL SINK AND DO SO QUICKLY. Sorry folks, but if you spent the entire first week and a half of your life together perpetuating a total falsehood about your motives and intentions, then how do you expect your mate to buy that “trust me” the first time you roll in late from a “drinks after work” situation? (See also: She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, Breakin’ All The Rules, Never Been Kissed, Hitch, and many, many more.)
Ramona Flowers and Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
“Relationships based on extreme circumstances never work out,” notes Alex Shaw (Jason Patric) in Speed 2: Cruise Control, a movie that I’ll bet you forgot all about until right now. It’s said in relation to the short life of the relationship between Annie (Sandra Bullock) and Jack (Keanu Reeves) following the first film, and in spite of the merciless terribleness of Speed 2, he’s got a point. Many an action or adventure tale brings two lovers into each others’ arms after they’re done running from bad guys or alien forces or whatever, but once that excitement dies down, what’s left? Seriously, how many evenings can someone as cool as Ramona Flowers actually spend downing garlic bread in Scott Pilgrim’s shitty apartment? (See also: Owen and Claire in Jurassic World, Smith and Donna in Shoot ‘Em Up, Mr. and Mrs. Smith in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and, well, Annie and Jack in Speed and Annie and Alex in Speed 2.)
Aurelia and Jamie, Love Actually
Among the many, many, many things to hate about Love Actually, there’s this: one of its, I dunno, 33 subplots concerns handsome yet tragically heartbroken Colin Firth finding the love of his life in the form of Lucia Moniz’s Portugese housekeeper, with whom he does not even share a common language. That’s right, everybody: even the most basic of human communication isn’t necessary when it’s love, True Love, except it sort of is, and we’ll give these two maybe six months before his brother moves in. (See also: Prince Eric and Ariel, The Little Mermaid.)