The Sizzle -- Chemistry Between Romantic Leads

It’s not merely a question of being a fine actor… Jodie Foster is brilliant on-screen, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a romantic pairing with an actor and thought, “Wow, do THOSE two connect!”

On the other hand, Hanks and Ryan in You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle WORKED as a couple. Granted, it wasn’t smouldering sexuality so much as it was compaionate cute love, but the fact is the pairing clearly had chemistry. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn clearly had chemistry.

Which other parings have chemistry? And which pairings have been the anthithesis of chemistry – a couple that the story has as sizzling the screen but just are not buyable at all as lovers?

Seriously? They seemed like a couple of old friends gossiping away; heck, I almost thought Tom Hank’s character was going to end up coming out of the closet. No hint of romantic interest or sexual tension at all. Plus, it’s extra-creepy that he’s basically manipulating her (after running her out of business) in the former, and she’s stalking him in the latter. Then again, I personally think that most romantic comedies are just slighly less chill-inducing than cannibal-serial-killer thrillers, and just as predictable.

Am I going to be accused of being a sap if I cite Before Sunrise and the followup, Before Sunset as being a nearly flawless example of this? If Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who I have otherwise totally failed to be impressed with in anything else) weren’t totally smitten with each other, they sure faked it well in these films. Ditto for Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellitto in Bella Martha. And maybe it was just Paz Vega (who is the vision of a Siren if ever there were one), but she and Tristan Ulloa oxidized the screen in Sex and Lucia.


Almost any pairing in the last 15 years of an absurdly old man and a young, pretty actress, such as Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Entrapment,” is a great example of the latter. Connery was certainly a sex symbol back in the Bronze Age and Zeta-Jones is preposterously hot, but the idea of them as an item was absurd. Think also of anyone Woody Allen’s ever been with onscreen, or the Harrison “Get Off My Lawn, You Kids” Ford - Anne Heche matchup. Or a thousand others.

Of course, also famously inept as a couple were Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman, due to bad writing, in the second Star Wars series. That may be the absolute record holder for the least screen chemistry ever.

Curiously enough, one screne couple I always thought was hot, in a silly sort of way, was Rick and Evie in the recent “Mummy” movies.

Bogart and Bacall had some fabulous chemistry - as in, I wonder how they kept the cameras from spontaneously combusting while filming their scenes. Of course, Bogie is hot no matter what he’s doing, except maybe when he’s taunting hippos in The African Queen.

I feel that romantic leads today are supposed to appeal to us as individuals, or failing that, at least communicate fashionable gender “types.” Chemistry may be an outmoded luxury, like lighting or decent dialog.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. The most convincing screen chemistry I’ve seen.

Hugh Grant on the other hand is a dud at any sort of sizzle.

On the small screen, there’s no one like Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring of Veronica Mars fame. Veronica and Logan make absolutely no sense for each other, but my gods are the teh hawt! I mean, look at them! No, look at them! If those looks don’t mean, “I want to lick every inch of your body in front of a wall of mirrors,” I don’t know what does.

That couple is the first thing I thought of. Their romance wasn’t sappy at all, which means that you’re not a sap for liking it.

My other favorite:

George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez’s mucho HOT chemistry in Out of Sight.

You know you’d have to pair her with an actress to even have a chance at chemistry, right?

I definitely agree about Before Sunrise. Maybe it’s something about Ethan Hawke - some amazing chemistry with Winona Ryder in Reality Bites.

But the absolute best onscreen chemistry, IMO, has to be Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook.

Not sure I agree. She is an actress. I have no trouble believing that (as a general proposition) she could sell on-screen chemistry with a man even though she’s gay.

Now, does it help the actor to be playing opposite someone they could actually, really, desire sexually? I honestly have no idea.

It worked with Jolie and Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Dumb movie, but you can’t deny the chemistry.

You know what TV show has some great sexual chemistry in it? Battlestar Galactica. And no, I don’t mean between Baltar and Six, although they’re fine - I mean Roslin and Adama. Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos are so smoldering together, I half expect warning klaxons to go off whenevr they’re in a room together. Yay for over-50 sexiness!

Yeah, seriously. It was obvious that there was something very strong there.

Hell yes- look at some of the great dames (literally) on screen lately- Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave… Maturity, wit and self-confidence are so sexy!

Was I the only one who got a hint of sexual tension between Dench and Craig in the new Bond film? Probably…

Evidence that it’s not necessary – Jake G. and Heath L. in Brokeback Mountain.

An oldie but a goodie–Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy. Yowza.

Frodo & Sam?

Since Star Wars was brought up as a anti-example…

Ford and Fisher are pretty hot together in Empire and Jedi.

Yay! That’s the one I came in to mention.

Did Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney really get it on in Out of Sight? I thought it was a dream sequence?

This might be an odd choice but I think that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore seem to have a nice chemistry in the two films they’ve done with each other.