Memorable Onscreen Couples Who Define Relationship Goals

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:32:37 PM ET
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No doubt about it — everyone loves a good romance story. Whether those awesome characters are in movies or on television, we can’t seem to get enough of watching our favorites fall in love. They have undeniable onscreen chemistry that sizzles, creating the perfect illusion that the romances are real.

From The Notebook to I Love Lucy, many movies and TV shows have featured memorable relationships that inspired us to set similar relationship goals in the real world. Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic onscreen relationships of all time. Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, I Love Lucy

We’re starting our list with perhaps the most iconic romantic TV couple of all time: Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from the 1950’s sitcom I Love Lucy. Just say the names "Lucy" and "Ricky," and people will know exactly who you’re talking about.

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Photo Courtesy: CBS/IMDb

Real-life married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made their on-screen romance look so easy. Lucy was mischievous, and Ricky was quirky and fun with her. They complemented each other perfectly. The Ricardos have been defining "relationship goals" since the 1950s. They were also quite an attractive pair, weren’t they?

Nathan and Haley, One Tree Hill

More affectionately known as "Naley," the relationship between Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) and Haley James (Bethany Joy Lenz) was undeniably one of the best things about the 2000’s teen drama One Tree Hill. How many high school relationships (and marriages) end well these days?

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Photo Courtesy: The CW/IMDb

Former tutor girl Haley and basketball star Nathan made an unlikely pair, but Nathan transformed into a different character because of his love for Haley. They evolved into a perfect couple who faced challenges together, and they always brought out the best in each other. That’s why we love them!

Seth and Summer, The O.C.

They say opposites attract, and that’s exactly what happened to Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) and Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) in the 2000’s teen drama The O.C. Summer was popular and lively, and every teenage boy was attracted to her. On the other hand, Seth was dorky and anxious.

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Photo Courtesy: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images

Somehow, their completely different personality traits seemed to work for Seth and Summer. While it took Summer forever to notice Seth, they had undeniable chemistry and passion together and were meant to be with each other for life. Seth and Summer were endgame — no questions asked.

Ennis and Jack, Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain was a breakthrough film for LGBTQ representation. The 2005 drama focused on the tragic, forbidden romance between Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). The two cowboys were clearly in love with each other, but they believed they couldn’t be together.

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Photo Courtesy: Focus Features/IMDb

The film followed the men as they struggled in their roles as husbands who could never fully love their wives because of their hidden identities. If society had been different, Ennis and Jack would have been together. Instead, we had to watch them suffer from a tragic love affair.

Joe and Kathleen, You’ve Got Mail

Is there anything better than watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a love story? In the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox (Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) hated each other because they were bookstore rivals. Even though they had wonderful chemistry, they refused to acknowledge it.

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Joe and Kathleen had no idea that they first met online and already have feelings for each other. Over time, they grew fond of each other in "real life," and when Kathleen discovered Joe was her true love all along, she was very glad to learn it was him.

Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Who doesn’t love Bridget Jones? A modern-day version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, 2001’s Bridget Jones's Diary tells the story of a single Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) and her dating trials. She repeatedly encountered Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who she believed to be the most tightly wound, arrogant man in England.

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Mark loved Bridget, but he was endearing, awkward and had a hard time admitting his true feelings. In the end, how could Bridget reject him? She learned he was a gentleman, and he respected and liked Bridget "just the way she is."

Han Solo and Princess Leia, Star Wars

You normally don’t think of the Star Wars franchise as being a love story, but the force was strong between Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). They were from very different social backgrounds. Han was rough and engaged in illegal activities, while Princess Leia was a royal who was honest and caring.

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The couple never should have ended up together, but you can’t deny true love. Sparks flew when the two worked together to win a galactic civil war. Han’s charm won over her heart, even when she didn’t want to admit it.

Rob and Laura Petrie, The Dick Van Dyke Show

Rob and Laura Petrie from the 1960’s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show were a couple that inspired the ultimate marriage goals. Rob (Dick Van Dyke) had a great sense of humor, and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) was just as fun and sweet. They complemented each other beautifully.

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Photo Courtesy: CBS/IMDb

What made their relationship work was the undeniable chemistry between Van Dyke and Moore. The co-stars were sweet together and truly admired each other. Fans tuned in every week to watch the latest situations for the modern couple. Even today, we can’t help but smile at the happy pair.

Chuck and Blair, Gossip Girl

The relationship between Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) and Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) is often fans’ favorite thing about the 2000’s high school drama Gossip Girl. Chuck and Blair were manipulative and unpleasant at times, but they also brought out each other’s soft side.

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Photo Courtesy: Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

Like with many television couples, it took a long time for the couple to admit that they loved each other. Blair pleaded for Chuck to say, "Three words, eight letters…Say it, and I’m yours." They were perfect for each other, which they ultimately realized and got married.

Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big, Sex and the City

It’s hard to keep up with Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big’s relationship on the 2000’s drama Sex and the City. Their relationship was definitely rocky. Would they end up together or not? That was the question, but Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) ultimately realized Mr. Big (Chris Noth) was the man for her.

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After all, no one could ignore the couple’s undeniable, inevitable attraction to one another. Their relatable romance was fun to watch, and fans tuned in week after week to see what would happen next. It took a movie to make it happen, but they finally tied the knot.

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, Twilight

From 2008 to 2012, nearly every teenage girl was obsessed with Twilight. Vampire love stories were the most popular genre for quite some time. People couldn’t get enough of the tales, including the romance between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

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As "corny" as it might be at times, Twilight, at its core, was a love story between Bella (a human) and Edward (a vampire). They weren’t supposed to fall in love, but they were irresistibly drawn to each other, and nothing could keep them apart. They were destined to be together forever — quite literally.

Cory and Topanga, Boy Meets World

Everyone dreamed of having a childhood sweetheart relationship like Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) in the 1990’s comedy Boy Meets World. From the beginning of the show, Cory and Topanga were destined to end up together.

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Of course, they had their struggles during the course of the show’s seven seasons, but everyone agreed that they were much better together than apart. They had one of the sweetest relationships in TV history. Why couldn’t the rest of us have found our soulmates when we were in middle school?

Joanie and Chachi, Happy Days

Joanie loves Chachi in the 1970’s comedy Happy Days — so much so that they had their own spinoff for a while. Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) loved his "blue eyes," Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran), even though she ignored his advances at first. However, he didn’t give up on her, and Joanie eventually realized Chachi was the best man for her.

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They got married during the show’s memorable series finale, and it was one of the most-watched television weddings and series finales of all time. Joanie loved Chachi, and who could really blame her? We all loved Chachi.

Luke and Lorelai, Gilmore Girls

From the beginning of the 2000’s comedy-drama Gilmore Girls, viewers knew Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) was destined to end up with Luke Danes (Scott Patterson). Lorelai was quirky and fun, while Luke was tough and serious. Somehow, these personality traits worked together in the most wonderful way possible.

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Luke and Lorelai brought out the best qualities in each other. Once they finally got together after years of flirting, nothing was ever the same. They were definitely a power couple in TV history — not just in Stars Hollow.

Jim and Pam, The Office

To this day, fans still love and binge-watch the 2000’s sitcom The Office. One of the most memorable aspects of the show was the budding, flirtatious romance between office worker Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and receptionist Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer). Would they ever admit their true feelings? Fans couldn’t wait to see!

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Jim and Pam loved to team up to pull pranks in the office. They had a great friendship, which is why fans knew they would make a great couple. They proved that the best relationships stem from friendship. If only love was that easy.

Danny and Sandy, Grease

Some people say every good girl needs to date at least one bad boy in her life. In the 1978 movie musical Grease, Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) was an Australian exchange student who fell in love with the legendary bad boy in the flick, Danny Zuko (John Travolta).

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Set in the 1950s, the musical portrays a classic love story between two high school sweethearts. They faced many complications throughout the film, but they ultimately realized they belonged together. When they declared, "You’re the one that I want," we couldn’t help but sing along with them.

Westley and Buttercup, The Princess Bride

It would be hard to resist farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes) in the 1987 fantasy-romance film The Princess Bride. He loved Buttercup (Robin Wright) and would do anything for her. All he had to say was, "As you wish," and women swooned.

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When Westley was separated from Buttercup, he didn’t stop fighting to get back to her. He fought pirates and a giant to find his way back to his Princess Bride. After everything the couple went through, it was no surprise they were destined for each other. They inspired a lot of relationship goals.

Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Starring Audrey Hepburn, the 1961 drama Breakfast at Tiffany’s shouldn’t really be a love story. It focused on Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, as she navigated her life in New York City. The character actually popularized the little black dress and oversized sunglasses.

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Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/IMDb

Along the way, she met her neighbor, Paul Varjak (George Peppard), and there was undeniable chemistry. Over time, Holly overcame her flighty instincts and kissed Paul in the rain (while wearing her signature French coat). The classic scene was just too good. Where’s our Prince Charming to kiss in the rain?

Oliver and Jenny, Love Story

The 1970 drama Love Story was obviously always intended to be a love story. The movie focused on wealthy Harvard University law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) and Jenny Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw), a middle-class music student at Radcliffe College. Of course, it was love at first sight.

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Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/IMDb

They got married, despite Oliver’s father’s protests. Everything seemed perfect until they learned Jenny had a terminal illness. Their love survived, but it was difficult given the heartbreaking situation. Oliver and Jenny were soulmates, and no illness could change that.

Ross and Rachel, Friends

The on-and-off-again romance between Ross Gellar (David Schwimmer) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) might just be one of the most memorable things about the popular sitcom Friends. From the beginning of the show, fans wondered if they would ever end up together.

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Photo Courtesy: Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Their relationship was a rollercoaster of emotions over the years. They went "on a break," then got back together, then broke up, then had a baby together and finally got back together in the show’s finale. Ross and Rachel were the ultimate couple, and watching the ups-and-downs of their relationship was definitely worth it.

Harry and Sally, When Harry Met Sally

Don’t you love a good love story about two friends who fall in love? In the 1989 classic romantic drama When Harry Met Sally, Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) first meet as bickering travel companions who are continuously drawn back together throughout the movie.

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Of course, they became good friends and eventually fell madly in love with each other. Their path to romance wasn’t easy, but it was certainly enjoyable to watch — queue the fake orgasm scene! We want a love story like theirs. We’ll have whatever Harry and Sally are having in this adorable film.

Vivian and Edward, Pretty Woman

The 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman was billed as a modern twist on Cinderella. Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) was a hooker with a heart of gold, which was pretty far removed from a fairy tale. It didn’t take long for her to leave an impression on wealthy businessman Edward Lewis (Richard Gere).

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Vivian and Edward had remarkable chemistry from the moment they met on Hollywood Boulevard. They came from two different worlds, but they learned to exist in a new world they created together. Every time you watch this film, you fall in love with Vivian and Edward — her knight in shining armor — all over again.

Noah and Allie, The Notebook

One of the most beloved love stories of the 21st century, the 2004 film The Notebook focused on the intense romance between Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams). What started as a summer fling in the 1940s turned into a lifetime love story and relationship.

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The Notebook is an endearing, yet heartbreaking film. Allie’s memory declined in her old age, and Noah read their story to her every day. It wasn’t over for Noah and Allie just because of her failing health. They were destined to be together forever and ever, because that’s how true love works.

Baby and Johnny, Dirty Dancing

There’s nothing better than a movie about forbidden love. In the 1987 romantic drama Dirty Dancing, Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) was staying with her parents at a summer resort when she met the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze).

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Baby’s father forbade her from seeing Johnny, but she decided to become his dance partner anyway. They fell in love, and despite her father’s disapproval, Baby helped Johnny perform the last big dance of the summer. Johnny and Baby had the time of their lives — and danced their way firmly into our hearts.

Katie and Hubbell, The Way We Were

There couldn’t be anything more perfect than Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in the 1973 drama The Way We Were. Opposites attracted in a huge way when Katie Morosky (Streisand) and Hubbell Gardner (Redford) met in college. They had different life goals, but they were passionate about each other.

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Photo Courtesy: Columbia Pictures International/Courtesy of Getty Images

Katie and Hubbell should have been together to the end. Their fiery romance was so compelling, but in the end, their differences outweighed their intense love. Our favorite lovers didn’t end up together, putting a very realistic spin on this movie romance. Still, Katie and Hubbell — and millions of fans — will always remember "the way we were."

Rick and Ilsa, Casablanca

Casablanca is one of the most famous films in cinematic history. The 1942 romantic drama featured nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who discovered his old flame, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), was in town with her husband. Rick and Ilsa were forbidden to be together, but they still loved each other.

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Photo Courtesy: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Ultimately, Rick and Ilsa didn’t end up together, even after meeting again, but their story of forbidden love was a captivating and compelling tale. It was the movie where Rick uttered the heartbreaking famous line, "Here’s looking at you, kid." How can you not love that?

Jack and Rose, Titanic

"You jump, I jump, Jack." Titanic is one of the most famous love stories ever told. The 1997 classic drama predominantly fictionalized the story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic — with some real facts thrown in. Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) was forbidden from seeing poor Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), but that didn’t stop her from falling in love with him.

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Jack and Rose were star-crossed lovers engaged in an intense romance, and they never let their social differences get in the way of true love. People couldn’t get enough of their love story. Jack and Rose never let go of that love to the tragic, icy end.

Maria and Tony, West Side Story

We could never grow tired of watching the love story between Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) in the classic 1961 musical West Side Story. A modern musical based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the movie told the story of star-crossed lovers who belonged to rival gangs — the Jets and the Sharks — in New York City.

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Photo Courtesy: Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

When Maria and Tony confessed their love for each other, everyone watching was falling in love right along with them. While their romance ended in tears and heartache — in true Shakespeare style — it was still beautiful to watch. There will never be another love story like Maria and Tony’s.

Maria and The Captain, The Sound of Music

1965’s The Sound of Music was truly a heartwarming story about unexpected love. Based on the real-life story of the Von Trapp family during World War II, the movie told the story of Maria (Julie Andrews), who became a governess for the seven children of the widowed Austrian naval captain, Baron von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).

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Maria was different than anyone The Captain had ever met. She brought laughter and music into his home, and over time, the two couldn’t help but fall in love. They faced the growing challenges of the war and Nazi Germany together — as one unified family.

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind

Frankly, my dear, how could Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara not be No. 1 on our list? The memorable 1939 romantic drama Gone with the Wind featured a romance that was definitely uneasy during the Civil War. Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) was a tough southern belle, while Rhett (Clark Gable) was a charming ladies’ man.

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Photo Courtesy: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Rhett and Scarlett were the only people in the world who seemed to understand each other, which resulted in an epic love story. More than 80 years later, audiences still can’t get enough of the iconic romance, and we suspect that will never change.