On-Screen Chemistry That Made Our Skin Crawl

A good movie is greater than the sum of its parts. When every actor and crew member works at the top of their game and executes every last detail, true magic happens. But before a single frame is shot, casting agents have to assemble the right collection of stars—and sometimes they miss the mark. We've all suffered through a movie that doesn't quite work because the romantic leads have nothing going on between them. Here are some of the least convincing couples in film history.

The Hunger Games series

In between all the teen-on-teen murder, political intrigue, dystopian misery, and even more teen-on-teen murder, there's a love triangle at the heart of this YA series turned blockbuster film franchise. The tough, self-reliant Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) leaves behind a budding romance at home with lifelong friend and hunting partner Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), only to fall in with fellow District 12 combatant Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Their union is a PR ploy at first, meant to engender sympathy with Hunger Games spectators, but the two develop real feelings for one another, and at the end, Katniss chooses Peeta. The audience is supposed to figure out these two are meant to be together before they do, but the filmmakers kept things vague until the endwhich was easy to do, because there was so little heat between Lawrence and Hutcherson...and so much between Lawrence and Hemsworth. 

Batman Begins

Not only was Rachel Dawes an adult love interest for Bruce Wayne, she was supposed to be an old childhood friend, too—but in Batman Begins, that warmth and familiarity is missing between the cold Christian Bale and the doing-her-best Katie Holmes. Bale is so icy toward his one true love that at times it feels like he's still playing psychopathic lady-killer Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Holmes can't muster the charm and magnetism she displayed in a similar placed-on-a-pedestal role in Dawson's Creek. When Holmes opted to not return for the sequel The Dark Knight, Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role—an excellent move, as far as chemistry was concerned.

Gangs of New York

Martin Scorsese's 2002 period piece about the brutal criminals that terrorized the Five Points area of New York City in the 1840s stars two major screen idols with incredible chemistry: Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis. Cameron Diaz is also there for some reason. Diaz is a fine actress, but woefully miscast in the role of a hardscrabble pickpocket with whom DiCaprio's character falls in love. They really try to make it work, they do, but DiCaprio acts circles around a visibly uncomfortable Diaz. The actors, let alone the characters, just don't seem to like each other very much.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

The second Star Wars prequel suggests a crazy theory: are Padme (Natalie Portman) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) droids in disguise? From the "romantic" scenes depicting the ultimately doomed young lovers and eventual parents of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, it would seem so. How did these two characters ever actually do the physical deeds necessary to create children? Perhaps Portman and Christensen just didn't have a lot to work with. Star Wars movies are best when they're full of action and sci-fi whimsy; George Lucas just can't write intimate dialogue that isn't weird and clunky. As a result, the two actors, both great in other movies, don't ever seem to connect. 

The Tourist

What happens when you put two attractive, charismatic actors in a movie together? Do you get twice the sexiness...or do the two stars cancel each other out? In the case of this weird, slow crime movie most famous for inexplicably competing as a comedy at the Golden Globes, the answer is the latter. Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp bring nothing to the screen—and nothing but coldness to their flirtatious, supposedly sexually-charged shared scenes together. At least the beautiful European scenery is enjoyable.

The Matrix trilogy

This sci-fi cyberpunk classic (and, to a lesser extent, its sequels) enchanted millions with its depiction of technology run so far amok that humans have literally been robbed of much of their humanity. A crew led by Neo and Trinity (Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss) tries to destroy that dynamic and make humans free-thinking and independent again, and a defiant romance between the two develops. The only problem is that Reeves and Moss have so little heat together that their relationship is as cold as the unfeeling machinery that propels the story.

The Harry Potter series

Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright were just teenagers when they played future husband and wife Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley in the blockbuster Harry Potter fantasy franchise. Maybe they didn't yet possess the necessary acting experience to pull off a feasible depiction of attraction turned to love—whatever the reason, it's just plain awkward to watch these two kids flirt with each other for the sake of story. Regardless of how it played out on the page, Ginny is Harry's best friend's sister, and onscreen, they share a similar sibling dynamic.

Fifty Shades of Grey

This could not have been an easy or comfortable movie to make. A lot of sex scenes—many of them intense and violent—were required of Fifty Shades of Grey stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, forcing them to fake a shocking level of "intimacy." Maybe they were uncomfortable with the material, or maybe with having to pretend to have sex with a stranger. The end results make it difficult to fathom why their characters are into each other in the first place—which makes the experience of watching Fifty Shades feel like an act of forced voyeurism.


Amy Adams is one of the best and most versatile actors working today. She's racked up five Academy Awards nominations, playing everything from a nun (Doubt) to a con artist (American Hustle) to a cult operative (The Master). She can even do science fiction, as evidenced by her role as Louise Banks, a linguist who learns to communicate with alien visitors in Denis Villeneuve's Arrival. One thing Adams can't do: Make audiences think she wants to get with Jeremy Renner. He plays physicist Ian Donnelly, assigned to the same alien project. The two develop a bond that ends up having a huge impact on the plot—which seems almost impossible because Adams never seems to look twice at Renner, let alone in a loving way.

Knocked Up

Knocked Up revolves around a pregnancy that develops after an unlikely hookup between a TV journalist (Katherine Heigl) and a bumbling slacker (Seth Rogen). The two fumble along trying to connect so as to eventually be good parents, but the lack of a spark between Rogen and Heigl lends the movie a palpable discomfort. The whole point of the movie is that the two lovers are improbable, but Knocked Up never shows how these two characters can even tolerate each other. A couple years after the film's release, Heigl gave Vanity Fair a de facto explanation for the lack of chemistry with Rogen, arguing that the movie "exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I'm playing such a b****; why is she being such a killjoy?"

Couples Retreat

This 2009 comedy pairs up a bunch of likable actors—Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell; Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis; Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman—as a group of couple friends participating in a marriage workshop in an exotic location. Vaughn and Akerman's characters are supposed to be hanging on to their relationship by a thread, but it's hard to see these two ever having a spark. But this goes beyond good actors knowing their "motivation"—Akerman and Vaughn behave like respectful coworkers, not lovers who've lost their way.

Superman Returns

Relative Hollywood newcomer Brandon Routh had to make audiences forget about the last guy to play Superman in the movies, the legendary Christopher Reeve. Not helping things: Routh's complete lack of chemistry with costar Kate Bosworth as Superman's ex-flame Lois Lane. At this point, they've split up because Superman left for a while, but there's no trace of either character wanting to rekindle things, or even passionate anger on the part of Bosworth's character for Superman leaving her alone to raise their child. There's merely mutual anti-chemistry, colder than the Fortress of Solitude. Also, they seem about a decade too young to be playing either role, let alone have a son together, adding to their strange dynamic.

Woody Allen's later films

Writer/director Woody Allen is kind of like Matthew McConaughey's lecherous character in Dazed and Confused: He kept getting older, but his co-stars stayed (roughly) the same age. In the '90s and early 2000s, Allen engaged in some creepy, self-serving wish fulfillment, casting young ingénues opposite himself in his own movies. In Mighty Aphrodite, Allen (60 at the time) plays a man who briefly leaves his wife (29-year-old Helena Bonham Carter) for a prostitute (Mira Sorvino, 28). In The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, 66-year-old Allen romances 38-year-old Helen Hunt. And then in Hollywood Ending, 67-year-old Allen wins back his ex-wife, portrayed by 36-year-old Téa Leoni.

The Twilight movies

The complete lack of romance, heat, chemistry, sexual tension—whatever you want to call it—in the Twilight films is fascinating. This is the film series that captivated a generation with its supposed timeless romance and tale of love fair and true? Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison are both very good actors, but throughout the Twilight saga, they stay stone-faced and seemingly vaguely embarrassed by the moony dialogue and long scenes of "romantically" staring at one another. Frankly, it's amazing that these two dated in real life.