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Sometimes the realisation doesn’t hit until years later. It took the internet a long time after The Devil Wears Prada first premiered to reach the conclusion that Nate is a terrible person. Likewise, Edward’s tiresome condescension toward Vivian wasn’t really picked up on when Pretty Woman debuted in 1990, but it is glaringly obvious today, while the romance of Woody Allen’s Manhattan has soured in every way imaginable. There are some fictional couples who just shouldn’t have ended up together.
Other times, it’s instant – seeing Amy become Laurie’s second-choice wife in Little Women, or the universal annoyance at realising that after all that, Ted ends up with Robin at the end of How I Met Your Mother.
Here’s our rundown of 25 couples in film and television that shouldn’t have ended up together.
1. Bella and Edward, Twilight
For a while, the human-vampire relationship captured the hearts of tweens worldwide – but a closer look at Stephanie Meyer’s infamous couple shows that they’re far from perfect. Edward is possessive to the point of being pathological and admits to watching Bella sleep for months without her knowing. And Bella is so dependent on Edward that in his absence, she regularly risks her life for just a glimpse of him in her imagination. Their relationship raises just about every red flag in the book – and a dozen more popped up in Midnight Sun, Meyer’s latest novel, which tells the events of Twilight from Edward’s (wildly misogynistic) perspective.
2. Vivian and Edward, Pretty Woman
There are very few saving graces to Richard Gere’s character beyond his good looks. Throughout the film, Edward is hugely condescending toward Vivian (Julia Roberts). Plus, he’s rude to his staff – a tell-tale sign of a bad guy if ever there was one. When he catches his good friend Phillip Stuckey (Jason Alexander) attempting to rape Vivian in his hotel room, Edward throws a punch and briefly asks if she’s OK, but beyond that, nothing.
3. Sandy and Danny, Grease
Olivia Newton-John belting “You’re the One That I Want” in lycra leggings, a leather jacket and a blow-out at the end of Grease is iconic. But the mere fact she had to change her whole look and personality to finally bag Danny Zucko shows that he isn’t worth it – something the movie hints at throughout. When his Thunderbird friends ask him about his summer, Danny lies and insinuates that they had sex; he publically humiliates Sandy several times; and finally, he’s only interested in her when he can’t have her.
4. Fez and Jackie, That '70s Show
Fans of That ‘70s Show were bewildered when the writers ended up pairing Jackie (Mila Kunis) with Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) in its final series. The relationship between her and Hyde (Danny Masterson) had grown so much over the seasons, it seemed ludicrous for Jack to end up with Fez – her quasi-stalker. Their reasoning? Because Jackie wanted to be with someone as obsessed with her as she was with herself. Their relationship mostly came out of the blue; Jackie had turned him down so many times across the series that the audience didn’t even consider him a potential love interest anymore.
5. Andy and Nate, The Devil Wears Prada
Years after the film’s release, the internet reached the general consensus that Nate is the worst. He’s unsupportive, pretentious and looks down on Andy’s fashion career throughout the entire film. Nate takes shots at Andy’s looks (when she tells him she’s interviewing for a job in fashion, he jokes: “Was it a phone interview?”) and criticises her for developing as a person to follow her career aspirations. It’s unclear whether they get back together in the end, since he’s moving to Boston and she’s staying in New York, but they do patch things up when, really, that’s a bridge better left burnt.
6. Ted and Robin, How I Met Your Mother
The hit comedy series consistently ranks high in lists denouncing “The Worst TV Finales Ever”, and while Ted and Robin’s relationship wasn’t the only factor in the show’s demise, it’s certainly a big one. Fans generally approved of the Barney/Robin love story, so to suddenly reveal that those two got divorced, Ted’s wife was actually dead, and that his long-winded tale has been a ruse to get his childrens' blessing to date Robin was like a slap in the face. Worst pay-off ever.
7. Ginny and Harry, Harry Potter
Two cardboard cut-outs have more chemistry than Ginny and Harry. But who can blame them? Over the course of the franchise, the pair spent very little time together, so their eventual romance felt forced and scripted. Harry and Cho Chang had more spark, or perhaps the prodigal wizard could’ve ended up with no one at all. Their relationship seems to be a classic case of writing in love for convenience’s sake. This romance was not very magical at all.
8. Phoebe and Mike, Friends
This entry is no reflection on Paul Rudd’s part, but wouldn’t it have made more sense for Phoebe to end up with sweet, adoring scientist David? Both true-blue weirdos, Phoebe and David seemed to be perfect soulmates before he was shipped off to Minsk. It was a classic case of bad timing, but in a universe where we’re expected to believe that Ross and Rachel somehow work it out, surely the writers could’ve given us a David/Phoebe happy ending.
9. Claire and Bender, The Breakfast Club
Nineties classics have a bad habit of ageing poorly, but even on first viewing, watching Bender get the girl felt wrong. The high school delinquent sexually harasses Claire constantly. When the group first gets together for detention, he suggests that they close the door and “get the prom queen impregnated”; in a nauseating turn of phrase, he asks her boyfriend Andrew if he “slips her the hot beef injection”. Worst of all, when he’s hiding under the desk, Bender puts his face in Clarie’s crotch, despite her physically trying to fight him off.
10. Sebastian and Annette, Cruel Intentions
In the end, Sebastian sacrifices his life for Annette, but even this dramatic final act of love can’t fully redeem him. He’s not a good guy. For one, he blackmails the school’s football star by threatening to out him as gay to his dad. He leaks Marci’s nudes on the internet. When Kathryn tasks him with seducing Cecile, Sebastian is downright predatory. He gets her drunk on long island ice teas and coerces her into oral sex by saying he’ll call her mum if she doesn’t give him a kiss. The whole bet with Kathryn in the first place sounds the first alarm of many.
11. Edward and Connie, Unfaithful
Yet another bad guy named Edward in the mix, and this time he’s a cold-blooded killer. After discovering his wife Connie is having an affair with another man, Edward murders him – with a snow globe, no less. After the police come sniffing about and Connie learns that it was Edward, the couple still decide to have another go at it. The so-called clincher? Connie finds a hidden compartment in the snow globe-cum-murder weapon containing a photograph of her, Edward and their child Charlie. Surely a sweet gesture isn’t enough to erase the fact that her husband is a murderer.
12. Daenerys and Jon, Game of Thrones
As well as epic fight scenes, the HBO fantasy series gifted its viewers with meaningful love affairs (Gilly and Samwell, Missandei and Grey Worm, Brienne of Tarth and Jaime to name a few), but The Mother of Dragons and the King in the North just didn’t click. The two had no spark; their romantic scenes were lukewarm and their conversation was all politics. The couple simply weren’t afforded the time to grow. None of their scenes together even broached the emotional resonance of watching Jon despair as Ygritte died in his arms, or Dany’s agony at leaving behind Khal Drogo in the House of the Undying. The show’s best relationships grew over the course of seasons, yet viewers were expected to be equally invested in Dany and Jon’s whirlwind dalliance – not likely.
13. Zack and Laney, She’s All That
It’s the original bet-me-to-date-her movie – arguably already an unforgivable offence. But Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr) has a whole host of other issues that make him unworthy of Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook). On one occasion, he fat shames his female classmate, and in the end he only falls in love with Laney after she’s undergone an “extensive” makeover (which essentially involves taking off her glasses and donning a strappy dress) to fit his beauty ideals.
14. Carrie and Mr Big, Sex and the City
Carrie deserved so much more. As the longest-running romantic interest in Sex and the City, there was always bound to be ups and downs for the controversial couple, but more often than not Carrie was down in the dumps when she was with Big. He leads her on, dumps her, marries someone else, instigates an affair when she’s happily paired up with Aidan, and constantly dismisses her feelings. The man even encourages her to start smoking again.
15. Jack and Kate, Lost
As early as the pilot episode, Jack and Kate were set up to be endgame. Maybe that’s why it felt so anticlimactic when it finally happened. Self-righteous Jack spends much of the early seasons up on his high horse judging Kate for her criminal past. What’s more, he constantly accuses her of things she didn’t do. Rule one: you can’t have a strong relationship without trust.
16. Brick and Maggie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Brick hates Maggie. He can’t stand her. He says so himself: “How in hell on earth do you imagine that you are going to have a child by a man that can’t stand you?” Brick is insultingly dismissive of her appeals for love and attention; he wipes her kiss from his cheek and ignores her when she speaks. Beneath Brick’s disdain for Maggie is Tennessee Williams’s suggestion that he’s hiding his sexuality and is lamenting the loss of his one-time love Skipper. Either way, in a perfect world Maggie would be with someone who adores her as much as she adores Brick, and Brick would feel free to own his sexuality.
17. Tom and Daisy, The Great Gatsby
From the outset of F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, it’s plain and clear that Daisy and Tom aren’t right for each other. The pair treat one another awfully and undermine each other every chance they get; neither are happy, yet both are unwilling to let go.
18. Laurie and Amy, Little Women
No one wanted to see these two end up together. Jo and Laurie’s bond was a cornerstone in both Louisa May Alcott’s novel and Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation – so to see Laurie pair off with Amy in the end was heartbreaking. Not because he should’ve ended up with Jo, but because Amy should play second fiddle to no one. Why should she settle for being a back-up wife to her sister?
19. Adam and Amanda, Adam’s Rib
Being the duo’s sixth film together, chemistry was never a problem for Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Their characters, however, deserved better than to end up with one another at the end of Adam’s Rib. While being married to your opposition lawyer is certain to throw up some issues in a relationship, the disdain Adam displays for Amanda’s ambition and drive to win (which he himself possesses, perhaps in even greater quantity) is annoying to watch. The film’s message about sexist double standards would have hit home harder had it not forgiven Adam for the very same thing it sought to denounce.
20. Sky and Sophie, Mamma Mia
Loving someone is great and all that, but it shouldn’t be your entire life. Sky’s whole existence revolves around chasing Sophie: he even moves to New York to train as a hotelier for her resort dream. And when he’s there, Sky even turns down an incredible job offer in order to drop everything and go after Sophie. It’s a passionate endeavour for a relationship that wholeheartedly lacks any passion. As Joey astutely observes in Friends: "The rule is when two actors are actually doing it off stage, all the sexual tension between them is gone” – that must be the case for Dominic Cooper and Amanda Seyfried, who were actually dating at the time because they truly have zero chemistry on screen.
21. Rachel and Ross, Friends
It’s a question for the ages: should everyone’s favourite will-they-won’t-they couple have ended up together? While it’s easy to get swept up in the dramatics of the finale episode, the short answer is probably not. Throughout the seasons, Ross has been (amusingly so) whiny and possessive of Rachel. They’ve tried and failed to make it work for years, so what’s to suggest that it will stick this time around? Never mind the resentment that Rachel will inevitably harbour at having to abandon her dream job in Paris. There’s no doubt they love each other, but chances are Ross and Rachel wouldn’t survive a week.
22. Scarlett and Rhett, Gone with the Wind
While Rhett is commonly regarded as a Hollywood dreamboat (mostly thanks to his portrayal by Clark Gable), the reality is far from it. It’s made clear from the start that Rhett is “no gentleman” – something he continues to prove throughout the film as he taunts, mocks and belittles Scarlett, bringing out the worst in her. Plus, the fictional couple got together when she was a minor. Scarlett was a young 16-year-old when 32-year-old Rhett came on the scene.
23. Isaac and Tracy, Manhattan
There’s a whole slew of Woody Allen films that could feature on this list, but Manhattan – which stars Allen as a 42-year-old TV writer dating a 17-year-old high school drama student – certainly ranks highly. At the time, no one seemed fussed about the ethics surrounding dating a minor, but in 2020 – and in light of the continued allegations of sexual abuse against Allen – the relationship and its obvious power imbalance is glaring. Isaac and Tracy don’t end up together in the end, despite his attempts at reconciling after he abruptly splits up with her. But it’s because she’s leaving for London, not because he’s recognised for the dirtbag he is.
24. Sheba and Richard, Notes on a Scandal
Extramarital affairs don’t always spell the end of a marriage, but in this case it should’ve. After Richard (an affable Bill Nighy) discovers that his wife Sheba (Cate Blanchett) has been engaging in a sexual relationship with her 15-year-old student, he asks her to leave their family home – but only to take her back wordlessly in the scenes to follow. She’s arrested and sentenced to 10 months in prison, but it’s insinuated that Richard will be waiting for her when she gets out.
25. Haley and Dylan, Modern Family
High school sweethearts are always a charming prospect but in the case of ABC’s Modern Family, viewers were disappointed – and confused – to see Haley (Sarah Hyland) end up with her first love Dylan (Reid Ewing). The pair were on and off across the series but always in a casual way, so it was a shock to see them settle down and have twins in the last season. Especially when so much time had been spent building up Andy as a contender.