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Most Toxic Romance Movie Couples


Love Stories We Adore that have Unhealthy Relationships

Toxicity in relationships exists in all shapes and forms. For the purposes of this article, the definition of a toxic relationship is one in which the couple communicates and treats one another in unhealthy, selfish ways.

What is horrifying is the admiration most of the couples on these lists get. Audiences all around the globe want a love like theirs. Especially since the films often fantasize and show the thrill of these relationships, people believe that the toxic traits within them are normal and a fair price to pay for such beautiful love. How much should one take, or do, to be with another, though?

This article features films primarily from the 2000s. Inevitably, older movies have more toxic relationships and portray more unhealthy couple traits because back then more things were, unfortunately, acceptable. Besides, most of the time in older movies, there is not a side to the woman’s story. Therefore, the oldest film this article will look at is from 1999. It actually contains the least amount of toxicity. 

5. 10 Things I Hate About You 

“Look, I’m in on this for the cash. Donner can plow wherever he wants” (29:40) This line from Heath Ledger’s character, Patrick, basically sums up the movie. 

To recap some of the plot; Donner wants to get his slimy hands on Bianca, Kat’s sister. But the only way Bianca can date is if Kat dates. With Kat being high in feminist theory, she doesn’t see any boy at her school man enough for her. Therefore, since getting Kat a date is impossible, dating Bianca is, too. Nonetheless, multiple eager men, including Joey Donner, pining over Bianca, manage to make Patrick date Kat. However, only at a high cash price.

With having trouble getting Kat to go on a date with him, Patrick changes himself. He stops smoking and pretends he’s into women’s rock bands and popular books with female authors. While revealing this false side of him to her, he is flirty. Inevitably, Kat falls for Patrick, thinking he obviously likes her back. But because he’s in for the cash, her heart gets broken. 

While Kat and Patrick are the main lovers, it’s important to note the love triangle with Joey Donner and Cameron going after Bianca. While Cameron seems like a nice guy throughout the film, he is the main, root cause of Patrick and Kat’s fiasco. Joey is arguably worse, though. All he wants is to have sex with Bianca. He does not care about her at all and is narcissistic. While Bianca is quite selfish, too, at times, at least she does not want to take advantage of him.

Being seen as bait or used as chum is neither healthy nor acceptable. This film thankfully has jokes, an upbeat soundtrack, and fun, breathable scenes. Had it been a drama with a gloomy, dark color palette, the toxicity would come to full view. 

Nonetheless, audiences come back to watch this film for the beloved actors, the fun and games, and the 90’s/early 2000’s feel. And, of course, for the twisted relationships, making it so good to watch, but a bad example of motivations behind relationships.

4. The NotebookToxic Young Love and a Forgotten Line

Many see Noah and Allie’s relationship as extremely toxic. With Noah threatening suicide if Allie doesn’t go out with him, the pushing, slapping, and yelling arguments they display in public, etc. Then, right after the fighting, they passionately make love, painting a picture to young people that fighting, as long as there’s kissing, is normal. 

The toxicity is partially seen as “acceptable” because of the attractive actors Ryan Gosling playing Noah and Rachel McAdams as Allie. Had it been an unattractive man throwing himself at Allie, for example, getting into fights with her in the street, audiences would just say, “She could do better.” Instead, both love interests remain attractive, allowing audiences to look past the dangers in their love and yearn it for themselves.

Many others only note the unhealthy aspects of the relationship. However, what audience members forget is the time that passes between when they are young and when they are in the nursing home. Towards the end of the young Noah and Allie storyline, there is a conversation the two have. Allie is choosing between Noah and Lon. They yell, call each other names, and even note how they fight and hurt one another’s feelings. 

Noah points out that yes, they will fight. Them being together will be hard. But he wants to work it out. This is a forgotten line. Additionally, since the audience does not ever get to see them work out the toxic parts of the relationship, as they only see them being old together, many only remember Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAddams as actors portraying a toxic relationship. 

This is not to excuse the toxicity within their young love. Hollywood had a hand in the film adaptation and changed many details which made their relationship more toxic. For example, in the original book, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, Noah does not dangle off a ferriss wheel and threaten suicide. Instead, their meet-cute is pretty normal. Additionally, it is arguable that the film plays up their fights compared to the ones in the book. Essentially, Hollywood dramatized their relationship, adding to the toxicity. 

3. 50 Shades of Grey – Layers of Pain

This film truly fantasizes toxic traits within a relationship. From the first conversation between Anastastia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), audiences can see the charm and purposeful intimidation Mr. Grey gives off. Although technically dangerous, his likable aspects make it that much harder for Ana to determine if their “relationship” is good or not. 

Mr. Grey is intimidating, controlling, obsessive, and even stalkerish. He teases young Ana, which messes with her hopeless-romantic mind. Showing her a life of luxury, and saying that she can “have him,” he entices her to be the submissive with him and his BDSM desires. While he always says she can leave, the camera often goes to Ana when she is quite speechless. Is it consensual? Technically, yes. Is it healthy?

In the beginning of the movie, Mr. Grey is very good at “bumping into her,” finding her location when she’s drunk at a bar, and is rather persistent when it comes to making them meet again. Ana usually goes along with it or eventually gives in to him. Therefore, he is rather controlling of her and their decisions from the get-go, which already points to some unhealthy tendencies. 

Throughout and especially toward the end of the film, audiences see the dangers of a relationship like theirs. Ana gets physically hurt, which is something she does not want, as shown by her tears and discomfort when he whips her at the end. To make it worse, having already fallen for him, she becomes emotionally hurt when she knows she has to leave him because she doesn’t like his ways. Not just his physical punishments, but also the hurtful fact that his heart yearns for this violence. 

The following films in the series allow audiences to see Mr. Grey change thanks to Ana. Nonetheless, this article is focusing primarily on the first film, in which Mr. Grey’s domineering tendencies do not go away. It also arguably portrays the roughest, scariest scenes, making their relationship in this film particularly one of the most toxic in movie history, especially of the 2000s.

2. 365 Days – Kidnapping + Being Held Hostage = Love

In real life, this film’s story would be described as a sick, twisted kidnapper taking advantage of a hostage. Nonetheless, Massimo (Michele Morrone) and Laura (played by Anna-Maria Sieklucka) miraculously end up in a relatively consenting relationship by the end of the film. 

This movie, too, fantasizes an unhealthy relationship, but takes it up a notch. Massimo traps Laura and forces her to try and love him. Only if she does not genuinely fall for him after 365 days can she be free. Meantime, she initially gets cut off from the outside world. Laura is also put in the dark about Massimo’s status in the Sicilian Mafia, yet he has her amongst murderous people who are not on his side. This proves extremely dangerous for Laura, as she has several near-death experiences, including the cliff-hanger ending. 

As if their relationship is not destructive enough, Laura gets unknowingly thrown into a toxic love triangle. This includes her, Massimo pining over her, and Anna, Massimo’s now ex-girlfriend. Massimo told Anna he would leave her if he found Laura. And since he did, this left Anna jealous and seeking vengeance. Hence, Laura is put into more danger. 

Massimo also assaults Laura. Although Massimo says he won’t touch her if she doesn’t want him to, he gets physical far before she gives consent. He sexually pushes her into walls, ties her to a machine and pulls her legs apart, makes her watch him have sex with another woman, etc. 

What is also scary is Laura’s near “giving in” to Massimo’s games by teasing him. The movie fantasizes her actions, too. While it is nice to see Laura’s spunk, it is a very bad example for impressionable audiences, as this teaches them that playing along in a hostage/any dangerous circumstance can be fun. 

This film manages to show the fun in a toxic, forced, and unrealistic romance, as most hostages don’t live in luxury and fall in love with their captor. Nonetheless, this story offers something new and exciting. Hopefully, viewers stick to enjoying it on the screen and not in real life. 

1. Gone Girl – Scary Real and Toxic

Horrifyingly realistic Gone Girl’s shows how a nice romance can turn into a dark, unhealthy one. Taking the number one spot for the most toxic romance movie couple, Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Park) destroy each other, yet stay together after it all. While Gone Girls isn’t necessarily a romance film, it does show the thrills of Amy and Nick’s toxic relationship, providing excitement for audiences.

Nick and Amy were in trouble from the start. They both state how, starting early in their relationship, they changed themselves to fit well with the other. As time goes on, the recession hits. Nick loses his job, and he becomes a couch potato who yells at Amy, gets drunk, and takes her money. He also cheats on her with a young girl and lies to Amy for so long. Looks like Nick reveals his true self.

Then, the toxicity gets heighted to an extreme, providing the excitement and main plot of the movie. Amy uses Nick’s weaknesses to publically destroy him and nearly get him executed for “killing his pregnant wife.” And she’s not even there. Impressive, right? Many fans think so, and would even post pictures on social media platforms saying how “they would make a nice dead wife,” referring to badass Amy. 

Nick adds more toxicity by pretending that he is a loving, caring, and worrying husband. But he knows what Amy has done and truly hates her. 

Therefore, when Amy thankfully realizes she doesn’t deserve the fate she gave herself (to commit suicide), what she does to go back to her life, with Nick, is insane. She goes so far as to frame her old love interest, Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) for kidnapping and raping her, and actually kills him.

It gets worse, since Amy forces Nick to stay with her by making them become pregnant together. Wanting to be there for the child, and not knowing what Amy would do if he left, Nick feels he has to stay. If it wasn’t a toxic relationship before, it surely is after all they’ve done to each other. 

Learn from them – Don’t emulate them.

It is important to take a step back when watching movies like these. No matter how glamorous, thrilling, or adventurous these relationships seem at times, audiences must take a step back to see the big picture. If a relationship is built on a faulty foundation or with unhealthy habits, it may provide some crazy, fun stories to tell – however, it can negatively affect partners and their relationship deeply. It is significant for audiences to earn from these couples and understand what not to do when it comes to building a healthy relationship with someone they may love. 

Gone Girl (2014) | 20th Century FOX | Official Trailer

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Sarah Anna Jonas
Sarah Anna Jonas is a current Writing for Screen & Television BFA at the University of Southern California. She hopes to pursue a career in screenwriting and development for television and film. Her goal is to bring more authentic, diverse stories to the screen in order to inspire social change.