The Top Twelve Action Movie Romances

Conventional wisdom claims that action movies are for men and romances are for women. So why the heck does every action movie have a romantic subplot? You could argue that it’s to appease all the women that Hollywood expect to get dragged the theater, but what about all the men who have to sit through a romantic comedy without a single explosion to keep them sated?  Action movie romances make it worth it.

No, it’s a pretty simple rule: every damned movie is a romance. But while most action movies tack their love stories on like so much, well, tack… the following films are Mandatory’s picks for The Top Twelve Action Movie Romances. Whether it’s true love, true lust or a starcross’d tragedy for the ages, these are the romantic relationships that mattered even more than the explosions.

Best Action Movie Romances

You know the plot: there’s a bomb on a bus, and if it goes under 60 mph, it explodes. It’s a spectacularly clever idea that allows for non-stop action sequences but also forces Speed’s cast into a confined space together for the entire film. Sexual tension was bound to erupt, and erupt it does between SWAT team member Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and civilian Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock), who winds up behind the wheel after the driver is shot. Thanks to natural chemistry and a clever script polish by Joss Whedon (we read the draft before his and trust us, he deserves a lot of credit), their climactic make out session is sexy and well earned.

But Will It Last…?

Alas, relationships based on intense experiences never work. Annie couldn’t get used to Traven’s thrillseeking lifestyle, and the couple broke up between Speed and Speed 2.


Years after Zorro, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, is defeated by his arch-nemesis, he escapes from prison and takes on a young apprentice, played by Antonio Banderas, to be the new Zorro, who falls in love with the villain’s hot young daughter, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. The sexual chemistry is explosive, particularly in an erotic swordfight between the two that results in Jones’s dress getting sliced off of her very attractive body.

But Will It Last…?

Oh yes. They get married and have the world’s most annoying child in 2005’s The Legend of Zorro, an atrocious sequel that’s best left forgotten. Their relationship is based almost solely on sexual attraction, and given that both Banderas and Jones are still hot as hell nearly 15 years later, we don’t imagine that attraction dying down any time soon. It’s a shallow romance, but when the leads are this pretty it’s hard to care.


A skilled hitman, played by Chow Yun-Fat, accidentally blinds a singer, played by Sally Yeh, at a nightclub in the middle of a shootout. He reconnects with her afterwards, not telling her his true identity, and falls in love with her. He begins taking dangerous assignments just to pay for her corrective surgery, running afoul of a dogged detective and a dangerous crime organization in his attempt to make amends for hurting the woman he came to love.

But Will It Last…?

We don’t want to ruin too much, but The Killer doesn’t have a terribly happy ending. But even if everything had worked out perfectly, we can’t imagine the love interests in John Woo’s action classic having a particularly healthy relationship, based as it is on guilt and deceit. What if she gets her eyesight back and recognizes him immediately? That’s going to be a really crappy conversation. They were doomed from the start, which makes the hero’s sacrifices all the more tragic, and arguably more romantic too.


Hawkeye, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, is a white man raised by a Mohican family, who tries to stay out of the French-Indian War in 1757. But when he saves the daughters of British General Edmund Munro from the vengeful Magua, played by Wes Studi, he agrees to escort them to her father’s fort. Along the way he falls in love with the eldest daughter, Cora, played by Madeleine Stowe, despite their obvious cultural differences. Fate conspires to keep them apart after Colonel Munro arrests Hawkeye for sedition, and after Magua kidnaps them again, forcing the escaped Hawkeye to find her… whatever may occurs.

But Will It Last…?

Probably. We have to speculate, since James Fenimore Cooper’s novel ends very differently. In the film, Hawkeye goes through hell for Cora, so he clearly doesn’t think of her as just a booty call. And Cora defies her father and social convention to be with Hawkeye, so she’s clearly committed as well. The Last of the Mohicans is a classical adventure tale, set in an era when divorce simply wasn’t an option for most people. We assume they made it work in the long run.


Famed archaeologist Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, needs to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. Unfortunately, the key to its location rests in the hands of his ex-girlfriend, Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen. And she hates his guts. But over the course of the film their adventures bring them closer together in the best romantic pairing of the Indiana Jones franchise’s four theatrical installments.

But Will It Last…?

Er… Yes and no. Jones and Ravenwood couldn’t stick it out for very long, which might have had something to do with the fact that Marion was barely 17 (if that) when her relationship with the late-20s hero ended. Which, yes, is unsteady ground on which to build a lasting relationship. (Answering questions like, “So, how did you meet?” must have been awkward.) Jones eventually left Ravenwood without an explanation, unaware that she was pregnant with his son. The whole family finally reunited in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and concluded the franchise (for now) in relative romantic bliss.


In these classic adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle adventure novel, socialite Jane Parker (Maureen O’Sullivan) follows her father into the jungles of Africa in search of valuable ivory. What they discover instead is Tarzan, a European man living amongst the apes, unfamiliar with western civilization. The ever-rebellious Jane takes a liking to Tarzan, and the feeling is mutual. Over the course of these two excellent films (and their many sequels), their relationship blossomed in the wilds of the jungle, and the lovers lived in glorious sin, even indulging in a fully nude romance scenes, a rarity in the 1930s.

But Will It Last…?

Yes, but perhaps not too happily. Although the first two films in the franchise set Tarzan and Jane up as the perfect couple, or at least an idyllic fantasy (in which a woman, living in a still oppressive time period, finds a handsome, protective but subservient man to fulfill her every whim), later films in the franchise force a wedge in their relationship as Jane’s western values conflict with Tarzan’s simple lifestyle and extreme environmentalism. The salad days were legendary, but ended quickly, resulting in a marriage with predictable ups and downs.


NYPD police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) flies out to Los Angeles to save his marriage to Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia), who is so disenfranchised with her husband that she’s taken to using her maiden name. But when her office building is taken over by heavily-armed thieves masquerading as terrorists, it’s just to McClane to save the day and his marriage in one action-packed night.

But Will It Last…?

Not through Die Hard with a Vengeance it doesn’t. Alas, John has too frustrating a personality for Holly to stick with him for very long, and even at the end of the first Die Hard (which is really about their marriage as much as anything), you get the impression that she’s riding the high of his impressive masculine victory more than she’s forgiving the serious issues that endangered their relationship in the first place. John’s a good guy, he loves his wife and he loves his kids, but that doesn’t make him a good husband. It might not even make him a decent roommate.


Billionaire and troubled superhero Bruce Wayne, played by Michael Keaton, has his work cut out for him in Batman Returns, in which he faces off with not one but two villains with similarly dualistic personalities. Besides The Penguin, played by Danny DeVito as a disturbing parallel to Wayne’s own childhood origins and trauma, he faces off against Catwoman, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who abandons her meek persona for a confident, sexual and violent identity who probably understands the hero better than anyone, but tries to kill him anyway.

But Will It Last…?

In the comics, Batman and Catwoman’s on again, off again relationship continued for decades, but in Batman Returns she eschews his offer for companionship in order to exact her revenge on the man who tried to kill her, the incident that spurred her to become Catwoman in the first place. If they could have set aside their personal tragedies, or at least tried to work through them together, maybe it could have worked out, but sometimes personal demons are impossible to ignore. We’re betting they both consider each other “the one that got away.”


Peter Parker, played by Toby Maguire, has had a crush on his childhood neighbor Mary Jane Watson, played by Kirsten Dunst, his whole life. But he didn’t have the confidence to do anything about it until it was too late: she started dating his best friend, and he’s too obsessed with the death of his Uncle Ben and the dangers of his dual identity to consider pursuing a relationship with her, even after it’s perfectly obvious that she’s interested. It’s a classic romantic storyline, one that’s equally predestined and precluded, and brimming with unrealized sexual tension.

But Will It Last…?

We think not. The last movie in the original franchise, Spider-Man 3, tore the young lovers apart and didn’t quite get them back together again. (Certainly not happily.) Quite simply, they grew apart. Peter overcompensated for years of repression by embracing his superhero persona to the detriment of the romance, and Mary Jane was right in observing that his behavior proved him incapable of a serious relationship. It doesn’t help that she was his first and only love (if you’ve had more than one, you know how unlikely their future is). They might be lifelong friends, but after Spider-Man 3, we doubt happily ever after is a possibility.


Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., is kind of a jackass. The billionaire weapons designer and unrepentant man-slut only depends on one person, and that person is Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s the one woman who ignores his manchild charms and holds him to a higher standard, and as such she’s also the one woman he never seriously considers as a romantic possibility, since he’s not ready for the kind of serious relationship she would deserve. But as the Iron Man movies progress, and Tony Stark gradually grows up, their romance finally blossoms into the kind of wisecracking Nick and Nora Charles relationship you rarely see in action movies. Or any other kind, for that matter.

But Will It Last…?

We sure hope so, but we’re seriously worried about them. Tony can’t quite turn off the ol’ Stark charm, and future sequels might necessitate competitors for the hero’s affections. But if Pepper’s patience doesn’t run out, this could be the most successful – and positive – romance in the history of superhero movies. If nothing else, it’s based on honesty, about their personalities, about their needs, and about his dual identity.


In his first adventure (and, ironically, the 21st film in canonical franchise), James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, teams up with British Treasury agent Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green. For the first time in his life, he’s met a woman who challenged him, and not just because she won’t jump in his bed right away. Her formidable mind and high standards for Bond’s behavior gives their relationship a foundation of mutual respect, and Bond even considers leaving MI6 to settle down with her at the end of the film.

But Will It Last…?

Er… no. Have you ever seen Casino Royale? It doesn’t work out, which sets the stage for Bond’s resistance to personal attachment for years – and maybe even a lifetime – to come.


The key to a successful movie romance: at the start of the story, you can’t imagine them together, but the end, you can’t imagine them apart. The Empire Strikes Back takes place right in the middle of that sequence, when the dashing space smuggler Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, spends the entire film trying to romance the resistant Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher. The attraction is obvious, but Han Solo is such an absolute cad that Princess Leia can’t bring herself to admit it. But the intensity of their circumstances – they spend the entire film on the run from The Empire in a broken down spaceship – finally forces them to admit their feelings for each other, too late for it to matter. “I love you,” she finally tells him. “I know,” he confidently claims, meaning he never felt otherwise. Then he’s frozen in carbonite and stolen by Boba Fett. Ouch.

But Will It Last…?

Apparently. Han and Leia married and stayed together in the expanded Star Wars universe, but even if we didn’t have those stories, we’d have believed their challenging but rewarding relationship had the potential for lifelong romance. And bickering. Probably more bickering than anything else.



// ad on openWeb