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A woman and a man chat among flowers and plants in this image from Castle Rock Entertainment.
Sally (Meg Ryan) and Harry (Billy Crystal) hate each other at first, but they eventually live happily ever after. (Image: Castle Rock Entertainment)

You’ve probably seen countless romance movies in which the main characters go from hating each other’s guts to falling head over heels in love. This hate-to-love device — or enemies-to-lovers trope in fiction — is used a lot in film. It’s overused and abused, but when two characters’ initial animosity turns into a fiery passion that’s palpable on the screen, it works so well. The rom-com movies below nail the relationship evolution and get you hot and bothered along the way.

‘Anyone But You’ (2023)

A man and a woman look at each other at a table full of pastries in this image from Columbia Pictures.
Ben (Glen Powell) and Bea (Sydney Sweeney) pretend to be dating despite their hatred for each other. (Image: Columbia Pictures)

One of the most-talked-about — good or bad — rom-coms this year is set to release in theaters on Dec. 22. It’s complicated for Ben (Glen Powell) and Bea (Sydney Sweeney). They had a steamy date years ago, but now they can’t stand each other. They both go to a destination wedding where they pretend to be dating; Bea is avoiding an ex, and Ben is making another girl jealous. But their rage toward each other in such close proximity lights some sparks and, well, you know how the story goes.

For both Sweeney and Powell, it’s their time. Powell was in “Top Gun: Maverick,” the movie that saved cinema, and Sweeney starred in two Emmy-winning shows, “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus.” They’re conventionally attractive people, and whether the hookup rumors about them are true, the on- and off-screen chemistry is undeniable.

‘When Harry Met Sally…’ (1989)

Two friends have an unexpected sleepover in this image from Castle Rock Entertainment.
Over the years, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) go from enemies to friends to lovers. (Image: Castle Rock Entertainment)

At the beginning of “When Harry Met Sally…,” the two main characters debate whether men and women can be friends without sex getting in the way. That’s the question at hand as Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) go from hating each other after college to becoming friends over the years to accidentally sleeping with each other to sex ruining their friendship to getting married.

The tension surrounding whether they’ll do it is apparent from the jump, and, since the movie spans several years of their relationship, it builds to a boiling point. Even when they finally get together in the classic New Year’s Eve party scene, Harry declares his love for Sally while pointing out the things he can’t stand about her. Clearly, the intellectual sparring between the two will only continue to build along with the sexual energy that sparked when they first met.

What makes this Nora Ephron–written film a classic is what mediocre rom-coms applying the enemies-to-lovers trope lack: It’s grounded in reality and ponders real relationship questions, the answers of which evolve over time.

Stream it now on Hulu.

‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001)

Two men fight over the same woman in this image from Universal Pictures.
Bridget (Renée Zellweger) goes for the charming cad before she realizes her enemy, Mark (Colin Firth), is the better choice. (Image: Universal Pictures)

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” opens with Bridget (Renée Zellweger) meeting Mark (Colin Firth) at a party and later overhearing him insulting her. She swears him off and begins sleeping with her naughty boss, Daniel (Hugh Grant). As the red flags may have indicated, Daniel turns out to be a cad, and she starts to realize that Mark, whom she hates, doesn’t actually hate her. At a party, Mark tells an insecure Bridget, “I like you very much, just as you are.” Is this not the ideal compliment a partner could give? In the end, she learns that Mark is actually a good man and chooses him over Daniel.

So much of the movie is about how hard it is for women to feel good about themselves in our society. Mark telling Bridget she’s perfect? It’s no wonder Bridget goes from loathing to snogging him in her underwear in the middle of a snowy street. It’s relatable to feel insecure and go for dashing, unavailable douchebags before finally learning to choose the nice guy.

Stream “Bridget Jones’s Diary” on Paramount+ or buy or rent it on Amazon Prime Video.

‘10 Things I Hate About You’ (1999)

Two misunderstood teens connect in this image from Touchstone Pictures.
A complicated ruse makes Patrick (Heath Ledger) and Kat (Julia Stiles) realize they’re perfect for each other. (Image: Touchstone Pictures)

Kat (Julia Stiles) terrorizes the halls of her high school in “10 Things I Hate About You,” loosely based on the Shakespeare play “The Taming of the Shrew.” She initially hates Patrick (Heath Ledger) and is unaware that her sister’s crush is paying him to date her. Because Patrick is so persistent, Kat lets him take her to a party, where they realize they have a lot in common — mostly that people misjudge them. Kat lets her guard down, and they have the cutest date ever captured on film at a paintball park. It’s playful, aggressive, fun, and very sexy.

Their relationship cracks these two closed-off characters wide open — enough to work through Kat’s discovery that Patrick got paid to date her. It would be hard to stay mad at a man with those dimples. In a world where both Kat and Patrick felt misunderstood, they saw each other. That’s a profound and rare feeling the two actors captured perfectly.

Watch the classic now on Amazon Prime Video or Disney+.

‘The Notebook’ (2004)

 A man holds up a woman in the rain in this image from New Line Cinema.
Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) blur the lines between hate and love over many decades. (Image: New Line Cinema)

Love interests Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) get on each other’s nerves for the entirety of “The Notebook.” Noah coerces Allie to go on a date by risking his life on a roller coaster. In their early courtship, they get into heated arguments during which Allie sometimes slaps him upside the head. Years of anger build up after their first summer together; Allie thinks Noah hasn’t written to her, and Noah thinks she’s been ignoring his letters. The truth is that her mother has been meddling. When they reunite as adults, there’s resentment that quickly turns into making out in the rain and days of hot sex.

The line separating hate and love is always blurry with this couple, and it’s electric to watch. It’s one of the rare examples of palpable love-of-your-life chemistry on screen (it helped that the two co-stars were dating at the time). If you haven’t seen the deleted sex scene, go ahead and cue that up.

You can buy or rent “The Notebook” on Amazon Prime Video.

‘The Bodyguard’ (1992)

Lovers share a kiss on the tarmac in this image from Warner Bros Pictures.
Singer Rachel (Whitney Houston) and her new bodyguard (Kevin Costner) butt heads until a brush with danger sparks a romance. (Image: Warner Bros Pictures)

Buckle up for this couple, folks. Frank (Kevin Costner) is a no-nonsense bodyguard who hesitantly agrees to protect a famous actress and singer, Rachel (Whitney Houston). Rachel and her team of yes-men don’t want more security, despite a threatening stalker, and ignore Frank’s advice. Tension ensues. Both Frank and Rachel think the other is stubborn and unreasonable until the former rescues her from a dangerous club. Then attractions spark. Rachel sees that Frank put his life on the line to keep her safe, while Frank sees that she’s a once-in-a-generation talent. It helps that they both know she’ll be safe in his bed.

Throughout the film, the danger slowly builds — as does the sexual tension. It’s also backed by one of the most epic soundtracks of all time. For some people, being saved is a fantasy. It’s personally not my thing, but “The Bodyguard” makes me rethink that stance every time I watch it.

Stream it now on Amazon Prime Video.

‘Clueless’ (1995)

A girl teases her stepbrother while he reads in this image from Paramount Pictures.
Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and her stepbrother (Paul Rudd) are total opposites, but opposites attract. (Image: Paramount Pictures)

“Clueless” is probably my most-watched movie of all time. Cher (Alicia Silverstone) starts out as a shallow, popular girl who rolls her eyes at the sight of Josh (Paul Rudd), her pretentious stepbrother, who looks down on her for being vapid. Cher embarks on a journey of matchmaking and trying to find love for herself. It mostly ends in failure, especially when it comes to her own dating life. It all pushes her into the arms of the most unlikely suitor of all: Josh. He witnesses her growth and catches feelings too.

Director and writer Amy Heckerling adapted Jane Austen’s classic novel “Emma” to take place in Beverly Hills in the ’90s. That’s why themes of love, failure, status, and coming of age are timeless. It also explains why Cher ends up with a family member (by marriage!), a riskier choice now than it was in 1815. Yet they managed to pull it off. This was Rudd’s first movie, and it was love at first sight for audiences. Most of the other movies I’ve listed have rip-off-your-clothes-type romances, Cher and Josh’s sweet, puppy-love relationship is more satisfying because every guy wants to rip off Cher’s clothes. Josh isn’t like them; he actually loves her mind and heart.

You can stream “Clueless” on Paramount+ or on Amazon Prime Video.

‘The Lost City’ (2022)

A woman and a man find themselves trapped on a remote island in this image from Paramount Pictures.
Loretta (Sandra Bullock) and Alan (Channing Tatum) fall in love while escaping a remote island. (Image: Fortis Films)

I’m throwing “The Lost City” on this list for fun. Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is an uptight erotic novelist. Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum) is the cover model for her books. The two are on tour promoting Loretta’s newest work, and both find the other annoying. But then Loretta is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe). Alan decides to prove he’s more than just a pretty face and sculpted body, so he sets out to rescue her. They need to work together to get home alive, and, through their elaborate escape, their hate turns to respect and then to love.

Do I think this movie is a timeless classic like the others on this list? No. But if you’re looking for a good time, it’s a charming romp. Seeing Bullock, a rom-com icon well-versed in the enemies-to-lovers trope, playing alongside Tatum, a certified sexy man on the scene with a lot of layers, is joyful. The movie has stunts and special effects — which I think can make a rom-com too comical — but the characters don’t cross the line into caricatures. Give it a watch with your girlfriends, your partner, or by yourself.

It’s available to stream on Paramount Plus.

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