The Best (& Worst) Movies Starring Real-Life Couples

Photo: Courtesy of Universal.
It's a testament to our collective lack of imagination that we love to ship onscreen couples in real life. If their make-out sessions are that hot in a movie, why wouldn't two beautiful people be hooking up when the cameras stop rolling too? Oh, right, it's acting. Except, that is, when it isn't.

This week, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt act out a troubled marriage in By the Sea — and some of us will go see it just to pretend it's a peek into what their marriage is like behind closed doors. The same way audiences flocked to see Bogey and Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and even Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

But is that a blessing or a curse? Does real love translate smoothly into fiction? Here we've put on our stat nerd caps and collected the data on 15 real life pairings who acted together in a film when they were already an established couple. How much did critics love their pairing? How much bank did they make for it? Did the Academy dig it? And did they live happily ever after? Most of the results are mixed, except one: They do, in fact, turn out to be a huge box-office draw. Read on for all the juicy love story numbers.
1 of 15
Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn
Both actors were decades into successful careers when Hepburn demanded that Tracy be cast as her husband in 1942's Woman of the Year. Her instincts were spot on, as audiences and critics alike adored their onscreen chemistry. They made nine films together and were a Hollywood hit. But behind the scenes, they had a secretive 26-year romance of the kind that definitely doesn't exist in these paparazzi-infested days.

Rotten Tomatometer Average (for films together): 77.5% (Three films N/A)
Critics' Take (at time of release): "Best of all, there are Miss Hepburn and Mr. Tracy. They can tote phone books on their heads or balance feathers on their chins and be amusing—which is about the size of what they do here." — Bosley Crowther, New York Times on Desk Set (1957)
Box Office (for films together): $82.9 million
Academy Awards (for films together): 1 nod for Tracy (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner); 1 win (Guess...) and 1 nod (Woman of the Year) for Hepburn
Lasting Love? Yes... Tracy remained married but separated from his wife the entire time, and all friends and coworkers kept the relationship on the DL until long after his death in 1967.
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2 of 15
Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart
Bacall was just 19 when she was cast opposite a 44-year-old Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944) and their on-set romance ended his previous marriage. Then the pair tied the knot and went on to film three film noir-esque movies as husband and wife: The Big Sleep (1946); Dark Passage (1947); and Key Largo (1948).

Tomatometer Average:
95%
Critics' Take: "[Bogart] seems uncommonly chastened and reserved... However, the mood of his performance is compensated somewhat by that of Miss Bacall, who generates quite a lot of pressure as a sharp-eyed, knows-what-she-wants girl."
— Bosley Crowther, New York Times on Dark Passage
Box Office: $11.2 million (Data N/A for Dark Passage)
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? Yes, all the way up to until Bogart's death in 1957.
3 of 15
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
Their hookup while making 1963's Cleopatra, when they were both married to other people, is in the hall of fame of Hollywood affairs. As a couple they made a total of 10 theatrically released films and one TV-movie together (plus two marriages and one Lindsay Lohan Lifetime movie), with more flops than wins — but oh, those wins are something. The best is their alcohol-fueled depiction of unhappy marriage in 1966's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Tomatometer Average:
43.2%
Box Office:
$114.7 million (Data N/A for Boom!, Under Milk Wood, or Hammersmith Is Out)
Academy Awards:
1 win for Taylor and 1 nod for Burton (Virginia Woolf)
Lasting Love? They divorced for good in 1976.
4 of 15
Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell
They met on the set of 1968's The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band and got together during 1984's Swing Shift, a sweet movie about factory workers on the home front in World War II. Their classic pairing as a couple on and offscreen was, of course, the amnesia comedy Overboard (1987). Reviews were mixed, but the chemistry was clear.

Tomatometer Average:
71%
Critics' Take: "[A] deeply banal farce that... features one-dimensional characters, a good long look at Hawn's buttocks and lots of pathetic sex jokes.” — Rita Kempley, Washington Post
Box Office: $35.6 million
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? Oh, yeah.
5 of 15
Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman
The pair described their meeting on the set of 1990's Days of Thunder as electric, not that we could tell much in the critically panned race car flick. The couple's IRL romance gave them a boost in 1992's Far and Away, which was unfortunately hampered by the movie's schlocky immigrant story. Their off-screen relationship was one of the big draws for 1999's Eyes Wide Shut — and the couple's sex appeal delivered. Though it's also super awkward to feel like we're peeping in on their marriage by way of Stanley Kubrick's weirdness.

Tomatometer Average:
54%
Critics' Take: "Mr. Cruise and Ms. Kidman play out a long, marijuana-laced argument in their underwear, and all of the film's credibility hangs on their ability to make the exchange seem real.” — Janet Maslin, New York Times
Box Office: $115 million
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? They divorced in 2001 after 11 years together.
6 of 15
Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith
They could have played an onscreen couple back in 1990, when Jada Pinkett auditioned for Will's girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but as the story goes, she was too short. But the two became close friends, not dating until 1995. Their only collaboration in front of the camera to date is Ali, where she plays the boxer's Playboy Bunny wife, Sonji, and takes a backseat to his star turn.

Tomatometer Average: 67%
Critics' Take: "[It] is shot more in the tone of a eulogy than a celebration. There is little joy here… It feels like an unfinished rough cut." — Rogert Ebert
Box Office: $58.2 million
Academy Awards: 1 nomination for Will Smith
Lasting Love? Yes, despite all those tabloid rumors.
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7 of 15
Ryan Phillippe & Reese Witherspoon
The two young stars met at her 21st birthday party and were already dating when they were cast opposite each other in 1999's Cruel Intentions. Their on- and off-screen romance was the source of many a teen swoon.

Tomatometer Average: 67%
Critics' Take: "As Cruel Intentions progresses, you may come to realize that if a bomb suddenly blew up everyone on screen, you wouldn't particularly miss anyone." — Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune
Box Office: $38.3 million
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? The couple divorced in 2007 but remain amicable co-parents.
8 of 15
Ben Affleck & Jennifer Lopez
The pair met on the set of the awful gangster-comedy Gigli (2003), and single-handedly spawned the "celebrity couple name" trend as Bennifer. Their romance was in full swing while filming Jersey Girl (2004), but they split by the time it hit theaters. The film was bad, but the pair quadrupled their box office haul by making it official.

Tomatometer: 41%
Critics' Take: "Given that the Affleck/Lopez affair that launched a thousand tabloid covers was in full flower when Jersey Girl was shooting, it's nice to report that their on-screen chemistry, brief though it is, is pleasing." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
Box Office: $25,268,157
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? The stresses of celebrity are partially to blame for their split in 2003.
9 of 15
Ben Stiller & Christine Taylor
These two met while making a pilot for Stiller's never-aired comedy, but their two movies together since then have fared much better: Zoolander (2001), which became a millennial cult comedy, and Dodgeball (2004). Though, it's a kind of unequal pairing, with Taylor playing the small, serious girl role to Stiller's big comedic lead. Give her something juicy to do in Zoolander 2, will ya?

Tomatometer Average:
67%
Critics' Take: "Zoolander's consistent, blissful stupidity is a comic, mental Xanax, soothing in its gormless sense of inspired wack." — Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
Box Office: $159.5 million
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? Yes!
10 of 15
Kristen Stewart & Robert Pattinson
From the moment they first auditioned on Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke's bed, their chemistry was evident to everyone who saw it, and "are they or aren't they?" speculation was a big part of the franchise's early success. When they were finally out in the open about dating, their relationship seemed to belong to the fans as much as the vampire love story. Not a recipe for lasting romance, but a pretty good one for box office take.

Tomatometer Average: 49%
Critics' Take: I wish I could report it was worth the wait, but the paparazzi pictures of Pattinson and Stewart nuzzling are sexier than this." — Mary Pols, Time on Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)
Box Office: $1.36 billion (Twilight franchise)
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? No. Their breakup came after a tabloid-fueled downward spiral.
11 of 15
Kristen Bell & Dax Shepard
We'd like to call that sloth video the first movie featuring hopelessly cute lovebirds Bell and Shepard, who have been together since 2007. Their Samsung ads have been pretty great too. In actuality, Hit and Run (2012) is the only movie in which they're both leads together, but since Shepard wrote and co-directed it, we're going to go ahead and assume it's a truthful documentation of what their marriage is like (minus the witness protection problems, that is).

Tomatometer Average: 49%
Critics' Take: "Hit & Run has the look and feel of a vanity project. Like someone was willing to bankroll the wish of Hollywood couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell to work together on a film." —
David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer
Box Office: $13.7 million
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? Yes — they remain one of the cutest couples in Hollywood.
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12 of 15
Drew Barrymore & Justin Long
Drew and Justin met on the set of the ensemble clunker He’s Just Not That Into You before making the tired rom-com Going The Distance (2010) together. A sex-only arrangement evolves into a long-distance love affair. But can they go the distance?

Tomatometer: 53%
Critics' Take: “Barrymore and Long are both appealing, but not enough to sustain audience interest in the cinematic equivalent of dry-humping.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Box Office: $17,804,299
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love: Nope. Barrymore is married; Long recently broke up with Amanda Seyfreid.
13 of 15
Emma Stone & Andrew Garfield
The fact that these two met and fell in love on the set of The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) in 2011 almost made us forget the fact that we just finished watching an entire Spider-Man franchise just a few years before. Their adorable, slightly geeky demeanor together off-screen made us long for more pairings — which we got with the bloated but real love-charged sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Tomatometer Average: 62.5%
Critics' Take: "[The couple] have terrific chemistry, but as is the case with far too many superhero movies, the plot is a bit of an overstuffed mess." — Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
Box Office: $202.9 million
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? As of October, they appear to be officially done. Sniff.
14 of 15
Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan
These indie faves met doing an Off-Broadway play, and have since been in two films together, most notably, Ruby Sparks (2012) which she wrote. It's about the disparity between the fictions we create in our heads about the objects of our affection and the real thing, which is maybe also a lesson to the audience as we watch the real-life couple act like two fictional characters.

Tomatometer Average:
82%
Critics' Take: "This movie is not afraid to show its claws. Like the spirited teamwork of Kazan and Dano, Ruby Sparks is honest, deep and true.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Box Office: $3.5 million
Academy Awards: 0
Lasting Love? Yes.
15 of 15
Warren Beatty & Annette Bening
Beatty courted Bening for the female lead in romance Bugsy (1991). After their first meeting, Beatty called the film's director and told him, "I love her, and I’m going to marry her.” Indeed, they got hitched a year later. They sizzled pre-wedding in Bugsy, but fizzled three years later in Love Affair (1994).

Tomatometer Average: 31%
Critics' Take: “Never has Mr. Beatty seemed less foxy or confident.... A rule of thumb for male stars looking to set off flirtatious sparks: not with your wife, you don't. Not on screen.”
— Janet Maslin, New York Times on Love Affair
Box Office: $18,272,894
Academy Awards:
o
Lasting Love: 23 years and going strong — a Hollywood miracle.
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