Chemistry: the complex emotional or psychological interaction between two people. This is an essential component of casing actors in a movie, especially when they are romantically entangled. If two people are supposedly in love, the audience needs to believe it or the stakes are nonexistent.
Between script, direction, cinematography and special effects, film and television can transport us to another time or place. They are escapism at its finest, giving us a reprieve from our daily lives and granting us access to untold worlds. Whether we are looking for laughs, catharsis, or adventure, we can find it all in the world of cinema.
However, there are certain things that can’t be accomplished by movie magic. Chemistry simply cannot be faked. If two actors don’t mesh in an authentic way, an integral piece of the puzzle remains out of focus.
Perhaps the actors didn’t get along when the cameras were off or maybe those characters never should’ve been locking lips in the first place. Whatever the reason, here are the 16 Onscreen Couples With Absolutely No Chemistry Whatsoever.
16 Rachel and Bruce in Batman Begins
One of the biggest mistakes that Hollywood loves to make with Batman is giving him a love interest. The Caped Crusader doesn’t actually need one and they often do nothin but detract from the story. This is most definitely the case with Rachel Dawes, the character played by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins. In general, the role of Rachel was unnecessary, but nothing made that more apparent than the staggering lack of anything resembling chemistry between Holmes and Christian Bale.
The audience is supposed to want these two together, regardless of Bruce’s tortured psyche and Rachel’s ignorance of his extracurricular activities. However, nobody cared. The least compelling scenes of the film were those shared by these two actors. There was absolutely no heat between them. Their romance remained tepid throughout the entire movie, which made the audience equally lukewarm to its resolution.
Although replacing Holmes with Maggie Gyllanhaal in The Dark Knight was a marked improvement, many feel the film would’ve been stronger had Rachel Dawes not been a part of the story at all.
15 Carrie and Brody in Homeland
Does anyone remember how awesome season 1 of Homeland was? The series started out so strong. Both instantly addictive and utterly captivating, viewers watched with bated breath as the fierce game of cat and mouse between Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody unfolded. Although later seasons failed to maintain this, at the time Homeland seemed unstoppable. And a large part the success of the series hinged on the incredible tension between Carrie and Brody.
The chemistry between Lewis and Danes was palpable in every scene – except for any involving them doing anything even remotely sexual. Thankfully, the show was impossible to stop watching, despite the anguish of sitting through the scenes of these two going at it. For two people who were absolutely fascinating to watch and gave amazing performances, sex between them was just so… awkward. Those scenes may have been intense, but they were never sexy.
When it didn’t even look like Carrie and Brody were that into it, how was the audience supposed to be?
14 Daphne and Niles in Frasier
Unrequited love is often better than the real thing, especially when it comes to television. A common pitfall in the will-they-or-won’t-they TV couple is the part where they finally do. Certain actors have excellent chemistry – until they actually have to make out. Part of the issue is that it’s far more interesting to watch something fall apart than to watch it flourish. Bottom line: people who are happily in love are kind of boring to watch.
This was definitely the case with Niles and Daphne. Watching the tension build between them was an important aspect of Frasier, but both characters were diminished when the writers finally brought them together. Much of what was great about Niles and Daphne got lost in the shuffle of making them a couple, and watching him pine for her was so much more satisfying than seeing him win her affections. The worst part was that Jane Leeves and David Hyde Pierce had no real spark between them whatsoever when they finally became a couple.
13 Jax and Tara in Sons of Anarchy
Alright, so Sons of Anarchy wasn’t exactly known for its character development or passionate romances, but the growing absence of attraction between Jax and Tara as the seasons progressed still felt like a letdown. Of course, it can be argued that the show itself became a letdown, but we won’t get hung up on that right now.
It’s not as if there was never any passion between these two, but it quickly fizzled when they became a couple. This wasn’t just due to the fact that their relationship felt unbelievable from a logical standpoint. Suspension of disbelief is pretty easy when two characters truly feel like they belong together. However, that is hardly the case here. There was more chemistry between Hunnam and Drea De Matteo (Wendy, Jax’s ex-wife) than there ever was between him and Maggie Siff. It just never felt like the actors really gelled with one another, so their romance never truly resonated with viewers.
12 Reed and Sue in Fantastic Four
There aren’t many redeeming qualities to be found in 2005’s Fantastic Four. Not the story, nor the casting and definitely not the acting. Nope, there’s no saving it. The film was a train wreck. However, the final nail in its coffin would have to be the fact that Reed and Sue don’t appear to feel an iota of passion for one another.
Let’s look at this in terms of the elements these characters represent, shall we? Iaon Gruffudd’s desire for Jessica Alba somehow felt stretched a bit thin. Alba’s need for Gruffudd was completely invisible. Michael Chiklis was basically a rock. The only heat coming from anyone came from Chris Evans. Seriously, the most chemistry that can be found in Fantastic Four can be found between Sue and Johnny Storm.
That’s right, the closest thing to chemistry between two characters is most felt between the brother and sister in the film. This was most certainly unintentional, but still disturbing.
11 Huck and Quinn in Scandal
Remember the first couple seasons of Scandal, when Huck was one of the show’s best characters? What’s changed since then? Well, for one thing he got into a weird torture – not tortured, but torture – romance with fellow gladiator Quinn Perkins. Watching these two get off on torture and face-licking was, well, icky. Sure, Huck had been in a bit of a downward spiral and Quinn’s character was lacking in direction, so why not?
We’ll tell you why not: the painful lack of chemistry between Katie Lowes and Guillermo Diaz! Having to bear witness to Quinn and Huck’s make out sessions was gag-inducing, to say the least. The best part about this relationship was when it ended, although both of the characters had already been compromised. While Scandal remains an addictive watch, there are several series lows to choose from and this relationship was most definitely one of them.
10 Amsterdam and Jenny in Gangs of New York
Maybe it was Leo’s great chemistry with costar Daniel Day Lewis, but the sparks just weren’t flying between him and Diaz. Maybe it was the fact that Gangs of New York was twenty years in the making and Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz were never its intended stars. Originally, Scorsese was hoping for Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep. By the time the film was made though, Dicaprio and Diaz were very bankable leads, so it’s understandable why pairing them seemed like such a good idea. Still, the fact remains: it really wasn’t.
We’ve seen these two – especially DiCaprio – have amazing chemistry with costars before, so we do know that it’s possible. Sure, it could’ve been Daniel Day Lewis’s fault. His performance as Bill the Butcher was so captivating that the romance between Amsterdam and Jenny just didn’t measure up. However, if there had been any heat at all between them, we would've felt it.
9 Mike and Paige in Magic Mike
Okay, so Magic Mike was not a film about romance. It was a good movie, but did it really need a useless romantic subplot between two actors who looked like they had no interest in each other whatsoever? For some reason, Hollywood always assumes that we need a love story, when the truth is that certain films work so much better without one. A love story needs to be believable in order to resonate with audiences at all, and these two were like a couple of cardboard cutouts conversing.
To be fair, what relationship could compete with the chemistry between Tatum and his fellow dancers? Those dance numbers always lit up the screen – which is good, since they were the main focus of the film – and none of their performances were found lacking. The fact remains that perhaps if the temperature hadn’t dropped to zero every time Mike and Paige shared a scene, then maybe their romance might’ve felt like it mattered.
8 Rick and Gigli in Gigli
Gigli was an awful mess of a movie. Since its 2003 release, few critics or viewers have been able to find a single redeeming quality of the film. Martin Brest, the film’s director was so disheartened that he has not made another movie since. The film received a whopping seven Razzies, as well as five Stinkers Bad Movie Awards.
One of the Stinkers’ awards bestowed upon the film was “Worst Onscreen Couple” and boy, was that spot on. Suffice it to say that Jennifer Lopez’s character, Ricki, was ostensibly a lesbian when the film began – and then she met Ben Affleck’s character, Larry Gigli. Seriously?
Of all of the baffling aspects of a film so full of bad choices, there is one thing that audiences will never forget: the complete lack of chemistry between one of Hollywood’s hottest and most publicized couples. Let’s just breeze past the huge issue that is the gross male fantasy of the lesbian who just hasn’t met the right man yet and move straight onto the fact that there was nothing between these two characters, save boredom.
There was so much about this movie that viewers found unbelievable, but the worst offense was the relationship between its romantic leads. No wonder these two couldn’t make it work when the cameras weren’t rolling.
7 Buffy and Riley in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This isn’t really anyone’s fault. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mark Blucas just didn’t share the chemistry that was so undeniable between Gellar and David Boreanaz. Okay, who are we kidding? Riley Finn was one of the most despised characters in the history of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Worse, he was a character who stuck around for far too long and had far too much screen time devoted to his pointless subplots.
It’s true that a romance that could measure up to the epic love story between Buffy and Angel wasn’t going to be easy to find. However, Marc Blucas was no David Boreanaz and Riley certainly was not a worthy successor to Angel. That wasn’t even the main issue, though.
After the onscreen intensity between Gellar and Boreanaz, the lukewarm interactions between her and Blucas left so much to be desired. Maybe if these two actors were more captivating together, fans might’ve had an easier time buying into them as a couple. Unfortunately, that was an itch that the audience wouldn’t have scratched – in Buffy’s love life, anyway – until Spike became a worthy contender for her affections.
6 Izzie and George in Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy quickly became known for passionate romances. The series often threw its characters into bed together, sometimes seemingly for no reason. However, no one really complained about this. It became part of the fun of watching the soapy series. These relationships were hardly all memorable, but they weren’t borderline offensive. Then, the abomination of George and Izzie as a couple changed all of that.
First off, the characters had already established a pretty awesome friendship and it undermined the intelligence of the audience to assume that we’d need them to become romantically involved. Second, there was absolutely nothing romantic about it. T.R. Knight and Katherine Heigl had plenty of chemistry – until the powers that be saw fit to make them a couple. This was partially because the two characters were more akin to siblings by that point, but also because the actors just had zero heat between them.
George and Izzie’s romantic relationship is widely considered to be the greatest misstep in Grey’s history.
5 Dean and Lisa in Supernatural
It is true that good female characters on Supernatural are few and far between and romance on the show never goes particularly well. However, the relationship between Dean and Lisa was just so… bland. After losing Sam and every terrible thing that Dean had been through, this was his happy ending? A bit of a letdown really – although one could say the same about season 6 in general.
The whole thing might’ve had a ring of truth to it - if Jensen Ackles and Cindy Sampson didn’t look bored the whole time that they were onscreen together. We’ve seen Ackles have plenty of chemistry with other ladies over the years, but these two had zero sparks between tem. It made Dean’s supposedly happy, normal existence just seem so, well, dull. Perhaps that was the point.
After all those years, the guy could benefit from an ordinary life, but every time Dean and Lisa shared a scene, you couldn’t help but wonder why this was the one he had chosen.
4 Lois and Clark in Man of Steel
We all know that Amy Adams is a fantastic actress and Henry Cavill proved during his time on Tudors that he had acting chops as well. However, when tackling one of the most iconic couples of all time, these two fell flat. There was not an ounce of passion to be found anywhere between either Lois and Clark or Lois and Supes.
It’s unfair to compare them to the legendary team-up of Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, but it’s also pretty difficult not to. Those two had real fire between them. Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth also failed to replicate that magical combo in Superman Returns, but they still come out ahead of Adams and Cavill.
Whatever your feelings on the divisive Man of Steel as a film, Adams made a fine Lois Lane and Cavill is believable as the Man of Steel. However, once the two of them were put together, it just never felt like either of them wanted to be there. There was no longing, no excitement, no tension. All that could be felt was a sort of muted interest and that’s just not enough to make the audience care if Superman and Lois Lane wind up together.
3 Harry and Ginny in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
In the Harry Potter books, the relationship between Harry and Ginny felt completely organic and earned. The films didn’t have nearly as much time to build on their feelings for one another, which made the whole thing seem rushed and contrived. That wasn’t the biggest problem, though. The largest issue in the case of Harry and Ginny was the nonexistent chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright. Seriously, watching those two together was about as interesting as watching an infomercial.
Adding insult to injury was the inclusion of extra scenes in an effort to make some magic happen – no pun intended – between these characters. These came at the expense of better, far more important parts of the books which never made it into the films so that we could watch this boring love story unfold. Those added scenes wouldn’t have felt so superfluous if the actors could’ve managed to express a modicum of desire for each other. Who can forget the awkwardness of Ginny "romantically" tying Harry's shoelaces?
2 Christian and Anastasia in 50 Shades of Grey
Out of all of the terrible couples on this list, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are perhaps the most perplexing. Considering the fact that the entire film hinged on the chemistry between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, it’s pretty incredible that they were cast together in 50 Shades of Grey. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that the movie is based on E.L. James's wildly successful, but oft poorly reviewed, erotic romance novel. The operative word here is erotic.
Can you guess what wasn’t erotic? Well, that would be literally every scene between these two. Seriously, how did a casting director ever let Johnson and Dornan become the stars of this movie? Yes, they are both very pretty, but every scene between them felt completely stale. They really just didn’t seem to like each other that much, let alone want to rip each other’s clothes off. People who went to the theater to see James’s steamy tale jump from the page to the big screen were sorely disappointed.
1 Padme and Anakin in Star Wars
Although Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace has gone down in history as being the worst of the ill-conceived trio of prequels, Episode II - Attack of the Clones was so much more difficult to sit through, mainly because of the love story at the heart of the film.
So much of the movie’s success depended entirely on an incredible love story that the audience knew was doomed to fail from the start. We were supposed to be pained by the idea that these two crazy kids wouldn’t be able make it work, but instead, we were pained by having to watch Anakin and Padme fall in love in the first place. Portman and Christensen were completely mechanical and honestly seemed like they’d rather be looking anywhere but at each other. They are both capable actors, so why did every scene between these two feel like work, not just for them, but for the audience too?
Sure, the stilted dialogue was partially to blame and nothing could've saved the movie, but some smolder between these two would’ve gone a long way. It was rumored that they were actually dating, which makes the lack of chemistry between them all the more egregious.
Which chemistry-free couple do you most hate to watch onscreen? Let us know in the comments!