Sometimes, the best relationships in movies and television shows stem from characters’ initial hatred of one another in the enemies-to-lovers setup. In the beginning, some characters despise each other—with some even secretly hoping the other person will die. It seems that they will never be physically or emotionally attracted to one another, even though they have undeniable chemistry.
Fans often recognize the relationship potential long before the characters and might even ship them. When they finally confess their feelings, it’s incredibly satisfying.
Updated on July 21st, 2021 by Mark Birrell: The best enemies-to-lovers movies form a long history stretching back for over 80 years, and examples of the formula in TV shows have made for some of the most well-known storylines ever broadcast. Whether they’re classics or modern-day hits, enemies-turned-lovers stories are still warming viewers’ hearts by showing how differences can be overcome and how romance can be waiting around even the most unlikely corners.
20 Honorable Mention: Rey & Kylo Ren/Ben Solo from The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy (2015–2019)
● The Star Wars sequel trilogy is available on Disney+
From a strong rivalry in the first of the Star Wars sequel trilogy movies, The Force Awakens, to a clear attraction in the second part, The Last Jedi, the heroic Rey (Daisey Ridley) and the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fall in love by the end of the Skywalker saga, with the experience returning Ren to his true self, Ben Solo.
Though the two had been well and truly shipped by fans, their brief romance was not as big a hit as the one between Ren’s parents, Han and Leia, from the original Star Wars trilogy. In terms of physical affection, beyond a touching of fingertips through the power of the Force, the two get to share only one kiss, but it was a momentous one nonetheless.
19 Patrick Brewer & David Rose from Schitt’s Creek (2015–2020)
● Schitt’s Creek is available on Netflix and Prime Video
The rivalry between David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) on Schitt’s Creek hilariously only lasted about one episode and they were really only enemies from David Rose’s perspective. David attempts to open up a new business and has to get licensing to do so. He meets Patrick, who is in charge of issuing the licenses, and is immediately upset when Patrick asks typical questions about his business plan.
David isn’t sure how to answer the questions and sees it as Patrick being completely rude and he’s offended by the behavior and ready to start a rivalry, but in reality, Patrick was just doing his job. The two eventually become friends, go into business together, and have an adorable and supportive relationship that leads to marriage in the series finale.
18 Johnny Castle & Frances “Baby” Houseman from Dirty Dancing (1987)
● Dirty Dancing is available on Max Go
Johnny (Patrick Swayze) and Baby (Jennifer Grey) from Dirty Dancing are a classic example of an enemies-to-lovers relationship. The two begin the movie hating each other as they don’t understand, or want to understand, their different lives as Baby’s a rich daddy’s girl and Johnny’s an employee and known for his dirty dancing.
Circumstance forces them to work and train together for a dance competition and it begins horribly as they both frustrate each other. But, as the movie goes on the two become close and truly learn to care for each other. The relationship itself may be a little dated by modern standards but “the move” from their dance routine remains iconic.
17 Jane Villanueva & Rafael Solano from Jane The Virgin (2014–2019)
● Jane the Virgin is available on Netflix
Jane (Gina Rodriguez) and Rafael (Justin Baldoni) had a difficult relationship at the beginning because their story was so out of nowhere and very Telenovela, as Jane the Virgin was known for.
Jane and Rafael shared a moment before their true story began and Jane has highly regarded their single kiss in her romantic history while Rafael completely forgot who she was until she is accidentally artificially inseminated with his child. They had a difficult time understanding each other’s differing personalities as well, but their endgame status seemed fairly confirmed by the show’s overall premise and they eventually found their way into a relationship and marriage.
16 Leslie Knope & Ben Wyatt from Parks And Recreation (2009–2015)
● Parks and Recreation is available on Peacock
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) instantly hates Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) when he arrives in Pawnee, Indiana on Parks and Recreation and Ben returns her hatred as he thinks he’s going to move onto the next town within a few months. Ben has come to Pawnee to fix Leslie’s budget and Leslie sees him as the enemy of her success.
The longer Ben stays in Pawnee, the more the two bond and Leslie sees him as a truly good person who she falls for over the next few seasons. Ben also falls for Leslie and the two start a relationship that eventually led to marriage. Their clear endgame relationship was one of the best aspects of the show, even though Ben wasn’t introduced into Parks and Recreation until after season one.
15 Andrew Paxton & Margaret Tate from The Proposal (2009)
● The Proposal is available for purchase on Prime Video
Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) begins The Proposal absolutely hating his boss Margaret (Sandra Bullock) because of how awfully she treats all of her employees, particularly her assistant Andrew. Margaret learns her Visa is about to expire and she’ll have to return to Canada if she doesn’t figure out a solution, so she convinces Andrew to marry her so she can stay in America.
They travel to meet his family in Alaska and plan to get married immediately, but Margaret has second thoughts after meeting his lovely supportive family and slowly caring for Andrew throughout the movie. The two end up together, for real, at the end of the movie after realizing they truly care about each other for a satisfying–if a little obvious–finale.
14 Joe Fox & Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail (1998)
● You’ve Got Mail is available on HBO Max
In the 1998 romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) despise each other. They’re rival booksellers and they want nothing to do with one another.
However, they’re unaware that while they’re feuding in real life, they’re falling for each other online through emails and instant message chats. They have so much chemistry, both online and in person. If they put aside their differences, they might realize they’re destined for each other. Luckily, Joe discovers the truth about their identities, and he works hard to reconcile their real-life interactions. It’s a sweet story overall but not either the best Hanks/Ryan rom-com or adaptation of its source material, the Hungarian play Parafumerie.
13 Sam Puckett & Freddie Benson from iCarly (2007–2012)
● iCarly is available on Netflix
From the very beginning of the Nickelodeon show iCarly, Sam Puckett (Jennette McCurdy) hates Freddie Benson (Nathan Kress). To her, he’s nerdy, lame, and she hardly ever considers him as a friend.
But fans shipped Sam and Freddie (appropriately named “Seddie”) long before Sam realized that she has a crush on Freddie. Perhaps that’s why she tormented him for so long. When they finally kissed and started dating during the show’s fifth season, it was rewarding for the fans who rooted for them since the first season. Even though they broke up (they’re teenagers, after all), fans still know that they love each other. They could never go back to hating each other.
12 Jon Snow & Ygritte from Game of Thrones (2011–2019)
● Game of Thrones is available on HBO Max
Enemies-to-lovers in TV shows don’t come much more iconic than Jon Snow and Ygritte from Game of Thrones, with it spawning the famous line “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” As two fighters on opposite ends of a bitter conflict that has lasted for much longer than either has been alive, their differences are clear. Jon (Kit Harrington) is a soldierly Night’s Watch ranger and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) is a strong-willed member of the Free Folk that Jon’s order exists, in part, to suppress.
They’re each other’s prisoners at several moments throughout seasons two to four, but their see-sawing captivity blossoms into a clear romance with genuine affection. They always differ on a lot of key points though, never really overcoming their from-two different-worlds status. Fatally shot herself as she hesitantly aims her bow at him, Ygritte dies in Jon’s arms and it’s never clear whether they could have truly worked, with their’s being one of the show’s many tragic love stories. However, fans were able to find some respite in the real-life marriage between Harrington and Leslie in 2018.
11 Cher Horowitz & Josh Lucas from Clueless (1995)
● Clueless is available on HBO Max
Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is a spoiled-but-well-meaning high schooler who dreads the arrival of her much more mature former stepbrother, Josh (Paul Rudd), who’s visiting from college. The two aren’t exactly at each other’s throats but they have all the bickering of a sibling relationship with very little of the supportiveness.
The positive side of their relationship shows more strongly as the movie progresses, however, with it becoming clear, even to the “clueless” Cher, that they care very deeply for one another deep down. It’s a big risk pursuing one another but, after standing up for Cher, the two finally give in to their feelings and it’s one of the cutest–if least conventional–pairings from ’90s cinema.
10 Caroline Forbes & Klaus Mikaelson from The Vampire Diaries (2009–2017)
● The Vampire Diaries is available on Netflix
Caroline Forbes (Candice King) and Niklaus “Klaus” Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) are enemies from the very beginning of The Vampire Diaries. He’s a vampire-werewolf hybrid and she’s a human-turned-vampire, with that being just one of the many complicated relationships on the show.
Klaus is Caroline’s archnemesis. However, after he saves her life, they form a bond that eventually leads to a relationship. Klaus tells her that even though she had a first love before him, he “intends to be her last.” While it’s a short-lived romance (and fans are still upset that they broke up), Caroline and Klaus were engaging to watch with many memorable moments—both as enemies and as lovers.
9 Han Solo & Princess Leia from The Original Star Wars Trilogy (1977–1983)
● The 0riginal Star Wars trilogy is available on Disney+
The instant Han Solo (Harrison Ford) meets Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in Star Wars: A New Hope, the two show animosity towards each other. Princess Leia is responsible and selfless, whereas Han Solo is impulsive and selfish. She is not impressed with him, even famously calling him a “stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.”
They continue to insult each other every chance they can get. So, when they ultimately kiss and admit that they love each other, it’s surprising but also endearing. Their love endured through many trials, even during separation. Han Solo and Princess Leia always loved each other, no matter what even if the sequel trilogy showed that they were never quite right for each other all of the time.
8 Peter Warne & Ellen “Ellie” Andrews from It Happened One Night (1934)
● It Happened One Night is available on Crackle
A true classic of the enemies-to-lovers movie formula, It Happened One Night puts an entitled heiress (Claudette Colbert) and an opportunistic reporter (Clark Gable) together on a roadtrip, with the objective being to get the heiress back to her new husband in exchange for an exclusive story.
The distrust and bickering between the two, of course, gives way to romance but the charms of the leads help the movie to stand out even today as the archetypal example of an enemies-to-lovers story. The movie remains one of only three features to win the ‘big five’ Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay – which was a feat that not even Gable’s most famous movie, Gone with the Wind, achieved.
7 Buffy Summers & Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997–2003)
● Buffy the Vampire Slayer is available on Hulu and Prime Video
When Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) first meets Spike (James Marsters) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she wants to slay him. After all, she’s supposed to because he’s a vampire. At the same time, he’s ready to kill her. This isn’t the best formula for a relationship.
Eventually, the two grow to respect one another and ultimately love each other. While it’s a problematic relationship with many toxic issues, fans were excited to watch the relationship form and grow deeper.
6 Harry Burns & Sally Albright from When Harry Met Sally (1989)
● When Harry Met Sally is available on HBO Max
When Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) first meets Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) in the ’80s romantic comedy movie, When Harry Met Sally, they’re not friends. In fact, they argue about whether men and women can be friends without sexual attraction getting in the way. They bicker and they’re nowhere close to being romantic.
Ten years later, they meet again at a bookstore. They decide to become friends, despite their arguments, and they’re eventually attracted to each other. Harry was right after all – they can’t have a strictly platonic relationship. Harry and Sally bicker throughout their friendship, but ultimately, no one can deny that they’re better together.
5 Emma Swan & Captain Hook from Once Upon A Time (2011–2018)
● Once Upon a Time is available on Disney+
In Once Upon a Time, the show’s protagonist, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) immediately dislikes Killian Jones, also known as Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue). She doesn’t trust him and his sarcastic humor doesn’t help. They’re enemies who would rather kill each other before going on any more adventures together.
However, when he selflessly considers her feelings before his own, Emma starts to see his true character. Killian would do anything for her. He’s not a villain and he can actually even be her hero. The two had chemistry from the first day they met, so when they finally kiss and fall in love, it’s one of the most beautiful (and underrated) relationships in television history.
4 Patrick Verona & Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
● 10 Things I Hate About You is available on Disney+
A modernized version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) obviously hates Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) in the 1999 romantic comedy, 10 Things I Hate About You. After meeting, they find numerous ways to argue. Kat wants nothing to do with Patrick, but he must continue to pursue her due to a bet with his friends.
Over a period of time, Kat slowly begins to let her guard down. She realizes Patrick is charming, hilarious, and the right kind of person for her. In fact, in one of the most memorable scenes from the movie, she confesses her feelings in a class presentation. She says, “But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.” The relationship updated many classic romatnic tropes for a modern audience better than just about any other movie.
3 Alfred Kralik & Klara Novak from The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
● The Shop Around the Corner is available for purchase on Prime Video
The most beloved of the movie adaptations of the play Parfumerie, from which the story for You’ve Got Mail was also taken, The Shop Around the Corner revolves around a store salesman (James Stewart) who falls for the woman who he’s been corresponding with via letters. When a young woman (Margaret Sullavan) gets hired at the same store, the two get off on the wrong foot, unaware that they are each other’s pen pals.
The simplicity of the setup only serves to make the story all the sweeter, with all the misunderstandings and missed opportunities getting the audience to really root for the main characters to realize the happiness staring them in their faces.
2 Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice (2005)
● Pride and Prejudice is available on Max Go
Jane Austen’s iconic novel, Pride and Prejudice, has had many movie and television adaptations since its 1813 publication. There’s the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and the 2001 romantic comedy Bridget Jones’s Diary is a modern-day version of the story. Finally, the 2005 movie adaptation, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, really highlighted the conflict between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
From their first meeting, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy clash. They have too much “pride and prejudice” to see past their differences. They have undeniable chemistry, but they’re too stubborn to recognize it. It takes Mr. Darcy a long time to realize that his feelings have changed and that Elizabeth is too special to lose. In a romantic confession, he tells her: “You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love—I love—I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”
1 Sam Malone & Diane Chambers from Cheers (1982–1993)
● Cheers is available on Peacock
On the 1980’s sitcom Cheers, Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) are the definitions of “haters-turned-lovers.” When they first meet, Sam is crude and a ladies’ man. Contrasting this, Diane is a wealthy snob. They instantly hate each other, but they must work together at the Boston bar.
Over time, Sam and Diane’s tension slowly turns into flirtatious behavior. Audiences anticipated when they would kiss, and it happened during one of their most intense arguments. They couldn’t resist each other, and while they ultimately didn’t end up together, their humorous, flirtatious relationship impacted television history in a way that will always be remembered.
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