From Brangelina to Bogart and Bacall: the best on-screen chemistry

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)

This was the film that sparked a virtual supermarket tabloid-gossip industry. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play an outwardly respectable married couple, each with a secret kept from the spouse: they are both professional assassins. Then each gets a commission to kill the other. The film is a bit silly, but you can see the dark and dangerous spark between the since-estranged Jolie-Pitts.

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Lois Maxwell and Sean Connery
Various Bond films (1963-1971)

Lois Maxwell’s Miss Moneypenny is the personal secretary to spy chief M, and so keeps up a running banter/flirtation with 007. Maxwell’s excellent performance as the demurely sensual yet poignantly smitten Moneypenny gave us the nearest Sean Connery’s Bond had to a relationship.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
The Before … trilogy (1995-2013)

One of the most compellingly real relationships of modern cinema. Jesse (Hawke) daringly approaches a young woman, Céline (Delpy), on a train. Outrageously he asks her to step off the train with him and hang out for a while in Vienna.

Chris New and Tom Cullen
Weekend (2011)

Tom Cullen and Chris New star as Russell and Glen in Andrew Haigh’s lo-fi romance. They meet at a bar and go home for what they think is going to be a one-night stand, but the next morning they find that they have a lot to say to each other. The chemistry is evident not only in how they have sex but in how they just hang out.

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart
To Have and Have Not (1944)

“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” This is an iconic moment in the history of Hollywood: you can see the chemistry between the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall and 44-year-old Humphrey Bogart begin to snap, crackle and pop.

Anne Reid and Daniel Craig
The Mother (2003)

Roger Michell’s film has a remarkable pairing of actors. Anne Reid, then 68, begins an explosive affair with Darren, a friend of her son, played by Daniel Craig, then 35. The sheer class of both actors persuades you that there could be something between them.

To catch a thief ... Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney in Out of Sight.
To catch a thief ... Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney in Out of Sight. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney
Out of Sight (1998)

George Clooney is the easy-going, roguish, amiably incompetent bank robber who is quite good at everything to do with his job except getting away with it. Jennifer Lopez plays the federal marshal with a soft spot for the type of guys she’s supposed to be arresting. The flame of love between the two of them is ignited when they’re locked in the back of a car.

Amarah-Jae St Aubyn and Micheal Ward
Lovers Rock (2020)

Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock features a little miracle of hope, joy, attraction and romance. It is 1981, and Martha (St Aubyn) is excited about going to a house party. Micheal Ward is Franklyn, the young man there who is instantly attracted to her. The vast majority of the film is about unconsummated sex, displaced into dancing and flirting.

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung
In the Mood for Love (2000)

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung play two married people in 1960s Hong Kong whose respective spouses are having an affair. They are thrown together by their knowledge of this, which creates an intimacy that flowers into an affair of their own. The subtlety and intensity of their onscreen relationship is a marvel.

Anne Heche and Joan Chen
Wild Side (1995)

The heat generated by Anne Heche and Joan Chen in this thriller powers the film. Heche plays a banker by day and a high-end call girl by night. Christopher Walken is a shady businessman who employs her services so regularly that Heche finds herself drawn into his life, and she begins an obsessive affair with his wife, played by Chen.