What will make a love story even more dramatic? Add another person. Love triangles have been a cinematic go-to since the days of silent films. These three-way love connections have the power to turn casual viewers into full-on stans and transform movie watching into a competitive experience. From the classic good guy versus bad boy dynamic of movies like Titanic to modern-day vampire lust in Twilight, we've rounded up some of cinema's most fraught love stories.
Triangle: Luke, Leia, and Han
Before Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia (Carrie Fisher)—and, also importantly, the audience—knew they were related, there were major love triangle vibes between the secret siblings and scruffy-looking nerf herder Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
Triangle: Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan
Is there a more classic love triangle tale than The Great Gatsby? Answer: Probably not. Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton brought the classic tale of love, lust, wealth, and jealousy to life in Baz Luhrmann's 2013 adaptation of the novel.
Triangle: Kathryn, Sebastian, and Annette
Cruel Intentions owns the sexy, sexy love triangle at the center of its plot. The gist: Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) bets her step-brother Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) that he can't seduce the virginal Annette (Reese Witherspoon). If she wins, she gets his car. If he wins, he gets to sleep with her.
Triangle: Cady, Aaron, and Regina
Mean Girls is a case study in girl-on-girl bullying—and proof that Aaron Samuels' hair looks sexy pushed back. In Tina Fey's high school comedy classic, frenemies Cady (Lindsay Lohan) and Regina (Rachel McAdams) compete over, among other things, the affection of Aaron "Terrible at Math" Samuels (Jonathan Bennett).
Triangle: Noah, Allie, and Lon
The Notebook is a story of love-almost-lost. And no complicated and winding path to happily ever after is complete without a detour down Triangle Lane. Before Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) end up together, she comes *this close* to marrying nice guy Lon (James Marsden).
Triangle: Gaston, Belle, and the Beast
You know that feeling when the popular jerk wants to marry you, but you would rather be the prisoner/eventually wife of a literal monster? Belle does. The Disney princess was pursued romantically by two very different suitors in this Disney favorite.
Triangle: Jake, Melanie, and Andrew
Sweet Home Alabama is the classic girl meets boy, girl marries boy, girl leaves boy and starts a new, glamorous life, girl falls in love with a new boy, but can't marry him until she officially divorces the first boy (got all that?) love story. It's also a rom-com love triangle anomaly in that there is no obvious "wrong" choice—both guys are pretty great, actually.
Triangle: The Narrator, Marla Singer, and Tyler Durden
Like everything else about the movie, Fight Club's twist on the love triangle between Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, and Brad Pitt's characters is definitely unique.
Triangle: Cameron, Bianca, and Joey
In 10 Things I Hate About You, Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Joey (Andrew Keegan) both want to date Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), but can't until someone dates her "shrew" of an older sister, Kat (Julia Stiles). (Oh, did you not realize this flick is based on The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare? The more you know...)
Triangle: Peter, Mary Jane, and Harry
Before Sony and Marvel were battling it out over Spidey's future, before Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone fell for each other IRL while filming their own version of the story, there was the OG Spider-Man movie, which came complete with a love triangle between Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), his OTP Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and his BFF/future nemesis Harry Osbourn (James Franco).
Triangle: Cooper, Jody, and Charlie
Lots of movies include love triangles (clearly), but how many turn them into epic ballet/hip-hop/interpretative dance hybrids for their finale? At least one. In Center Stage, unlikely ballerina Jody (Amanda Schull) is torn between professional dancer/bad boy Cooper (Ethan Stiefel) and nice guy (and also a fellow dancer) Charlie (Sascha Radetsky).
Triangle: Peeta, Katniss, and Gale
The Hunger Games is proof that, even when characters are literally fighting for their lives, fans also want to see them fight for each other's hearts. In the Hunger Games series, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is caught between sweet, always-loyal Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and brooding, strong Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
Triangle: Jack, Rose, and Cal
Titanic is one of the most epic love stories ever committed to film, so it's easy to forget sometimes that the movie is also a member of the love triangle society. Even though Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) are clearly tragic soulmates, we can't forget that Jack is, technically speaking, a sidepiece, since Rose is officially with Cal (Billy Zane) when they meet.
Triangle: Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Cyclops
The Logan-Jean-Scott love triangle is a comic classic that became a movie classic starting with the first X-Men film in 2000. Jean (Famke Janssen) and Scott (a.k.a. Cyclops, played by James Marsden) have a deep bond that can't be broken—and yet, there's undeniably something there between Jean and Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman).
Triangle: Rachel, Dex, and Darcy
Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) loves Dex (Colin Egglesfield), who happens to be engaged to her best friend, Darcy (Kate Hudson). Talk about inconvenient. But when Rachel and Dex realize their feelings for each other can't be ignored, Rachel wavers between playing the role of supportive friend and backstabbing temptress. While we don't condone actively ruining relationships, this is one instance where we're rooting for the other woman.
Triangle: Rick, Ilsa, and Victor
After roaming around Europe, expat Rick (Humphrey Bogart) has made himself a new life in Casablanca. Rick obtains some valuable war documents, which leads him to meet Czech resistance leader Victor (Paul Henreid). Accompanying Victor is his wife, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), who just happens to be Rick's former lover who abandoned him in Paris. Victor needs the documents Rick is entrusted with to escape Morocco, but Rick refuses to hand them over. We don't blame him—what kind of guy gives up both the girl and the goods?
Triangle: Julianne, Michael, and Kimberly
Best friends Michael (Dermot Mulroney) and Julianne (Julia Roberts) promise to wed if neither are attached by the time they're 28. Days before her fateful birthday, Julianne receives the news that Michael is set to marry a young, hot blonde. If that's not enough of a letdown, Michael's fiancée, Kimberly (Cameron Diaz), is, well, perfect. Chaos ensues, including Julianne's futile attempt to explain that while Michael is Jell-O, Kimberly will always be crème brûlée. Who knew dessert could be so enlightening?
Triangle: Mrs. Robinson, Benjamin, and Elaine
Long before the term "cougar" entered the lexicon, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) was setting the standard for MILFs everywhere. College grad Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) finds himself in a sticky situation when he begins an affair with the much-older wife of his father's business partner. To make matters worse, he finds himself dating—and falling for—her age-appropriate daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). Talk about keeping it in the family. We're just glad Grandma wasn't thrown into the equation.
Triangle: Jack, Andie, and Duckie
This classic '80s rom-com features the dramatics of high school politics in a Cinderella fashion. Outcast Andie (Molly Ringwald) fails to realize her best friend, the always-awkward Duckie (Jon Cryer), is head over heels for her. Instead, she longs for the attention of school stud/rich boy Blane (Andrew McCarthy). Despite being from opposite sides of the tracks, Blane and Andie fall in love, forcing Duckie to accept Andie's friendship. Poor guy, it must be hard losing the love of your life to a guy with a better nickname and haircut.
Triangle: Nola, Chris, and Chloe
Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a former tennis pro turned instructor, is introduced to friend Tom's little sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer). She sparks Chris' interest but doesn't catch his eye quite like Tom's girlfriend Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Proving he's as skilled at juggling women as tennis balls, Chris carries on an affair with Nola soon after marrying naive Chloe. Nola then throws a curveball at her lover, resulting in a catastrophic ending for both. Put simply, this Woody Allen thriller makes us thankful for background checks.
Triangle: Edward, Bella, and Jacob
From the very beginning, the Twilight trio's escapades keep fans dying for more. After shy teen Bella (Kristen Stewart) falls for the red-eyed vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), she finds herself faced with an impossible choice: the friendship of werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) or the love of her blood-sucking boyfriend. Despite all of the drama surrounding these three, we cannot quench our thirst. Perhaps it has something to do with Jacob's barely legal six-pack.
Triangle: Mark, Bridget, and Daniel
Finally, a damsel in distress with real-life woes we can relate to. Insecure with her weight, career, and imperfections, Bridget (Renée Zellweger) makes a resolution to journal the truth and nothing but the truth. Things soon get complicated when she must juggle the affections of her seedy boss Daniel (Hugh Grant) and the much-too-uptight Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). All ends well with Bridget's story, reassuring us that you don't have to be perfectly poised to find Mr. Right.
Triangle: Cristina, Juan Antonio, and Maria Elena
Surprise! Yet another movie where ScarJo finds herself mixed up in a romantic trio. Risk-taker Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) and modest Vicky (Rebecca Hall) travel to Spain and meet artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). He boldly asks them to spend a weekend together, and the women agree. Juan's serious baggage—in the form of his psychotic, knife-wielding ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz)—joins the bunch and, naturally, complicates things further.
Triangle: Linus, Sabrina, and David
Ultimate bachelor David (William Holden) has ignored the affections of young, shy Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) for years. After a brief stint in Paris, Sabrina returns a new woman, catching the eye of her womanizing former crush. David's brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart), recognizes the relationship's threat to David's upcoming wedding and business deals, so he decides to split up the two by making Sabrina fall in love with him. Easier said than done, especially in the case of bad boy versus Mr. (Kind Of) Nice Guy.
Triangle: Peter, Lucy, and Jack
Train ticket collector Lucy (Sandra Bullock) finds herself in a sticky situation when the man she (somewhat creepily) loves from afar, Peter (Peter Gallagher), falls into a coma after being pushed onto the train platform. She saves his life, but doesn't bother to correct his family when they assume her to be his fiancée. Peter's brother, Jack (Bill Pullman), not only sees through Lucy's lie, but also finds himself falling for her. Not surprisingly, Peter wakes up and doesn't recognize his wife-to-be, resulting in an extremely awkward trip down the altar.
Triangle: Westley, Buttercup, and Humperdinck
Okay, so maybe it's not at all relatable, but this fairy tale triangle is much more likeable than, say, Snow White's love octagon. Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) is engaged to Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), a prince with a horrible personality. When she is kidnapped, it's up to former childhood love Westley (Cary Elwes) to come to her rescue. Swordfights and adorable Fred Savage interruptions included, it's one of our favorite '80s movies ever.
Triangle: Mark, Juliet, and Peter
This vignette-style rom-com tells many heartwarming and heartbreaking stories, with our favorite triangle being the one involving Juliet (Keira Knightley), her new hubby Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Peter's best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln), who has been longing for Juliet since he first met her. Mark's posterboard love proclamation made us swoon, but we couldn't help but wonder how they'd be able to move on from there. The moral of the story? Love, actually is all around.
Triangle: Troy, Lelaina, and Michael
Ah, the '90s: Lelaina (Winona Ryder) is an aspiring filmmaker documenting the lives of her roommates, including long time friend Troy (Ethan Hawke). Although the unspoken attraction between the two once led to a drunken night together, Lelaina begins dating TV exec Michael (Ben Stiller) after he crashes into her car. The two soon fizzle, and Lelaina finds herself in the unassuming arms of Troy yet again. But things get dramatic when Troy doesn't return her calls, proving to us even angsty, artsy types are guilty of bad-boy behavior.
Triangle: Rhett, Scarlett, and Ashley
In the midst of the Civil War, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) is desperate (and may we add, a little selfish?) for the affections of two different men: new suitor Rhett (Clark Gable) and longtime love Ashley (Leslie Howard). Several years, marriages, children, and (sheesh!) deaths later, Rhett becomes fed up with Scarlett's indecisiveness and chooses to leave her with one of the most famous lines in movie history: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
Triangle-Turned-Square: Susanna and the three Ludlow brothers
It's your typical love story. Boy (Henry Thomas) meets girl (Julia Ormond). Boy brings girl home to meet the family. Boy's brother (Aidan Quinn) falls for girl. Girl falls for boy's second and much hotter brother (Brad Pitt), turning this love triangle into an equally scandalous love square. We wouldn't normally support pre-wedding promiscuity, but something tells us if your fiancé's brother was the spitting image of Brad Pitt, you'd have a hard time choosing, too.
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