5 Phenomenally Volatile Movie Romances


A year or so ago I did a Phenomenal 5 list focused on movie romances. Today we are again looking at romances but this time with a twist. These are five movie relationships known more for their fire and volatility than love and kisses. It didn’t take long for a big number to come to mind so I certainly wouldn’t call this the definitive list. Still, there is no denying that these five movie romances are not only volatile but also phenomenal.

# 5 – “War of the Roses”


In the 1989 Danny DeVito directed “War of the Roses” everything starts reasonably well. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner meet in college, fall in love, and eventually marry. Oh but how quickly it turns into one of the most outrageous and darkest black comedies of its decade. Their relationship sours, their marriage crumbles, and the Roses bring new meaning to “ugly divorce”.

#4 – “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”


The marriage between Paul Newman’s Brick and Elizabeth Taylor’s Maggie seemed destined for trouble. It becomes abundantly clear as “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” moves forward, slowly shedding light on their feelings toward each other and on destructive secrets from their pasts. Alcoholism, deception, dysfunction – all factors that influence this stormy, bitter relationship between two deeply flawed people.

#3 – “Kalifornia”


Adding a much different flavor to the list is “Kalifornia”, a twisted road thriller featuring a particularly tempestuous relationship between the violent, aggressive Early (Brad Pitt) and the simple, naive Adele (Juliette Lewis). The abuse we witness ranges from subtle and manipulative to fiercely physical. Incredibly the film makes the couple fascinating, even sweet on occasions. Perhaps that’s what makes the abusive side of their relationship even more disturbing.

#2 – “A Streetcar Named Desire”


A second Tennessee Williams adaptation makes the list but with a twist. It’s impossible to consider one specific relationship in “Streetcar” without factoring in the three main players – Stanley, Stella, and Blanche. The depression and dysfunction of these three characters are so intrinsically intertwined and manifests itself through various degrees of mental and physical abuse. Sure, this may be a cheat, but the volatility of this three-headed relationship is too profound to exclude.

#1 – “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”


Relentlessly nasty, toxic, and brutal. Those are just a few adjectives which perfectly describe 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. Perhaps no film has presented a more hateful, venomous relationship than the one shared between George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor). As the film moves forward we get more alcohol, more insults, and more pain until these two severely damaged people simply have nothing left.

So there are my five volatile movie romances. What do you think of my picks? See something I missed? Please let me know in the comments section below.

21 thoughts on “5 Phenomenally Volatile Movie Romances

  1. I read “Streetcar” as a teenager and was pretty moved by it. However, nothing quite compared to actually seeing Brando bring Stanley to life on the big screen. One of the most gripping, compelling performances- almost hard to watch as everything falls a part.

    I’ve heard of #1, but can’t say I’m very familiar with it. I’m young so I still have a lot of classic movies to catch up on! ha

    • That’s awesome though. So many great movies still to discover. Virginia Woolf is an acidic but thoroughly compelling film. And Burton and Taylor…good grief! Volatile isn’t strong enough!

  2. Nice list Keith. I’d throw in Jake and Vickie LaMotta from Raging Bull and Jack and Wendy Torrance from The Shining. Both excellent and brutally honest films about tumultuous relationships.

  3. I love that you included War of the Roses! It’s so underrated and it’s a fantastic movie. I wanted to see Kalifornia for a long time now, it looks amazing

  4. Yes, I am so glad to see Kalifornia there, that’s the first movie I thought of when I saw your title. I may be a bit off your topic, but I love how characters despise each other in such films as Sure Thing (1985), the Painted Veil (2006) and even You’ve Got Mail (1998), and all these movies are actually going under romantic! (comedy/drama) genre.

    • Nice! Good to hear from someone else who has seen Kalifornia. You don’t ever hear many people talk about it. It certainly fits this list but it’s also quite different from every other relationship I mentioned. Talk about two fascinating people.

  5. Some great choices here, I loved Virginia Woolf when I first saw it incredible passion and craziness. I am going to see Imelda Staunton in the play next year cannot wait for that! War of the Roses has always been a favourite of mine as well. Let’s face it romance doesn’t always go perfectly well. Great post!

    • Thanks so much. It was a fun one to put together and you’re right, romance sometimes travels a rocky road. Each of these seemed so toxic yet (to varying degrees) each one had intrigue. Despite being train wrecks you can’t keep your eyes off of them.

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