14 Onscreen Couples With the Most Addictive, Binge-Worthy Chemistry

Netflix’s limited-series adaptation of One Day has entered the chat

As someone who masochistically watched the 2011 movie adaptation of One Day every Valentine’s for years, I didn’t think the new Netflix limited series could hurt me. Sure, I thought, this might be a fun way to kill an hour or two on a Wednesday night after work. Fast-forward some six hours and 14 episodes later to find me silently heaving in my bedroom, desperately trying to conceal my agonized sobs from my sleeping roommate on the other side of the wall. (Yes, I woke up with puffy eyes.) Such is the price of watching something starring two actors whose chemistry could set off a nuclear reaction.

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall are utterly electric as Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, the characters from the 2009 novel by British author David Nicholls portrayed by Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in the film (and who had delicious onscreen synergy in their own right, too). The show follows Emma and Dexter’s winding “right person, wrong time” romance over the course of 20 years, as the two secretly pine for each other through job changes, different romantic partners, and devastating life events. It’s the kind of sweeping love story that could only be as successful as it ultimately was because of its leads’ bewitching ability to elicit a hysterical response from viewers. (See: my puffy eyes.) Romance isn’t dead—just ask One Day’s casting director.

After I finished the show and subsequently processed the five stages of grief by watching One Day–themed TikTok edits, I realized what I was feeling was extremely similar to how I felt as a 16-year-old Tumblr user obsessively reblogging GIFs from Gilmore Girls or My Best Friend’s Wedding. Only certain pieces of media can activate this recess of romantic hyper-fixation in my brain. What unites them all is the irresistible chemistry transmitted between two actors who, placed together, wield an indefinable power to transform any TV show or movie into an instant classic.

If you’re looking for your fix, keep scrolling to see my ranking of the 14 couples with the best, most unforgettable chemistry ever to grace my screen.

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14. Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Every generation needs its quintessential high school romance flick, and thank God today’s kids have To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Condor and Centineo play Lara Jean and Peter, a quirky wallflower and a football jock who fake-date each other until they both—to nobody’s surprise—catch very real feelings.

13. Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper, The Good Place

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These two embody the best of the “opposites-attract” trope. On this oddball NBC sitcom, Bell plays Eleanor, an irresponsible delinquent mistakenly sent to a utopian afterlife for humans who lived morally upright lives. She is paired with her supposed soulmate, Harper’s Chidi, a professor of moral philosophy who freezes when faced with mundane decisions. These two characters shouldn’t make sense, but they so naturally do because of Bell and Harper’s seamless onscreen relationship.

12. Gina Rodriguez and LaKeith Stanfield, Someone Great

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Someone Great isn’t your typical rom-com, in that it opens with the main character and her long-term partner splitting up. Despite going into the film with the understanding that their relationship is already doomed, you can’t help but be compelled by Rodriguez’s interplay with Stanfield. The two breezily move through depictions of different stages of a relationship, from the blissed honeymoon phase to the volatile buildup right before the breakup.

11. Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney, My Best Friend’s Wedding

It’s true that Julia Roberts would have chemistry with a brick, but this rom-com makes the list because it has the kind of staying power few others do. That’s thanks in large part to Mulroney holding his own opposite Roberts—where she pushes, he pulls, and where she schemes, he charms. I also appreciate that the story subverts the typical happy ending we’re used to seeing from golden-age rom-coms.

10. Anne Hathaway and Chris Pine, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

I blame a lot of my hopeless romantic tendencies on growing up with the Princess Diaries sequel, which stars Hathaway as Mia Thermopolis, princess of the fictional European country of Genovia, and Pine as Nicholas Devereux, a Genovian lord with an eye on her throne. I cannot emphasize this enough: The two are such a genuine delight together to watch, whether they’re falling into a water fountain or slow dancing to Norah Jones’s “Love Me Tender.”

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9. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo, Past Lives

Lee and Yoo are phenomenal in Celine Song’s directorial debut, which grapples with former childhood friends crossing paths years after one moved to a different continent. Onscreen together, the actors replicate that kind of melancholic yearning innate to anyone who has trouble making peace with their reality and all the alternative possibilities they’ve relinquished.

8. Issa Rae and Jay Ellis, Insecure

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Insecure begins with this relationship, between Rae’s Issa and Ellis’s Lawrence, in its denouement. The flame that might have once fueled this pairing clearly went out long ago, and it will take the next five seasons of the dramedy series for the two to find their way back to each other again. Along the way, they each end up doing things that lesser couples would probably find impossible to move on from. But the gravitational pull onscreen between Rae and Ellis makes their ultimate reunion feel natural and inevitable.

7. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, Outlander

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This time-travel period-romance series could easily veer into cliché, if not for the palpable, breathtaking attraction between Claire (Balfe), a World War II–era nurse who accidentally ends up in 18th-century Scotland, and Jamie (Heughan), a Highland soldier who later leads a rebellion. The costars’ intense dynamic was undeniable from the start, as evidenced by their resurfaced chemistry test.

6. Lauren Graham and Scott Patterson, Gilmore Girls

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You need two actors with off-the-charts chemistry to sustain a slow-burn romance over seven long seasons—and luckily, that’s just what Gilmore Girls had. By the time Lorelai (Graham) and Luke (Patterson) shared their first kiss in the season four finale, fans were already well acquainted with the costars’ unrivaled ability to banter over caffeine withdrawal symptoms or trade longing gazes across Stars Hollow’s town square.

5. Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall, One Day

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It takes two exceptional actors to make the friends-to-lovers trope feel distinctly special, rather than trite and overplayed. Mod and Woodall deliver on that tenfold, depicting Emma and Dexter’s decade-spanning love story with the sort of perceptive ease you see among real-life longtime friends.

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4. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, Normal People

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Not unlike One Day, the Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best-selling 2018 novel tracks the “will they, won’t they” relationship between former high school classmates Marianne and Connell, brilliantly played by Edgar-Jones and Mescal. To me, a confirmation of great chemistry between two actors is whether they maintain a close bond long after a show has premiered and the press tour has closed—and Edgar-Jones and Mescal happen to pass that test with flying colors.

3. Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey, Bridgerton

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The only thing better than a friends-to-lovers romance is an enemies-to-lovers romance. It’s hard to look away from Ashley and Bailey when they’re onscreen together as Kate Sharma and Viscount Anthony Bridgerton; the duo are like dynamite, with sparks flying from the screen as their characters spar over Regency-era courtship politics or breathlessly grasp each other on the muddy grounds of the viscount’s estate.

2. Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson, New Girl

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If there is a blueprint for a slow-burn love story, you can definitely find it in New Girl. Throughout the sitcom’s seven seasons, Deschanel and Johnson, as Jess and Nick, often bounce off of each other in a way that feels endearingly organic, each responding to the other’s comedic timing with electrifying momentum. Their chemistry so frequently stole scenes that they were instructed not to work in the same shot together for season one, Deschanel revealed in 2022.

1. Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn, Scandal

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In absolutely zero circumstances and in no uncertain terms do I condone cheating. Unless Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant are doing it. Their lapse in moral judgment is owed entirely to the magnetic charge between Washington and Goldwyn, who together possess the kind of combustive lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry that every showrunner would give an arm and a leg for. Since the Shonda Rhimes–created political thriller premiered in 2012, Washington and Goldwyn have continued to capture the public’s fervid imagination—something they definitely know and still capitalize on.

This article first appeared on harpersbazaar.com