The Marvel Cinematic Universe is unquestionably a juggernaut in the entertainment world. In close to 15 years of storytelling, Marvel has formed a universe rich with action and compelling characters. However, one area of storytelling the MCU is less known for is romance. The action-driven adventures of the films and shows usually leave little room for a romantic story to fully develop, but the unique structure of the universe allows its best love stories to grow over longer periods of time.
Not all the love stories in the MCU are created equally. Some blossom over years to paint a lovely portrait of a couple navigating the high stakes world of Marvel, others are quickly introduced and just as quickly swept under a rug before the audience even knows what to make of it. Romance might not be Marvel’s strong suit, but they have provided some excellent examples of love throughout the years. Let’s take a look at the best and worst romances the MCU has to offer.
18. Bruce Banner and Betty Ross
The Incredible Hulk is a practically forgotten entry in the MCU. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) would eventually be recast, and his classic love interest from the comics, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), would also be dropped from the overarching universe. Their chemistry is about as flat as the movie itself, and their relationship was never given a chance to develop on-screen. There’s a coy reference to Betty later when Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) nickname the Hulkbuster armor Veronica, a reference to a character from Archie Comics named Veronica who was best friends with a character named Betty.
17. Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) had a brief fling with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. They were only afforded brief moments to show some emotion to one another but never got to develop anything significant before Avengers: Endgame took Rogers out of the picture. Carter eventually returned in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but with the world believing Steve dead after the events of Endgame, it’s safe to say the relationship has fizzled out. Not to mention, Rogers ended up with Carter’s aunt after going back in time. Awkward.
16. Sersi and Dane Whitman
The modern-day portion of the story in Eternals has Sersi (Gemma Chan) in a relatively new relationship with Dane Whitman (Kit Harington). Whitman is falling for the good-natured god, but her unrivaled life experience makes it difficult for them to make a true human connection. Whitman’s story will no doubt be expanded as he attempted to tell Sersi about his family history, which is teased in the Eternals‘ post-credits scene to lead into the character’s reveal as Black Knight. The scene also teased Mahershala Ali’s Blade, so this relationship may be explored further in future stories with the Eternals and the solo Blade film.
15. Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff
Avengers: Age of Ultron was anchored by a newfound connection between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). She can reach through to the Hulk and subside his rage enough to help control Banner’s transformation. The movie gives the pairing their best chance to develop an emotional connection, but in the chaos of Ulton’s evil plan the relationship never fully takes off and is essentially dropped in later films. It does make one more appearance in Thor: Ragnarok when Natasha’s video message brings Banner back after years as the beast, but one awkward exchange in Avengers: Infinity War seemed to put the connection to rest.
14. Stephen Strange and Christine Palmer
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) starts his story with enough bravado and cockiness to make Tony Stark uncomfortable. Opposite him is Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) in an on/off relationship. When Strange suffered his life-changing injuries, she seemed to be the only person who wasn’t being paid a fortune to try and help him. Strange spent most of his time pushing her away, but their connection still endured. Christine helped mend some of his injuries after a battle and Strange’s feelings for her were explored further in one of the best episodes of What If…?, and it appears they are set to go deeper in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
13. T’ Challa and Nakia
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is to be named king after his father’s death in Civil War and he desires the presence of his former lover, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) at the coronation ceremony. That’s how audiences were first introduced to this intriguing love story. Nakia is an undercover spy for Wakanda and spends her time in the field fighting for the people away from her homeland but when T’Challa brings her onboard to expand Wakanda’s humanitarian efforts, it appears they rekindle their dormant romance. Much of their love story takes place before the events of Black Panther, so the film does little to develop their relationship and with T’Challa not being recast after Boseman’s unfortunate passing, it’s unlikely Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will have a chance to expand their story.
12. Ned Leeds and Betty Brant
In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Ned (Jacob Batalon) had his mind set on exploring Europe as a bachelor and Betty (Angourie Rice) must have had her own expectations of the trip and had no shared interest with Ned when they boarded the plane to cross the ocean. But when they landed, much to the surprise of everyone, they had struck up an immediate romance filled with adulation. Now they were on a journey of two young love birds in a life-changing exploration through Europe. The relationship was played up more for the hilarious jokes, but it’s also so innocent and a great picture of teenage romance. However, the couple called it quits as soon as they got back to America. Young love rarely lasts, after all.
11. Thor and Jane Foster
A classic relationship from the comics, this story begins when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) falls to Earth and is discovered by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). She manages to tame some of Thor’s most boisterous mannerisms and helps him regain his worthiness to wield Mjölnir. In the first film, their relationship blossoms quite nicely, but in Thor: The Dark World, Jane plays more of a lovelorn schoolgirl than a genius scientist. It seemed Portman’s time with the franchise was over when Jane dumped Thor off-screen before Ragnarok. Then it was announced she would be reprising the role and even taking on the role of Thor herself in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. Time will tell if they rekindle the romance in the process.
10. Ikaris and Sersi
And now we have a relationship that lasted through millennia and spanned the majority of human existence before coming to an end. In Eternals, Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sersi forge a bond during their time protecting the evolution of mankind from Deviants. Despite being together longer than the human mind can comprehend, the film begins with their relationship centuries removed from ending. Everything we see about their relationship is in the past tense, which robs the story of the chance to be truly effective. The chemistry between the actors is also lacking, which makes it difficult to subscribe to this love story, but the sheer scope of it is enough to inspire romance.
9. Shang-Chi and Katy
This entry is a bit of a cheat because as Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) explained to Katy’s (Awkwafina) grandma, they’re just friends. But we see the journey they go on through the events of the movie, and by the end, they begin to show a deeper connection achieved through all the turmoil. When the big battle finally concludes, they embrace with such relief that you can feel the deeper connection on screen. With a sequel to Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings in development, you can’t help but root for these two to further explore their bond and hopefully fulfill the wishes of Katy’s grandmother.
8. Loki and Sylvie
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has spent most of his time in the MCU on the side of selfishness and villainy, but in his solo Disney+ series he’s finally knocked off of his high horse when he is arrested by the TVA. He’s also given the chance to explore his romantic side when he meets his variant, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). It’s poetic that the narcissistic trickster would fall for someone who is essentially himself. They might be variants of each other, but their significantly different experiences formed two unique people who managed to find each other from opposite sides of the sacred timeline. The conclusion of Loki leaves these two timelines apart. Hopefully, the announced second season of Loki finds a way to bring them together again.
7. Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne
Ant-Man stole the hearts of many viewers when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) delivered a low-key but fun adventure, and through the first film, he grew close to Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). She helped get him in shape for his superhero heist action, and by Ant-Man and the Wasp, they become an impressive action duo in addition to exploring their budding romance. Hope was unfortunately snapped away by Thanos but Scott had an instrumental hand in bringing her back, and their chemistry even got a small moment to shine in the crowded conclusion of Endgame. The upcoming third film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, should step up the stakes and put their partnership and their relationship to the test.
6. Clint Barton and Laura Barton
Perhaps the MCU’s most rock-solid relationship, the Bartons have their own slice of heaven that’s mostly unaffected by the wide-ranging events of the universe. Clint (Jeremy Renner) manages to keep his family farm off the radar until Age of Ultron, when he brings his fellow Avengers there for refuge. There we meet Laura (Linda Cardellini) and their children, who live a life of love and simplicity that’s heartwarming to see. It’s all taken away from Clint during the Snap, which is enough to drive him to his dark life as Ronin. Thankfully, he gets his family back after Endgame, and during his solo Disney+ show, we get to see much more of what makes his bond with Laura so great.
5. Peter Quill and Gamora
The “unspoken thing” between Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) acts as the glue between everyone’s favorite group of galaxy-saving misfits. They meet through their shared need to obtain the Orb containing the Power Stone, and through both Guardians of the Galaxy films, we get to see them form their connection despite Quill’s goofiness and Gamora’s iron will. By the time they encounter Thanos (Josh Brolin), they’ve grown to fully love and accept each other, but the events of Endgame leave us with a Gamora who did not live through the experiences with Quill and the Guardians, so Star-Lord has to find her and hopefully make her fall for him again in the upcoming threequel.
4. Tony Stark and Pepper Potts
This love story, which began all the way back in Iron Man and culminated many years later in Endgame, is one of the most detailed relationships in the MCU. We get 10 years of a story across many films to see Tony Stark and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) travel the ups and downs of their high-profile and at times combative relationship. It seemed they were one of the few couples to get their happy ending after The Snap when they retired to the woods and raised their daughter, Morgan (Lexi Rabe), but Tony put it all on the line to save countless lives and paid the ultimate price to protect his wife and daughter, along with half of all existence.
3. Peter Parker and Michelle Jones
When the MCU finally got to take charge of the Spider-Man universe, they took the characters in some refreshing new directions. The classic girl-next-door version of Mary Jane was dropped in favor of Michelle Jones (Zendaya), who became this universe’s MJ to Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Unlike all the other love stories in the MCU, we get to see this one blossom out of the most innocent young love. Two young high schoolers grow and develop together from awkward beginnings to genuine love for each other. It’s a shame MJ doesn’t remember who Peter is after Spider-Man: No Way Home, but these two make such a great on-screen couple that we’ll all hold out hope she gets to remember.
2. Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter
It took a long time for these two to get their dance together but when they did, it was one of the most beautiful moments in the MCU. Their story unfolds over decades full of war and turmoil across the world for both Steve and Peggy (Hayley Atwell). It seemed their chance was lost when Steve crashed that plane into the water. Peggy lived a full life before he came back, but Steve always longed to get that dance. After the time-traveling antics of Endgame, he finally got his chance to get the life he always wanted with the girl of his dreams, and their long-delayed dance together beautifully drew the curtain over the first complete saga of the MCU.
3000. Wanda Maximoff and Vision
The most Shakespearean of love stories within the MCU is the same one that can go under the radar for some. Filled with love and emotion but doomed to death and pain, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) experienced more loss than most people can imagine before Vision (Paul Bettany) entered her life. The supremely intelligent yet naive android saw her for the kind soul she is. Their bond was truly genuine and ended in the most tragic of ways when it was ripped away from Wanda multiple times, even forcibly by her own hands. While this story played out as a secondary plot in the films of the MCU, Wanda and Vision received their time to truly develop their connection in WandaVision, and the MCU is a much richer place for it.
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