Today I want to celebrate fictional married couples in movies. When it comes to entertainment, most films focus on getting to happily ever after. It’s a little less common to see what comes after the happy ending. In real life, what happens at the end of a movie is only the beginning.

In fact, arguably many cinematic relationships wouldn’t even work successfully in reality. That is why I’m always on the lookout for films depicting what comes after marriage. It’s easy to get caught up in the romance of finding the one, but it takes hard work and commitment to make a long-term relationship successful. That doesn’t necessarily mean marriage must become boring or sedate.

RELATED: Vintage Film Review: Adam’s Rib (1949) – An Entertaining Battle of the Sexes

So, when it comes to marriage, the couples on this list are proof there is still a lot of love, humor, affection, and happiness to come after I do.

20 FICTIONAL MARRIED COUPLES

With Minor Spoilers

(in no particular order)

1.  Lucy and Ricky Ricardo in I Love Lucy (1951-1957)

Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz: Fictional Couples List

I Love Lucy
Photo Credit: Desilu

Technically this particular couple is slightly outside my film criteria since they appeared on television. They also made two films together. But no movie marriage list would be complete without them. Not only were they a couple on the small screen, but they were also married in real life. No matter how big their differences or how much they bickered, it was always clear Lucy and Ricky were crazy about each other.

2.  Joe and Megan Dayton in Return to Me (2000)

fictional married couples

Bonnie Hunt and Jim Belushi (with Minnie Driver) as Joe & Megan Dayton. Photo Credit: MGM

Even though the Daytons were secondary characters in this film, they made a big impression. Megan is the best friend of the main character and her house served as a secondary home to Grace. Joe and Megan have been married long enough to be comfortable with each other and they operate in an unspoken daily rhythm. Not to mention, their attraction to each other hasn’t waned one bit. The best thing about their marriage is that it reaches out and draws others into their love and joy.

3.  Adam and Millie Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Jane Powell & Howard Keel
Photo Credit: MGM

I think everyone can agree that Adam Pontipee is not an ideal husband. In fact, he’s a bit of a misogynist, viewing Millie more as a housekeeper than a wife. But Millie is strong enough to meet him head-on. She challenges his presumptuous behavior without backing down. She also takes his red-neck brothers in hand and teaches them basic manners. In the end, she teaches her husband how to value and respect her and their marriage is better for it.

4Nick & Nora Charles in The Thin Man Film Series (1934-1947)

fictional married couples

William Powell and Myrna Loy
Photo Credit: MGM

As any classic film fan will attest, this curious and playful couple belong at the top of any movie marriage list. He’s a detective and she’s an heiress who can’t keep her nose out of his cases. These two love to tease and flirt. They even manage to have fun together while embroiled in danger. Their facial expressions and witty quips are all my relationship goals.

5.  Adam and Amanda Bonner in Adam’s Rib (1949)

Movie Marriages List

The Bonners
Photo: MGM

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy played a married couple in several films together. I debated over which one to include on this list. This one just barely won over Guess Who Came to Dinner. The main reason is the Bonners present a couple who know how to handle conflict well. Adam and Amanda are attorneys representing opposite sides of a court case without letting it ruin their personal relationship. They have a deep respect for each other’s intelligence and talent. Would that we all could treat those with whom we disagree with the same respect.

6.  Paul and Corie Bratter in Barefoot in the Park (1967)

fictional married couples

Robert Redford & Jane Fonda
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

If you want a prime example of the realities of happily ever after, the Bratters are it. These two newlyweds are complete opposites. He’s a conservative attorney and she’s more of an artistic free spirit. After the honeymoon, they’re forced to confront their differences and learn how to combine their different personalities and expectations. Although they fight and make many mistakes, their love for each other keeps them working through this process.

7.  Matt & Christina Drayton in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Movie Marriages List

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Okay, okay I lied. After consideration, I had to include a second Tracy and Hepburn picture on this list because they are so great at portraying realistic marriages. The Draytons have been married a long time and are comfortable with each other. Not only that, but they have managed to stay in love all those years. When their daughter announces her intention of entering into an interracial marriage, their cozy life is shaken. They have differing opinions on their daughter’s desire to marry. But they handle those differences with respect and love.

8.  Henry & Claire in The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)

fictional married couples

Rachel McAdams & Eric Bana. Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

Talk about a dedicated couple! These two want to be together so bad they’re willing to withstand long periods of separation due to his involuntary time traveling. Of course, they face other hardships, but no matter the outcome, their love conquers all.

9. Ian and Toula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Nia Vardalos & John Corbett. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

This is one of the few films that actually gives us a look at the happily ever after. This sequel follows up on the original film which saw the Greek Toula marry the very white Ian against her family’s expectations. In this sequel, they’re still going strong. Somehow they’ve managed to blend their families, raise their children and survive the intrusiveness of Toula’s relatives.

RELATED: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – A RomCom Sequel Done Right

10.  Jack Campbell & Kate Reynolds in The Family Man (2000)

Movie Marriages List

Tea Leoni & Nicholas Cage
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Technically, Jack and Kate aren’t actually married in this It’s a Wonderful Life-like film. As Jack’s “guardian angel” states, “It’s just a glimpse.” It takes corporate shark and ladies man Jack a while to realize his alternate universe marriage to Kate is more important than all the power, acclaim and money in his real life. These college sweethearts have a real connection helping them weather disagreements, unexpected surprises and the minutiae of everyday life.

11.  Paul & Julia Child in Julie and Julia (2009)

Movie Marriages List

Stanley Tucci & Meryl Streep
Photo Credit: Columbia

When I grow up, I want to have a marriage just like Paul and Julia. They support each other’s separate interests wholeheartedly. They respect and admire each other and just have so much fun together. Paul and Julia truly portray marriage as an equal partnership in which they flat out enjoy each other.

12.  Dr. Gerald and Beverly Boyer in The Thrill of it All (1963)

fictional married couples

Doris Day & James Garner
Photo Credit: Universal International

The Boyer’s happy home life hits a snag when Beverly is hired as a television spokeswoman. Suddenly this housewife is a career woman whose earnings are outpacing her husband’s. Not only does this change upset their household, but also their children’s lives and the doctor’s schedule. Dr. Boyer may have a hard time adjusting to his wife’s newfound independence but he tries to compromise. Even with their hectic schedules, these two show real respect and affection for each other.

13.  John & Beverly Clark in Shall We Dance (2004)

fictional married couples

Richard Gere & Susan Sarandon
Photo Credit: Miramax

This couple spends most of the film leading separate lives. Eventually, they are able to reconnect. But the main reason I chose them is Beverly’s statement that matches my idea of marriage, “We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

14.  Alex & Isabel Whitman in Fools Rush In (1997)

fictional married couples

Matthew Perry & Salma Hayek. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

What happens when a one night stand turns into a pregnancy? Alex and Isabel didn’t intend to ever see each other again. But they marry for the sake of their unborn child. These virtual strangers have such a respect marriage and family they sacrifice their individual plans, desires, and ideals to create a home together.  With no past history to guide them or real understanding of each other, they fight to stay together.

15. Sir Robert and Lady Gertrude Chiltern in An Ideal Husband (1999)

fictional married couples

Cate Blanchett & Jeremy Northam
Photo Credit: Miramax

Granted Gertrude unfairly worships her husband. When he falls short of her high standards, he worries about losing her love. But there’s a genuine affection and trust between them otherwise. Their marriage is a safe haven for both of them from the glare of society lives. They simply adore each other.

16. Mark and Joanna Wallace in Two for the Road (1967)

fictional married couples

Albert Finney & Audrey Hepburn
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

This may be the best depiction of a troubled marriage I’ve ever seen. The Wallaces are on the verge of divorce. Mark and Joanna are starry-eyed for each other after their happily ever after. But ten years of marriage brings many challenges. These include diverging plans for their future, Mark’s career and also infidelity. This film proves that marriage does not always equal happiness. But it also shows the power of forgiveness, commitment, and love.

17.  George and Nina Banks in Father of the Bride (1991) and Father of the Bride II (1995) 

fictional married couples

Steve Martin & Diane Keaton
Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures/Buena Vista Pictures

These two have their comfortable marriage shaken up not just once, but twice! The first time happens when their daughter announces a surprise engagement with plans to marry at the family home. The second surprise is when Nina announces she is pregnant at the same time as their daughter. Despite these challenges, George and Nina remain patient, loving and understanding with each other.

18.  Michael and Alice Green in When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

fictional married couples

Andy Garcia & Meg Ryan
Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

There’s an argument to be made about setting boundaries regarding people with addictions. Addictions are not only destructive to an individual but also to those closest to them. The honest depiction of this emotional desolation is painful. However, I love that this film depicts the real commitment Michael has for his wife despite her battle with alcoholism. When she’s struggling, he also steps in the gap to take care of their home and children. Even with all the emotional landmines between them, they still manage to find their way back to each other.

19.  Leo & Paige in The Vow (2012)

fictional married couples

Rachel McAdams & Channing Tatum
Photo Credit: Spyglass Entertainment/Screen Gems

What’s really inspiring about this is that it’s based on a true story. When his beloved wife loses all her memories of their life together, Leo commits to making her fall in love with him again. He is unbelievably patient, compassionate and understanding with Paige. At the same time, he tries not to let his frustration at their lack of connection affect her. For her part, Paige works hard to learn what made her fall in love with Leo the first time. She also seeks answers on why their marriage is so important all while dealing with the trauma and confusion of amnesia. Leo and Paige are the epitome of the vows, “for better or worse.”

20. Travis & Gabby in The Choice (2016)

The Choice; fictional married couples

Benjamin Walker & Teresa Palmer
Photo Credit: Lionsgate

After the most romantically unromantic proposal in history (“Bother me, Baby”), these two tie the knot. Their marriage is a happy one. This feeling is enhanced by the arrival of their children. Then an accident puts Gabby in a coma. While she fights for her life, Travis fights to hold on to her and all the memories and experiences they have created together. Despite the tragedy, these two manage to stay together in spirit if not always in body.

What are some of your favorite fictional married couples? Do you wish there were more depictions of what comes after the HEA in movies?

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