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The 30 Best Romantic Space Operas in Film and Television

The Empire Strikes Back Photo: Lucas Film
The Empire Strikes Back
Photo: Lucas Film

Now space operas aren’t necessarily known for being romances, nevertheless, I find that most space operas include at least a little romance on the side because space operas are based on emotion. For me, the love stories are a big part of what keeps me interested and invested in the film or show as a whole. Would Star Wars be as interesting without Han Solo and Princess Leia for instance?

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For those unfamiliar with the term “space opera,” Wikipedia defines it as “a subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, weapons, and other technology.”

Obviously, the definition is general and space opera crosses over into planetary romance or military science fiction territory. Some also spend a lot of time on earth or one planet (and are kind of sort of on the line), but for my purposes here I look at TV shows and films that include epic stories and good romances set in outer space (usually with more than one planet thrown in the mix in order to feel at least semi-expansive). And yes, some are more space opera than others. Keeping that in mind, here are my top 30!

The 30 Best Romantic Space Operas

(In Alphabetical Order)

# 1:  Andromeda (2000-2005)

Photo: Sci-Fi
Photo: Sci-Fi

After being frozen in time for a few hundred years (in a black hole mind you), Captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo) and his crew try to bring peace back to the galaxy. This is an imperfect, yet entertaining series with romances to become invested in.

#2: Avatar (2009)

Photo: 20th Century Fox
Photo: 20th Century Fox

While not technically “space opera’ in that it mostly only takes place on one alien planet, I went with it because more than one planet is included. And well, it’s just really, really romantic. If you’re one of the few people to not see Avatar, James Cameron’s film is about paraplegic Marine Jake Sully who goes on a military mission to Pandora.

Able to become an alien avatar and go amongst the people of Na’vi, he falls in love with Neytiri. Learning of his own people’s plan to destroy them, Jake must fight back to save the people and the woman he’s come to love. One of the few beautiful films out there that was actually worth seeing in 3D. Sure, the story has been done before, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

#3: Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

Marcus and Susan Ivanova Photo: Warner Brothers
Marcus and Susan Ivanova
Photo: Warner Brothers

There are several love stories to discover in Babylon 5, a show about a neutral space station in the midst of a war. What’s great about Babylon 5 is the focus on characters, which means more time for emotional arcs. In the meantime, there is Captain John Sheridan and Ambassador Delenn to root for, and then Marcus’ unrequited feelings for Susan that you may also find romantic.

#4: Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

Photo: ABC
Photo: ABC

Admittedly, I’ve only seen a few scenes of the original Battlestar (I will remedy this eventually), but I would be remiss to not include it on this list. While there is no Apollo/Starbuck romance in this version, there were still love stories to be found on board the original Galactica. One such romance included Apollo and Serena played by the always beautiful Jane Seymour.

#5: Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

Starbuck and Apollo Photo: Sci-Fi
Starbuck and Apollo
Photo: Sci-Fi

Epic, addictive, characters developed so real that they feel like living, breathing people, etc. These are all attributes of the Battlestar reboot. While more serious than a lot of space opera, it doesn’t matter because the writing and characterization is so seamlessly executed.

Then there are the romances. For those of us who love a good old-fashioned love story in our science fiction, there are like a gazillion to choose from: Adama and Roslin (this one is just amazing), Starbuck and Apollo (one of my personal favorite TV couples), Helo and Athena, Six and Gaius (pure entertainment), and so many more. If you haven’t checked Battlestar Galactica out about the Cylons versus the last of humanity, it is a must!

#6: The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Photo: Universal
Photo: Universal

A sequel to Pitch Black (way more interesting than the first film), The Chronicles of Riddick tells the story of the hunted man Riddick who finds himself in the middle of a crusade. The war is led by a group called the Necromongers who are attempting to not only invade every known planet, but convert all humanity in the process. Riddick is their only hope. In the meantime, Jack (the girl he rescued in the first film) is older now (calls herself Kyra) and the two continue their connection.

#7: Doctor Who (1963/2005 – present)

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

Classic Who definitely deserves a nod, so I combined the old with the new because Doctor Who is really one show after all. Still, while there were side romances in the classic era, it is the 2005 reboot of the series that really became epically romantic.

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Doctor Who follows a man called the Doctor, a man who travels in a blue box called the Tardis that’s bigger on the inside. He always has a companion with him, someone to show the universe to as they travel through time and space.

In 2005 (the 10th anniversary was just last week), everything changed however with Rose, the character and the name of the first episode of the new series. Rose Tyler met a strange man, a Time Lord that would change her life and his forever. The two slowly fall in love in one of the best love stories in science fiction history (Yes, I said it). Sure, Rose eventually leaves as all the Doctor’s companions do, but that just makes their love story even more compelling. The Timelord always alone really is a wonderful piece of television and characterization.

Aside from Rose, there are several other romances to either ship or appreciate: Amy and Rory, Captain Jack and everyone that breathes, Martha’s unrequited feelings for the Doctor, Clara and Danny, and River Song with the Doctor to just a name a few. Honorable mention must also go to the TV show Torchwood, a spinoff series about Captain Jack Harkness with a good dose of romance in it (I didn’t include it because it so earth based).

#8 Dune (1984)

Photo: Universal
Photo: Universal

In the very distant future, a Duke and his family are sent to a faraway planet called Dune (a move by the evil Emperor), a world of sand that holds a special spice, one needed for interstellar travel.  The Duke’s son then leads a rebellion against the Emperor. In the midst of all this, are love stories to truly become invested in, Paul (Kyle McLachlan) and Chani as just one example.

#9 Dune and Children of Dune Miniseries (2000; 2003)

Photo: Sci-Fi
Photo: Sci-Fi

Another adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novels, Dune and Children of Dune are given more time to tell the story and is more enjoyable overall (mostly because the second miniseries has James McAvoy in it).

#10: Earth 2 (1994-1995)

Julia and Alonzo Photo: NBC
Julia and Alonzo
Photo: NBC

With the earth gone, the last of humanity resides on space stations. When Captain Adair’s son gets sick, she and a group of others desiring change, leave in search of another planet to live on. Once they discover the new planet, they face various threats. Of course this space opera (another one on the line) wouldn’t work without the inevitable romantic pairings.

By on April 1st, 2015

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

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