Is it possible for men and women to see eye-to-eye about affairs of the heart? Hollywood sure hopes not -- and audiences don't either, since some of the best romantic and rom-com movies have the worst (read: most fun) couple fights. So who usually wins? The results are surprising...or not.
By Tara Bennett
Think Like a Man
Case in point: Steve Harvey's best-selling book turned movie Think Like a Man, which advises women on how to decipher the inscrutable male mind, starring Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union and Harvey. Winner: The women. Of course.
Director Alexander Payne brings the battle of the sexes to the unassuming halls of an Omaha high school as overachieving senior Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) and student body government advisor/teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) square off. Looking to teach Flick some humility, McAllister encourages a dopey jock to run against her for student body president and that sparks a brutal personal war between adult and teen. Winner: Flick.
Live-in lovers Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) hit that point in their relationship where everything the other person does is an irritation. Disappointed and tired of bickering, they split--but neither wants to leave their condo. As they transition to roommate status, the pair end up torturing each other more until Brooke finally moves out…and Gary figures out that he wants her when it’s too late. Winner: Both.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play a bored married couple, John and Jane Smith, whose work life is full of secrets as they’re both spies who get assigned--to kill their significant other. Nothing says gender equality like lots of weaponry and hardware, as John and Jane try to take one another out on a grand scale using their respective strengths and weaknesses against each other. Winner: Both, as they turn the tables on their bosses.
9 to 5
One of the greatest workplace, battle-of-the-sexes comedies ever, 9 to 5 features co-workers (played by Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin) so fed up with their sexist, sleazy boss (Dabney Coleman) they band together to hold him hostage in his own home so they can right his wrongs. Who knew that a dog collar and garage door opener system could be so effective? Winner: The ladies.
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were the ultimate gender sparring partners on-screen and in Adam’s Rib they played married lawyers that have to face off against one another in court. Competitive, witty and stubborn, the two lay waste to each other as they almost litigate their marriage into an early grave. The film has fantastic dialogue and great acting from these off-screen lovers. Winner: Both, as love wins the case.
Directors Joel and Ethan Coen let the beguiling Catherine Zeta-Jones loose on George Clooney’s take-no-prisoners divorce attorney, who ruins her divorce settlement. Down but not out, she seduces her rival and they get married. That quickly devolves into a battle of wills, divorce and even hired hits. Winner: Both, as they figure out they’re made for one another.
Romancing the Stone
Meek romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) literally stumbles into dashing poacher Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) in the jungles of South America. They’re oil and water, but she hires him to get her back to civilization. They bicker sexily along the way until they join forces to pursue a hidden treasure and prove to one another that they both bring assets to the table. Winner: Both, as it’s a love match.
All of Me
What happens when an everyman lawyer gets his spoiled, mean, female client’s soul mystically fused into his body? You get the ultimate gender battle as Lily Tomlin’s voice harasses Steve Martin’s mind and body in the fantastic comedy All of Me. As they learn how to each control his body in tandem, they also come to appreciate one another as people…in one body. Weird and wonderful. Winner: Both.
Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare knew that pitting stubborn men and women against one another was playwriting gold, which is why he used the dynamic so frequently in his comedies. Aficionado Kenneth Branagh directed his own version of Will’s Much Ado About Nothing where several sets of lovers banter, challenge and misinterpret one another’s actions until all's well in the frothy end. Winner: Both, as love wins again.
His Girl Friday
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell play former spouses, now newspaper colleagues that rapid fire insult, challenge and flirt with one another as they cover a salacious murder trial. They know how to press one another’s buttons, and they do a lot, in this delightful comedy where each gender gets in plenty of shots. Winner: Both, as they marry again.
Jack Nicholson plays hit man Charley Partanna while Kathleen Turner plays his hit woman peer Irene Walker. Despite their better judgment, the two rivals end up falling in love and living in murderous bliss until they’re both assigned to whack one another. In a typical romance, they’d run away together, but not in this dark, comedic take on how ruthless love can be. Winner: Neither.
The Lion in Winter
Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn do a stunning job playing the estranged royal couple, King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. They’re set up as two towering personalities that butt heads and principles, yet they still maintain a warmth between them despite numerous affairs, political machinations and gender inequality. Winner: Both: a truce.
The War of the Roses
Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner (yet again!) play Oliver and Barbara Rose, whose marriage has fallen apart after 20 years. Barbara wants a divorce, but Oliver balks when it comes to letting her have the house she meticulously restored, and then it gets U-G-L-Y. Living under the same roof, the two go for the emotional and physical jugular until they both pay the ultimate price. Winner: Neither.
In the Company of Men
Writer/director Neil LaBute’s intensely black comedy stars Aaron Eckhart and Matt Malloy as two corporate managers embittered by their experiences with women. In a personal revenge scheme, they make a nasty bet to separately seduce a deaf coworker and then break her heart. Unrelentingly bleak, the gender wars never looked so dark. Winner: Nobody.
Goldie Hawn is a spoiled, wealthy socialite who hires carpenter Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) to work on her yacht while in a rural Oregon port. When they argue and she falls overboard resulting in a case of amnesia, Dean makes her think they’re married with kids as he proceeds to exact his revenge. She becomes his maid until she starts to fight back, bond with his kids and fall for Dean in this classic gender comedy. Winner: Love wins once more.