The greatest threat to a couple in love is often another love interest thrown into the mix. Love triangles are common in romance movies because they up the stakes and amp up the tension. From Casablanca (1942) to Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), these critically acclaimed movies each feature a compelling love triangle.
1. Jules and Jim (1962)
This French romantic drama is about an Austrian author and a French man who begin a friendship in the early 1900s. When the two meet an alluring young woman, both develop romantic feelings for her, but the author is the one who wins her love back. Years later, after the end of World War I, the friends reunite at the author, and the woman's family home, where the Frenchman discovers his feelings for the woman are reciprocated this time.
2. Days of Heaven (1978)
When a manual laborer in 1912 Chicago accidentally kills his boss on the job, he flees the city with his girlfriend and his sister. They seek refuge in a small Texas town, where they all find work as seasonal laborers on a farm. After learning the farmer has one year left to live, the manual laborer convinces his girlfriend to pose as his sister and seduce the farmer so she can inherit his fortune once he passes.
3. Casablanca (1942)
An American man living in Casablanca owns a gambling den, which hosts both Nazi soldiers and refugees attempting to flee war-torn Spain. When his former lover walks into his nightclub one day with her husband, the American man agrees to use his connections to help the couple escape the Nazi-occupied region. But will his unresolved feelings for his former lover stop him from getting her and her husband to safety?
4. The Dreamers (2003)
The Dreamers takes an incestual twist on the love triangle that purposefully makes viewers feel unsettled. It's about an American man who came to France as an exchange student. There, he meets a young woman and her twin brother, who invite him to stay with them while their parents are away, and the three engage in intimacy together. But when the American and the woman attempt to separate their relationship from her twin brother, he is not too pleased with the new arrangement.
5. Mean Girls (2004)
This iconic teen comedy is about a naive, formerly homeschooled teenage girl whose parents enrolled her in their local public high school. After learning about the school's social standings, she develops a crush on a football player in her math class. But when his ex-girlfriend, the most popular girl in school, learns about her crush, she gets back together with him, and the new girl seeks revenge.
6. Dead Ringers (1988)
Dead Ringers is a psychological thriller about a pair of twin gynecologists who operate a joint fertility clinic in Toronto. One of the twins is a confident player who seduces his patients and passes them off to his shy identical brother without telling the women whenever he grows tired of them. But when the shy twin develops feelings for one of the women, he and his brother spiral as their identities peel apart.
7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
This classic Western adventure film follows a gang leader and his dependable sidekick as they attempt a double heist of a train. As the two journey across the West, evading police and engaging in illicit schemes, they grow fond of the same woman: an adventurous schoolteacher named Etta Place.
8. Dark Harbor (1998)
A couple racing towards the ferry station hoping to make it on the last ferry before nightfall come across a wounded man lying in the street and drive him to the nearest hospital. But the couple keeps running into the man. The woman ends up alone with him and the two develop feelings for one another. But is the injured man indeed who he says he is?
9. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
A thirty-something woman desperate for romance gets more than she bargained for in this hysterical romantic comedy. After getting together with her womanizer boss, she later catches him cheating and leaves him. She then develops feelings for her family friend, who happens to be her boss's nemesis. The two men battle for the woman's affection as she tries to discover which one of the men — if either — is right for her.
10. Cabaret (1972)
This period musical romance takes place in 1931 Berlin when an American cabaret performer and a university student enter a casual relationship despite the student's beliefs that he may not be attracted to women. But everything changes after a wealthy baron shows up and seduces both the cabaret dancer and the student.
11. Pretty in Pink (1986)
When a teenage outcast gets asked out by one of the popular rich kids, she agrees to go on a date despite warnings from her best friend and neighbor. Her best friend has secret feelings for her and he can't hold in his disdain for the popular crowd as they urge Andie's wealthy date to leave her in the dirt.
12. Brooklyn (2015)
Brooklyn is a romantic period drama about a young Irish woman who moves across the seas to Brooklyn in the 1950s. There, she meets a handsome and caring man and marries him without telling her family back home. But when her mother falls ill, she rushes home to Ireland, falls into a comfortable rhythm, and meets another wonderful man. As her relationship in Ireland grows more serious, she must determine which life she wants to make permanent before the men find out about each other.
13. Challengers (2023)
When a talented tennis coach and her world-famous tennis player husband notice he's stuck in a losing streak, she signs him up for a low-stakes tournament to practice without immense pressure. But the low-key match he hoped for turns into a high-stakes battle for the win when he learns his competitor is his ex-best friend and wife's former lover.
14. It's Complicated (2009)
It's Complicated is a romantic comedy filled to the brim with love triangles. It follows a bakery owner and her lawyer ex-husband who begin an affair ten years after they split, and they attempt to keep it a secret from their kids and the lawyer's current wife. But things get even more tricky when the baker grows tired of waiting on her ex-husband's busy schedule and begins a romance with her architect, who struggles to get over his recent ex-wife.
15. The Room (2003)
After a banker overhears his wife discussing her secret affair over the phone, he comes up with a plan to uncover the identity of her new lover. When he discovers that she isn't the only one in his life deceiving him and that the affair is between his wife and his best friend, he takes drastic measures that leave the lovers reeling.
16. This Means War (2012)
When two CIA agents who are also best friends get put on desk duty after an assignment goes haywire, they decide to enter the dating pool. But when they both fall for the same effervescent woman, they realize their friendship may not be as impenetrable as they once thought.
17. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Philadelphia Story is a romance film that doesn't have a love triangle but a love square as three men attempt to win the affection of the same woman. She's a Philadelphia socialite who left her husband with a terrible drinking problem to pursue a wealthy suitor. But when she comes across her ex-husband and a reporter who won't leave her alone, she realizes she has feelings for all three men and must decide which one is truly right for her.
18. Semi-Tough (1977)
This romantic sports drama tells the story of two professional football players and their roommate, the daughter of their team's owner. When she and the wide receiver begin dating, the relationship starts without a hitch. But after she attends a self-improvement seminar her boyfriend lives for and finds it off-putting, the relationship becomes strained. Soon, the linebacker roommate develops feelings for her and makes his move by siding with her take on the seminar.
19. Bull Durham (1988)
Bull Durham follows a losing minor league baseball team as the veteran catcher attempts to train the rookie pitcher so he can make it to the major league one day. But when the team's one big fan pursues both the catcher and the pitcher, a rivalry forms between the two players that could sabotage their efforts to achieve baseball stardom.
20. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2008)
This iconic romantic fantasy film is about a teenage girl who moves to a small town in Washington to live with her single father after her mother remarries. After reconnecting with a childhood friend with a lifelong crush on her, she meets a stoic and mysterious boy at school who turns out to be a vampire desperate to taste her blood.
21. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
This Mexican road trip romance film follows a pair of best friend teenage boys and an elite woman after they convince her to go on a road trip to a beachside paradise. She agrees after learning her husband is cheating on her, later seducing both boys while on the road, causing tension to rise between the friends.
22. Closer (2004)
After watching a beautiful woman get hit by a car in the streets of London, a man comes to her rescue and the two begin a relationship. One year later, the man's feelings for the woman have dwindled, and he kisses a photographer but doesn't leave his wife. Things get even more complicated when he pretends to be the photographer in an online chatroom and lures another man to a fake date with her, which leads to this new man beginning a relationship with the photographer. From here, things start to go downhill as the characters contend with their interwoven lives.
23. Keeping the Faith (2000)
Keeping The Faith is a romantic comedy about a priest and a rabbi who are lifelong best friends and are overjoyed when the third in their childhood trio returns to New York after moving to California with her family years ago. As the three spend more time together, both men fall for her and struggle to remain faithful to each other and their respective religions.
24. Wayne's World (1992)
Two rock music fans find success when a producer named Benjamin sees their public-access TV show. As Wayne and Garth rise to fame, they're involved in wacky hijinks that test their friendship and threaten the show's success. One such development is Wayne and Benjamin's romantic pursuits of the same woman, a talented musician in a rock band.
25. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
This amusing heist comedy film follows a con artist as she completely ruins a heist by double-crossing both the men who hired her and her lover-slash-crime partner. After abandoning her lover, she uses her flirtations and good looks to win over a man with information on the location of a valuable diamond. But her envious, thwarted lover won't let her accomplish her goals quite so easily.
Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist from Worcester, MA with bylines in publications like Pulse Magazine, HorrorPress, CM Pride, Fangoria, and TransLash News & Narrative. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more in the entertainment and lifestyle space. She loves horror, LGBTQ+ representation, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically.