We don’t live in a black-and-white world, so why must relationships be that way? They don’t, and many people around the globe are discovering the complex beauty of ethical non-monogamy or polyamory with the help of many TV shows and films that portray these unconventional arrangements.
1. You, Me, Her (2016-2020)
It is an irreverent comedy starring Greg Poehler (yes, Amy's brother), Rachel Blanchard, and Priscilla Faia that revolves around the marriage of Jack and Emma (Poehler and Blanchard) and their fertility issues. Along the way, Izzy (Faia), a 25-year-old student, enters their lives. Although the chemistry is there, the communication is often lacking initially, and the pitfalls of a hetero-monogamous relationship attempting to expand its circle are well depicted. There are some cheesy moments, but I was hooked and watched all five seasons.
2. The Politician (2019-2020)
I admit when I came across this short-lived comedy on Netflix featuring a lot of big stars: Ben Platt, Judith Light, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Bette Midler, to name a few, I was skeptical, but it is pretty funny. Payton Hobart (Platt) has always known he wants to be POTUS one day, but he has to play some of the dirtiest politics before graduating high school. In a series of shenanigans, he discovers video footage of his nemesis, Dede Standish (Light), entwined in a multi-partner relationship and works it to his advantage.
3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
When people think of films about polyamory, I'm convinced that Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the one that pops into mind first. The Woody Allen film portrays two friends who travel to Spain for the summer, and both develop a crush on an artist while in Barcelona. Still enamored with his mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife, the artist has a decision to make about how to proceed, but only after Vicky or Christina decide for him.
4. Savages (2012)
In this violent adaptation of Don Winslow's book, directed by Oliver Stone, we follow two cannabis growers, Ben and Chon, who end up in a confrontation with the Mexican cartel after they kidnap their shared girlfriend, Ophelia, or “O.” The two friends will do everything to get their girlfriend back in one piece, even risking their souls. If you love a good thriller with a lot of action and violence with a twisted love story, this is for you.
5. Threesome (1994)
Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin, and Josh Charles star in this 1994 film about a young woman, Alex (Boyle), who is mistakenly housed in a college dorm with two guys. Stuart (Baldwin) has the hots for Alex, Alex has the hots for Eddy (Charles), and Eddy has the hots for Stuart.
6. Cable Girls (2017-2020)
The first Spanish Netflix original series, adapted for American audiences, embraces many LGBTQ+ themes and female empowerment. The exploration of polyamory occurs between characters Carlota and Sara when they decide to bring Miguel into their relationship, a most unexpected turn for the fans.
7. Borders of Love (2022)
This fantastic Czech film (be ready to read subtitles) follows the love story of Petr and Hana as they share and explore their fantasies. In a relationship for five years, they begin pursuing consensual encounters with other individuals. As Petr's lack of interest in this arrangement starts to wane, Hana's only intensifies, and their relationship unravels due to jealousy and lack of communication in critical moments.
8. Couple to Throuple (2024)
The first TV reality dating show about polyamory will air on February 8th on Peacock, right in time for Valentine's Day. Couple to Throuple involves four couples experimenting with bringing a 3rd into their relationship. The potential problem with a reality show like this is that it will most likely focus on the negative, scandalous aspects of polyamorous dating, which will make non-traditional relationships look less than ideal.
9. Polyamory: Married & Dating (2012)
I enjoyed this reality series and learned a lot about ethical non-monogamy and the stumbling blocks those in non-traditional relationships can encounter. I can understand why some viewers might have hated it because there are times when the poly community is represented as being deceitful and non-communicative. Still, those types of issues are honest representations of those trying to navigate a multi-person relationship.
10. Endings, Beginnings (2019)
When I watched this movie a few months ago, I didn't get a polyamory vibe at first. It was more about a young woman navigating through love and heartbreak while dating two men simultaneously, both fulfilling things she needed in her life for various reasons. She hadn't committed to either man, but they were both aware of the other in her life and were seemingly okay with it. Through these relationships, she discovers many things about herself while ending up in the most unexpected place in her life.
11. Kinsey (2004)
The 2004 biographical drama starring Liam Neeson as Professor Alfred Kinsey describes the life of the leading pioneer in sexology. The 1948 publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male is the first recorded work addressing the romantic behaviors of humans. Also cast are Laura Linney and Chris O'Donnell. The film explores Kinney's bisexuality and what that means for his unconventional marriage to Clara and the blurry lines revolving around his affair with a male research colleague.
12. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (2017)
Many might not know, but the creator of the superhero Wonder Woman, psychologist William Moulton Marston, was involved in a 3-way love affair with his wife and their girlfriend for many years. His wife, Elizabeth Holloway, and their polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne, greatly influenced the creation of his superhero character. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women showcases this unconventional relationship that was well ahead of its time.
13. Summer Lovers (1982)
When I began researching shows for this article, I stumbled upon 1982s Summer Lovers, and my curiosity was immediately piqued. A young Peter Gallagher with his infamous eyebrows and an even younger Darryl Hannah with her flowing blonde locks sounded like an excellent film! The couple travel to the Greek Islands to spend the summer. They meet an exotic French woman whom they both fall for. The three spend their days on the beach, cliff diving into the ocean, and sharing nights under the Grecian sky.
14. All Kinds of Love (2022)
Following the Supreme Court's ruling on Marriage Equality, a longtime married gay couple decides to divorce when everyone else is getting married. A sad and gloomy Max moves out and starts over, finding himself the roommate of a much younger man who seems to have as many romantic quirks as he does. This comedy showcases a middle-aged interracial throuple (Max's parents), an artistic transman looking for love in the most unlikely of places, and inter-generational lovers following their hearts.
15. Song to Song (2017)
Written and directed by Terrence Malick, Song to Song stars an all-star ensemble of Ryan Gosling (BV), Rooney Mara (Faye), Michael Fassbender (Cook), and Natalie Portman (Rhonda). It takes place in the music scene of Austin, Texas, following Faye and Cook's relationship that eventually ties BV and Rhonda in; however, ethical non-monogamy is not practiced in this film, but rather a lot of cheating and deception instead.
16. Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
This film is so hilariously bad in the most glorious ways. Everything cheesy and over the top in 90s movies is represented in Frankenstein Unbound, so I just had to add it to this list for a good laugh. It starts in the future, but the main character, played by John Hurt, is transported back in time to 1817, shortly before Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) wrote her famous book Frankenstein. Shelley has a consensual love affair with Lord Byron (Jason Patric) and her husband, Percy (the late Michael Hutchence of INXS).
17. L Word: Generation Q (2019-2023)
In the continued saga from the original drama, L Word: Generation Q tackles the idea of an open relationship when characters Alice and Nat decide to explore polyamory in the episode “Luck Be a Lady.” However, the act would have been better if the director had shown their conversation about navigating uncharted territories like jealousy, relationship structures, and boundaries.
18. Wanderlust (2018)
Toni Collette, Steven Macintosh, and Zawe Ashton star in this Netflix comedic drama about a straight married couple (Collette and Macintosh) who open up their marriage because their love life has lost that spark. Their tale is loaded with unexpected turns, twists, and discoveries about themselves and new loves while navigating the hardships of unfamiliar territory.
19. Siren (2018-2020)
This American fantasy drama series premiered on Freeform in 2018. It is set in a small coastal town and follows a young siren, played by Eline Powell, who is in a polyamorous relationship with the other two leading castmates. The depiction of the relationship is done right without any toxic love triangle nonsense.
20. Trigonometry (2020)
Only lasting one season on the BBC, Trigonometry is a beautifully created dramatic series following the lives of Kieran, Gemma, and Ray navigating their poly relationship without all the drama or objectifying love scenes. It's an understated masterclass show that deserved more than one season.
21. Good Trouble (2019-2024)
Good Trouble highlights the love life of Dyonte and Malika. Still, the polyamorous storyline doesn't begin until season 3, when Malika finally admits to herself that polyamory might just be what she is looking for and decides to explore this relationship dynamic. This show is incredibly wholesome but with just the right amount of drama and social issue awareness thrown in.
22. Open to It (2022- )
Following a committed gay couple, Cam and Greg decide to open their relationship up and invite a third, Princeton, over one evening, going from couple to throuple. They discover open relationships can come with a lot of complicated baggage.
23. The Magicians (2015-2020)
The fantasy series The Magicians portrayed many relationship dynamics throughout its six-year run, but the writers tackled the concept of polyamory in Season 3, Episode 5, “Timing is Everything,” specifically when they wrote the loving storyline of Elliott and Quentin, but added another element of bringing in a third. During their relationship, Quentin falls in love with a woman, Elliott accepts this new love, and the three of them live together harmoniously, even raising a son.
24. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Everyone knows that Freddy Mercury, lead singer of the iconic band Queen, lived an unconventional life and had partners of both sexes through his too-short life. Still, the 4-time Oscar-winning film unfortunately only glosses over the non-monogamous lifestyle he led rather than diving deeper into it.