Though we know in our heart of hearts that the true meaning of Valentine’s Day is all about brutal martyrdom, it’s a little disheartening that the common reaction to the holiday is often kind of cynical and negative. While we’re not recommending that you go read a Nicholas Sparks novel or spend a bunch of money on bad chocolate or greeting cards, we do wonder: what’s so bad about romance? Or to put it another way, aren’t we allowed to love good love stories? In that spirit, here are eight love stories in science fiction or fantasy narratives that still make us weak in the knees (even if those knees are robotic).
Phil and Rita (Groundhog Day)
Everyone’s favorite time-loop paradox movie is also, at heart, a love story, and an awesomely sweet one at that. If trapped inside of one eternally recurring day, would you use that time to learn as much about someone you loved as possible? Because that’s essentially what Bill Murray does in this movie. The movie is so damn funny that it’s easy to forget how ridiculously heartwarming Phil and Rita’s gradual romance truly is. Who hasn’t had a day with someone you like that you felt like you were living over and over again?
Logan and Jessica (Logan’s Run)
Despite all the various differences between the novel version and film version of Logan’s Run, the story is ultimately not just about Logan, but Jessica, too! Without the romance between these two, the story of Logan’s Run doesn’t make any sense. Jessica is essential to Logan’s transformation from weird future-lawman to a more sensitive and (in some versions) revolutionary person. The other nice touch about Logan and Jessica is that they’re very romantic and caring toward one another in spite of the hedonistic, amoral, and oversexed culture they live in. The idea that once they’re removed from all that, they manage to naturally fall in love strikes a rather optimistic note in the midst of all the dystopian turmoil surrounding them.
Jack and Ianto in (Torchwood)
Though there have been a lot of grand romantic moments in the contemporary Doctor Who universe, its misbehaving step-sibling Torchwood actually might portray romance more realistically. Captain Jack Harkness somehow went from being a lovable rogue on Doctor Who to being a kind of cynical, depressing, know-it-all asshole on Torchwood, at least at times. But, luckily Ianto Jones is there to turn that ship around. Yes, it’s terrible what ends up happening to Ianto (2010 spoiler alert!) but their genuine love for each other is part of what prevented Torchwood from becoming a relentless, brooding piece of dark matter hurtling through the Doctor Who mythos. Ianto and Jack, as a couple, are a massive bright spot in that world, and their relationship always seems real, relatable, and hot.
Han and Leia (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi)
It may seem somewhat rote, boring, and cliché to throw this one on a list all about love but beyond the palpable romantic sparks between these two, the tension is also damn sexy. When we were kids, there’s a chance the following dialogue exchange went right over our heads: “Being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited!” says Leia. To which Han responds, “Sorry, sweetheart, we didn’t have time for anything else.” How wonderfully bawdy is that? This may be the most suggestive moment in Star Wars, ever. (Right next to Anakin’s rant about sand in Attack of the Clones.) But seriously, from the epic first kiss between Han and Leia, to their stirring theme song, the pitter-patter these spaced-out lovers continue to incite is pretty impressive. We love them. They know.
Paul Atreides and Chani (Dune)
Though Dune is chock-full of people screwing each other over, it’s oddly nice how tight Paul and Chani’s relationship remains throughout all the chaos on Arrakis. Sure, there’s Princess Irulan, who wants to have Paul’s baby and is his legal wife—but that never really gets in the way of his commitment to Chani. In fact, both Paul and his mom—the Lady Jessica—go to great lengths to point out that he considers his true marriage to be to Chani and not Irulan. This sorta makes Chani like the space version of Madame de Pompadour (except she and the Queen are really not friendly, this time around). All in all, Paul and Chani are just a super solid couple. They get stuff done, ride giant sandworms, and they love each other. Oh, and in the respective film versions Chani is played by Sean Young and Barbora Kodetová, who are both incredibly hot.
Sheridan and Delenn (Babylon 5)
This couple probably doesn’t get the love their love deserves. Partly because Babylon 5 is often treated like the Ulysses of science fiction television: everyone pretends to know what it is, but few have actually sat down and watched all of it. Granted, Sheridan and Delenn have a very aw-shucks vibe to their relationship, owing mostly to Bruce Boxleitner’s shit-eating grin. But. It’s all pretty damn great. In the season 3 mega-finale “Z’Hadum,” Sheridan literally plunges to his death after his brainwashed ex-wife tries to turn him to the dark side. Sheridan then hangs out with a crazy being-from-before-the-dawn-of-time who knows even deeper magic than the Vorlons, who asks him if he has anything worth living for. The answer: Delenn. How nice! True love brings Captain Sheridan back from the dead! (1990s spoiler alert.)
Wendy and Peter Pan (Peter Pan)
We know, we know. Nobody wants to date someone with a Peter Pan complex, but Peter’s love for Wendy is nothing if not innocent. Also, we’re sorry, but if someone flew into our childhood bedrooms and helped us escape our boring lives, we think we’d fall in love with them, too. Peter also shows a willingness to sacrifice himself for Wendy in a way that isn’t at all creepy but noble, in spite of his careless nature. Further, Wendy is no wide-eyed, boring ingénue, but a vibrant, smart heroine who gives Peter a run for his money. Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning, you crazy kids!
Westley and Buttercup (The Princess Bride)
Whether you’re referring to the book or the film, there is no doubt that this couple tops the list—they have the most passionate, purest kiss on romantic record! While your average match has their share of trials, Westley is (mostly) dead and still comes back to his beloved Buttercup because, according to him, even death can’t stop true love. (Have you ever had a significant other assure you of something that outrageous? We think not. It stopped Romeo and Juliet cold, after all.) They overcome an evil prince, a kidnapping, and several murder attempts, but more importantly, they overcome their own misunderstandings. Buttercup is very young and they’re both a bit too dramatic for their own good, but in spite of their own failings and the obstacles in their path, true love really does conquer all. As you wish, indeed.
This article originally appeared February 14, 2013 on Tor.com
Ryan Britt is long-time contributor to Tor.com.
Emily Asher-Perrin is the editorial assistant at Tor.com.