The greatest screen couples of all time unveiled

Two polls – one for TV and one for film – reflect the votes of thousands worldwide, and the results may surprise.

Poldark (2015-)

Poldark (2015-)

Both lists are eclectic, spanning time and type. There’s a place for bonnets and sonnets alongside gin joints, slow-burn romance and rodents of unusual size…

See the results from international and UK voters below.

As part of our major UK-wide season dedicated to romance on the big and small screen – BFI LOVE in partnership with Plusnet – the BFI today reveals the favourite couples from the world of film and television, as voted for by the British public, as well as thousands of people from around the globe.

Topping the film poll are Raj and Simran from the Bollywood classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), or DDLJ as it is better known, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, while the accolade of top TV couple goes to newcomers Claire and Jamie from Amazon Prime’s fantasy adventure Outlander (2014).

DDLJ, starring Bollywood legends Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, may not be very familiar to some UK audiences, but there is no denying that the film is quite simply a worldwide phenomenon. It turned its lead actors into Bollywood megastars, and holds the world record for the longest continuous plays in a cinema, having being screened in the Maratha Mandir Cinema in Mumbai every day since its release over 20 years ago. As part of the BFI’s LOVE season, the film was celebrated with a special 20th anniversary screening at BFI Southbank, complete with Bollywood dancers and a nationwide competition to find the UK’s ‘real Raj and Simran’. The result comes at the same time as the worldwide release of Dilwale (2015), which reunites Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol on screen for the first time since DDLJ.

The result of the TV poll is perhaps surprising, with Amazon Prime’s Outlander taking the top spot – the fact that a couple from a TV series only available on-demand surely shows how ubiquitous VOD has become. Outlander follows Claire, a married Second World War nurse in 1945, who is thrust back in time 200 years, when she encounters the dashing highland warrior Jamie and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. Based on the historical time-travel novels by Diana Gabaldon, the show has built a dedicated and vocal online fandom, which has helped propel it to the top of the BFI’s greatest TV couples poll.

The rest of the top ten in the TV poll in particular reflects audiences’ love of the anticipation of romance and ‘will they, won’t they’ scenarios, with couples including The X Files’ (1993-2002) Mulder and Scully, Doctor Who’s (2005-present) the Doctor and Rose, Gossip Girl’s (2007-12) Chuck and Blair and The Office’s (2001-2003) Tim and Dawn all featuring. While the television poll is dominated by contemporary couples – the oldest couple being Mr Darcy and Elizabeth from the BBC’s much-loved adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1995) – the film poll reflects the history of cinema, with top ten appearances from Gone with the Wind’s (1939) Rhett and Scarlett, Casablanca’s (1942) Rick and Ilsa and the eponymous heroes of When Harry Met Sally… (1989), which is currently back in cinemas across the UK as part of the BFI LOVE season.

Both polls also feature iconic gay couples, with Glee’s Kurt and Blaine being pipped to the top spot in the TV poll, and Torchwood’s (2006-2011) Captain Jack and Ianto coming in at 5; meanwhile the heart-breaking romance between Jack and Ennis in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain (2005) struck a chord with audiences, being voted into the film top ten at number seven. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens primed to become the biggest selling film of all time, sci-fi fan favourites Han Solo and Princess Leia sneak in at number ten – fans await the fate of the couple with baited breath over thirty years since they last graced our screens in Return of the Jedi (1983) – just another example of the public’s love of a ‘will they, won’t they’ romance.

Top 10 film couples – all votes

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

1. Simran Singh and Raj Malhotra, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

A worldwide phenomenon turning stars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol into Bollywood legends. The film has played at one Mumbai cinema every day since its 1995 release.


Before Sunrise (1995)

Before Sunrise (1995)

2. Jesse and Céline, Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013)

Unfolding over 18 years and three films, Richard Linklater’s surveillance of Jesse and Céline is rightly hailed as “one of modern cinema’s finest love stories.”


Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind (1939)

3. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind (1939)

Now 76 years old, the story of Rhett and Scarlett still enchants.


Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca (1942)

4. Rick and Ilsa, Casablanca (1942)

Poetry and chemistry blend in Michael Curtiz’s wartime masterpiece, a film that excites and desolates like few others.


True Romance (1993)

True Romance (1993)

5. Clarence Worley and Alabama Whitman, True Romance (1993)

Quentin Tarantino’s script and Tony Scott’s visuals thrill, but it’s Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette who ensure the film’s lasting appeal.


The Princess Bride (1987)

The Princess Bride (1987)

6. Buttercup and Westley, The Princess Bride (1987)

Buttercup and Westley continue to charm in one of cinema’s most-quoted comedies.


Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

7. Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Voters found it hard to quit this powerful drama of a relationship between two cowboys, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.


Twilight (2008)

Twilight (2008)

8. Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, Twilight saga (2008-2012)

Blood and chastity propelled this franchise to box office success, with audiences focusing on the love story between Bella and Edward.


When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

9. Sally Albright and Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Wagon wheel coffee tables and angst are enduringly appealing. Nora Ephron’s script and its stars probably help.


Return of the Jedi (1983)

Return of the Jedi (1983)

10. Han Solo and Princess Leia, Star Wars saga (1977-)

Our poll closed before The Force Awakens was released, but Han Solo and Princess Leia’s romance has proved persuasive.


Top 10 TV couples – all votes

Outlander (2014-)

Outlander (2014-)

1. Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, Outlander (2014-)

The winning title is not a network TV blockbuster but this US online series of a nurse who travels back in time to the Highlands of the 18th century.


Glee (2009)

Glee (2009)

2. Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson, Glee (2009-2015)

Kurt and Blaine (aka Klaine) were Glee’s first same-sex couple, and their love, riddled with imperfection and inspirational moments, chimes with a crowd.


Poldark (2015-)

Poldark (2015-)

3. Ross Poldark and Demelza, Poldark (1975, 2015-)

The BBC’s salvage operation of a ’70s favourite was a ratings success that resonated, with Ross and Demelza making it into bronze medal position.


Gossip Girl (2007-2012)

Gossip Girl (2007-2012)

4. Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl (2007-2012)

Chuck and Blair – otherwise entangled as Chair – find a love built on mutual manipulation from which something deeper, convincing and utterly beautiful emerges.


Torchwood

Torchwood

5. Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones, Torchwood (2006-2011)

The pairing of Jack and Ianto gave Torchwood the perfect chance to explore both the wider universe and the small, individual complexities of human affection.


The X Files (1993-2002, 2016-)

The X Files (1993-2002, 2016-)

6. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, The X Files (1993-2002, 2016-)

Returning in 2016, Mulder and Scully are likely to reaffirm their simpatico, a union of the sceptic and the scientist propelled by excellent scripts and two stars with huge appeal.


Doomsday (2006)

Doomsday (2006)

7. The Doctor and Rose, Doctor Who (1963-)

Rose Tyler bewitched – a complex, working-class woman with a heart of fire. Her relationship with the Doctor(s) brought further depth and re-energised the franchise.


Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

8. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

No shock that Mr Darcy and Elizabeth feature, but of the numerous film and TV adaptations of Jane Austen, it’s the coupling of Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth that prevails.


Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)

Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)

9. Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt, Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)

The slow thawing between Leslie and Ben is a winner, with Amy Poehler and Adam Scott toying with the audience for several brilliant seasons.


The Office (2001-2003)

The Office (2001-2003)

10. Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley, The Office (2001-2003)

Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley gave hope that soulmates do eventually connect, crystallised in one perfect moment – the Christmas party gift and its message: Never give up.


Top 10 film couples – UK votes

1. Simran Singh and Raj Malhotra, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
2. Jesse and Céline, Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013)
3. Rick and Ilsa, Casablanca (1942)
4. Clarence Worley and Alabama Whitman, True Romance (1993)
5. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind (1939)
6. Buttercup and Westley, The Princess Bride (1987)
7. Laura Jesson and Dr Alec Harvey, Brief Encounter (1945)
8. Sally Albright and Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
9. Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Brokeback Mountain (2005)
10. Han Solo and Princess Leia, Star Wars saga (1977-)

Top 10 TV couples – UK votes

1. Ross Poldark and Demelza, Poldark (1975, 2015-)
2. Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson, Glee (2009-2015)
3. Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl (2007-2012)
4. Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, Outlander (2014-)
5. Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones, Torchwood (2006-2011)
6. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, The X Files (1993-2002, 2016-)
7. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1995)
8. The Doctor and Rose, Doctor Who (1963-)
9. Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt, Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
10. Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley, The Office (2001-2003)

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