A definitive ranking of the relationships in ‘Love Actually’
Today marks 12 years since our collective favorite romantic comedy, Love Actually, hit theaters. Since then, some of us (ahem) have watched it every single Christmas season. A few of us have even watched it multiple times every single Christmas season (ahem x2). This movie has become a staple in 2000s-era holiday viewing, and for good reason: It embodies everything both wonderful and sad about all the magic in the air over the season, making it one of the more realistic romantic comedies out there.
And regardless of who you are, if you’ve seen it, there’s at least one storyline you love and can maybe relate to…and one you might hate a little bit. So in honor of Love Actually’s birthday, here is our definitive ranking of the storylines in this simultaneously hilarious, heartfelt, and ageless classic.
10. Colin and the Girls from Wisconsin
While Colin is likable enough from a romantic-comedy-trope standpoint, his story is probably my least favorite – most likely because I’m an American woman and therefore a little “meh” on how his (incorrect) assumptions about how American girls act and what they value are conveyed as accurate in this movie. That being said, I know it’s all in good fun and totally tongue in cheek, but still, Colin. Still.
9. Sarah and Karl
Sarah and Karl seem like such an unlikely pairing from the beginning, and then they actually share a mutual attraction. So we get our hopes up. But when things don’t work out because Sarah selflessly chooses to be there for her mentally ill brother, we ask: Couldn’t Karl be understanding? He has obviously shared Sarah’s feelings for a while and probably noticed she’s on her phone all the time, so why is it NOW a problem? You said it yourself, Karl: Life doesn’t pause for challenges!
8. Jack and Just Judy
This story is super adorable because of its irony. These two meet while working as stand-ins in a pornographic film, but are more shy and awkward when it comes to romantic attraction and expression of interest than pretty much every other couple in the movie. The only things that don’t put Jack and Judy higher on this list are their limited screen time and the fact that we never get a scene of their date.
7. Karen, Harry, and Mia
This is another story that makes me sad, and the only reasons it isn’t last on my list are 1. It involves the amazing Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, and 2. It’s probably among the most realistic relationship in the film. In a sea of segments that highlight the honeymoon stage of love, this one depicts the struggles of marriage accurately, and how sometimes things start out great but then life gets in the way. Not all relationships are built to last, and even though I don’t LIKE this story, per se, I appreciate its raw honesty. This story (as well as that of Sarah and Karl) make me take this movie more seriously than I might otherwise. And Emma Thompson’s superb acting makes me tear up. Every. Single. Time.
6. Sam and Joanna
Joanna is an American classmate of 11-year-old Sam, as well as his first love. She’s popular, talented, friendly, and beautiful – and therefore wildly unattainable, according to Sam.
But Sam doesn’t give up. He learns to play the drums to impress Joanna, and manages to do so after chasing her down at the airport to say goodbye before she moves back to America. She’s moved to the point that she kisses him on the cheek. Ladies and gents, if that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.
5. The Prime Minister and Natalie
From the very first scene where Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister meets one of his assistants, Natalie, the sparks fly. These two characters probably have the best romantic chemistry in the entire movie, which is hard to do among such a great cast. Another reason they’re one of my faves is because Billy Bob Thornton shows up as the POTUS and makes a pass at Natalie, then Hugh Grant shuts him down with a nonsensical speech that includes a reference to both David Beckham’s feet and Harry Potter.
Oh, and this storyline gave us this gem of a scene, so obviously it’s in my top five.
4. Daniel and Sam
Kid who just lost his mother falls in love with his classmate, tells his recently widowed stepdad he’s in love, and said stepdad does everything he can to help. Stepdad and kid bond over said crush to the point where their go-to heartbreak cure is to watch Titanic together and reenact the most pivotal scenes.
Stepdad drives kid to airport to see his crush off in a scene not entirely unlike the final wedding scene in The Graduate. Cliché? Yes. Adorable? DOUBLE YES. Sam and Daniel’s relationship gives us all the parenting goals, from Daniel’s willingness to listen to Sam and take him seriously no matter what, right down to him threatening to have sex with Claudia Schiffer in Sam’s bedroom if Sam doesn’t behave. (OK, that was a little weird.)
3. Billy Mack and Joe
Washed-up pop singer Billy Mack is nothing without his manager Joe, to whom he owes the success of his newest trophy: his re-mastered, terrible holiday single that somehow not only gets radio play, but becomes the number-one song on the charts just in time for Christmas. And though he pokes fun at Joe constantly, Billy knows he is lucky to have his manager. He even turns down an invitation to Elton John’s Christmas party to spend the evening with his best buddy. Now that’s love (actually. Sorry).
2. Mark, Juliet, and Peter
Am I the only one who has made signs for my beloved (more than once, oops) because of this movie? This storyline is the most well-known from Love Actually, but it tends to get a lot of flak because people bash Mark – played by Andrew Lincoln, aka Rick Grimes – for making his feelings known to Juliet.
But in reality, we have no idea how long Mark has been in love with Juliet, or how strong those feelings were. Sometimes we have to take chances in life, and Mark took that chance. And while Juliet turns him down, albeit gently, he can now move on with his life – and that is a hard-hitting lesson in diving in face first that we could all take cues from once in a while – especially those of us who tend to play it safe 24/7. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see a “Where are they now?” for these two. Though I can’t imagine Juliet leaving her perfect hubby Chiwetel Ejiofor (I mean, Peter).
1. Jamie and Aurelia
What’s cuter than a couple who finishes each other’s sentences and thinks in the same way? One that does it in different languages and finds each other on complete happenstance, that’s what. Although they have among the (arguably) cheesiest storyline, Jamie and Aurelia manage to form an entire relationship and fall in love based on their mannerisms, tone of voice, and other aspects of a dynamic between them that goes beyond words. How romantic is that? Colin Firth is a total babe, too, which helps. Even though he really needs to learn to make copies. Why was he using a typewriter in 2003!?
Also, shout-out to Rowan Atkinson (and his gift wrapping skills) for being the glue that holds everyone together.