Many times in classic films, you’ll see the same couples come together across several different movies. Often times, that was due to the nature of Hollywood back then: certain stars were contracted to certain studios, so there were only so many choices for leading roles.
But another reason was that certain star pairings had incredible chemistry that came across on-screen. When you want passion and romance, those classic on-screen couples remain great to watch even to this day.
Here are our picks for the best classic movie on-screen couples of all time, ranked all the way up to the most iconic.
7. Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were just kids when they began making films together. Throughout their careers, they starred in eight films together, with the best being 1943’s Girl Crazy.
While they obviously had a great friendship, the relationships they depicted on-screen were pretty innocent. These two were super cute together and they clearly adored each other—but as far as romantic chemistry, the tension just wasn’t quite there.
6. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were two hoofers who played off each other so well across their ten movies together, which spanned the course of sixteen magnificent years.
Their cinematic partnership is legendary, and for good reason: they were stellar dancing partners and always put on great performances. My favorite is the classic movie Top Hat from 1935.
5. Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn
Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made three movies together over the course of their acting careers, and three of those movies were absolutely great: Holiday, Bringing Up Baby, and The Philadelphia Story.
Bringing Up Baby is the best of the trifecta, blending a perfect balance between hilarity and story, and the two of them have such great chemistry whenever they’re on screen.
4. Rock Hudson and Doris Day
Rock Hudson and Doris Day starred together in three sex comedies: Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, and Send Me No Flowers.
Every time you see them on screen, you can really tell that the two were friends who had a lot of fun working with each other. Their chemistry practically leaps off the screen—you can’t miss it!
3. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly
Although Judy Garland didn’t appear in as many films with Gene Kelly as she did with Mickey Rooney, the movies they ended up making together demonstrated their undeniable chemistry.
This chemistry is most evident in the sexy flop, The Pirate. This film was the second of their three pairings, yet it was the most electric.
2. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (and Dorothy Lamour)
Okay, while not exactly a couple in the traditional sense, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby always had amazing chemistry in the seven Road to… movies that they made together, and the pair is iconic for it.
They pretty much pioneered the concept of a buddy film, and for that they definitely deserve an honorable mention.
Also noteworthy is that Dorothy Lamour starred in six of those seven films as the love interest for both of them, making them quite the interesting threesome. Sometimes Crosby’s character got the girl, and sometimes Hope’s character did—it all depended on the movie.
1. Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett
Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett played on-screen couples in two musicals: On the Town and Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
Sinatra and Garrett are my absolute favorite on-screen couple from the era of classic movies because their chemistry is undeniable, but also because Garrett’s characters often pursued Sinatra’s shy characters. That role reversal for films of the time is always fun to watch.
Lastly, here are a few honorable mentions for on-screen couples who took their love off-screen: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.