Looking for good relationship movies
March 28, 2014 5:48 PM   Subscribe

What movies should I watch to learn what healthy intimate relationships look like?

I recently ended another relationship due to finding myself in the position of caretaker and co-dependent. Now while I rest and recover...I research! What are some good movies that portray both people in a partnership from a nuanced, compassionate perspective? For instance, I watched "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" again and really enjoyed it. I watched "Closer" and thought it was ridiculous. I'm not looking for the full-on "romance as religious quest" trope, nor the Woody Allen/Phillip Roth brand of smarmy neuroticism.

I also really like small-town settings and good soundtracks.
posted by macinchik to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Not the movie but the series -- Friday Night Lights. One of the best portrayals of a good, healthy, normal, loving relationship I've ever seen on any size screen.
posted by janey47 at 5:50 PM on March 28, 2014 [36 favorites]

Came in to say FNL (the TV show). Also the Julia part of Julie and Julia.
posted by lalex at 5:57 PM on March 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

To expand on janey47's comment.. the relationship between Tami Taylor and Coach Taylor is really great.

My husband and I really enjoyed the relationship represented in the movie Away We Go.
posted by erst at 5:58 PM on March 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

Uh, you're not watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf as an example of a healthy relationship, right? I mean I feel a little silly asking, but that is one of cinema's most famously dysfunctional relationships.

Anyway: Marge and Norm Gunderson in Fargo.
posted by griphus at 5:59 PM on March 28, 2014 [20 favorites]

Lily & Marshall on tv's How I Met Your Mother. They're schmoopy but they fight well and take care of each other.

Small one in movies was the cop in Thelma & Louise. Had a good relationship with his wife.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:04 PM on March 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Julie & Julia for this - I love Julia Child, and I love watching her and her husband together. Their lives weren't perfect and didn't always go according to plan (I think, in particular, they had been unable to have children), but they are kind and supportive and good humored and clearly just adored each other (and respected each other!). Bonus points as it's based on a *real* relationship.

(By contrast, I find "Julie" absolutely insufferable. I could happily fast-forward through those parts.)
posted by jrobin276 at 6:07 PM on March 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

So I came in immediately to say the Taylors in Friday Night Lights and I see that 3/6 commenters beat me to it. Such an amazing portrayal of a relationship that is loving, caring, and not always perfect but damn near. And it checks the "small town" and "good soundtrack" boxes.
posted by The Michael The at 6:08 PM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: One comment deleted. Please stick to recommending movies/tv shows/etc that fit OP's request. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:16 PM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really admire the relationship Molly and Arthur Weasley have in the Harry Potter series. It's obviously more impressive in the books, but some of the movies, especially the later ones, capture it well, too.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:18 PM on March 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

About Time might work.

The main character learns how to have a good relationship in a very unusual way.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:22 PM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Weasleys.

Wash and Zoe in Firefly and Serenity.
Tom and Barbara Good in The Good Life/Good Neighbors.
Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl in The Incredibles.
Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man movies.
posted by lharmon at 6:28 PM on March 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Many of the adult couples in Parenthood. Great show.
posted by carmel at 6:32 PM on March 28, 2014 [12 favorites]

Diane in The Good Wife has a great relationship with her partner, who has completely opposite political beliefs. There are some unhealthy relationships, but I actually think the show has done a great job with Alicia and her husband separating and then rebuilding their relationship. They are good parents and respect each other, even when they're very hurt.

Melissa and Joey has some really nice but sitcom-bounded ways of showing relationships between two quite different people who love each other but enjoy arguing *a lot*.

The Middle is great. They love each other and they're flawed and difficult, but - a recent episode had them running out of things to talk to each other about, and then reconnecting through gossip, something that made my husband and I crack up laughing because it was almost verbatim to us a few months ago.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:37 PM on March 28, 2014

The 80's TV show Family Ties was the best and healthiest I've seen portrayed. But heed the Avett Brothers warning about getting your relationship advice from something scripted.
posted by any major dude at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

And I seriously loved Friends with Kids. I watched it after reading a really critical review, but the way the different characters were friends and loved and supported each other through some big challenges felt true and solid and kind to me.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2014

The couples in Parks and Recreation are pretty normal, at least in my experience. Leslie and Ben are over the top schmoopy, but they definitely have their own ideas about things and are good at seeing each other as whole, complete people. I also really like April and Andy's relationship because it seems ridiculous at first but they are well matched and even though they don't always get along it's obvious they are in it for the long haul.
I also might just be a little obsessed with Parks and Rec right now...
posted by ruhroh at 6:53 PM on March 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

Tom and Gerri in Another Year.
posted by okay-quiet-time at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

FNL's soundtrack is phenomenal. It's all performed or curated by Explosions in the Sky. The relationship between Tami and Coach Taylor is also mind blowing.

I second April and Andy from parks and rec too. They're very good mates and it really appeals to my "screw it, lets get married" leanings in romance.
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 7:58 PM on March 28, 2014

Virginia & Burt on Raising Hope. They are the most adorable, loving couple.
posted by fireandthud at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Thin Man movies
posted by Ideefixe at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

My favorite on-screen relationship is between Marge (Frances McDormand) and her husband Norm in Fargo. An intense movie where their relationship only gets about five minutes of screen time, but it kind of frames the entire movie and really is nice.
posted by sockermom at 8:16 PM on March 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pat Sr. and Dolores (Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver) from The Silver Linings Playbook. There's a lot of balance, affection, and humor in that relationship. Not the central characters, but arguably their relationship is the heart and hope of the movie.
posted by mochapickle at 8:17 PM on March 28, 2014

My favorite is Gomez and Morticia Addams.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:26 PM on March 28, 2014 [17 favorites]

The King's Speech was actually quite lovey in this respect.

Slightly off the wall suggestion: Farscape. Despite the setting and plot being completely fantastical, the two main characters have a relationship that is passionate, surprisingly realistic and ultimately supportive and not actually the main thrust of either character's arc. (Another scifi show that has a great supportive romance is Babylon 5.)

Away We Go is wonderful. 5 stars A+++

Departures can be a hard movie to watch if you're sensitive about death, but it's absolutely great and everybody should watch it. The relationship in the film goes through serious stress and you can experience societal expectations from a different cultural perspective.

If you're up for crying a lot, the parents in The Wonder Years were amazing.

Calendar Girls was great for showing a bunch of different kinds of relationships that dealt with things in different ways.

Charming British comedy: Vicar of Dibley, which has a myriad of couples and lots of weird singles. The main romantic couple of the show is just super adorable, and although they are buffoons you find yourself rooting for them.

Outsourced. Not the short-lived sitcom but the original movie by that name. Solid international romance, a little bit melodramatic at times but quite funny and sweet.
posted by Mizu at 9:56 PM on March 28, 2014

The TV series 'Medium' may not be your thing (in it, the supernatural is presented as fact) but one of the things I enjoy about it is the warm and down to earth relationship between the protagonist and her husband and also their life as a family with their kids.
posted by rjs at 10:41 PM on March 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I love the relationship between the parents in Easy A, as well as the relationship they have with their kids. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play Olive's parents as smart, funny, and affectionate - and the movie has a great soundtrack.

Also consider Big Fish - while the father and son have a strained relatinship, the marriages (father & mother and the son & his wife) are presented as supportive and compassionate.
posted by kbar1 at 11:45 PM on March 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

All of the relationships in The Kids Are Alright are healthy and flawed in a very human way.
posted by rosa at 12:22 AM on March 29, 2014

Oh, can we name shows too? If so, I vote The Little Couple on TLC! It's a reality show about a real couple, and off the top of my head, I can't think of a more loving, understanding, laid-back relationship than theirs. They have gone through plenty of challenges, and it always impresses me how in sync and in love they are through it all.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 12:58 AM on March 29, 2014

If we're naming programmes as well as films I've got a soft spot for the relationship between Marge and Homer Simpson.
posted by sianifach at 3:51 AM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

High fidelity. What real love is like, sometimes. And as far as soundtracks go..... Good luck topping it.
posted by chasles at 5:12 AM on March 29, 2014

Away From Her shows a loving, long-married couple dealing with the wife's Alzheimers. And you asked for movies, but Miranda and Steve's relationship in the TV show Sex & the City is probably the most realistic and nuanced of any I've ever seen on screen.
posted by orange swan at 8:10 AM on March 29, 2014

As Time goes by (TV series)
posted by miaow at 8:48 AM on March 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

One of the more touching relationships is portrayed in The Full Monty, where the husband's job loss really damages his self-esteem as Provider for Wife, and his behavior causes his wife to think he's stepping out, and they have a beautiful reconciliation that's so real and lovely because neither one is beautiful or a superstar. They're just folks, and they love and support each other, and it's oh, just so lovely.

Also like seeing the adults in Parenthood, although they all really need to scream a lot less and listen a lot more. The nice thing about this show is how many different archetypes there are, and how many different ways couples work to resolve conflict and get through challenges.

If you're looking for books, I'd add in The Time Traveler's Wife and some of the essays in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
posted by Capri at 11:25 AM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

The two younger Modern Family couples.
posted by redlines at 11:57 AM on March 29, 2014

I liked the relationship in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. As small town as it gets!
posted by quincunx at 12:07 PM on March 29, 2014

Once has an absolutely incredible soundtrack, won an Oscar for best song and though it's about the development of a relationship, it's healthy and awkward and very real.
posted by cnc at 2:17 PM on March 29, 2014

The Goodbye Girl is all about how to recognize this.
posted by Mchelly at 6:29 PM on March 29, 2014

Response by poster: Awesome. This is so helpful. Thank you!
posted by macinchik at 7:50 PM on March 29, 2014

Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones is lovely.

And I really liked the HBO bio-pic about pre-presidential FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt Warm Springs. Just taking it as a work of fiction, it's a great depiction of a loving, companionate marriage. (I don't know how it stands up as a work of non-fiction, probably not very well all things considered, but it makes for a good movie.)
posted by oh yeah! at 10:00 PM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and the 70s classic "Love Story"

It starts off a little rom-comy but then they start to build a life together, and face problems together and call each other out on their issues.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:14 AM on March 31, 2014

Game of Thrones.
posted by goethean at 2:08 PM on April 1, 2014

I was also going to recommend "The Kids Are All Right". There are some problems that crop up in one of the relationships, but I think it's handled really well as far as how they fight and what ends up happening.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:56 PM on April 1, 2014

Lars and the Real Girl. Lars' brother's relationship...
posted by dobie at 3:36 AM on April 7, 2014

I really really like the relationship portrayals in Playing by Heart, plus it's a fantastic movie with lots of beautiful people. Among the different relationships portrayed, it covers a lot of ground in a regular length movie, and really well I think, including infidelity, terminal and chronic illness, anxiety, exes, etc.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:56 AM on April 8, 2014

Father of the Bride And Parenthood are both excellent examples.

(Yes, the TV series Friday Night Lights is a great example, too.)
posted by GatorDavid at 3:52 AM on May 27, 2014

Previously: Stories about Healthy "Normal" Marriages?
posted by tomcooke at 12:16 PM on March 6, 2015

Ben and Leslie on Parks and Rec 4eva
posted by ifjuly at 9:06 PM on March 6, 2015

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