Movie recommendations for healthier dating and relationships
March 6, 2015 7:42 AM   Subscribe

It is very easy to find films depicting unhealthy and/or unrealistic relationships. They can make for highly entertaining viewing. But what about films depicting emotionally healthy people doing emotionally healthy things with each other while building emotionally healthy relationships? Facing disagreements and mundanity and catastrophe and agreement and enjoyment and ecstasy?

A couple of months ago, I asked for reading recommendations for healthier relationships.  The response was great, and I'm partway through reading and reviewing  each book.  However, I've realized that it's sometimes hard to translate skills I haven't seen in use before - skills that are used by healthy couples in private - from the page to real life.  So I'd like to follow that question up with this one: What movies/documentaries/TV shows/videos would you recommend for someone wanting to watch others do dating and relationships well so that I can learn to do it better?
posted by clawsoon to Human Relations (44 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Friday Night Lights (TV show, not movie). Those Taylors know how to be married.
posted by something something at 7:49 AM on March 6, 2015 [22 favorites]

"Parks and Rec" (Leslie and Ben)
"The Good Neighbors"/"The Good Life" (Tom and Barbara--at least, the first few seasons)
"Brooklyn Nine Nine" (Captain Holt and his husband, Kevin, though they're secondary characters and aren't on screen a lot)

I know people like to quote Tolstoy: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." But I disagree, and would love to see more healthy relationships--which I think are all unique somehow or other. Seeing couples who are functioning teams work on things and overcome obstacles is cool, too, and I think our cultural emphasis on the opposite results in predictable stories, lazy writing, and stupid stereotypes.
posted by wintersweet at 7:50 AM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

Great project! There was a similar question about a year ago here, so some of those answers might interest you as well.

At that time, I said the relationship between Marge (Frances McDormand) and her husband Norm in Fargo was my favorite on-screen relationship (although that is not the focus of the movie) and I'll say it again, because my opinion hasn't changed. :)
posted by sockermom at 7:54 AM on March 6, 2015 [14 favorites]

Kinda jokey but mostly serious: Gomez and Morticia Addams.

Others: Fargo (Marge and her husband), The King's Speech, and Up (oh, Carl and Ellie).
posted by superlibby at 7:54 AM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

Lily and Marshall on "How I Met Your Mother"
posted by magnetsphere at 8:00 AM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

Parenthood has some good examples.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:04 AM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

I liked the relationship between Grace and Mason in Short Term 12. They were dealing with a difficult issue, but the relationship in itself seemed healthy.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 8:05 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

For a relationship going through a crisis, I like Fearless. It's surreal but I like the way the wife, played by Isabella Rossellini, maintains her boundaries.
posted by BibiRose at 8:09 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Came here to suggest Parenthood as well. The entire show is about human relationships, and it's very well written.
posted by alligatorman at 8:10 AM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Peter and Elizabeth Burke on "White Collar."
posted by cabingirl at 8:11 AM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

The Butler.
posted by Melismata at 8:11 AM on March 6, 2015

Kind of a weird one to occur to me, but Tom and Joyce Barnaby have a very tranquil and stable if occasionally wacky relationship in Midsomer Murders, even if the rest if the county is engulfed in an ocean of bloody revenge murders.
posted by selfnoise at 8:14 AM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

TV- Bones (Booth and Brennan) - at least the earlier seasons. I haven't been watching the newer seasons.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:15 AM on March 6, 2015

I liked The Trip, because it contrasts Rob Brydon's loving relationship with his wife to Coogan's relatively unhealthy former relationship.
posted by Paper rabies at 8:21 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson in "Easy A" seem to be a great couple, awesome parents, and all-around cool people.
posted by mouse noises at 8:25 AM on March 6, 2015 [19 favorites]

For me, Roseanne was the first place where I saw a family that was fucked up like mine on television; a family where there wasn't always enough money, where parents lost their temper at you for things that weren't your fault or screamed at you in a way that was genuinely scary. It also meant a lot to me to see those conflicts resolved in a way they weren't necessarily in my real life. Dan and Roseanne always make up; Roseanne wants to violate Becky's privacy and read her diary, but doesn't; Roseanne apologizes for flying off the handle and hitting DJ and swears through tears that it will never, ever happen again.

All that probably disqualifies it, but like I said, it was very important for me to heal from all the childhood bullshit. I think it's a good warts-and-all depiction of people who struggle and aren't perfect but who genuinely love each other and want to be better.


On the fluffier tip: the parents on the sitcom Grounded for Life were teenage parents who got married and made it work and love each other a bunch. It's also really funny and the mom is hot. Both Grounded for Life and Roseanne are on Netflix.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:29 AM on March 6, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think Ethan Hawke's character in Parenthood had a wonderful depiction of a good relationship (I won't spoil it for people who haven't seen it yet.) In this particular relationship that I have in mind from the movie, you notice how he finds his true self while also his life molds to find common ground with his partner, but he very noticeably never loses himself and individuality in the process. Anywhere you can see two people who build a life together while existing as separate, whole, striving individuals is a good example.
posted by incolorinred at 8:33 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love House Hunters. It features real couples making an important personal and financial decision, showing how they compromise on modern vs. traditional styles, backyard size, carpets vs. wood floors, etc.

Best of all, they all look like normal people, i.e. not Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt.
posted by invisible ink at 8:33 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really like the movie How Do You Know

Basically, an olympic athlete is going through a rough patch in her career, she starts hooking up with a nice but self-centred major league athlete, and kind of fumbles along in that relationship while slowly becoming friends with another guy who is also at the worst point in his career.

I bought that movie (and when I lent it / lost it, I bought it again) because it is all about the sensitive wordless ways we give each other what we need, and that is what relationships are about imo. At the same time, everyone conducts themselves with a straightforward confidence that you don't often see in rom-coms. No hijinks or contrived misunderstandings. They are who they are, they say what they think & what they want, and they try to get along.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2015

Toula & Ian in My Big, Fat Greek Wedding
Astrid & Paul in White Oleander
Harold and Maude
The teens in Whisper of the Heart
Everyone in UP
Stanley Tucci & Meryl Streep in Julie& Julia
The young couple (plus the father & daughter) in Father of the Bride
Donna & Max in The Obvious Child
Steve Carrell & Julianne Moore in Crazy, Stupid Love -- A couple somewhat realistically grappling with the end of their romantic relationship and ultimately being graceful about their faults

+1 to Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson in "Easy A"!

I also can think of a lot of nonromantic amazing healthy relationships on film but I get the feeling that isn't what you're asking
posted by Katine at 8:38 AM on March 6, 2015

Cuban Fury was really interesting, because it took a pretty conventional romcom plot (dude finds out woman he likes is into Salsa dancing, starts Salsa dancing to woo her) and turned it inside out. It is on Netflix.


-it turns out he was already a Salsa champion as a child, but gave it up due to bullying, and the movie features a lot of people pointing out to him that he should get back into it because he loves it, not for a woman
-She is simultaneously pursued by a dirtbag who is repulsive, and everyone in the movie treats him as repulsive
-The woman is his boss, and he expresses some really reasonable reservations about how complicated a relationship would be, and whether or not it is appropriate for him to express interest at all
-the big scene where he reveals his dancing to woman he likes is more about him and his family and his dancing friends reuniting more than impressing his crush, and
-they dance, but do not kiss, and definitely are not Suddenly In Love, but instead share a bond shared on a mutual passion


The movie has some problems, but I really liked its inversion of several tropes.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2015

I can't describe it in words, but we really loved "Secretary". with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

We watched it and we just got it, and we loved those two together (against the world, so to speak).
Maybe I'm wrong, maybe someone else can explain it better than me, but man - it's good in a very, very unconventional but loving sort of way.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 8:50 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) in Another Year.
posted by girlpublisher at 9:04 AM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Waltons.
posted by jbickers at 9:12 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Raising Hope.
posted by bricoleur at 9:49 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

My go-to answer for this is always, always the Addamses from The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 10:02 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

I liked the Julia Child relationship in the Julie and Julia movie. Unfortunately, I HATED the Julie half of that movie and ended up fast forwarding through all of it. The Julia half made the fast forwarding worth it, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:14 AM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

I was thinking about my favorite couples and I thought I'd throw a few more out there:

Phil and Claire on Modern Family - Two weirdos raising weirdo kids together.

Adama and Roslin: Battlestar Galactica - Deep love and acceptance in your 50's and 60's. It's less fireworks and more of a slow, burning ember.

Murray and Beverly: The Goldbergs - LOUD ON THE OUTSIDE, love on the inside. Wonder Years for the 80's.

Ditto The Addams Family; more weirdos who embrace and love their weirdness.

Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser (Paul and Jamie Buchman): Mad About You - THIS was the show that made me feel like an adult relationship was even possible. Until they had a baby, then the writing and chemistry really went downhill. Bonus points for crazy inlaws and siblings.

Jim and Pam: The Office. Just normal and funny. Just because you're married doesn't mean you can't still be partners in crime.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:24 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really liked Gavin's parents (Mick & Pam) on Gavin & Stacey. Pam's kind of high-strung but Mick is very level-headed and they're just really nice to each other all the time.
posted by jabes at 10:35 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Thin Man series. Yes, it's old and they don't have money troubles, but they have the perfect marriage.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:46 AM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

@incolorinred, i think you mean Boyhood.
posted by sazerac at 1:47 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm with small_ruminant. I LOVE Julia Child and Paul in Julie and Julia (Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep), and hated the Julie parts (just fastforward, she's awful).

In the movie Julia Child and her husband move to Europe for his work, she takes up cooking, they're supportive of all the transitions each are making, acknowledge their sadness in not having been able to have kids, are happy for her sister who gets married, etc... It's a lot. What's great is that they genuinely like each other and are rooting for each other the whole time!
posted by jrobin276 at 2:22 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

I always liked the making-breakfast-before-school scenes in Medium.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:41 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

i would even build onto wintersweet's suggestion for parks and rec - i think most of the couples on that show have healthy relationships that capture different perspectives: ben and leslie as the semi-traditional couple, ann and chris as the non-traditional partners, andy and april as the young-inexperienced-but-in-love couple, and ron and diane as the different-worlds-but-old-enough-to-deal couple.

also, seconding the parents in Easy A - so perfect.
posted by carlypennylane at 3:44 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Correction for the record, I meant to say "Boyhood" in my comment above regarding the name of the movie; not "Parenthood".
posted by incolorinred at 5:20 PM on March 6, 2015

Secretary features a hot relationship, but I wouldn't say it's necessarily a healthy one.

My vote is for Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski in Away We Go.
posted by Phire at 6:00 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh yes, Away We Go is such a cute movie - the couple portrayed is super sweet (but realistic!).

Came back to recommend Paul and Jamie in the 90's series Mad About You. (Really, re-runs of I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke aren't bad for this either!)
posted by jrobin276 at 10:15 PM on March 6, 2015

Someone already mentioned HGTV. I also like how the house hunting programs show how couples make decisions and compromises.

There are two shows right now on HGTV that I enjoy because it shows remodeling-business couples working together. Fixer Upper and Flip or Flop.
posted by cda at 6:28 AM on March 7, 2015

I'd also strongly vote for the main couple in Away We Go. And on tv, real-life couple on Fixer Upper, and Jim and Pam on The Office.
posted by aggielc at 9:43 AM on March 7, 2015

Hank and Peggy Hill impress me with the ways that they work together to accept and deal with each other's flaws. She makes him less uptight and finds ways to help him express his feelings; he's very protective and supportive of her even when it's obvious her ideas seem impractical.
posted by bendy at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really like the relationship between Frankie and Mike in The Middle. Realistic with ups and downs but consistently loving and accepting.
posted by lwb at 9:37 PM on March 7, 2015

- Parenthood (the movie and the TV show)
- Dick Van Dyke Show
- The Newharts
- West Wing (the Bartletts)
- The Incredibles
- Little House on the Prairie
posted by GatorDavid at 8:16 PM on March 23, 2015

Philip & Elizabeth Jennings, from 'The Americans'.

It's not exactly what you specified - a traditionally strong marriage with emotionally healthy people - but to me it's a very moving depiction of a marriage, especially in seasons 2 and 3. You get to watch them make a conscious decision and put in the effort to be committed to their marriage, even in the face of difficult and imperfect circumstances. Honestly, I find some of their scenes together to be just infinitely more romantic than scenes from a more straightforwardly happy conventional relationship.
posted by toska at 10:43 AM on June 26, 2015

« Older Mystery Forest Animal Sound   |   Best way to play audio wirelessly from Android to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.