At number three, we’ve got another, very different, spacefaring couple. Han and Leia are one of those classic Princess-and-the-Outlaw style romances, in the tradition of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, but because neither one of them is the story’s protagonist, they’re free to be both more balanced and more colorful than most couples of their kind, leaving Luke to handle all the more isolating and monotonous aspects of the hero’s quest. They’re also one of those stories about antagonism resolving into attraction, the kind that set a precedent for terrible fan fiction about innocently antagonistic characters the world over, but the tension of their relationship’s progress is so much fun that I have to forgive them for that.
The fact that Leia is far from a traditional princess character certainly helps. She’s a politician and a rebel, in the public rather than private sphere, a little exacting but unquestionably capable, a match for Han in every aspect of the epic story, outside of the private who-marries-whom drama. She can fight with the best of them, argue intelligently, and she’s believably difficult to dazzle. Han strikes a great balance for a rogue character, dark and seemingly amoral enough to warrant the title (he did shoot first, after all), but when he decides to be a hero, he does it dramatically enough to leave no doubt as to what he’s made of, and there’s an air of inevitability to it. Han isn’t the bad guy a naïve, misguided girl thinks she can change; he’s the good guy who’s in flimsy denial of what he already is.
Obviously, I’m not one to deny that the original trilogy romance has great dialogue. Even once Han and Leia are together, they stay themselves and keep up the banter nicely, unlike so many other tension-heavy pairs. “I love you,” “I know” remains a favorite exchange for nerdy couples today, and I doubt anyone who’s ever seen The Empire Strikes Back will ever be able to use the word “scoundrel” the same way again, but there’s also no denying that the pure charisma and chemistry of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher did a lot to make Han and Leia as iconic a couple as they are. It certainly helps put them over the top and onto this list.
Antagonistic attraction honorable mention: Beatrice and Benedick of Much Ado About Nothing. They did it first, they did it right, and they came this close to taking this spot.
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