The Worst Love Scene Acting Of All Time

Love scenes are like the Olympics of acting. Imagine you go to work, take off your clothes, and pretend to make out with a coworker while the rest of your coworkers stand around watching and you might have some small idea of the awkwardness involved. So any time a love scene turns out really well, the actors involved should probably get some sort of special award or cash bonus. While bad acting or poor directorial choices can sink any film, love scenes can be particularly ruinous; when they don't turn out well it's often unintentionally hilarious or disturbing, taking the audience right out of the story and into a nightmare world of frightening facial expressions and dubious anatomical engineering. We're not talking about scenes that are meant to be comedic, that are intentionally terrible. We're talking about movie scenes that were intended to be exhilarating or emotionally powerful but are ... just completely not. 

In fact, sometimes a love scene can be so legendarily awful for everyone involved that it becomes more famous than the film itself. Watching the love scenes on this list go off the rails can be utterly fascinating; you try (and generally fail) to understand each decision, to map every oddball choice to some sort of recognizable human emotion or physical urge, slowly going mad as each question just leads to more questions.

The pool scene in Showgirls

Showgirls arrived in 1995 and almost immediately became legendarily bad, a film from director Paul Verhoeven that rode a wave of an erotic thriller revival he himself had launched with 1992's Basic Instinct. Every aspect of Showgirls is a little wacky, from Elizabeth Berkley's deranged facial expressions to the sudden, violent plot twists that somehow keep escalating beyond what you previously thought you could tolerate. One reason the film has attained the rarefied air of pop culture permanency — a film you can reference in almost any cultural setting and immediately be understood — is the love scene between Elizabeth Berkley's Nomi and Kyle MacLachlan's Zack in a pool, which makes getting it on somehow resemble an endurance contest, or possibly hand-to-hand combat. 

As Empire Magazine once said of the scene, "as Berkley thrashes around in the water, it looks more like the first ten minutes of Jaws." To this day some folks defend the film as brilliant satire or see deep insights into modern-day American culture and claim the pool scene is intentionally over-the-top and creepy. What's really amazing is the fact that even if this is true — even if it turns out that Verhoeven's direction during the scene was "Make it weirder! Weirder!" — the scene is still nothing but disturbing on every level.

Fifty Shades Freed: The entire film

The Fifty Shades books by E.L. James were a sensation because they depicted all sorts of grown-up activities in an unapologetic and female-centric manner. They were also a sensation because of a lot of cliche-heavy bad writing, but bad writing never stopped a book from being a fun read. The success of the series made a film adaptation inevitable, but somehow the films managed to remove not only any sensual charge the books managed to generate, they also remove any sense of naughty fun, which was half the reason anyone read the books in the first place. Say what you will about her writing, James eventually managed to write about lovemaking in a realistic and arguably healthy way. 

While all three of the Fifty Shades films have examples of turning those love scenes into remarkably uninteresting sequences, the third film, Fifty Shades Freed, manages to ruin the one thing James consistently got right: the accuracy. In a scene where the no-longer-inexperienced Anna spies a tantalizing, er, device in Christian Grey's Special Drawer, she goes on to use it without any sort of preparation or assistance — which would be incredibly uncomfortable and possibly even dangerous in real life. As Cosmopolitan complained, "Why does the movie version go out of its way to portray ... acts in a more painful manner than they were depicted in the book?"

The Room: Lisa and Johnny (both times)

Dunking on Tommy Wiseau's unintentional comedy classic The Room is almost too easy, but its legendary incompetence means the two almost-identical love scenes contained within it are diamond-sharp comedic highlights. The Daily Beast once described this film as feeling like "the handiwork of an eighth-grader whose knowledge of grown-up life comes from scattered late-night viewings of Cinemax movies," and the love scenes between Lisa and Johnny are perfect examples of this. 

They have everything a kid whose knowledge of love comes from bad straight-to-video movies might assume is standard: gauzy draping, rain-splattered windows, a frankly impractical number of candles, awkward kissing while Tommy Wiseau struggles to hold his long, flowing locks out of their faces, and a series of poses that make you wonder if Wiseau had ever actually seen another human being before, because his understanding of female anatomy is ... strange. And all of this happens while the entirety of a third-rate R&B slow jam plays ... for three and a half minutes. And just in case you missed some of the jaw-dropping details of that scene, never fear: About 20 minutes later, Johnny and Lisa fall into bed again and Wiseau uses the same footage again with nary a change to differentiate the sequences.

Watchmen: The Owlship Scene

For a long time it was believed that Watchmen, the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, was unfilmable. Zack Snyder's 2009 adaptation did little to disprove this, combining some bravura action sequences with nifty design work with what many believe to be an almost total lack of understanding of what made the source material great. In one scene, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre have just returned from their first outing in their superhero suits and personas in years, and in the comic there are themes of empowerment, the power of adopted identity, and the dangers of being allowed to wallow in immaturity. 

As Paste Magazine put it, the scene "has gone down in popular opinion as one of the worst" love scenes "of all time." What really cinches how terrible this love scene is, however, is the use of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on the soundtrack, which then segues into a delirious choir just as Silk Spectre does some really awkward culmination-acting. It's all so over-the-top it ends up being too weird for a movie in which everyone wears a ridiculous costume.

Gigli: The Infamous Gobble Gobble Scene

Gigli is pretty much on every single list of "worst movies of all time," but it's also become shorthand for a specific type of terrible movie: the vanity project starring a celebrity couple who make the mistake of thinking their red-hot chemistry is so red-hot that the masses will pay money to watch 90 minutes of it. Originally conceived as a darker, grittier crime story, what wound up on screen was apparently tweaked to highlight the cultural phenomenon then known as Bennifer: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez's unlikely and ultimately doomed romance. 

In the film, Affleck is a low-level mob enforcer tasked with kidnapping a mentally challenged man, and Lopez plays another gangster, who happens to be a lesbian, sent to supervise for some inexplicable reason. This leads to, as GQ puts it, "the most unconvincing romance you've ever seen," which might actually indicate great acting, since the two actors were literally dating each other at the time. The scene where Gigli convinces Lopez (who is, we must stress again, a lesbian) to sleep with him is incredibly not-sensual, partially due to the smirking, passionless performances on both sides, and 99 percent due to the use of the phrase "Turkey Time. Gobble, gobble," which is just wrong in too many ways to count.

The Snowman brings new meaning to 'lifeless'

If you blinked and missed The Snowman in theaters a few years ago, good on you. Adapted from Jo Nesbo's bestselling Nordic noir crime novels, the film starred the phenomenally good-looking Micheal Fassbender as Harry Hole, an alcoholic detective chasing a gruesome killer. This was a high-profile film with big stars that somehow turned out as such an incomprehensible mess that you almost miss the fact that it also contains one of the most awkwardly awful love scenes of all time

When Harry and his ex-girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sleep together at one point in the film, Gainsbourg appears to be half-asleep, or perhaps making a grocery list in her head as she moves through the scene's blocking. Fassbender does her one better, however, apparently method acting a dead person. As Matt Taylor of The Pop Break writes, "Fassbender remains perfectly still on his back and Gainsbourg squats over him looking unimpressed and sad, while also remaining perfectly still." It's one thing to try and convey emotional damage visually, but it's quite another to put together a love scene that makes it seem like you're bored and/or repulsed by the person you're with while actively making everyone at home squirm in their seats and reach for the fast-forward button.

Munich's ending

Steven Spielberg is a genius, so it's tempting to give him a pass on the insane love scene that comes at the end of Munich, which tells the story of Israeli agents working to avenge the deaths of 11 of their athletes at the hands of terrorists during the 1972 Olympics. It's clear what Spielberg is doing: In the beginning of the film he shows Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) with his wife, and it's joyous and loving. At the end, after going through a personal hell, Avner once again sleeps with his wife, but now he's haunted and broken. On paper that seems like solid directing. On film, it's a lengthy sequence of Eric Bana making unintentionally hilarious faces. Or, as SlashFilm puts it, "It borders on the surreal, with Spielberg shooting up into Bana's face as he thrusts away at his wife, a look of horror and sorrow slowly dawning on him." 

If you still somehow think that sounds emotionally powerful, we'd also direct you to the extremely important question Complex Magazine once asked: "Why is he so sweaty? Why?" Whoever thought visually representing PTSD during a love scene was an inspired idea should be forced to watch this atrocity of a scene on a loop until they repent.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Let's forget the fact that in the Star Wars universe, Padmé Amidala is 5 years older than Anakin Skywalker, meaning when they first meet she's 14 and he's 9. That gives their eventual romance some slightly weird vibes, as it's sort of like growing up to marry your babysitter — but that's not why the love scene in the second prequel, 2002's Attack of the Clones, is so bad. That comes down to two things. 

First, there's George Lucas' script: As The Independent writes, his dialogue is "famously stilted," featuring lines like "If you follow your thoughts through to a conclusion, it'll take us to a place we cannot go." Second, there are the moribund performances of Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, who play the scene as if they were handed the script moments before Lucas yelled "Action!" and had only recently met (or, as The Independent continues, "with the coy awkwardness of drama students playing their first love scene before a classroom of tittering peers," which feels accurate). To be fair, "be as wooden as possible" seems to have been the main note that Lucas gave to all his actors, since the performances in these films are all equally muted and stiff — but that doesn't help sell this love scene.

The Matrix Reloaded: Trinity and Neo and the Rave

The Matrix blew minds in 1998 and demonstrated that the Wachowski siblings were masters at using modern technology to capture impossible action sequences. This should have made them adept at capturing a love scene, but what we got in 2003's The Matrix: Reloaded was a love scene between Keanu Reeves' Neo and Carrie Ann Moss' Trinity that was both a slow-motion travesty of misplaced gravitas and a love scene cross-cut with an incredibly strange rave-type celebration that is mostly the last surviving humans grinding it out on a dance floor. For six extremely long minutes. 

It's easy to see what they were going for with a celebration of the sweaty, messy business of being human instead of a cold hunk of murderous machinery, but the scene drags on far too long, while Reeves and Moss appear about as engaged and excited as if they were doing laundry. And the slow motion! With the boutique-at-the-mall dance music! All these bad choices combined with the slightly creepy Matrix implants all over their bodies results in a love scene that you want to skip right over. As Glamour puts it, "This is supposed to be a centerpiece of the movie, but it's just awful."

Twilight: Breaking Dawn wedding night

Twilight is a very strange story in so many ways. From the century-old Edward Cullen attending high school to the baseball obsession to the shirtless werewolves — not to mention the fact that Bella essentially falls in love with a creature who wishes to eat her — there's just one bonkers thing after another in this story. At its core, of course, it's a romance, and the build-up to Bella and Edward finally getting together and consummating their long-simmering relationship should be a powerful moment, a love scene for the ages. 

Instead, what we get, according to AV Club, "is not what most people would consider a romantic experience." The problem is the dissonance between the soft, romantic music and the violence implied on the screen. While the love scene begins with a tender embrace and romantic music, the end result is a bedroom that looks like someone took a sledgehammer to it. Sure, the idea is to imply Edward's passion coupled with his supernatural strength and effect on the world, but it's a deeply unsettling sequence, especially as the morning after is framed to make Bella look as tiny and overwhelmed as possible.

Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle Glastonbury seduction

Kingsman: The Secret Service was a fun adaptation of the long-running comic, and while it did include a somewhat off-putting love scene at the end, it was generally accepted as a riff on the dated James Bond scenes in which the secret agent made groaningly bad puns while seducing the Bond Girl. The sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, wasn't as much fun, and the love scene was a big reason why.

To be fair, the scene is supposed to be awkward for the hero, Eggsy, who is tasked with following Clara, the ex-girlfriend of one of the antagonists, and planting a tracking device on her in an extremely and unfortunately intimate way. The whole scene is awful. Eggsy's obvious discomfort with the mission doesn't blunt the horror of what unfolds on the screen. As CNET wrote in its review, the scene "feels laddish and crudely male gaze-y, not to mention cringingly manufactured." Attempts to make Clara clearly one of the bad guys and the romantic aggressor in the scene don't do much to make this sequence any less awkward to watch — especially since the only possible reason it's included is to titillate.