Science fiction gives us space wars and robot uprisings, but there’s nothing as huge and awesome as a love story that spans star systems or timelines. Here’s our list of the top 10 greatest romances in science fiction.
Note: This list is just our personal preferences, plus those of our friends whom we polled online. Feel free to suggest your own candidates for “greatest love story” in the comments!
The tomboyish Makoto discovers she has the power to travel through time, and mostly uses it for frivolous things — including preventing her friend Chiaki from confessing he’s in love with her. After Makoto uses up her time-traveling mojo, Chiaki stops time and reveals he’s a time traveler from the future. Chiaki uses his own last chance to time-travel, saving their friend Kousuke. Chiaki’s erased from time, and Makoto realizes she loves him too — but maybe it’s not too late to rescue him from the timestream? I love this clip, where Chiaki leaves.
Some people complain that the romance between Kyle and Sarah happens way too fast, and feels too much like stalker-hood on Kyle’s part. But dude. He travels back in time to save her, and he’s got her picture. (Okay, he got it from her son, which is a bit odd.) And they bond in adversity and come together in a time of hunormous danger, with the apocalypse breathing down their necks, and a killer cyborg stalking them. Plus their love involves a time paradox, and paradoxes are automatically romantic. Bottom line: Their love results in the savior of humanity, which is as epic as it gets. Don’t believe me? Here’s a shmoopy fanvid.
It’s a classic recasting of Jane Eyre, as Jurgen Wehrmann writes in the essay “Jane Eyre in Outer Space”: Cordelia is a kick-ass commander of a survey spaceship who’s unlucky in love, while Aral Vorkosigan has suffered from an epically bad first marriage. On an expedition to an uncharted planet, Aral captures Cordelia, but they’re soon cut off from both their crews and forced to work together to survive. They fall in love, but when Cordelia returns to her feminist utopia on Beta Colony, her love for Aral is viewed as a mental illness or a sign of brainwashing — and the “therapy” for this turns out to be very nasty indeed. Cordelia survives a hostile planet, war, and the threat of mindfuckery to return to Aral’s side — where she later proves herself his ideal mate by bringing the severed head of Count Vidal Vordarian into a meeting of her husband and several of the Count’s partisans. Book cover art by David Cherry.
It’s bizarre that one of the most touching love stories in movies comes with almost no dialogue other than the characters repeating each other’s names. But seroiusly. If you didn’t get choked up when Wall-E put the umbrella over Eve, or when they were separated only to find each other again, then you’re the robot here. And like so many great epic love stories, their love saves the entire world. And here’s a shmoopy fanvid to prove it.
Paul and Chani face a great deal of tragedy, including the murder of their first-born child by a House Harkonnen raiding party, and later Irulan’s attempt to make Chani miscarry a second pregnancy. But their love affair is long-lasting and inspiring, and she provides his emotional support as he builds his rule. As Herbert writes, when Paul views the future: “Paul felt himself at the center, at the pivot where the whole structure turned, walking a thin wire of peace with a measure of happiness, Chani at his side. He could see it stretching ahead of him, a time of relative quiet in a hidden sietch, a moment of peace between periods of violence.”
She’s the girlfriend of the aptly-named Vicious, but she and Spike start a torrid affair, and he’s willing to resign from the Syndicate and elope with her. They arrange to meet in a graveyard, but then Spike is caught in a gun battle when he tries to tender his resignation. And Vicious tells Julia she has to kill Spike — but rather than do this, she goes into hiding, leaving Spike believing she betrayed him. He only finds out the truth when it’s too late.
They face so many obstacles together: They’re persecuted mutants in a post-apoaclyptic world full of religious people who hate anyone different. They’re cousins. Their families hate each other and won’t ever let them be together. But despite everything, the two telepaths form a strong bond of love and manage to escape together. When Rosalind lets go of her emotional armor and David can see inside her, it’s like a flower opening. (Detail of cover image by Mark Salwowski.)
Henry has a rare genetic disorder that makes him come unstuck in time — but he only time travels to other moments in his own life. Most of them involving his wife Clare. He visits her throughout her childhood, as a grown man — but it’s not creepy, as you might think. Instead, it’s incredibly sweet and tender. She grows up knowing she’s going to marry him, but then one day she meets him in real time and he has no clue who she is. This is one of the great romances, and a great example of time-travel romance done right.
This couple has been through so much together, including Aeryn’s “death” in “Die Me, Dichotomy,” not to mention the death of the duplicate John that Aeryn has a passionate affair with at one point. John finally gives up his dream of returning to Earth so he can be with Aeryn, and she finally agrees to marry him — and then, of course, the death thing again. Luckily, death can’t stop these two from being together. Here’s a list of the 25 greatest John/Aeryn moments. What did they leave out?
Their love was so strong, it turned Luke into Leia’s brother so they could be together. (I kid, I kid.) Anyway, it’s the classic story: a roguish smuggler and an uptight but ass-kicking princess discover they really love each other. And she risks everything to rescue him from being frozen in carbonite. Dude.
Thanks to Seth Kaufman, Elizabeth Bates, Andrew Liptak, Jessy Randall, Amy Vernon, Gunilla Leavitt, Joe Kinkopf, Barclay Sylvester, Lun’Esex, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Misty S., Beth Wine Garner, Ace the Zombie, Mike Berry, Madeline Ashby, Eremitic Jude, Pilot, Luis Alberto Urrea, Jason Von Evil, Derek Powazek, and everybody else who suggested pairings.
This io9 Flashback originally appeared in February 2010.
Update, 3:43 p.m., May 5, 2020: This post has been updated to remove several broken video embeds.