Reality TV shows like big brother, currently airing its exciting 24th season, prove that audiences are incredibly invested in watching people build relationships and alliances only to betray them, and the idea is just as popular in scripted media. For example, the latest episode of The Boys just featured a critical betrayal, and it has fans on the edge of their seats. And there is no betrayal more heartbreaking than one between lovers.
This idea goes all the way back to the Femme Fatales of film noir, though it quickly spread beyond that genre. Most examples feature a woman betraying the hero, which justifies their cold exterior in later films, but there are a few excellent examples that turn the trope on its head or dive deeper to make more interesting social commentaries. Ranker gathered together several examples of this trope, allowing their readers to vote on which romantic betrayals sting the most.
Note: Ranker lists are fan-voted, live, and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.
10 Sky High – Will’s Girlfriend Ends Up Being His Parent’s Rival
Sky High follows Will Stronghold, the son of two of the world’s greatest superheroes, as he tries to navigate high school. He falls for senior technopath, Gwen Grayson, but she turns out to be a supervillain named Royal Pain. Royal Pain had been stopped by his parents decades before, and she intends to take her revenge on every hero at the school.
This may be a teen movie, but its plot twist was surprisingly effective. While it was clear that Gwen was mean, intentionally separating Will from his friends, her villain turn took the trope to the next level. The film elevated everything to the stakes of a superhero movie, so having the love interest turn into the villain sent a great message about knowing who one is dating.
9 The Mask – Stanley Follows Peggy Right To The Mob
After finding a mask that gives him superpowers, Stanley Ipkiss goes on a chaotic rampage, getting back against those who’ve hurt him. Along the way, he acquires two love interests—Tina, the girlfriend of a gangster, and Peggy, a kind-hearted reporter. Unfortunately for Stanley, the women are not all they seem, as Peggy betrays him to the gangsters, resulting in the gangsters stealing the mask and threatening the city.
This twist subverted the viewer’s expectations, as there was no reason to believe Peggy would help the villains. Because Tina had an established connection with the gangsters, she would have been the expected femme fatale. Instead, her past allowed her to help Stanley while Peggy chose money over morality, pushing fans toward the correct girl for Stanley.
8 The Dark Knight Rises – Miranda Literally Stabs Batman In The Back
As Bruce tries to form a romance with Wayne Enterprises CEO Miranda Tate, he has to step back into his role as Batman to stop Bane from destroying Gotham. However, before he can stop Bane for good, his victory is stolen from him by Miranda, who stabs him and reveals herself as Talia al Ghul.
Though the movie suffered from having too many villains, Talia’s betrayal was very effective. It highlighted the moral differences between Catwoman and the other villains and demonstrated Batman’s vulnerabilities. However, the plot twist itself makes a fool out of “the world’s greatest detective,” which is unfortunate for Bruce’s character.
7 Casino Royale – Vespers…Enough Said!
This film, considered one of the best James Bond films ever made, takes place just after Bond received his 00 status. He goes on his first official mission and begins to fall for Vesper Lynd, a woman he works with extensively during his mission. After he forces himself to open up to her and even quits M16, he discovers that she was a double agent all along.
Though it was revealed later in the movie that Vesper turned on Bond because her lover was threatened, the sheer emotional torture she put him through seems more than necessary. She probably could have seduced him without breaking down his emotional walls, but by doing so, she ensured he would never fully trust a woman again.
6 The Stepford Wives (1975) – Joanna Finds Out Her Husband’s Real Plans
Joanna and Walter Eberhart move to Stepford, where their neighbors exhibit suspicious behavior. Feminist Joanna tries to make some changes in the neighborhood but soon discovers that the men are replacing their wives with perfect robotic duplicates. She attempts to run away, only to fall victim to the Men’s Association herself.
The Stepford Wives is fundamentally about betrayal, with Walter turning on Joanna shortly after learning about the conspiracy himself. Though he claims to support her ideas, he is actually after little more than a slave. The film is a crushing portrayal of gender dynamics, suggesting that men only keep women around for the services they provide.
5 Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade – Indy Surrenders His Weapon To Elsa
In this installation of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indie looks for his father, who has gone missing while looking for the Holy Grail. He meets his father’s colleague, Elsa Schneider, and forms a relationship with her. When they find his father, Henry warns Indiana not to give Elsa a gun, but he ignores the warning, only to discover that Elsa is a Nazi.
This Steven Spielberg classic uses this trope perfectly, as Elsa pushes Indiana to choose her over his own father, only to then turn on him. This was a great way to show the tension between the Jones men, as well as providing a great twist that made the finale that much more exciting.
4 Frozen – Hans Tricks Anna
Anna is naive and lonely, which leads her to quickly fall for Hans upon meeting him. However, when she comes to him, dying and hoping for true love’s kiss, he cruelly rejects her. As it turns out, Hans only wanted power, and his wedding to Anna was intended to give him that.
This move was intended to subvert the idea of love at first sight that was so common in other Disney films, but it also created a Disney villain that nobody expected. Anna learns to approach love more cautiously moving forward, and Hans’s villainy makes it easier to see Kristoff as a viable love interest instead.
3 The Truman Show – Everything Is Fake, Including Truman’s Wife
The Truman Show follows a man whose life is being broadcast on television, a fact that he discovers over the course of the film. His wife Meryl is an actress, and she is committed to making sure he can’t leave. While she tries to keep the show running (and advertisements rolling), he forces her to break character.
Although this isn’t a surprise to the audience, the idea of Meryl lying to and manipulating Truman for years is horrifying to think about. There was never an authentic moment in their relationship at all, and because his whole life had been controlled this way, there was never any reason for Truman to suspect a thing.
2 Get Out – It’s All A Trap
When Chris Washington heads to New York to meet his white girlfriend’s family, he begins noticing some disturbing things. The black workers at the estate act strangely, and the family makes uncomfortable racial comments. However, he determines to stick it out for Rose’s sake until the warning signs become too much to ignore. Before he can get away, however, Rose and her family reveal their secrets and prove that they are willing to do anything to keep him from getting to safety.
While Rose doesn’t personally commit many crimes, she is more than just complicit with her family’s twisted hobby. She lures in their victims, pretending to care for them until her family can forcibly take them over. This is horrifying in its own right but has special significance given the history of black men losing their lives on the word of white women, allowing the slow-burn suspense thriller to comment on a larger issue in society than just a traitorous girlfriend.
1 Rosemary’s Baby – Guy Is Working With The Cult
Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse move into an apartment building that has a tragic and mysterious history. Their new neighbors are unusually invasive, and when Rosemary falls pregnant, she suspects that something is wrong. Guy continually reassures her, telling her that she is only hormonal and paranoid, but Rosemary soon discovers that he is working with their neighbors, having sold her out to a group of Satanists who are preparing for her baby, the Antichrist.
While Guy is not the only person involved in giving Rosemary to the Devil, he is the primary figure who gaslights Rosemary throughout the film. This highlighted the power discrepancies between genders, as Guy controls everyone’s perceptions of Rosemary’s sanity— even the audience’s.
NEXT: 10 TV Shows With The Best Plot Twists In The Pilot According To Reddit
MCU: 15 Biggest Ways Thor Changed Since Phase 1
About The Author