Monsters, Machines, and Mayhem: Exploring Unconventional Romance in Films

Lisa Frankenstein

A recurring theme in romantic comedies is that the two protagonists cannot be together for a Reason. The Reason can be more or less anything – they live in different cities, they support different sports teams, one likes cats and one likes dogs and other clearly insurmountable problems. But some films like their Reasons to be a bit more atypical. Recent horror comedy Lisa Frankenstein focuses on a romantic relationship between Lisa and a reanimated corpse. But Lisa Frankenstein is far from the first to have characters form relationships despite such huge differences…


In The Shape of Water, Elisa and Amphibian Man fall in love when Elisa works as a cleaner in a secret government facility. Neither can talk – Elisa due to a childhood accident and Amphibian Man either because of biology or language but they manage to communicate through sign language and music. TSoW is framed very much as a fairy tale, with a narrator talking about a Monster, of course, this Monster is not Amphibian Man but Michael Shannon’s sinister government agent.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army // credit: Universal Pictures

Clearly, an area Guillermo Del Toro was interested in before TSoW he made two Hellboy films. In these films, Hellboy, a half-demon brought into our world by Nazi occultists trying to bring in some supernatural reinforcements, essentially becomes a superhero. In the films he is in love with Liz Sherman, a human with superpowers who sometimes works in the same evil-fighting organisation. An interesting aspect of their on-again-off-again relationship is that Liz can create fire, the problem being she isn’t always able to control it, but Hellboy is sort of from hell, fire isn’t going to hurt him.


There’s a surprising number of films and tv show depictions of romantic relationships between zombies and non-zombies. Warm Bodies saw Teresa Palmer’s Julie fall in love with Nicholas Hoult’s R. R develops some feelings for Julie after eating the brain of someone she knew and this sort of awakens a human part of him. The zombies in Warm Bodies do cling to semblances of humanity and human behaviour – R’s love of music, especially on vinyl – yes, he is a hipster zombie.

Life After Beth
Life After Beth // Credit: A24

In Life After Beth, Zach is devastated when his girlfriend Beth dies and so is very happy when she comes back to life until it becomes clear just how dead she still is. And not only dead but violent, even murderous. There is The Santa Clarita Diet where even after turning into a zombie the marriage between the two main characters carries on very happily, or Pushing Daisies, the main character can bring people back to life with a touch and undoes it with another touch, he falls in love with someone he brings back meaning they can never touch.


Spike Jonze’s Her has a relationship between Joaquin Phoenix’s unhappy Theodore and his AI personal assistant Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha. Not only is Samantha not human she doesn’t have a body, existing simply as a computer programme. The film could be seen as a sci-fi rom-com and what is perhaps most interesting is that it follows more of the sci-fi route. For a start, it is not only Theodore who ends up in a relationship with their AI, many people do, sometimes as genuine friends or romantic partners. It is not just the story of two individuals finding love in atypical circumstances but a fundamental change in human society, or as it probably should be called human-AI society. The ending especially follows through on this- in rom-coms usually the people end up together, sometimes they break up, or sometimes one person can die. Her does perhaps what no other rom-com has ever done in that the various AIs start talking and the exponential brain power of them working together yields amazing results. So amazing that the AI collectively travel to some other plane of existence, leaving behind their human friends and partners.

Her //credit: Warner Bros Pictures

Westworld, Ex Machina, Blade Runner and more all feature relationships between humans and AI/robot partners. The Star Wars film Solo has a relationship between Lando Calrissian and L3. Futurama has human-robot relationships in various forms – from Fry dating a robot with an illegally downloaded personality of Lucy Liu to Bender and Amy and who knows what Hedonismbot is getting up to. Perhaps the most fun is the relationship between Bender, a robot, and Planet Express Ship, a spaceship.


Let The Right One In //credit: Sandrew Metronome

Humans and vampires having romantic relationships goes back a long way in vampiric fiction. Of course relatively recently we had the Twilight series of films – where teenage Bella falls in love with teenage-looking but much older vampire Edward. To establish good value for money the series also contains human-werewolf relationships. I have never seen the Twilight movies apart from seeing the end of the last film on a train in Spain whilst listening to music, which I think is actually how the director prefers people to watch it. I have however seen the tragically beautiful Let The Right One In and the sad relationship between two children; the human Oskar and vampiric Eli and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night the Iranian black and white vampire neo-western, which show the difficulties of relationships with somehow who comprehends the world – and the people in it – in a completely different way.

And of course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has human-vampire relationship, human-werewolf, human-robot, human-demon, human-preying mantis, and even a human-demon/computer/robot relationship and so would deservedly take the title.

Also Read: Rom-coms: The Unlikely Benchmarks of Feminist Progression

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Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.