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Top 10 Clichés Of Love Triangles

These are the top cliches in love triangles! For this list, we’ll be looking at common tropes and cliches of love triangles, as so often employed in popular narrative media. Some are good, some are bad, but we’re not really interested in making value judgments. For our purposes, we’ll be ranking them based on their pervasiveness and impact in popular culture.

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Top 10 Clichés Of Love Triangles

Well, if it isn’t our old friend… the three-pointed romantic plot device. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Clichés Of Love Triangles.

For this list, we’ll be looking at common tropes and clichés of love triangles, as they are typically employed in popular narrative media. Some are good, some are bad, but we’re not really interested in making value judgments. For our purposes, we’ll be ranking them based on their pervasiveness and impact in popular culture.

#10: The Two-Person Love Triangle

Are you a fan of illusions? Then you’ll love this one, because what looks like a triangle, is in fact a straight line, usually involving a person with a big secret at one end. This particularly convoluted approach to the love triangle appears in such films as “Aladdin”, in which, after having shared a moment with Princess Jasmine, our titular hero dons the guise of Prince Ali in a misguided attempt to be with her. “Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane” example is arguably the longest running and perhaps most famous, though Batman has been known to dabble. Of course, sometimes neither party is aware of what’s going on, like in “You've Got Mail”.

#9: The Secret Love Triangle

In this love triangle, there’s bound to be a lot of hurt feelings, but hey, it certainly serves to ramp up the tension, so you can’t really blame writers for overusing it. The basis of this trope is just one person who, unfortunately, is involved with two people, who (sadly), are blissfully unaware of each other and are ignorant to the fact that they’re competing for their love’s attention. All love triangles are messy, but this particular variant is most likely to result in an unhappy ending for everyone when the truth comes out. Of course, sometimes there are more points to it than a triangle has...

#8: The Cock Fight

This one is simple and straightforward, but it still gets a lot of mileage in terms of sheer entertainment value. It’s best appreciated by a viewer willing to turn off their brain and ignore the rather toxic subtexts - like the objectification of the woman as something to be “won”, or on the flipside, the toxicity of someone potentially encouraging two lovers to duke it out for their affection. Ignoring such real world concerns however, this trope does allow for some rather hilarious montages of one-upmanship between the openly competitive suitors. It’s overdone, but it’s fun.

#7: The Arranged Marriage & True Love
It’s a tale as old as time. The struggle between responsibility and personal freedom. The conflict between the head and the heart - between duty, and true love. Thankfully for the audience, the emotions are less complex in this sort of love triangle, as feelings of genuine affection usually flow between only two points - the betrothed and the person they’ve fallen for. The person our hero or heroine has been promised to? They’re rarely cast in a very favorable light and are therefore easy to root against. The plot device has been used in a number of truly great films, but due to its simplicity, it’s also been done to death.

#6: One Good, One Evil

The heart wants what the heart wants, and sometimes, what it wants isn’t what’s best for it. In this self-destructive love triangle, our point of origin is torn between two literal polar opposites, a person who is good, pure and the right choice, and another who is evil, but has an undeniable charm and mysterious magnetism to them. Think of it as the girls love bad boys trope, but on steroids, or the Betty and Veronica dynamic, but cranked to hyperbolic extremes. In an admittedly interesting twist, it’s often the evil person who falls for our central figure, showing a softer side that complicates things in ways the good suitor could never have imagined.

#5: Friends or Family Interfere

Damn those meddling parents (or siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles… you get the idea). If there’s one force sure to get in the way of true love, it’s family. Even when there isn’t an arranged marriage at play, whenever money or status is involved, there’s always some self-interested party who insists on having the hero or heroine make the quote unquote “right choice” to secure their future, or rather, the future of the family. This has played a role in some of the greatest romance films in recent history, like “Titanic” and “The Notebook”, but it’s also exhaustingly overused in subpar

#4: Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor

This is another trope that, though cliché, can be used effectively when properly executed. “Titanic” and “The Notebook” are again, some of the first two movies to come to mind. Sorry, but they’re classics for a reason! It’s easy to root for the underdog, particularly in the context of a love story, and seeing the hero or heroine choose the impoverished or lower class romantic interest definitely adds an extra dose of “aw factor”. That being said, the fact that the “rich suitor” is almost always the villain tends to get old, which is part of what made “The Notebook” so refreshing.

#3: The Best Friend

Is there any worse hand that you can be dealt in life, or a romantic comedy, than to be the best friend of the girl or boy next door? You get to listen to them pining away after their romantic interest, while you die inside, little by little, holding back all those secret feelings. Of course, it only gets worse when that best friend finally manages to catch the attention of their romantic interest, and then you’re forced to actually see them become an item. It doesn’t always work out in real life, but thankfully, Hollywood usually throws us a bone and pairs off the best friends in the end. Except for Duckie... and Bruce Wayne.

#2: The Gentleman or the Scoundrel

AKA… the nice guy and the bad boy (or girl!). There are few tropes more common or overused across all manner of narrative media than this dichotomy between the kind, sweet suitor and the rebel who’s up to no good. Everyone, including the central character in our love triangle, knows that the good guy or girl is the right choice, but sweet and kind isn’t very exciting, is it? Though this cliché is enough to make you groan and find something else to watch when lazily employed, there’s no denying that it’s a building block of romance in pop culture.

#1: The Long Lost Love Returns

Dang long lost loves… can’t they just stay lost? This trope most commonly plays out in the context of a dramatic war movie, in which such and such soldier was presumed dead, only to come back after their partner has moved on. In its purest form, it’s absurdly melodramatic, but it’s also oh so watchable in its theatrics and overwrought speeches. Then again, there’s an even more common and simpler version of this cliché, in which the old boyfriend or girlfriend pops up to complicate an otherwise smooth relationship. It’s cliché, it’s often silly, but hey, there’s no denying the power of an old flame.

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