Guess Who’s Stuck in the Friend Zone? Princess Leia, Duckie and Mrs. McFly

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We love characters who are stuck in the “friend zone” because they remind us how difficult love can be—and that’s what makes love worth chasing. Our list of 10 reasons you might be stuck in the “friend zone” has it all—spies, light-sabers, pregnancy, cartoons and, of course, Molly Ringwald.

1. You are attracted to your son.
Back to the Future is a sci-fi movie that dips its toes cautiously into some incest-themed waters. When Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is transported back to the year 1955, he’s tasked with the job of making sure that his mom and dad fall in love with each other. Slight problem: his mom falls for him instead. George McFly (Crispin Glover) needs to get with Lorraine (Lea Thompson), but Lorraine is in love with Marty—and everyone is stuck in a bizarro version of the “friend zone.”

2. You are being too nice.
The Office went on long after the romantic turmoil of Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), but for the first few seasons it was a highly trenchant look at the pitfalls of the “friend zone,” as slacker office drone Jim yearned after an engaged receptionist who had no clue of his true feelings. Eventually, Pam managed to figure out what was going on, but until then, Jim was a desperate mix of helpless smirks and yearning glances shot at the camera.

3. You are in high school. It is supposed to be heart-breaking.
John Hughes more or less invented the concept of the “friend zone” when Jon Cryer was cast in the seminal role as “Duckie” in Pretty in Pink. Duckie does everything for his true-love Andie (Molly Ringwald)—he humiliates himself, he lip-syncs “Try a Little Tenderness,” he even escorts her to the prom—and he still doesn’t get the girl.

4. You are in love with a secret agent.
Poor Moneypenny, stuck in her office, trapped listening to James Bond’s double-entendres, when she really wants to be out in the world with him, locking lips and having adventures. For 50 years, Ms. Moneypenny has yearned for James Bond. Skyfall finally gave Moneypenny a chance to shoot a gun and make some steamy love with Bond. But then the movie just tossed her back into the office at the end.

5. You are Millhouse.
Milhouse is forever a bridesmaid, never a bride, so to speak. Milhouse has a passionate crush on brainiac Lisa Simpson, but he’s too much of a nerd even for the bookishly-inclined Lisa. “Everything’s coming up Milhouse!” he shouted once, in a brief moment of misguided hope for his love. But no, nothing is ever coming up Milhouse. But keep on trying, dude. Your perseverance is an inspiration to us all.

6. You are not convinced you are meant for each other.
When Harry Met Sally follows 20 years in the life of a non-couple. Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) instantly can’t stand each other, which of course means they’re desperately secretly in love with each other. It just takes Harry and Sally two decades to figure that out, fall in love and get married. We learn along the way that Sally is really good at fake orgasms, which should come in handy if the marriage ever starts to fall apart.

7. You are related, or a scoundrel.
The light-sabers and beeping robots hide the fact that the original Star Wars trilogy is a classic “friend zone” situation. Han (Harrison Ford) lusts for Leia (Carrie Fisher), Leia lusts for Luke (Mark Hamill), Luke lusts for Leia, Leia sort of lusts for Han…It’s complicated. It’s made more complicated by the fact that Luke and Leia are brother and sister, which is a real no-no. Meanwhile, Han is a little too much of a “scoundrel” for our initially uptight princess.

8. You are trying too hard to be cool.
Juno‘s Paulie (Michael Cera) is living proof that you can be trapped in the “friend zone” even after you knock someone up. While Juno (Ellen Page) goes about the business of pulling her life back together, Paulie is stuck mooning from the sidelines. But he finally manages to work up his gumption to get out of “the zone”—right before Juno goes into labor.

9. You are way too invested in discovering extra-terrestrial life.
The truth was out there—the truth that The X-Files’ Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) were better off as friends. Sure, they loved each other, but an actual relationship would have mucked up their working relationship, plus Mulder was always too busy being obsessed with his conspiracy theories to express his true feelings.

10. You have two eyes instead of one.
Futurama delivery boy Fry longs hopelessly for one-eyed mutant Leela. Fry always made it clear that he had a thing for Leela—she just also made it equally clear that she can’t stand him. And even when Fry finally managed to pull things together and get Leela to fall for him for 30 seconds, that’s when the series immediately got cancelled. Then it came back. Then it got cancelled again, but Fry’s desperate love for Leela, well, that has no cancellation date.

For another tale from the “friend zone,” check out the Michael Cera short “Gregory Go Boom” (below) which won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize in 2014.


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