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13 Incestuous Couples: Who Has Good Chemistry?

Over the weekend we had a chance to see Cyrus, which stars Marisa Tomei as a single mother and Jonah Hill as her inappropriately attached adult son, Cyrus. While these two don’t break any laws, either of government or of nature, their relationship is a little more intense than the typical mother-son bond: Cyrus creepily surprises her and her new boyfriend (John C. Reilly) while they make out, and walks into the bathroom while his mom takes showers. Of course, if they had taken it to the next level it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise: Engaging in the most taboo kind of love in entertainment is as old as Oedipus (fifth century B.C.!), and only occasionally as traumatic. So, in the name of love and family, and those rare moments when the two intersect, we take a look at some of the most memorable instances of fictitious incest, from the smoldering to the totally sick.

Relationship: Siblings, though obliviously so Romance: Before they knew they were twins, Luke had a thing for Leia. Leia kissed him, but mostly because she was trying to make Han Solo jealous (who can blame her?). Luke’s subsequent discovery that relations between Leia and him would be verboten was actually a lucky thing, otherwise a bitterness toward his more handsome and cock-blocking pal Solo could have really festered. Chemistry: Lukewarm (ba dum dum!)
Relationship: Fraternal twins Romance: The only thing Parker Posey’s character likes more than dressing up as Jackie O. and restaging the Kennedy assassination is her twin brother, Marty (Josh Hamilton). Marty tries to look outside his family tree for romantic options, and returns home with fiancée Lesly (Tori Spelling). However, once he and Jackie start playing Dealey Plaza for old times’ sake, the magic (and crazy) is re-sparked. Chemistry: Just the first pair on this list to suggest there is no match for a romantic history that begins in the womb.
Relationship: Fraternal twins Romance: What happens when you lock two teenagers in an attic for years, forcing them to take care of their younger siblings and share a bathroom while surviving on limited food, light, and an infinite amount of hormones? One possibility is what goes down between Cathy and Chris in the famously naughty V.C. Andrews book (and made-for-TV movie), which posits that nothing can stop the teenage sex drive, not even arsenic poisoning. Chemistry: This book is to tween girls what lingerie catalogues are to tween boys.
Relationship: Mother and son Romance: Count the ways that Norman Bates has an inappropriate relationship with his mom. (1) After the death of his father, he and his mother develop an entirely co-dependent relationship. (2) When she gets a new boyfriend, Norman becomes so jealous he kills her and her new boyfriend. (3) He keeps her body, preserved, just to have her around the house. (4) He develops an alternate personality that is “Mother,” and she, like Norman, gets so jealous that she kills people whenever Norman is attracted to them. Chemistry: This is a very unhealthy, disturbing, corpse-ridden relationship, regardless of bloodline.
Relationship: Mother and son Romance: When Marty McFly goes back to 1955, he becomes quite the ladies’ man thanks to his mad skateboarding skills. Among his many admirers is the teenage Lorraine Baines, who will grow up to be Marty’s mother. Pre-pregnancy, however, she finds her future son dreamy. (His relationship with his future father, George, remains strictly one of mutual respect.) Though he resists Lorraine’s advances, she won’t be put off until partaking of a smooch that “feels like I’m kissing my brother.” This lack of spark is fortuitous for Marty, who finally stops disappearing from the family photo that’s proof he will ever be born. Chemistry: When Lorraine says “kissing my brother,” she means it in the bad way, not in the Flowers in the Attic way.
Relationship: Father and daughter Romance: The big reveal of this great noir is when Faye Dunaway’s Evelyn Mulwary tells Jack Nicholson’s Jake Gittes, “She’s my sister and my daughter.” Say what? Turns out the rich and powerful Noah Cross is Evelyn’s father and fathered a baby, Katherine, by her when she was 15. This relationship does not end well, with Cross murdering Evelyn and her husband, and then sweeping Katherine away as he introduces himself as her “grandfather.” Forget it, Jake; it’s horrifying. Chemistry: None.
Relationship: Siblings Romance: John and Franny Berry are the oldest of five children, living in a quirky family that makes the Glasses seem relatively normal. After Franny is raped in high school, John bulks up, gets extremely protective, and watches as Franny embarks on a number of love affairs, including one with a girl who dresses as a bear. Then, one night, after much longing, he becomes one of the conquests (a fact that’s glossed over in the movie adaptation of the John Irving book, which stars Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe as Franny and John). After the one-night stand, however, everything goes back to normal — or however normal the Berrys get — which is a rare placid aftermath of the incest game. Chemistry: The sweetest tale of incest on this list.
Relationship: Mother and son Romance: In this early David O. Russell film, a young medical student, Raymond (Jeremy Davies, better known as Farraday from Lost), is forced to stay home and care for his mother, Susan (Alberta Watson), after she hurts her leg. A summer of carrying her around the house, washing her down in the shower, and a complete inability to masturbate culminates in a night of rubbing lotion underneath her cast that leads to sex. Susan is far less perturbed by this than Raymond, who, in the grand tradition of Oedipus, begins to consider suicide, though, thankfully, eye-gouging remains a quaintly obsolete notion. Chemistry: They have some. That’s uncomfortable for everyone, so we’ll leave it at that.
Relationship: Mother and son Romance: Roy Dillon (John Cusack) is a con man with a con woman for a girlfriend. Lilly Dillon (Anjelica Huston) is his con-woman mother who hates that girlfriend a little too much. After a rousing, complicated, brutal triangle of who can con whom, Roy discovers that his mother is trying to steal all of his money. Trapped, Lilly does what crazy con women do: desperately try to seduce their sons. Chemistry: Let this be a lesson to all con men and women: When it comes to business, pleasure, and family, you should only mix two out of the three, at most.
Relationship: Twins Romance: It’s 1968, and young American Matthew (Michael Pitt), wandering around Paris, makes friends with a pair of gorgeous French twins who swear, despite being of different genders, that they were born attached at the shoulder. Matthew begins an affair with Isabelle (Eva Green), but immediately the sexual relations between the three get murky, as Isabelle and Theo (Louis Garrel) are extremely close. How close? Well, director Bernardo Bertolucci told CNN, “They have been together for nine months in the womb, and you are together in that kind of intimacy. There is no incest.” Chemistry: When people are as good-looking as these two, the standard social contract and ick factor does not apply.
Relationship: Siblings Romance: Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the patricidal evil emperor of Rome, can have anyone he wants, but he lusts after his sister, Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), anyway. Recently widowed, she’s uninterested, as Commodus is not only her brother, but a big jerk. This doesn’t keep him from trying to blackmail her into bed, and pathetically begging her to “stay with me tonight.” Ultimately all of his creepy advances fail, along with his other insidious plans. Chemistry: Sniveling, pervy egomania is unattractive even in emperors.
Relationship: Mother and son Romance: In the film, based on a truly twisted true story, Barbara Baekeland (Julianne Moore) begins to sleep with her son, Antony (Eddie Redmayne), to cure him of his homosexuality. Chemistry: All you need to know is that this story ends in murder.
Relationship: Mother and son Romance: Perhaps more co-dependent than flat-out incestuous, Buster and Lucille enjoy a relationship as unhealthy and infantilizing as it is hilarious. An overgrown mama’s boy with a bitchy alcoholic for a mama, Buster (Tony Hale) sporadically tries to break free of Lucille’s (Jessica Walter) influence. In one particularly representative incident, he joins the Army, much to his mother’s horror, only to have his hand bitten off by a “Loose seal.” She really will do anything to keep him close. Chemistry: Good enough to laugh at.
13 Incestuous Couples: Who Has Good Chemistry?