Love triangles are a romance movie staple and are one of the most frequently used tropes to centralize a plot around. However, most of the best romance movies do not have love triangles because they, as a concept, almost never work.
One of the main types of love triangles can be seen in James Cameron’s Titanic. Now, Titanic is a really good movie, but the love triangle in that movie is really bad. In the film, Rose has a choice between her abusive fiancé Cal Hockley or young Leonardo DiCaprio. In these situations, the love triangle barely holds any conflict. The two options for the potential love interest are so imbalanced that Rose’s ultimate choice is so painfully obvious that no tension arises from who she might choose.
I have known some people to not even categorize this type of conflict as a love triangle because the choice is so obvious, but I disagree. If two characters make decisions that attempt to win over the same character, that is a love triangle. But this unbalanced character dynamic is the worst type of love triangle, and, although it has its place in some stories, it does not in most cases.
Another type of love triangle is one where both of the characters are nice people. For example, there is a pretty bad love triangle in season two of the relatively new Harley Quinn animated TV show on DC Universe. For those not in the know, the most iconic lesbian relationship in all of the comic books is Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Season one of the show established some romantic tension between the two characters, but it also established a relationship between Poison Ivy and Kite Man. The romance is something wholly original to the show, but it is one of the best elements of the first season. Kite Man is funny, nice, and genuinely charming. He is one of the best characters in the show. But when season two began airing, the showrunners started working on the Harley-Ivy romance.
The new romance that the show began establishing clashed with Ivy’s relationship with Kite Man, which created a love triangle where everyone in the relationship is likable. This type of love triangle creates its own issues, because when Harley and Ivy do get together at the end of season two, I, as someone who really likes Harley and Ivy in the comics, could not feel happy. The show frames their romance as a triumphant moment, but I do not understand how viewers could feel triumphant right after watching Kite Man, one of the nicest characters in the show, get dumped on the day he was supposed to get married to Ivy. It does not work.
Love triangles are conceptually flawed. There are very few stories in which they actually work well, but they usually turn out the best in video games. From a storytelling standpoint in films, love triangles almost never work, are usually unnecessary, and should be avoided.