2000's Celebrity Couples Who Ruled Hollywood

More exciting than birdwatching and less dangerous than gaping at a NASCAR wreck, celebrity obsessions easily rank highly among America's favorite pastimes. Granted, spotting a famous person might get the giddiness meter rattling, but imagine experiencing twice the fun when gazing in the glow of a bona fide power couple. Throw in the obligatory gobsmacking bonus of the proper noun mashup to go with the faces, and presto! Folks can save a few syllables with such celebratory creations as Brangelina, Bennifer, and TomKat. Coincidentally, these highly-lauded tandems garnered a lot of attention during the first decade of this century, and had the internet been faster and more robust back in the day; they might have rivaled most of the powerful pairings dominating the current virtual landscape. 

Inexplicably, the scope of what qualifies as a power couple has widened considerably these days. Most of the duos profiled in the 2000s reached spotlight status via studying acting and slogging it out in improv clubs and repertory theater. Much of today's crop sidestepped those rungs by landing reality TV spots, or yearning for views on TikTok and YouTube. One list of power couple hotties for 2023 includes a few Kardashian relatives and stars from the unscripted "The Real Housewives" franchise, a far cry from the schools of hard knocks experienced by previous luminary duos. Whether many of them — if gifted with time-warp capabilities — would have held their own against their 2000s equivalents is worth mulling over.

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt

First, who needs parents to arrange a courtship when celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt had agents to do all that heavy lifting for them. That's apparently how these two Hollywood hot shots paired up in a relationship kindled in 1998 and had the whole entertainment industry fawning. It was also a conjoining of titans on top of their respective mediums, with Aniston ruling TV via the sitcom "Friends" and Pitt becoming a marquee idol, thanks to movies like "Thelma and Louise," and "Interview With The Vampire." The Bradifer wedding in 2000 not only got the millennium off on the right foot, it also amped up media scrutiny over the two that would last longer than their marriage. "We had so much fun falling in love," recalled Aniston to Vanity Fair about their relationship before it went public. "It was so private; we kept it to ourselves for so long. It was something we were really proud of."

Their split was also heavily publicized five years later, and long before the ink dried on their divorce papers, Pitt started a relationship with Angelina Jolie, with whom he worked on the movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" a year earlier. And while tabloids tattled that some philandering was to blame, Pitt denied any dalliances took place until after his severance from Aniston became final. "Nobody did anything wrong," said Aniston to the Hollywood Reporter. "You know what I mean? It was just like, sometimes things [happen]."

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon

Throughout her lengthy singing career, Mariah Carey was reportedly romantically linked to a slew of celebs from baseball superstar Derek Jeter to rapper Eminem, but has only been married twice, including a six-year stint with entertainer Nick Cannon. "I was 12 years old with Mariah Carey pictures on my wall and that becomes my wife and the fact that she's the coolest person I ever met," gushed Cannon to Access Hollywood about his relationship with the "Fantasy" vocalist. No doubt Cannon was wide-eyed when he first worked with Carey on her "Bye, Bye" video in 2008. Suddenly, other urges took over, leading to a whirlwind courtship and an exchange of vow weeks later. 

Back then, Cannon was making a name for himself as a rapper and creator of MTV's comedic improv series "Wild 'N Out," and soon felt the pressure of living with a much wealthier legend. "My ego is even telling me I gotta be a bread winner too," he said on "The Joe Budden Podcast" in 2022. "I'm not a boy toy." Carey's take on their marriage (which produced a set of twins) revealed it didn't have to end in a 2014 divorce. "Honestly, I think Nick and I could have worked it out between the two of us," she wrote in her memoir "The Meaning of Mariah Carey" (via People), "but egos and emotions got inflamed (which can translate into many billable lawyer hours, and ultimately it did)."

Beyonce and Jay-Z

Anyone wanting to personify the links between R&B and hip-hop can't rank anything much higher than legendary singer Beyonce and rapper Jay-Z, who first became a hot item in 2001 and later married in 2008. While both partners scored mondo hits on their own, they really hit paydirt with a number of collaborations, including Jay-Z contributing on two numbers on Beyonce's 2006 album "B'Day" with the vocalist appearing on one piece on the rapper's "Kingdom Come" outing. It wasn't all champagne and caviar for the twosome during the 2000s. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli's unauthorized biography "Becoming Beyonce: The Untold Story," the couple secretly separated in 2005 after a wave of rumors that Jay-Z was cheating on his other half with singer Rihanna hit the gossip mill. It turned out that those rumors were fabricated by Rihanna's publicist to elevate her profile.

Impressively, they're still together in a marriage that's lasted over a decade. But those domestic foundations shook in 2013 when rumors of Jay-Z's infidelity surfaced, leading to the rapper publicly admitting his philandering four years later. "The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone's face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself," he said to The New York Times. Beyonce said examining her family's past helped her through the ordeal."I come from a lineage of broken male-female relationships, abuse of power, and mistrust," she wrote in Vogue. "Only when I saw that clearly was I able to resolve those conflicts in my own relationship."

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi

The relationship between comedian and former talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and thespian Portia de Rossi began when icy attitudes towards gay acceptance had only begun to thaw. When they first met in 2001, DeGeneres had already publicly outed herself in 1997, while de Rossi, then starring in the legal eagle comedy "Ally McBeal," was still closeted. Three years later, they took a leap of faith into uncharted waters. "My feelings for her overrode all of my fear about being out as a lesbian," said de Rossi to The Advocate in 2005 about how cultivating a relationship with DeGeneres eased her feelings about her sexual identity. "I had to be with her, and I just figured I'd deal with the other stuff later." That "other stuff" included their groundbreaking, highly-publicized wedding in August 2008 — four months after the Supreme Court overturned California's ban on gay marriage and a month before voters reversed that ruling. Gay marriage became legal again in 2013.

Several years later, DeGeneres faced less kind coverage amid stories of the star's tyrannical behavior on the set of her daytime talk show "Ellen." The incidents kiboshed her program in 2022, but not her marriage. "I just adore you," DeGeneres said to de Rossi during a renewal of their wedding vows in February (per E! News). "I love you and I would not be on this Earth without you. You save me everyday. Thank you for saving me everyday. I'm the lucky one."

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt dominated headlines during the 2000s by spending the first half of the decade with Jennifer Aniston, before finding solace with Angelina Jolie for the rest of the period. And while the "Se7en" actor has since made up with the "Friends" star, the same can't be said about his "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" co-star. Years after their split in 2016, the two former love birds continued to ruffle each other's feathers over issues including child custody and sharing ownership of a winery. The 2000s were relatively more idyllic for Pitt and Jolie, with both of them among the most bankable marquee idols in Hollywood. Months after Pitt split from Aniston, he accompanied Jolie to Ethiopia, where she was to adopt a child. They were inseparable for years after, raising six children — three of them adopted. 

A seemingly blissful Jolie related to Vanity Fair in 2008 that both had bonded over global issues, which solidified the relationship. "When we met, we realized our common goals were that we both wanted to be involved in the world and see what we could do," she said. The relationship remained solid when the two finally married at a private ceremony in France in 2014. But things went south in a hurry, when the marriage ended two years later with both parties citing irreconcilable differences. "I am very saddened by this," said Pitt to People in a statement, adding, "but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids."

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban

Credit Down Under for linking up actress Nicole Kidman with country singer Keith Urban, an unlikely combination of Hollywood glitz and Nashville earthiness. It's a union that's helped propel their careers to the top of their respective fields, making them a power couple capable of melding two divergent fan bases. But it was most likely their Australian backgrounds that has helped keep these two together. In fact, it was their support for Oz that first brought them together in 2005 when they met at "G'Day LA," an annual week-long Hollywood tribute to Australian performers. Four months later, he finally asked her out and within a year they were married. "We're just very tight," said Kidman — who was previously married to Tom Cruise — on "Oprah." "I also think we met at a time in our lives when we were both ready for it." 

Urban felt that Kidman was far too high up the ladder to be attainable. "I thought she was way out of my league," he said to the Sydney Morning Herald. "I mean, I'm a kid from Brissie, I went to Nashville ... somewhere along the line I end up meeting Nic." With two children and based in Nashville these days, they credit their longevity to imposing strict boundaries at home. "We don't have a TV in our bedroom; we're that couple," Kidman said to Harper's Bazaar. "I highly recommend that. And no computers in bed."

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise

None of Tom Cruise's romances created as much sensationalism as the one he lit with former "Dawson's Creek" star Katie Holmes. In 2005, Cruise and Holmes were in the dating stage of their relationship, when the "Top Gun" celeb guested on Oprah Winfrey's top-rated daytime talk show, where he professed his love for his latest amour, before exuberantly jumping on her couch in front of millions of viewers. The calisthenics involving one of Hollywood's most influential actors was fluff TV on steroids, and one of the first video clips to go viral during the nascent days of the internet. 

Within a year, the two married after becoming parents to their baby girl Suri. But by 2012, the couple had split, launching a wave of gossip speculating on why the relationship jumped the rails. Additionally, magazines In Touch and Life & Style suggested that Cruise abandoned his daughter, compelling the actor to file a $50 million defamation lawsuit against them. "All I wanted basically was for [the magazines] not to print that I abandoned my daughter, and that I chose my religion over my daughter, that's what I want," said Cruise to lawyers in a leaked court deposition (via TMZ). Cruise also got testy when one lawyer asked him whether Scientology played a role in Holmes divorcing him to protect Suri. "You know, I find it very offensive," he replied. "There is no need to protect my daughter from my religion." 

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck

When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck finally tied the knot in 2023, two years after getting engaged, no one ever said they took the path of least resistance to reach the altar. The whole Bennifer romantic saga dates back more than two decades, to when they first met and shared the leads in the movie "Gigli," an outing that was apparently so awful, it earned a record six Golden Raspberry awards. While those trophies may have been omens for their ups-and-downs the first time around, if anything, the flick proved the two had chemistry, that is enough for Lopez to divorce actor Cris Judd and take up with Affleck, while paparazzi documented their public appearances.

"We didn't try to have a public relationship," said Lopez to People. "We just happened to be together at the birth of the tabloids, and it was like 'Oh my God.' It was just a lot of pressure." All that attention apparently kiboshed wedding plans in 2004, when the duo broke up. During those years apart, Affleck took up with actress Jennifer Garner, "Saturday Night Live" producer Lindsay Shookus, "Playboy" model Shauna Sexton, and singer Ana de Armas, while Lopez romanced stars like Marc Anthony and baseball player Alex Rodriguez. But according to Lopez, going full circle after several years was worth the wait. "It all culminated in this moment, one of the most perfect of our lives," she told Elle. "We couldn't have been happier."

Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling

When Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams worked together on the 2004 drama "The Notebook," no one could have predicted a storybook romance to emerge after the project ended. Director Nick Cassavetes recalled Gosling was far from impressed with his co-star, demanding another actress to read with him off-camera. That's when Cassavetes decided the two leads should settle their differences. "We went into a room with a producer, they started screaming and yelling at each other," said Cassavetes to VH-1. 'I walked out ... I smoked a cigarette and everybody came out like, 'All right let's do this.' And it got better after that, you know? They had it out." That intensity manifested itself on the silver screen, earning the duo an MTV "Best Kiss" award and a relationship that propelled them to power couple status.

That Gosling — who became a Hollywood hunk via the indie film route — would hook up with McAdams, a sultry redhead and former "Mean Girls" star, was enough to make fans forget all the Bennifer and Bradifer escapades, until the two split in 2007. The news didn't go over well at all with either of their fan bases, but If anyone felt the repercussions of the breakup, it was Gosling. "Women are mad at me," Gosling said to GQ Magazine (via People). "A girl came up to me on the street and she almost smacked me. Like, 'How could you? How could you let a girl like that go?'"

Madonna and Guy Ritchie

Although the list of amours involving Madonna might almost be as large as the population of Manhattan Island, the diva has only been at the altar twice: first with actor Sean Penn in the '80s and then an eight-year marriage to director Guy Ritchie at the start of the millennium. That her two exes were cinematic movers and shakers seemed more than a coincidence, as the Material Girl had never made it a secret she aspired to be a film star to add to her music credentials. Although she won a Golden Globe playing Evita Peron in "Evita," pretty well everything else that had her billed as the lead bombed at the box office, including "Shanghai Surprise" with Penn and the Ritchie-directed "Swept Away." While rumors percolated that the tanking of "Swept Away" created some tension between the couple, that didn't stop them from renewing their vows in 2004, all the while dominating headlines via public appearances. 

They also had a son, Rocco, to raise, as well as adopted Malawi children, David and Mercy. But while her music career still flourished, she acknowledged that her movie options had dwindled. "I hate to admit it, but I've decided to give that up,” she said to the World Entertainment News Network (via ABC) in 2006. Two years later, she also gave up on Ritchie, telling The Sun (via US Weekly), "There were times when I felt incarcerated. I wasn't really allowed to be myself."

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin

While the Bard was famous for penning 'Romeo and Juliet," there's no way he could have been at odds scripting the real-life, star-crossed romantic tragedy involving Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow and light-rocker Chris Martin. At the time of their relationship, culminating in their secret 2003 marriage, Paltrow was still thriving via her Oscar-winning efforts in "Shakespeare In Love," while Martin's band Coldplay became superstars courtesy of their signature hit "Yellow." To their fans, it was the perfect union of movies and music, with subsequent arrivals of daughter Apple and son Moses adding to the bliss.

Or so it seemed. Paltrow's 2013 interview with Self didn't hint at marital issues, but suggested that relationships take a lot of work. "You're not learning anything unless you're having the difficult conversations," she said. "Dealing with things directly changed my relationships. Sometimes when you get clear about who you are, others get less comfortable because they liked who you were. It's changed my marriage, too, but he's up for the challenge." 

That challenge lasted only another year, when the couple announced their breakup that they colloquially dubbed "conscious uncoupling." In Vogue, Paltrow said she got the phrase from her therapist and even though she thought it was a trite description, she and Martin felt it was the proper route to take. "It's very different for every couple but, for me, it meant, more than anything, being accountable for my own part in the dissolution of the relationship," Paltrow added.

Jennifer Simpson and Nick Lachey

Glazed with several coats of hyperbolic varnish, and freshly-scrubbed to a G-rated shine, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey were America's altar-branded dream duo. A manager they shared introduced the two singers at the 1998 Hollywood Christmas Party. The duo fell so deeply head-over-heels with each other, they were married three years later. "With Nick, I was madly in love," Simpson said to ET. "I mean, I loved everything about the guy and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him." Almost immediately, MTV trotted a TV contract out for them to star in a series to document their personal lives together, and "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica" quickly became a reality TV favorite, showcasing Lachey as frugal and Simpson as the ultimate dumb blonde stereotype. By 2004, ABC decided the couple was ready for primetime and decked them out to star in the one-time special, "The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour," a ratings smash.

But by 2005, all those layers of matrimonial elation had eroded when "America's Favorite Couple" announced their separation once "Newlyweds" wrapped in 2005, with the divorce finalizing the split the following year. Even during the final season of "Newlyweds," producer Sue Kolinsky felt something was amiss with the couple. "You could feel there was tension between the two of them. They were very different people," she said to Complex. "He was frugal, and she had excessive taste. In the end, they weren't suited for each other."

Britney Spears and Kevin Federline

Kudos to Britney Spears for liberating herself from the clutches of an abusive conservatorship contract in 2021, enabling the songstress to make her own financial and personal decisions. Still, it can't be denied that her 55-hour marriage to school pal Jason Alexander and a controversial pairing with dancer Kevin Federline contributed to the motives for the Spears family to legally curb Britney's affairs. Specifically, her fiasco with Federline started innocently enough in 2004 when Spears met the hoofer in a Los Angeles nightclub. "Our eyes met and that was it," said Federline to People. "We just hit it off right away." That fall, the two quickly married, right after Federline dropped girlfriend Shar Jackson who was pregnant at the time with their second child.

Detractors quickly denounced Federline's ticket to power couple status with Spears was punched under false pretenses, declaring he was sponging off his partner's riches, especially when she helped with his rapper career as K-Fed and became executive producer of his "Playing With Fire" album debut in 2006. Despite the album's poor sales and reviews, Federline partied while Britney stayed home, pregnant with the couple's second child. "I'm the most talked about of anyone over the last couple of years," Federline bragged to Entertainment Weekly. "I think it would be a good drinking game — I would get half the world drunk and the other half would have a buzz." By October, Spears ended the marriage and K-Fed morphed into Fed-Ex.

Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger

While pop culture fanatics tend to swoon over the clout of power couple faves, they tend to have a soft spot for tandems involving truly gifted actors, which is why the relationship between Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger became such a big deal in 2004. Both met while working on the socially groundbreaking drama "Brokeback Mountain," with Ledger portraying secretly-gay rancher Ennis Del Mar and Williams playing his wife Alma. Screenwriter Diana Osanna recalled the moment they bonded, when Ledger was comforting Williams, injured during a scene involving a toboggan. "She was almost startled by the attention he was giving her, but you could see it every day from thereon," said Osanna to Out magazine. "For him, it was truly love at first sight. He was so taken with her." That both actors received Oscar nominations for their work added credibility to the coupling.

Engaged, their relationship seemed solid as they shared a daughter born in 2005. Despite that idyllic perception, Ledger reportedly struggled with an addiction to cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs. His affliction was enough to break their relationship in the fall of 2007; a few months later, Ledger died from his addictions in his New York apartment. Williams recalled years later about dealing with the grief amidst the media frenzy. "I felt like I was going crazy," she said in GQ. "It was too much — trying to deal with what had happened and trying to deal with what was at our doorstep."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe

One of the first power couples to rule the social stratosphere during the 2000s was the pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, who were already married with a child once the world spun into a new millennium. Witherspoon, who already distinguished herself in "Cruel Intentions" (where she first met and fell in love with Phillippe) and "American Psycho," while Phillippe garnered fame via his bulbous abs in "54." That stature imbalance wasn't lost on the couple, especially when they graced the Oscar podium in 2002 to present an award together. Encouraging his wife to read the winner's name, Phillippe remarked, "You make more than I do, so go ahead," to Witherspoon. Jocularity aside, the twosome hinted they were working out some difficulties when Phillippe told the New York Daily News (via Showbiz CheatSheet) that he and his wife were in couple's therapy, adding, "The biggest mistake is not doing that, ignoring it and having the marriage fall apart because of laziness."

They stayed together for four more years until they divorced, amid rumors that Phillippe was having an affair with Australian actress Abbie Cornish. Although Phillippe and Cornish became an item, he denied any philandering while still married to Witherspoon. For her part, Witherspoon experienced difficulty adjusting to her broken marriage. "I was floundering career-wise because I wasn't making things I was passionate about, I was just kind of working," Witherspoon told ET.