I’m not going to bother with much preamble, because we all know what AO3 is and we all know why we’re here: to rank and categorize all 100 of the most popular ships on the website. Now, a lot of these came as surprises to me – apparently, people actually… write fanfiction about straight couples? But, for the most part, we’re dealing with the old fandom classics, the standards, your Kirkspocks, your Johnlocks, your Johndaves. I will now proceed to rank them all, one by one, often with no understanding of the original canons whatsoever.
NOTE: Views expressed herein are my own and may not reflect the opinions of the rest of The Niche’s editorial staff.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Trigger warnings for CSA, rape, and incest. Don’t worry, I’m very critical. Very.
100. Levi/Eren Yeager – Attack on Titan
This one grinds my gears like no other. I mean, first off, Levi is like, thirty, and Eren is fourteen or something. And that would be bad enough, but like. Guys. They both have perfectly good, entirely age-appropriate boyfriends right there. All the time and energy poured into this nonsense that could have gone to Erwin/Levi? Or Eren/Armin? It is, frankly, tragic to contemplate.
99. Peter Hale/Stiles Stilinski – Teen Wolf
Don’t know much about this show but my understanding – confirmed by a Google search of the parties in question – is that Peter Hale is the creepy middle-aged villain dude and Stiles is a baby-faced teenager who wears a lot of flannel. Look, I’m just getting all the really heinous shit out of the way up top. There are so many age-appropriate BF and GF options for Stiles. Let him smooch some of them.
98. Harry Potter/Severus Snape – Harry Potter
I’m only three in and I’m already exhausted.
97. Harry Hart/Gary Unwin – Kingsman: The Secret Service
I googled the names and shouted, “Oh, come on!” out loud.
96. Loki/Thor – Thor
I just feel like… Thor can do better? Thor’s a beefcake. Tom Hiddleston is weird-looking enough on a good day, let alone with that stringy wig and the weird helmet. I think Thor deserves a fellow beefcake. Like, a nice little masc4masc thing. Maybe Mac from Always Sunny? Mac would treat Thor right. Oh, shit! I just googled “mac always sunny thor” and this came up. It’s already canon, guys.
95. Dean Winchester/Sam Winchester – Supernatural
Wait, I just realized Jared Padalecki plays a guy named Dean on Gilmore Girls. Rory/Dean is bad; Sam/Dean is also bad, but for very different reasons. My blood pressure would be spiking like crazy right now if I weren’t listening to some calm Jeff Tweedy to shelter me through the early portion of this list, which ends… here, as we transition out of the Moral Objections Zone and into the Land of Petty Personal Grudges.
94. Kurt/Blaine – Glee
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close up the wall with our Evans dead. In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility: but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage; then lend the eye a terrible aspect; let pry through the portage of the head like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it as fearfully as doth a galled rock o’erhang and jutty his confounded base, swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height. On, on, you noblest Kummer. Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof! Fathers that, like so many Alexanders, have in these parts from morn till even fought and sheathed their swords for lack of argument: dishonour not your mothers; now attest that those whom you call’d fathers did beget you. Be copy now to men of grosser blood, and teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman, whose limbs were made in 2×04: Duets, show us here the mettle of your pasture; let us swear that you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not; for there is none of you so mean and base, that hath not noble lustre in your eyes. I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot: follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry, “I don’t dye my hair, dude!”
93. John Watson/Mary Morstan – Sherlock
92. Will Graham/Hannibal Lecter – Hannibal
Will seems like a nice fellow and deserves a gentle soul who loves dogs and long walks on sandy beaches and refrains from consuming human flesh.
91. America/England – Hetalia
I don’t entirely get Hetalia. Does this mean that Churchill and FDR are fucking?
90. Magnus Bane/Alec Lightwood – Shadowhunters
They seem nice enough, but I just can’t get past the Cassandra Claire factor. I can’t do it.
89. Dean Winchester & Castiel, platonically – Supernatural
88. Steve Rogers & Bucky Barnes, platonically – Captain America
87. Sherlock Holmes & John Watson, platonically – Sherlock
Make it gay, you cowards!
86. Dean Winchester & Sam Winchester, platonically – Supernatural
Props for not making it gay.
85. Tyler Joseph/Josh Dun – 21 Pilots
We’re now in the realm of RPF. By Peyton law, RPF ranks above queerbaiting, petty personal grudges, and morally objectionable stuff, but below everything else. Anyway, the 21 Pilots guys! Why can’t anyone ever write RPF about… you know, good bands? Where’s the Neutral Milk Hotel RPF? The Simon/Garfunkel fic? The wild secret baby conspiracy theories about Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein? Come on, people.
84. Patrick Stump/Pete Wentz – Fall Out Boy
I like Patrick a fair bit as a musician and a vocalist and I think he deserves better.
83. Dan/Phil – Dan & Phil
I’ll be honest: I have no idea who Dan and Phil actually are. I know that they make YouTube videos and that they both have floppy bangs. If you held a gun to my head and asked me to differentiate one from the other, I’d just close my eyes and get right with God.
82. Jensen Ackles/Jared Padalecki – Supernatural
Marginally better than shipping their characters because the actors are not related, but like… low bar, dude. Low bar.
81. Gavin Free/Michael Jones – Rooster Teeth
I wonder what it’s like to make some videos of yourself playing video games with your best friend and then you wake up one day and teenagers on the internet have written thousands of fics about the two of you doing anal.
80. Zayn Malik/Liam Payne – One Direction
Virtually every possible permutation of One Direction shipping is present on this list, and I think this is easily one of the most bland combinations. I mean… what can Liam do for Zayn? Zayn, with that perfectly positioned forelock of sleek hair, that artfully landscaped beard, going out with some dude who looks like every guy who’s ever glitched into my F4F search results on Tinder? No thanks.
79. Frank Iero/Gerard Way – My Chemical Romance
They seem to be very good friends.
78. Niall Horan/Harry Styles – One Direction
This would be a nice, safe coupling. They’d take holiday pictures in matching ugly sweaters and ship them out to their families and loved ones with Saran-wrapped plates of homemade cookies. Niall would make hot chocolate with marshmallows on cold mornings as Harry luxuriates in bed in a silk robe.
77. Niall Horan/Zayn Malik – One Direction
Their entire relationship would be the plot of Grease.
76. Harry Styles/Louis Tomlinson – One Direction
Honestly, if I’d gone through what Harry Styles or Louis Tomlinson have gone through at the hands of their fans, I’d be off the grid by now. I’d be sitting in a cabin in rural Vermont with no electricity and no running water and no human contact but the delivery guy who brings me fresh pints of Ben & Jerry’s right from the factory every day.
75. Min Yoon-gi/Park Jimin – Bangtan Boys
74. Inquisitor/Solas – Dragon Age
If you’re going to write self-insert fic, why would you write it about the personification of a boiled egg? Especially when there are so, so many videotronic beefcakes in this game.
73. Inquisitor/Cullen – Dragon Age
Like this guy. This guy is a beefcake.
72. Alistair/Warden – Dragon Age
Not entirely clear on what this ship is, but it seems conceptually similar to Inquisitor/Cullen. Alistair is more of a twunk than Cullen, who is just a straight-up beefcake, so I’m giving him the edge here.
71. Lydia Martin/Jackson Whittemore – Teen Wolf
This is gay man/lesbian solidarity, not romance.
70. Jessica Moore/Sam Winchester – Supernatural
Not entirely sure who Jessica Moore is, but she’s got excellent hair, and that counts for a lot in my book.
69. Belle/Rumplestiltskin – Once Upon A Time
Okay, what the fuck is going on with this show?
68. Clarke Griffin/Bellamy Blake – The 100
I’m a dyke. Even putting them at 68 is generous.
67. Captain Hook/Emma Swan – Once Upon A Time
Again, this strikes me as gay man/lesbian solidarity.
66. Gabriel/Sam Winchester – Supernatural
Who is Gabriel? I have existed on the internet for decades now, and absorbed plenty of Supernatural by osmosis, but I have never heard of a “Gabriel.”
65. Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley – Harry Potter
Never got this, to be honest. For a series with so many rich, fleshed out characters, Ginny always registered as kind of a non-entity to me? Harry/Luna would have been a better bet, I think.
64. Clint Barton/Phil Coulson – The Avengers
Genuinely thought these were the same guy.
63. Tony Stark/Pepper Potts – Iron Man
62. Thor/Jane Foster – Thor
The biggest surprise of this list was learning that people actually go for the straight MCU romances. In, like, staggeringly large numbers.
61. James Moriarty/Sebastian Moran – Sherlock
Butler and Foucault would surely approve.
60. Spike/Buffy – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I’ve never seen a single second of Buffy and I don’t have strong opinions about this. He looks like Andrew Garfield with an early-2000s bleach job in this still.
59. Stiles Stilinski/Lydia Martin – Teen Wolf
58. Scott McCall/Allison Argent – Teen Wolf
Decent choices, as far as heterosexuality goes, but as someone who got deeply invested via gifs on my dashboard, I think Allison/Lydia is really the only option.
57. Sherlock Holmes/Molly Hooper – Sherlock
THEY SEEM LIKE VERY GOOD FRIENDS.
56. Vernon Boyd/Erica Reyes – Teen Wolf
Didn’t know who they were. Ran a Google Image search and got several repeats of the same photo, which would suggest… thin content. Still, they check out. No objections here.
55. Leo Fitz/Jemma Simmons – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Again, had to Google. They seem pretty cute for a pair of straights.
54. Oliver Queen/Felicity Smoak – Arrow
Don’t know anything about this, but Felicity is super hot.
53. James Potter/Lily Potter – Harry Potter
Like, okay, but I’m asleep.
52. Steve McGarrett/Danny “Danno” Williams – Hawai’i Five-O
I had no idea that the Hawai’i Five-O fandom existed, let alone had such a strong slash presence, but you go, guys. More power to you.
51. Derek Hale/Stiles Stilinski – Teen Wolf
I remember a solid six-month period where every third post on my dash was about Sterek, but I don’t really remember anything specific about it. A swimming pool? Was there a scene in a swimming pool?
50. Dean Winchester/Castiel – Supernatural
You know how every year when the Time 100 list comes out there’s some terrible, heinous person on it, and the internet immediately starts raging, and Time has to be like, “The Time 100 measures influence! And influence can be negative!” That’s the logic here.
49. Loki/Tony Stark – The Avengers
They’re not related and they seem like they could trade hair and fashion tips.
48. Bruce Banner/Tony Stark – The Avengers
Bruce is like a Whole Foods, farmer’s market, vegan desserts gay, and Tony Stark is like, a Wall Street, Fire Island, party drugs gay. That’s my read on the situation. Would make for an interesting match-up.
47. Arthur/Eames – Inception
I forgot the name of the actor when I was taking notes for this piece, and I wrote down “played by JGL and Fat Lips Tom.”
46. Daniel Jackson/Jack O’Neill – Stargate SG-1
Truly don’t know the first thing about them, but my cursory Google Image search tells me that they’re nice old married gays with modest costuming budgets.
45. Jim Ellison/Blair Sandburg – Sentinel
Great hair on the one guy. I could get into this.
44. Iwaizumi Hajime/Oikawa Tooru – Haikyuu!
I’m really not getting a good read on these guys from the first few rows of photos on Google. They kind of look like the same character?
43. Clint Barton/Natasha Romanov – The Avengers
Always struck me as good, solid side het.
42. Fenris/Hawke – Dragon Age
41. Alenko/Shepard – Mass Effect
We’re playing a dangerous game here because Hawke and Shepard are both customizable characters that can be either male or female… Schrodinger’s Gay…
40. Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy – Harry Potter
Not my cup of tea, but conceptually solid. Superb fodder for angsty, million-word fanfiction about the nature of good and evil and loving thy enemy as thyself.
39. Merlin/Arthur – Merlin
Crazy cheekbones on the one guy. Again, conceptually solid enough that the whole queerbaiting nonsense kind of cancels out and a lot of talented writers got some good fanfic fodder out of it.
38. Steve Rogers/Tony Stark – The Avengers
There was a whole movie about them fighting over Steve’s old war buddy, which is, like, the straightie version of a love triangle, I guess.
37. Nanase Haruka/Tachibana Makoto – Free!
I seem to recall there was a little blond twink with pink eyes who was a central feature of Free!, and that does not seem to be either of these characters. Still, these two seem cute, based on the first line of photos on Google. The brown-haired one has kind eyes.
36. Kylo Ren/General Hux – Star Wars
Listen: as a concept? Great. Kylo is a fascinating character – the son of heroes, turned a villian? – and he had a fun, snarky back-and-forth going with General Hux. So like, sure. Why not? But as a fandom juggernaut, crowding out Finn and Poe and Rey and literally every other element of The Force Awakens to provide endless quantities of banal ginger angst? Not so much.
35. Ron Weasley/Hermione Granger – Harry Potter
I never really got this and I was always bitter about it, but I realize now that I was just a young and bitter lesbian and I was pissed that Ron had secured my dream girl.
34. Sam Carter/Jack O’Neill – Stargate SG-1
These seem like some wholesome, low-stress straights. I can get on board.
33. Mycroft Holmes/Greg Lestrade – Sherlock
32. Rodney McKay/John Sheppard – Stargate Atlantis
They look like they’re in the Mountain Goats.
31. Draco Malfoy/Hermione Granger – Harry Potter
Listen. Listen. Listen. I read some really good fanfiction in high school, okay? I know this is not a rational or justified opinion. This is the result of having absorbed hundreds of thousands of words of top-tier Hermione/Draco fanfiction at a young age, where Draco was so out-of-character as to be another person entirely. A lot of those post-series redemption stories where she’s, like, imprisoning him or holding him for ransom, and he absolves himself of his sins. Whatever. I’ll see myself out. If this gets screenshotted and added to call-out posts about me, I’ll understand.
30. Adrien Agreste/Marinette Dupain-Cheng – Miraculous Ladybug
I had a moment of thinking they were lesbians and being really excited about it, but that does not appear to be the case. Seems cute, though.
29. Eleven/River Song – Dr. Who
I don’t go here but I’ve seen enough gifs to know that this seems solid.
28. Hinata Shouyou/Kageyama Tobio – Haikyuu!
Okay, yes. I have seen this one before. Spunky little redhead and brooding, tall dude with black hair. A classic dynamic. Never fails.
27. Regina Mills/Emma Swan – Once Upon A Time
Women? On AO3? It’s more likely than you think.
26. Bilbo Baggins/Thorin Oakenshield – The Hobbit
Honestly don’t know who Thorin is, but Bilbo’s been through a lot and deserves to get dicked down.
25. James T. Kirk/Leonard McCoy – Star Trek
Who’s McCoy? Is McCoy Bones? Oh, okay, McCoy is Bones. Shout out to Alice.
24. Clark Kent/Lex Luthor – Smallville
This is probably the most classic and pure example of the enemies-to-boning dynamic in existence. I don’t go here at all, but I feel like I could get into it if I did.
23. Ten/Rose Tyler – Dr. Who
I saw some gifs on my dashboard back in 2011. This looked intense. That shot with their faces and hands against the wall? Excellent cinnamon topography, right there.
22. Benton Fraser/Ray Kowalski – Due South
This is so low-budget and Canadian. I’m so charmed. Guessing the Mountie uniform features in the smut in a major way.
21. James Bond/Q – James Bond
Okay, wow, yeah. Assuming we’re talking Daniel Craig and the twink from London Spy? Absolutely. On looks alone. Some good absolute nightmare/sweaterboy potential too, probably. Bond would be the sweaterboy.
20. Dave Strider/Karkat Vantas – Homestuck
Barack Obama endorsed Johnkat, not Davekat, but this’ll have to do.
19. Naruto/Sasuke – Naruto
I mean, I’m just taking my nerd friends’ word for it. I never watched anime in middle school because I was too busy having multiple boyfriends.
18. Katniss/Peeta – The Hunger Games
Definitely the premiere heterosexual example of The Dynamic. I mean, we all know Katniss would actually be a lesbian, but I can settle for this.
17. Clarke Griffin/Lexa – The 100
Rest in fucking pieces.
16. Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones – Torchwood
This one scores points for actually being canonically gay. At least, that’s what my surface-level Google research is indicating.
15. Ian Gallagher/Mickey Milkovich – Shameless
I mean, I never went here, but this seems like one of the better long-term gay storylines on TV, yeah? I assume some shit went down at some point because all my Shameless mutuals are really bitter about it now, but for a while, it seemed like it was pretty good. And look at them! Just look at them! Gosh. Wholesome. Scrappy, but wholesome.
14. Carlos/Cecil – Welcome to Nightvale
I never really got into Nightvale because I have auditory processing problems that make it hard for me to, like… listen to people talk without seeing visuals or reading text? Which is neither here nor there, but Nightvale always seemed like a quality concept and this seemed like a quality little love story to anchor the whole deal.
13. Erik Lehnsherr/Charles Xavier – X-Men
I’m just taking Seph’s word for it. Seph has written some really good shout-y tags about these two, and about how well they function as a metaphor for being gay and oppressed. Shout out to Seph and his unparalleled literary analytical mind.
12. John Egbert/Dave Strider – Homestuck
Again, like… I can’t believe we’re just spitting in the face of Obama’s endorsement of Johnkat here, but this is like a good, standard ship. Nothing to complain about here. The ship equivalent of vanilla ice cream melting on apple pie. Like chicken noodle soup on a cold day. Two nerds, one of whom is trying desperately to be cool, one of whom is running around in joke glasses with a fake nose and a mustache. An ideal set-up.
11. Laura Hollis/Carmilla Karnstein – Carmilla
They’re lesbians and they’re alive.
10. Fox Mulder/Dana Scully – The X Files
Hello? Duh. Can you tell I’m running out of steam, by the way? I was writing, like, full paragraphs for fucking Eren/Levi up top, and now I’m just like: yeah, Mulder and Scully, fuck yeah, UFOs, aliens, David Duchovny before his face melted, America, fuck yeah.
9. Sirius Black/Remus Lupin – Harry Potter
I barely remember them from the books and the movies and I never read The Shoebox Project so my frame of reference here is limited. But still, when I saw them on the list, do you know what my initial reaction was? My initial reaction was yes, bitch. And that is primarily due, again, to some really excellent and irate tag essays by Seph. Would have been fucking sweet if J.K. Rowling had made these two gay instead of just implying it and using clumsy lycanthrophy-as-AIDS metaphors.
EDIT AUGUST 24, 2017: DEV PATEL AND ANDREW GARFIELD SIRIUS/REMUS ANTHOLOGY FILM WHEN
8. Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes – Captain America
Look, I can’t fuckin’ tolerate the MCU, and I only ever saw the first Captain America movie once back in 2011, but I stand with you Stucky shippers. You are on the side of all that is good and right and true, and this is a bonkers premise for a ship, and I’m glad y’all are picking up the slack where boring straight studio execs with no imagination are failing us all. Also, we got the we deserve a soft epilogue, my love line out of this ship, so like, it was all worth it, just for that.
7. Erwin/Levi – Attack on Titan
I could write a paragraph explaining how I feel about this ship, or you could picture me driving up and down your street real slow with my feet on the dash, wearing a big pair of shades and blasting Jay Z’s verse in “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)” at ear-shattering volumes. Both exercises serve the same purpose but the latter is probably more fun for you.
6. James T. Kirk/Spock – Star Trek
Imitated? Often. Duplicated? Never.
5. Sherlock Holmes/John Watson – Sherlock
I don’t really go here, but my co-editors would fucking flay me alive if I didn’t put them in at least the top five. One time I took the script for the pilot episode and replaced a bunch of names and pronouns so it was about Detective Paris Geller and Grizzled War Reporter Rory Gilmore and it was, like, superb, and very fulfilling.
4. Jean Kirschstein/Marco Bodt – Attack on Titan
Still the most collaborative, creatively generative, and drama-free fandom experience I’ve ever had. The fandom actually became more about the fic and art people were producing than the show itself, which was really cool to be a part of. There were thirty or forty fics that had dedicated followings, and an obscenely talented and large team of artists that just kept churning out top-tier content. Halcyon days. The ship itself barely existed in the show, but when it did? It was sublime.
3. Rose Lalonde/Kanaya Maryam – Homestuck
One time some homophobic b*tch on the internet tried to tell me that Rose/Kanaya wasn’t really canon because Rose was just drunk and fooling around when she kissed Kanaya. Years later, when Rose and Kanaya got married, and Rose – this is crucial – wore a suit to the wedding – I got to jam it in aforementioned homophobic b*tch’s face. Also, Rose is, like, the closest thing I’ve ever had to a fictional stand-in, so it was super gratifying to see her fall in love with and MARRY her lovely alien wife.
2. Poe Dameron/Finn – Star Wars
I saw The Force Awakens eight times in theatres and wept through every single one of their scenes all eight times and if it’s not canon by 2019 I’m gonna slit throats.
1. Enjolras/Grantaire – Les Miserables
This wasn’t a ship as much as a biochemical event that fundamentally altered the entire course of my life. In all seriousness, though, it’s stunning and profoundly affecting to see such a rich and complex and sensitively rendered depiction of romantic love between men laid out in a work of classic literature, and to see how that relationship has endured in the various permutations of the story. Enjolras and Grantaire are a reminder that we’ve always been here, and that we’re more powerful than anyone who would seek to destroy us. No one can ever take that away from us. They died holding hands. They died holding hands. Vive la révolution, motherfuckers.