10 Most Popular Once Upon A Time Ships, Ranked By Ao3
Paramount+ recently made the decision not to continue Why Women Kill, despite the anthology series having been renewed for a third season. The cancellation means there is no future for the show, but the fans may be able to hold onto the actors a little longer by turning to their past roles — specifically through Once Upon A Time, which starred actresses Lana Parrilla and Ginnifer Goodwin, who should be familiar faces to Why Women Kill fans.
Once Upon A Time ran for seven years and allowed its cast to take on iconic fairytale roles alongside modern personas. Though it had an interesting concept, the actors and their characters were the lifeblood of the show, which made for a strong fandom. The ship wars got intense at times, but that only meant there was more fan work created to support each view, with Once Upon A Time being the 50th most popular fandom on Archive of Our Own in 2021. Excluding the platonic tags, fans can use the fanfiction website to gauge which relationships had the greatest impact.
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10 Red Queen — Regina And Ruby
There’s something to be said for two powerful and beautiful female characters because this is one ship with a surprising amount of interest despite the two rarely interacting. Ruby was close friends with Snow in the Enchanted Forest, but she didn’t get much of a chance to interact with Regina until after the Curse broke, at which point the two clashed on multiple occasions.
Fans love a good enemies-to-lovers plot, so they began to imagine how things might go if the two turned their passion to other purposes. Both had their dark sides, and fans imagined that Ruby might have been just what Regina needed to open her fragile heart once more.
9 Mad Archer — Alice And Robin
One of the biggest critiques of Once Upon A Time was its refusal to give LGBT+ representation, which thankfully took a turn in the final season as Alice (Tilly) and Robin (Margot) received a proper love story, both in the Enchanted Forest and in Hyperion Heights.
The two had a lot to deal with, struggling with their parents’ legacies, but their relationship with each other came easily, with a lot of chemistry and a well-defined history. Fanfiction provided the opportunity to continue that relationship beyond the end of the show, and it says a lot that a couple with so little time together is on par with others that had known each other so much longer.
8 Red Beauty — Ruby and Belle
Ruby represented the best Storybrooke had to offer, and she helped Belle find her way after escaping Regina and parting from Rumplestiltskin. They supported each other from the get-go and had fabulous chemistry with each other, making some fans wish they had their OUAT spinoff.
It was one of the first big ships to take off beyond the main characters and remains one of the most enduring, in large part because it offered Belle a future without Rumplestiltskin. It was a gentle and comforting ship, which was something the fans needed in light of the conflict amongst canon couples.
7 Dragon Queen — Regina And Maleficent
While there were other characters that fans preferred with Regina in the long-term, few fit into her other relationships quite like Maleficent. The pairing was never suggested to be true love, but the mentor-pupil dynamic had a lot of potential as the first chance for Regina to really explore her sexuality.
Maleficent was one of very few characters to canonically care for Regina prior to the Dark Curse, and the way they interacted during the Queens of Darkness arc suggested that the two were far closer than what was seen on screen. Given that any relationship between the two was firmly in the past, it also didn’t conflict with more established ships, allowing fans to enjoy multiple pairings with the Evil Queen.
6 SwanFire — Emma And Neal
Emma and Neal were fated to get together, and many of the best episodes of seasons two and three were explicitly about them. When the showrunners saw how much fans embraced CaptainSwan, though, they got rid of Neal altogether, much to many fans’ annoyance.
In addition to being Henry’s biological parents, Emma and Neal understood each other better than any other character could, as both were born in the Enchanted Forest but became adults in the real world. They seemed like a great representation of Snow and Charming’s “fated love” crossed with the complexities of the real world, and though the writers gave up on them, fans never did.
5 Snowing — Snow And Charming
Even fans who preferred the villains tended to enjoy Snow and Charming together, as they really were the perfect couple. Their chemistry can be attributed to the real-world relationship between Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, who found a fairytale of their own behind the scenes. In addition, they consistently fought for each other, finding the sickeningly sweet love even the villains had to envy.
Similarly to pairings like Marshall and Lily in How I Met Your Mother, this relationship could easily be thrown into almost any other fanfiction. They weren’t the primary pairing in many stories, since fans could get their fill of the couple on the show itself, but they easily filled in the background of nearly any story set in the same universe.
4 OutlawQueen — Regina And Robin
Robin Hood was explicitly stated to be Regina’s true love, and many fans accepted that to be true. They had great banter with each other, and it was believable how they ended up together. They had their fair share of difficulty finding each other, followed by a truly tragic ending, but that actually made fans fight for them even harder.
Regina lost her first love and ran away from love for decades only to lose it again when she finally found it with Robin. Fans were able to give the two peaceful times together in their stories, which they got little of on the show itself, as well as providing them with a happy ending.
3 Rumbelle — Rumplestiltskin And Belle
The reveal that Rumplestiltskin was the Beast in Once Upon A Time’s take on Beauty and the Beast was shocking, but actually worked really well in the beginning. It was an intriguing concept, and the two clicked surprisingly well.
However, the relationship didn’t age well, with Rumplestiltskin repeatedly redeeming himself and choosing love only to swiftly betray Belle and choose power. The cycle continued for years, and despite several great moments, it made it hard to enjoy the couple in the show. That wasn’t a problem in the fandom, however, where writers were able to give them the happiness that wasn’t doomed by the writers’ compulsion to make Rumplestiltskin backtrack.
2 CaptainSwan — Emma And Captain Hook
Emma and Captain Hook had a flirtationship in season 2, but fans connected with the pairing right away, leading it to become canon shortly thereafter. The attractiveness of the actors was certainly a part of that, but fans also enjoyed the dynamic between Hook, a dedicated womanizer, and Emma, who didn’t trust anyone enough to open up.
The couple got their happy ending in the show, getting married and having a daughter named Hope after literally going to Hell and back for one another. In addition to finding happiness on the show, over a fifth of the OUAT stories on Ao3 feature this relationship, either building off of the show’s plots or creating AU stories to feature their favorite pairing.
1 SwanQueen — Emma And Regina
SwanQueen is one of the most well-known relationships from any fandom, as a relationship that was regularly called out for queerbaiting. As with other LGBT+ pairings that were teased by their shows, fans took to the Internet to bring the couple to life.
Emma and Regina co-parented Henry, and though they were frequently pitted against each other, they also defended each other when nobody else did. They were at their most successful when they worked together, and fans were desperate to see them realize that. Though it never came to pass on the show, there’s no debate over its importance to the fandom, with SwanQueen beating out the next highest pairing by a margin of more than 3,000.
NEXT: 10 Filler Episodes From Once Upon A Time That Are Still Great