by Love and Rock Music. (TCW) The first half of "Destroy Malevolence," as Anakin and Padmé make their way towards each other.
I can't speak for all P/A shippers here, and I'm certainly not out to convince anyone - but here's part of why this pairing first drew me, and continues to draw me even almost two decades after their first on-screen appearance.
To make it short and incredibly simplistic: they're pretty and angsty as heck and make for hot smut, since they're separated for long periods of time and have a lot of pent-up frustration!
To be more serious and much more long-winded: I've been intrigued by this pairing since before we even had a name for Padmé, when all we knew about this pairing was that it had resulted in Luke and Leia and that it had ended badly. That there was every likelihood Darth Vader had once not only loved someone, but been loved in return. Knowing about it before it actually happened on-screen gave it an air of predestination, which made knowing it would end badly even more compelling. When I saw their scenes together in TPM, I was irrevocably hooked. Them meeting as children and forming an instant bond of friendship; exchanging tokens of affection; Anakin falling in love (in his own childlike way) at first sight, entering a tournament and later slaying the figurative dragon for her. Even at this early state, P/A was clearly being set up to be an epic, mythic courtly romance, one full of destiny, and I'm all over those.
Some knocked the romantic dialogue in AotC, but it was basically fine with me - Anakin's been head-over-heels for this girl half of his life, but you know he's not had one second of schooling in how to deal with it - shoot, I remember writing like that when I was head-over-heels for a guy. He tries to project a brash confident air so much of the time, but around her he stumbles incredibly with his words -- though more than makes up for it in actions and body language. Every move of his in his scenes with her speaks of the depth of his devotion and passion. And though it's more subtle, the signs of her own feelings are there, almost overwhelmed by the elaborate scope and detail of the film - the way she never takes her eyes off him, the quick glances up and down his body, the staring at his lips, and (my favorite) the little gasp she lets out when he's Force-floating the fruit to her in their dinner scene. She's completely entranced with him, and it shows - she's fallen just as badly as he has. This man was a boy Padmé shared a deep friendship with, who saved her world, who's grown up into not only a gorgeous man, but one who's completely devoted to her and would give his life for her without a second thought. You see her at her happiest, her most emotionally open, when she's with Anakin (and vice versa for him) - no other person in the universe is that effective in melting the Queen/Senator exterior she hides behind. I'm frankly amazed Padmé resisted as long as she did! I'd love for a guy to be that devoted to me. ;) I think their romance actually makes Padmé an even more fascinating character, that she's so drawn and devoted to such a deeply flawed/tormented man, that she's not able to be as completely selfless as she'd tried to be. That even the strongest person can have their heart broken. It makes her more human.
That she chooses to marry him was another big point - she could easily have chosen to have an affair with him (though I'm not sure if Anakin, Mr. Never Do Things Halfway, would stand for it), being with him but not being remotely the risk a deeper commitment would be. But she chooses the deeper commitment - and if nothing else seals the truth of her love, her taking his mechanical hand at the ceremony does. She accepts the machine as part of the man, which was very telling of what was in store for them in RotS. It's the two of them choosing to stand against the universe, and we know that the universe is - for a long time - going to win.
RotS I thought was even more effective at conveying the mutual, desperate passion they have for one another, just in their first scene - the way Anakin bounds like a giddy little boy to her and swings her around in his arms when he sees her again; the way they literally sink into one another's embrace, her kissing him and running her fingers through his hair, him burying his face in her neck. Then the beaming joy on their faces as they contemplate their child. (Plus that scene's just straight up hot, with Anakin wanting to take her right there, in an all but public place. If it hadn't been quite as public, or if it weren't for the pregnancy, I think she might have let him, too.) Some still knock the next scene's dialogue too, but again it doesn't particularly bother me - even years into their marriage, Anakin is at a loss for words at the sight of her. When a couple is that giddily in love, they don't care how they sound anyway. Though what gets me in that scene is not the words, but the way Anakin looks at her - nothing primal or lustful, but simply content to just stand there and watch her brush her hair and dream aloud about their baby. She is his entire universe, which makes the subsequent nightmare even more heartbreaking to watch. The thought of losing her - and possibly their child - terrifies him to the point where logic flies clean out of his brain - otherwise he wouldn't have fallen for Palpy's sales pitches near so easily.
Then there's possibly my favorite P/A scene of all time, the "Padmé's Ruminations" scene. There's no way you can doubt the depth and intensity of their connection after this scene - the way she suddenly looks up and goes to the window looking out with worry at the Jedi Temple, at the same moment he's looking back at their apartment from the Temple miles away, heart obviously breaking as he considers what he thinks he has to do. The decision to join Palpatine is not an easy one for him, and he knows it'll cost him his soul, but it's a price he knows he's willing to pay if there's any chance of saving her. I always knew that after the Ani/Obi scene in AotC where Padmé falls from the gunship, if Anakin was faced with choosing between the Jedi and Padmé ever again, who he'd choose that second time. What's most heartbreaking is in that desire to save her, in what he does to accomplish it, he actually loses sight of her - until it's far too late.
It's passionate, tragic, mythic - you can find countless mythic or classical couples that mirror P/A, and their relationship has enough mythic symbolism in it to span a hundred essays. They are, in a multitude of ways, each other's symbolic opposite/better half: man and woman, slave and queen, fire and water, sky and earth, deserts and lush greenery, hard and gentle, reason and passion, angel and devil, dark and light. She is the true Goddess in his heroic journey, at turns friend, sister, mother, lover/wife, salvation, destruction, mother of his children. The relationship runs the entire gamut of human emotion (and painfully), from pure innocence to intense passion to heartbreaking betrayal, yet is still a tale of unending compassion. It's a love that literally destroys the galaxy - and brings it back together again, because the love's never completely destroyed. Even after all the physical and emotional madness Vader experiences on/after Mustafar, his first thoughts after he wakes up are for her well-being. (This was crazily surreal for me, hearing James Earl Jones' Vader voice say "Padmé" - knowing I'd watch his scenes in the OT later on and remember his first words in this incarnation were about his wife.) Some part of him still does love her even in the suit, and that's the same part of him - the part that can still love - that Luke reaches in RotJ. And both in AotC after the Tusken massacre, and even after he fatally breaks her heart, Padmé believes in the good in Anakin. (I think it likely Anakin would have self-destructed long before he did if not for her compassion after he confesses the Tusken slaughter.)
I believe that's actually what ultimately broke Padmé's heart: she knew the good was there, but as completely as she loved Anakin, with all her best efforts she still couldn't save the one person she loved above all else. A person who had admitted that all the horrors they had committed were in her name. Whose heart wouldn't break at that point? Her dying words are to affirm Anakin's goodness, imprinting that belief on their son - through Luke, her love and faith still save her husband more than 20 years after her own death, succeeding where she could not.
(A footnote? If I see one more person call this relationship 'enabling' or 'stalkerish' -- dude, way to miss the point. I say this as a onetime psychology student myself: if you try to completely analyze a myth - which is what P/A clearly is - purely with modern psychology, I think you lose the story's point. And if anyone was enabling Anakin, can be blamed for his downfall - that focus needs to fall squarely on a certain other Naboo politician. As far as the stalker angle - how many stalkers say no and apologize and back off when the girl tells them to back off? Shoot, by the time she confesses her love, she's been chasing him half the movie.)
To sum up, this relationship has every story element I ever wanted in a ship (except the happy ending, which I'm convinced they got after the cameras stopped rolling on RotJ anyway). If I had to choose only one ship out of all the ships in any fandom to keep, casting all the others aside - this would be the one, unquestionably.
Want to share your own reasons for loving Padmé/Anakin? Check out the "Beginnings: P/A Fan Stories" page.