Nothing says “I love you” like watching someone you don’t know (i.e. a movie star) say it to someone else you don’t know (as in, another movie star). But we fall in love at the movies, with the movies, and sometimes we wish we could break the celluloid barrier and join (or break up) a happy couple. And luckily the silver screen gives us romance in all its forms, so here (in chronological order to avoid squabbling over rankings) is a 14-piece starter kit for your movie romance.
If you’re into unrequited love, sweeping (fake) shots of Atlanta burning at the hand of those damn Yankees, and a heroine as feisty as they come, try Gone with the Wind (1939). There’s no matching Scarlett’s passion for all things Ashley (unless it’s all things Rhett).
If love means being somewhere where everyone knows your name, romance might not be in the air for the heroine of Rebecca (1940). She’s never actually given a name, other than “the second Mrs. de Winter,” and is obviously no match for the (dead) titular character. But that young, naïve Joan Fontaine is so very much in love with Laurence Olivier’s taciturn and emotionally wounded Maxim de Winter, that it’s a shame not to recognize it. Along with the obsession with the dearly (or not so dearly) departed Rebecca shared by Maxim and the world’s scariest housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.
Notorious (1946) has everything one could want in a romantic film: Nazis, deceit, arranged marriages. Oh, and the longest screen kiss in history (at the time) between electrifying leads Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Sure, Casablanca might be more well known (men love to long for the Ingrid), but Notorious makes you work for it, as the slow-burning romance between Grant’s T.R. Devlin and Bergman’s Alicia Huberman heats up.
In case you needed tips on how to roll around on the beach with your lover and look sexy while doing so, From Here to Eternity (1953) can be your guide. Beyond the infamous scene of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster getting hot and heavy (or as least as hot and heavy as the censors would allow in the mid-1950s) on the Hawaiian sand, there’s much to be said for a film that examines what it means to go to war and be in love.
Deborah Kerr makes a second appearance in the film that provided the (romantic) groundwork for Sleepless in Seattle decades later. In An Affair to Remember (1957), Kerr’s Terry McKay, a nightclub singer, falls in love with playboy Nickie Ferrante, played by Cary Grant (who’d moved on from Ingrid Bergman), and the couple makes the now de rigueur promise to meet in six months at the top of the Empire State Building. Not to ruin anything for you, but there’s a car crash, a wheelchair, and broken hearts and limbs before you get to the happy ending.
If bromance is your thing, look no further than the bro’est of them all: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Even if bromance isn’t your thing, that’s okay. You can just stare at the handsome specimens that are a young, impossibly attractive Paul Newman and a baby-faced (albeit with facial hair) Robert Redford, as they cavort around on horses until riding off into the sunset together. (And if you’re a fan of BFFs of either sex zipping off into the hereafter together, try Thelma & Louise.)
Remember, love means never having to say you’re sorry. It’s also about falling for roguish law Harvard student Ryan O’Neal, getting cancer, and, oh wait, no spoilers. Luckily, all these things can be found in Love Story (1970), along with Ali MacGraw’s much sought-after hair (and eyebrows). And what could be better than a film now shown to incoming Harvard freshmen during good-natured heckling sessions?
Love knows no boundaries, including age. There are few things more endearing than the friendship and love shared between the title characters of Harold and Maude (1971). Not only is there a real bond formed between two people, but there’s funeral-crashing, a Cat Stevens sing-along, and one of the most non-traditional couples in Hollywood films. And one of the best.
Perhaps you’re looking for love in the jungle. Colombia, to be exact. Then Romancing the Stone (1984) is for you. Uptight Kathleen Turner learns to let loose at the incessant prodding of daring soldier-of-fortune Michael Douglas. Since Douglas’s Jack T. Colton is after an enormous jewel, this is obviously a precursor to his pronouncement that “greed is good.” (Gordon Gekko: not sexy in the least, unless you just like the feel of money and sleaze in your bed.) But this action-adventure tale turned love story is truly good.
Arguably the most obvious choice, When Harry Met Sally (1989) is a tale that’s been repeated innumerable times in the nearly twenty-five years since its release. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl drive across the country. Boy and girl don’t actually like each other but secretly do. Girl demonstrates faking of orgasm in diner. Boy and girl date other people. Boy and girl find love on New Year’s Eve, after a spat. Such a simple formula for romance, really. More people should try it.
It might not seem like a good sign when a movie that’s actually incredibly sweet and romantic has the word “hate” in the title. But 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) is all about love, not hate. Sure, Julia Stiles’s Kat Stratford (hello, Taming of the Shrew) can’t stand the rebellious Patrick Verona—played by the late, great Heath Ledger in the role that made him a teen heartthrob—but he proves himself worthy of her in the end. And that’s all we can really ask.
Love is music to our ears in the record store-set High Fidelity (2000). Remember record stores? They were the places where you went to browse music in public, get into arguments about the best bootlegs, and maybe find a sarcastic but ultimately loveable clerk like John Cusack’s Rob Gordon. It seems like Cusack has a thing for music-themed romances: Say Anything, anyone? Another winner.
In case you’re looking for a less traditional love story where, say, two lovers erase the very memory of their time together but viewers desperately want them to be together, then Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is for you. There’s nothing to do but love Kate Winslet’s Clementine and Jim Carrey’s Joel and wish that something, anything, would bring them together.
It’s a wild and crazy world out there, full of wild and crazy people. Some of those people fall in love and it’s a beautiful mess to watch. Case in point: Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Not only is it a chance to watch Bradley Cooper break out of his over-the-top comedic roles and play a real, damaged human being, but it’s also when we’re treated to a grown up Jennifer Lawrence giving an Oscar-winning performance as Tiffany, who, despite her hair-trigger temper, is more vulnerable than she’d like you to think. These are genuine, flawed people, fumbling to find love.
What films make your list of the most romantic movies of all time? Let us know in the comments section!
Couple in movie theater: http://www.dacarli.com/blog/vintage-diamond-engagement-ring