Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! In honor of the day, let’s take a look at the most romantic films to come out since 1980. I chose not to include older films because I wanted to do a more modern list…you know, those that are more fresh in most people’s minds. The list consists of the 10 plus a few honorable mentions below it. What makes a great romantic film? First and foremost, the love story has to be an intense one…one with lots of passion. The characters must be believable and the actors must have solid chemistry. The best ones are the films where you watch them and say “they would be a great couple in the real world”. Storylines that feature a lot of drama tend to be more memorable, although my #1 film wins because of its simplicity. Funny thing is that either Richard Gere, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Patrick Swayze star in 6 of the top 10. Let me know what you think…and what, in your opinion, should have made the list. The list was first created in 2011, so I have updated the honorable mention list with some films from the past two years. However, my top 10 did not change. Also, Nicholas Sparks’ novel Safe Haven gets the film treatment on February 14, 2013.
10. LEGENDS OF THE FALL – Brad Pitt became a movie star with his portrayal of Tristan Ludlow in the epic about three brothers who fall for the same woman. As soon as Julia Ormond’s Susannah catches sight of him…well, the other brothers don’t have a chance. Ormond does a remarkable job at making the audience believe that Susannah is completely taken by Tristan. The film also has the romance between Tristan and Isabel Two, which ends in heartbreak. A sweeping, beautifully shot film that is heavy on the drama, but also masterfully handles the relationships between all of the great characters.
9. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – Keira Knightley is great in period pieces, isn’t she? These are roles that she was born to play. Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew McFayden’s Mr. Darcy are enchanting characters that you can’t help but enjoy watching. Jane Austen’s novel about five sisters novel about five sisters – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia Bennet – in Georgian England, whose lives are turned upside down when a wealthy young man (Mr. Bingley) and his best friend (Mr. Darcy) arrive in their neighborhood, has been made into film versions before. This 2005 version is the best translation of the material, in my opinion. It’s a true testament to the actors and director Joe Wright, who keep the film moving along at a really nice pace for the audience. The film’s tagline says it all – “Sometimes the last person on earth you want to be with is the one person you can’t be without.” Interesting.
8. JERRY MAGUIRE – Tom Cruise gives his best performance to date as the sports agent who appears to be on top of the world, but then realizes that he doesn’t really like what he does for a living. Wanting to change how agents handle their clients, Jerry Maguire drafts a memo defining what ‘should’ be done. Doesn’t go over well. He gets fired, loses all but one client, and discovers that his fiance is not exactly the right person for him. This film is a tale about redemption…about being on top, being down under the dirt, and climbing your way out of it to become even greater than you were before. Along the way, he finds love again in the one woman who went with her heart and followed him out of his old job into an abyss of uncertainty. Resistant at first, Jerry eventually realizes that Renee Zelwegger’s Dorothy Boyd is perfect for him. Cruise and Zelwegger give one us one of the most memorable, heartfelt endings to any movie ever…and the popular phrase ‘you had me at hello’ was born.
7. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO + JULIET – Unlike any other interpretation before, and probably after it, Baz Luhrmann’s take on R&J is not really for everyone. It’s over the top characters and sequences do tend to take away a bit from what the story is all about, however, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes are so well matched in this flick that it doesn’t hurt it that much. As an audience, we have to remember that these characters are teenagers and the playful way they meet and interact in the beginning is enchanting to watch. Star-crossed lovers in every sense of the term ultimately leads to their demise. Their lives became all about the other and in the end they can’t live without each other. The movie succeeds due to the amazing performances by the two leads. They pull it off marvelously.
6. AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN – Richard Gere gives an intense performance as Jack Mayo in this film about a man who is wanting to become a Navy aviator, but has to get past his attitude problem and the loss of a close friend in order to do so. This is a movie about reaching your full potential and doing what it takes to get what you want out of life – despite your personal flaws and the negative events that surround you. Once Mayo loses his friend Sid to suicide, he realizes that he needs to change a few things in his life…and he needs to hold onto the woman he loves and not push her away. The final few minutes of Officer are exceptional when Mayo goes to the factory to get Paula (Debra Winger). It is at this moment where the audience sees the complete transformation of who Mayo was…and who he has become. A gentleman.
5. DIRTY DANCING – ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ will probably go down in film history as the most memorable line ever uttered by the late Patrick Swayze. It’s a statement that sums up what the movie is all about. Swayze’s Johnny Castle is the complete opposite of the young and innocent Baby, portrayed by Jennifer Grey. That’s why the romance works as well as it does. Each of them is looking for someone they haven’t had before. Baby has been surrounded her whole life by so called good guys that her parents force on her and Johnny is used to fast girls who don’t really seem to be grounded all that well. They find a happiness with each other that has eluded them until they finally find each other. He sticks up for her and she sticks up for him. A love story where each party has the others back 100 percent…no matter what the risks may be. Add in one of the best soundtracks ever, sexy dance sequences, and a setting that is ripe for romance and you have the ultimate Valentine’s Day flick.
4. PRETTY WOMAN – The ultimate rags to riches story. The one that made Julia Roberts a household name. Another film that soars due to the chemistry between the two lead characters. The most unlikely romance on the list finds savvy businessman Edward Lewis picking up a prostitute named Vivian one night when he gets lost driving to his destination. Vivian’s charm makes Edward want to keep her around for a few more days. He makes her an offer she can’t refuse. What happens next is what fairy tales are made of – the rich, handsome Edward falls for the charming, yet down on her luck prostitute and vice versa. The see the best in each other and in the end, he realizes that without her his life is just not complete. Another film that has a solid soundtrack, very well written lines, and appealing characters. One of the biggest films of all time and one of the most watched.
3. GHOST - You know going in to this film what’s going to happen. We have a couple, one of them dies…but refuses to cross over to the other side until he takes care of some unfinished business. The biggest surprise here is the grace with which it is filmed. The love scenes between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze are not only passionate, but extremely sweet at the same time. Once Swayze’s Sam Wheat is murdered, Demi Moore really does a fine job at making you feel Molly Jensen’s heartbreak. Moore and Swayze have great chemistry here and when Sam says goodbye to her at the end of the film – well, I don’t know anyone who didn’t shed a tear. Whoopi Goldberg and Tony Goldwyn also do exceptional work as the psychic who communicates with Sam and the friend who betrays him, respectively. To this day, this great movie is one of the biggest surprises for me. Considering this – it was directed by Jerry Zucker…the man behind Airplane and The Naked Gun movies.
2. TITANIC – Everyone knew that James Cameron’s $200 million plus, 3 hour long epic was going to be something to behold, at least visually. What nobody expected though, was just how touching and heartbreaking the storyline that was woven within the plot would be. I was one of them. Honestly, this film could be in the #1 spot simply because of how tragic the event was surrounding the relationship of the two main characters. This big budget masterpiece does not succeed on the stunning visuals alone – hell, a lot of movies have great visuals. It soars on the fresh romance between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet’s Rose Dewitt Bukater. Poor boy meet rich girl who is dying to get out of what she has been forced into. Kate sees in Jack the person she ultimately wants to be. He has no ties…no worries…no drama…and more than anything, nobody to answer to. She longs for that. At the end of the film, once Rose has to let Jack go and we see the full transformation of what meeting this man has done for her, we realize that this is what real love is all about. Sometimes it comes around once and only lasts for a short while in the physical world…but it can stay in your heart and in your mind forever.
1. THE NOTEBOOK – Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are still my favorite on-screen couple. Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook is a story of young lovers that are separated only to realize that they are truly meant to be with each other. Allie and Noah found love as teenagers only to be separated by several factors. Noah going to war, Allie’s parents keeping his letters from her, and Allie meeting another man who she falls in love with…although not even close to the true love she found with Noah. Allie thinks that Noah forgot about her. Once they find each other again, they basically pick up where they left off. It’s here where the film excels. Despite all of the time and events that have happened in between their meetings, they fall right back into love again. Gosling and Adams are amazing as Noah and Allie. To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone else playing these parts. As the years go by and many children later, Noah’s undying love for his wife is put to the test when she develops Alzheimer’s and can’t remember who he is. He never gives up on her and in the end, she remembers him. Another film that I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy…wound up being one of my favorite films of all time.
HONORABLE MENTIONS with their romantic pairings (in no particular order)
THE ENGLISH PATIENT - Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas
INDECENT PROPOSAL – Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore
CHOCOLAT - Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche
REVENGE – Kevin Costner and Madeline Stowe
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE – Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan
BRAVEHEART – Mel Gibson and Catherine McCormack
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE - Kevin Costner and Robin Wright
FORREST GUMP – Tom Hanks and Robin Wright
LOVE ACTUALLY – various pairings, starring Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley
NIGHTS IN RODANTHE – Richard Gere and Diane Lane
CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett
EVER AFTER – Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott
FOR LOVE OF THE GAME – Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY – Kate Winslett and Greg Wise
HOPE FLOATS – Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE – Cary Elwes and Robin Wright
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Most romantic Disney animated film to date!
WALL-E – Not all romantic films have to involves humans…robots need love too!!
BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY – Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep
ATONEMENT – Keira Knightley and James McAvoy
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND – Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet
SERENDIPITY – John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale
WALK THE LINE – Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY – Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan
SAY ANYTHING – John Cusack and Ione Skye
TWILIGHT SAGA- Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart
FOOTLOOSE – Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer
SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL – Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson
BENNY & JOON – Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson
BEFORE SUNRISE AND BEFORE SUNSET – Julie Deply and Ethan Hawke
THE VOW – Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS – Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson
ONE DAY – Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess
CRAZY STUPID LOVE – Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling; Steve Carell and Julianne Moore
ART OF GETTING BY – Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS – Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder