Never has a subject been more emotive than a small survey I conducted to narrow down our favorite romantic movies of all time. First of all, I had to figure out what constitutes “romantic”. Then, there is the era and age of the movie to take into consideration. And what counts as a movie, anyway? Does a made-for-TV show count? After much thought, I finally whittled the answers down to a final 10. Although there is nodefinitive list, (we all have our own top 10 romantic movies based on what we have seen over the years) here are the results of our top 10 romantic moves survey in no particular order.
Love Story (1970)
One of the most popular and enduring love stories, Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal star in a film that will have you reaching for the tissue box without a doubt. It’s funny how often romance is linked with sadness, but I am not getting into that here. We have everything that a tearjerker in this classic:rich boy, poor girl; an opposing father; success; disaster and fatal illness. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that is superbly filmed.
How would you feel if someone died for you? In tragedy, we often find the barest soul of romance and so it is with this movie. The romance is not so much in the characters, but in the fact that it is so intense and so brief and so unfairly taken away within the setting of huge drama. Self-sacrifice may be the romantic ideal being portrayed here, but there are few us of who could watch without shedding a tear. For three hours of screen time, we are overtaken by every emotion, and for days the movie leaves a haunting impact. But it is the connection between the two lovers that affected the world’s audiences the most. Superb.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks may be too sweet a pairing for some, but in terms of romantic fantasyland, this is about as close to heaven as one can get. Beautifully scripted and filmed, this film is the perfect vehicle to illustrate why both actors are romantic stars. Grab your popcorn and settle in with your sweetheart.
Pretty Woman (1990)
Maybe it’s the dream pairing of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Maybe it’s the story of a girl going from rags to riches. Maybe it’s simply about a boy choosing a girl just when you think he might not. Whatever aspect you wish to focus on, this is top romantic entertainment that has not aged one bit. Watch to remind yourself how on-screen romance should be portrayed.
City of Angels (1998)
This one presents theanswer to the complex romantic equation of romance, love and mortality. “City of Angels” is beautifully filmed and acted, with Meg Ryan particularly on form. Nicholas Cage as the angel Seth finds himself at odds with the world by falling in love with Meg, who looks almost as angelic as Nick throughout the film. Seth’s fall from grace to be with the woman he loves tugs at the heart, however nothing on Earth can prepare you for the romantic drama of the final moments. From the opening heart-breaking scene to the angels portrayed as beings of light — aloof in high places — this movie appeals on every level. It’s glorious and gorgeous in every way, with a score to match.
This timeless classic is really a romantic melodrama. Often quoted, it has lost none of its romantic value. Against a wartime backdrop, we are presented as viewers with a classic love triangle where two men vie for the affection of the same woman. Humphrey Bogart is in splendid form as the exiled loner and the film itself attends to the theme of lost love. The ending is a romantic classic. If it’s Sunday evening and raining outside, this is the one for you (both).
An Affair to Remember (1957)
The essential romantic storyline is that Cary Grant, an eligible bachelor, is set to marry an heiress. Then he meets Deborah Kerr while traveling and realizes he’s engaged to the wrong woman. Just to complicate matters, she, too, is engaged to the wrong man. The two agree to spend six months apart before reuniting six months later at the top of the Empire State Building. However, the threat of tragedy strikes. A great romantic treat, nonetheless.
The Way We Were (1973)
Here we have two young lovers (Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand) with differing political ideologies who come together. It’s an odd thing, but there are aspects to the American cinema of the early 1970s that have never been emulated (see “The Last Picture Show,” for example) anywhere else and this embodies many sensitive romantic ideals that are rarely portrayed today. Streisand won a much deserved Oscar for her portrayal of the woman in love. Plus, the music will make your spine tingle. Just lovely.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
The music is mesmerizing. The film work is unbelievable and epic, and the love story, simply stunning. This is one for a weekend in, and perfect for lovers of romantic movies everywhere. Julie Christie still looks as gorgeous as ever and the perfect romantic heroine for this film. Set against the backdrop of the Russian revolution, Sharif and Christie portray two lovers who are separated and brought together again by war and fate. It is a movie that combines romance and tragedy as the two appear to be intertwined. For a treat of cinematic vistas and passion, this is a must-see.
Brief Encounter (1946)
Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard star in this romantic classic. A housewife meets a married doctor at a railway station by chance. What transpires next is a cinematic masterpiece of inspired passion and unrequited love between an English middle-class man and woman. Even the title has moved into general romantic speak. If you haven’t seen it, then put it at the top of the list!
Happy romantic viewing!