What makes a great romantic story or movie? One that tugs at the heart strings over and over? Makes you laugh and cry, sigh and buy stock in Kleenex?
“Most romantic movie” is highly subjective. (IMHO, Hollywood hasn’t cranked out much worth seeing in this category in decades.)
But basic elements include credible dialogue and a solid, poignant script. Three-dimensional characters who learn, grow and develop. Superlative acting. A story that typically goes like:
1) Boy meets girl
2) Boy loses girl
3) Boy finds girl again.
Boils Down To
In between are all sorts of obstacles, angst, turmoil and tumult. Misunderstandings. Heartbreak. Despair. Tragedy and triumph. But the essence of a great romantic movie boils down to:
Love Conquers All
Additionally, an element of selflessness and/or self-sacrifice should be evident in order to make the cut. (That’s why the truculent, self-absorbed characters of Titanic aren’t on this list.) With these basic criteria in mind, here’s my 100% subjective, totally unscientific list of:
The 10 Most Romantic Movies of All Time (in no particular order):
1. Casablanca – Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, 1942
World War II is raging. Rick Blaine, an exiled American and former freedom fighter, runs the most popular nightspot in Casablanca. Rick’s café has become a haven for refugees seeking to obtain illicit letters that will aid their escape to America.
One of these refugees is Czechoslovak underground leader Victor Laszlo. He’s on the run from the Nazis. When Laszlo suddenly shows up with his wife Ilsa, Rick’s former lover from Paris, the cynical café owner must make a heartbreaking decision.
Play it, Sam.
2. An Affair to Remember – Starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, 1957.
Handsome playboy Nickie Ferrante and beautiful night club singer Terry McKay meet aboard ship while sailing from Europe to New York. Despite being engaged to other people, they suddenly find themselves falling in love. They agree to meet on top of the Empire State Building in six months. But fate intervenes…
3. The Bridges of Madison County – Starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, 1995.
A National Geographic photographer on assignment in Iowa meets a lonely housewife.
While her husband and children are away at the State Fair in the summer of 1965, Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) happens to turn into the Johnson farm and asks Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) for directions. The next four days change their lives forever.
4. Out of Africa – Starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, 1985.
Looking for a better life in early 20th century Denmark, Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) enters into a marriage of convenience with a womanizing baron. But when the couple moves to Kenya to start a dairy farm, an unexpected adventure awaits Karen: she falls in love with an English safari hunter who can’t be tied down.
A stirring John Barry score.
5. Somewhere In Time – Starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, 1980.
A haunting love story that transcends time.
When young playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) struggles with writer’s block, he heads to a hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island to clear his head. While there, he notices a photograph of a beautiful young woman hanging on a wall of the hotel’s Hall of History.
He later discovers that the young woman, Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), performed a play at the hotel some 60 years earlier… and he was there.
6. Sleepless in Seattle – Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, 1993.
A Baltimore reporter, Annie, tunes in to a talk radio show on her way to her engagement party on Christmas Eve. She hears a young boy, Noah Baldwin, wishing his father, Sam, would find a new wife because his mother recently died.
Unable to forget Sam and Noah, Annie begins to look for something she didn’t know she was missing. Something like… magic.
7. Gone With the Wind – Starring Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard, 1939.
Based on the sweeping epic by Margaret Mitchell in which a manipulative Southern belle and a roguish blockade runner meet their match – in each other.
8. West Side Story – Starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Richard Beymer and George Chakiris, 1961
A modern, musical re-telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Set in New York City amid warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks.
Jets member Tony (Richard Beymer) falls for Maria (Natalie Wood). She’s the sister of the Sharks leader, Bernardo (George Chakiris). Tensions simmer and boil over into a battle to the death and a heartbreaking finale.
Winner of 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
9. The Princess Bride – Starring Cary Elwes & Robin Wright, 1987
The beautiful Princess Buttercup and the dashing Westley must overcome incredible odds to find happiness amid six-fingered swordsmen, murderous princes, Sicilians, and rodents of unusual size.
An enchanting love story that not even the Dread Pirate Roberts can sink. (Did you know the 1987 movie was based on a book?)
10. The Bodyguard – Starring Kevin Costner & Whitney Houston, 1992.
Former Secret Service agent Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) takes a job as a bodyguard to protect a temperamental pop singer (Whitney Houston) who’s been receiving death threats. Lots of ruffled feathers ensue before Cupid’s arrows start hitting their marks.
11. Sense and Sensibility – Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, 1995
When Elinor Dashwood’s father dies, her family is left virtually penniless due to inheritance laws. ‘Forced to move into a cottage in Devonshire, the Dashwoods soon discover that country life isn’t as quiet as they thought it might be.
Eldest daughter Elinor forms an attachment with the wealthy Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant). Her hopes are dashed when his family disapproves and separates them. Meanwhile, Elinor’s sister Marianne (Kate Winslet) is torn between the dashing John Willoughby (Greg Wise) and the more sedate Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman).
But is Willoughby all he’s cracked up to be? Will Edward stand by his promises or not? Will true love find either sister? Will it ever stop raining?
Based on the beloved classic by Jane Austen.
12. I Can Only Imagine – J. Michael Finley & Dennis Quaid, 2018
Discover the untold story behind the beloved chart-topping song. No list of “love conquers all” movies would be complete without this one. A personal favorite.
- Camelot – loosely based on the T.H. White Arthurian classic, The Once and Future King.
- Les Miserables – Based on the novel by Victor Hugo. (I am speaking of the 1995 dream cast musical version, not that God-awful 2012 Russell Crowe knock-off.)
- Dr. Zhivago – Based on the 1957 novel by Boris Pasternak.
Did your favorite make the cut? What would you add?