Sometimes during these tough and hectic times, we all need to escape…
And as we are escaping there is also something to learn from these movies… if you watch several, spanning the decades, you see how society, traditions, and culture has changed. Kind of a history lesson without pain for those who think they don’t like history. Also a good way to get into that discussion with young people! Ask Marion~
Want to make a weekend of it on a budget or don’t have the cash to buy roses and visit that five-star restaurant on Valentine’s Day? No fear; get some Chinese takeout, some wine or bubbly and a nice romantic movie or two. Or plan a staycation (on Valentine’s Day or for an upcoming weekend) at your place, your gal or guy’s place or at an inexpensive alternative. Shop for easy meals and snacks in bed or for TV time and get a weekend full of great romantic movies. Or make it a romantic dinner in and movie ‘week’. There are plenty of good films out there. *Remember, Valentine’s Day and the Weekend thereafter are some of the most expensive days/weekends at restaurants and hotels, with often the worst service. So plan your staycation for a couple of weekends out.
Below is a list of some of the top romantic films of all time… listed in random order, and there are plenty more out there! (Sorry if I missed your favorite):
- Roman Holiday (1953) — Take a trip to romantic Italy with enduring stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn, who won an Oscar for this breakout role, plays a demure European princess bored with her official duties. Peck is the handsome American newspaper reporter she falls for on her day under cover as an ordinary girl.
- Dark Victory (1939) — A Bette Davis tear-jerker about a bratty heiress who suffers a brain tumor, only to fall in love with doctor George Brent. Interesting support from Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan.
- Shall We Dance? [Blu-ray] (2004) - Something got lost in translation from 1996’s critically acclaimed Japanese comedy, but the American remake of Shall We Dance? is not without charms of its own. Golden Globe winner Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez step out in a delightfully sexy comedy with a sizzling all-star cast! John Clark is a meek workaholic who feels trapped in a dull, mind-numbing existence. But one night, his whole life changes when the sight of a beautiful dance instructor (Lopez) inspires him to break out of his mold and sign up for some fancy footwork- if he expects to keep his exciting new passion a secret from his family and friends. Also starring Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci! The original Shall We Dance was made with the dynamic dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 1937.
- Pretty Woman [Blu-ray] (1990) – Probably the absolute ultimate “chick flick” of all time! Julia Roberts plays Vivian, a simpatico hooker. The movie made Julia Roberts a star! Richard Gere, plays Edward, is a rich, ruthless businessman who specializes in taking over companies and selling them off piece by piece. While in L.A. Edward hires Vivian to be his escort for the week, looking to avoid emotional attachments. However, she gets under his skin and into his heart, finding himself charmed by Vivian and eventually falling in love with her.
- Grease [Rydell Edition] [Blu-ray] (1978) – One of the great movie musicals and chick flicks. Set in the 1950’s, good girl Sandy (played by Olivia Newton-John) and greaser Danny (played by John Travolta) fall in love over the summer and then go their separate ways. But when they unexpectedly discover they’re now in the same high school, the question becomes will they be able to rekindle their romance with the help and hindrances of friends including Stockard Channing and 50’s matinee idol Frankie Avalon? It was successful both critically and at the box office; its soundtrack was number two in sales in the U.S., in 1978. In 1982 they released Grease 2 about an English student (Maxwell Caulfield) at a 1960’s American high school who has to prove himself to the leader of a girls’ gang (Michelle Pfeiffer) whose members can only date greasers. They have been released in a We Go Together Two-Pack.
- Where The Boys Are (1960) — Young love and crazy fun on Spring Break; a wild and racy movie for its time, featuring Connie Frances singing her hit song with the same title. This movie put the ‘Break’ into Spring. Where The Boys Are inspired thousands (more like millions in the meantime) of college kids to seek sun, surf, and even s-e-x on the beaches of Florida (Newport, Mexico and even the desert resort of Palm Springs) for decades.
- A Guy Named Joe [VHS] [DVD] (1943) — A deceased WWII bomber pilot, Major Pete Sandidge played by Van Jones, becomes guardian angel to another pilot, Captain Ted Randall (played by Spencer Tracy). Sandidge guides Randall through battle and helps him to romance his old girlfriend, despite her excessive devotion to Sandidge’s memory. A great film if you can find a copy!
- Dirty Dancing [Blu-ray] (1987 ) – This ever-popular chick flick tells the familiar innocent girl meets older experienced boy story; set in the summer of 1963 at a Catskill’s resort, where innocent 17-year-old ‘Baby’ (played by Jennifer Gray) is vacationing with her parents. Baby meets Johnny (played by the late Patrick Swayze), the resort dance instructor. Baby becomes Johnny’s dance pupil and they fall in love. Ever since 1987, several generations have now repeated Johnny’s famous line: “nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
- On Golden Pond (1982) Golden Pond was Henry Fonda’s last film, Katherine Hepburn’s final starring film role and the only film with Henry and daughter Jane Fonda together. Just for this, it’s a must have DVD. Add to this Ernest Thompson’s brilliant adaptation of his Broadway smash. An old professor suffering from the disorienting effects of mild dementia and his wife make peace with their daughter in Maine.
- Titanic (1997) - This epic romantic blockbuster… with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet is on the level of Gone With the Wind. DiCaprio and Winslet, as did Gable and Leigh, both shine in this unforgettable love story born of tragedy that became an over-night worldwide phenomenon and is now a classic. It is always worth taking the journey and discovering or remembering why critics declared Titanic “a magnificent motion picture that remains spellbinding with each viewing”. Cameron’s stroke of genius was to combine absolute authenticity with the story of a pair of fictional lovers whose tragic fate draws viewers into the heart-wrenching reality of the Titanic disaster. Titanic has far surpassed the $1-billion mark in global box-office receipts and won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Director.
- An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) - Once in a great while a movie comes along that truly grips and uplifts its audiences. Such a movie is An Officer And A Gentleman, a timeless tale of romance, friendship and growth. Loner Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) enters Officer Candidate School to become a Navy pilot and in thirteen tortuous weeks he learns the importance of discipline, love and friendship. Louis Gossett, Jr. won an Academy Award* for his brilliant portrayal of the tough drill instructor who teaches Zack that no man can make it alone. And while Gossett tries to warn the young officer about the local girls who will do anything to catch themselves pilot husbands, Zack eventually learns to love one (Debra Winger) while his fellow candidate, a memorable character portrayed by David Keith, struggles with a very different fate. An Officer And A Gentleman is a rich and satisfying story with moving performances that will stay with you long after the film has ended.
- The Notebook [Blu-ray] (2005) – This tearjerker is also a hallmark Alzheimer’s movie watched by every generation. It is a draw for those who believe in the massive power of true love but serves a higher purpose in exposing many who have never experienced the reality of AD, and who might not watch it, had it been billed as an Alzheimer’s-Dementia film. It is the all too common story of two teenagers from opposite sides of the tracks fall in love, during the summer of 1936. At the end of the summer, they are forced apart. When they reunite 7-years later, through a series of events, their romance is rekindled, forcing one of them to choose between true love and social status. The story and strength of their great love momentarily lifts the veil of Alzheimer’s as it progresses and beyond. (Consider getting it as part of the 4 romantic film favorite pack – 4-Romantic Film Favorites: Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and The Notebook.
- Lady and the Tramp [Digital Combo] (1955) — All of us can take lessons in civility and romance from an upper-middle-class pedigree spaniel and a male stray mongrel in this delightful Disney animated movie.
- Ghost [Blu-ray] (1990) — Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore show that love survives beyond death; another love beyond this realm film. The song “Unchained Melody” never sounded so good.
- Last of the Mohicans (1936) — In the newest version: The Last of the Mohicans [Blu-ray] The chemistry between Mohican Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Cora (Madeleine Stowe) is alluring in this thrilling frontier epic. Who can forget the electrifying cliff scene? The original silent version of The Last of the Mohicans was made in 1920.
- Brief Encounter [Blu-ray](1945) — Doctor Trevor Howard and housewife Celia Johnson, married to other people, meet at a train station and fall in love in this haunting David Lean masterpiece. (Richard Burton version)
- Groundhog Day [Blu-ray] (1993) — Bill Murray learns through an interminable process how to woo a woman — by getting to know her and caring for her. Charming and funny.
- Notting Hill [Blu-ray] (1999) – William Thacker, the owner of a travel bookshop, is played by Hugh Grant. One day, a world famous movie star, Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts, walks into his bookstore… and also into his heart. It is a story of love crossing economic and cultural lines. Can William and Anna reconcile their very different lives; he an ordinary bookstore owner and her a famous and very public celebrity? Is love enough?
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) — Strange, sentimental love story between a captain’s ghost (Rex Harrison) and an impoverished widow (Gene Tierney) who inhabits his house.
- P.S. I Love You [Blu-ray] (2007) – This is truly a film for those who believe true love lasts beyond this realm. Holly (played by Hillary Swank) is happily married to a loving Irishman, Gerry (played by Gerard Butler). Gerry’s sudden death from a brain tumor, pushes Holly into a deep depression, causing her to withdraw from family and friends. On Holly’s 30th birthday, a cake is delivered with a message from Gerry. Thereafter, Holly continues to receive gifts and letters from Gerry, which he arranged before his death. With each message Holly is filled with encouragement; moving her forward back into life. Although Holly’s mother worries that Gerry’s letters will keep Holly tied to the past, they actually move her into her future.
- Out of Africa [Digital Combo] (1985) — Yes, Meryl Streep employs yet another accent, and Robert Redford doesn’t (even though he’s supposed to be a Brit) but this sweeping epic still pushes all the right buttons in recounting the travails of Miss Streep’s Dane Karen Blixen.
- Carousel (1956) — Tormented Billy Bigelow asks to be sent down “from above” for one day to try to make amends for mistakes he made in life. It’s a love story, the thornier kind between two stubborn, damaged souls who find each other.
- Heaven Can Wait [Combo] (1978) — This sweet and funny film banks on the chemistry between Warren Beatty and Julie Christie and on James Mason’s calm benevolence. (Remade from the charming 1941 classic “Here Comes Mr. Jordan.”)
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) — The opening shot from behind as Meryl Streep turns around before the sea is glorious. Miss Streep and Jeremy Irons are a pair of doomed lovers — in the Victorian era and on a movie set.
- A Place in the Sun (1951) — Elizabeth Taylor’s first “adult” role has her in an undeniably romantic but tragic relationship with up-and-comer Montgomery Clift, who also is involved with Shelley Winters.
- A Star is Born [Blu-ray] (1954) — A Star is Born has been made 3 times. The 1954 version [Blu-ray book packaging] of this saga is generally considered the best; Judy Garland just loves alcoholic James Mason too much. But I would suggest watching both the 1954 version as well as the latest starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristopherson. (Original version with Janet Gaynor)
- Pride & Prejudice [Digital Combo] (2005) — A charming Jane Austen film about a family of five daughters whose mother wants them courted for monetary purposes. Matthew Macfadyen woes the brilliant Keira Knightley.
- South Pacific [Blu-ray] (1958) — Bubbly Mitzi Gaynor falls for a middle-aged Frenchman (Rozanno Brazzi) amid unbelievably romantic songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening,”“This Nearly Was Mine” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.”
- Porgy and Bess (1959) — Gershwin’s classic folk opera gets the sumptuous Sidney Poitier-Dorothy Dandridge treatment with a fine supporting cast. (1993 Version)
- The Shop Around the Corner (1940) — It’s often forgotten that James Stewart, the romantic family man in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” also was in this Christmas classic. Ernst Lubitsch’s tender romantic comedy sees James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan resolve an antagonistic romantic attraction on Christmas Eve. (Part of a TCM collection: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection…)
- The Remains of the Day (1993) — An English butler Anthony Hopkins looks back and ponders the true nature of his relationship with his former colleague Emma Thompson when they worked together in a large house during the years leading up to World War II.
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind… (2004)An incredibly creative movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a movie about recognizing the good in relationships over the bad. It’s all about a man who is so overtaken with grief at the destruction of his romance that he submits himself to a memory-erasing procedure. But once he starts seeing that the good parts of his relationship must be erased as well, he decides he would rather live with the heartbreak. In some ways, the film has one of the best endings of any movie on this list when both lovers stand in a hallway, acknowledge the negatives of dating each other and simply say, “Okay.”
- Beauty and the Beast (Digital Combo) (1991) — True love is an inner thing. This Disney animated musical fantasy has become many a young girl’s favorite. It made $422.7 million at the box office and won the Golden Globe for best motion picture — musical or comedy.
- Notorious [Blu-ray] (1946) — The Cary Grant-Ingrid Bergman mix and the Alfred Hitchcock touch make this romantic thriller a delight as an American falls in love with a woman pressed into spying against the Nazis.
- Doctor Zhivago [Blu-ray] (1965) — Lush cinematography, gorgeous music and the chemistry between Omar Sharif and Julie Christie have turned this romantic epic of a doctor-poet trapped by the Russian Revolution into a film classic.
- An Affair To Remember [Blu-ray] (1957) — Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr star in this emotional remake of Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne’s Love Affair – 1939,” about a playboy aboard ship. The silly (1993) offshoot, “Sleepless in Seattle,” is not as good, but cute. Warren Beatty and his real-life wife Annette Benning remade Love Affair in 1994.
- I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) — Wendy Hiller heads to an island off Scotland to meet her wealthy intended in this wartime romance, but on the way she meets dashing navel officer Robert Livesey. Scotland has never looked more romantic.
- From Here to Eternity (1953) — It would be hard not to include this just for the romantic scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the Hawaiian beach. The surf pounds, the music peaks, the screen burns.
- Romeo & Juliet (1968) — Shakespeare purists scoffed at Franco Zeffirelli’s take on what became a celebrated film, with the lovely Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting playing the tragic couple from feuding families. It’s a little creepy to think that Miss Hussy was just 15 years old when this was filmed, but there are many versions of this film, but this is the best!
- Let The Right One In [Blu-ray] (2009) (English Subtitled)Alright, I acknowledge right out of the gate that Let The Right One In isn’t for everybody. Being a Swedish-produced romantic horror film, it’s the most challenging film on this list. There are subtitles and there are bloody murders. But the story is about a lonely little boy who falls in love with an equally lonely little girl who might not be a girl at all… but a vampire. She has to kill to stay alive and he has to choose whether or not to accept her. It’s a romance about not judging a book by its cover and about how the best relationships sometimes begin as great friendships. Also, there aren’t enough “puppy love” movies out there.
- West Side Story [Blu-ray] (1961) — This grandly passionate and innovative musical version of Romeo and Juliet was No. 3 in the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 U.S. screen romances in 2002. West Side Story (Special Edition Collector’s Set)
- Same Time, Next Year (1978) – This is one of those rare gems — a movie based on a stage play that is true to the original. The premise is simple: a man and a woman happen to meet at a romantic Pacific coast inn in the 1950s, spend a night together, and discover that they’re both married — with children, no less! How do they deal with it? Well, after getting past the initial shock and guilt (she yells into a towel, he lies about his wife’s name and the number of children he has), they agree to meet every year, same weekend, same place. We, the audience, are allowed to observe every 5th meeting in the same room. We see the changes in the relationship, the changes in each of the participants, the changing times
- Sense & Sensibility (1995) — Whether you are a Jane Austen fan or not, she does know romantic intrigue and the pound-pound of a young person’s heart. These both bring on tears of joy upon successful union, if you let yourself be taken along. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet are amazing. Great combo: The Remains of the Day / Sense & Sensibility…
- Somewhere in Time (1980) – Somewhere in Time is the story of a young writer who sacrifices his life in the present to find happiness in the past, where true love awaits him. Young Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) is approached by an elderly woman who gives him an antique gold watch and who pleads with him to return in time with her. Years later, Richard Collier is overwhelmed by a photograph of a beautiful young woman (Jane Seymour). Another picture of this woman in her later years reveals to him that she is the same woman who had given him the gold watch. Collier then becomes obsessed with returning to 1912 and the beautiful young woman who awaits him there.
- WALL-E [Blue-ray](2008 ) – Pixar genius reigns in this funny romantic comedy, which stars a robot who says absolutely nothing for a full 25 minutes yet somehow completely transfixes and endears himself to the audience within the first few minutes of the film. As the last robot left on earth, Wall-E (voiced by Ben Burtt) is one small robot–with a big, big heart–who holds the future of earth and mankind squarely in the palm of his metal hand.One of the sweetest Disney/Pixar films of all time, Wall-E is the story of a little lonely robot left all alone on Earth after mankind has abandoned the planet. One day he encounters a cute female robot (if robots really have genders) named Eva and immediately wants to be around her all the time. He’s so happy with Eva until they are separated in space and Wall-E must embark on a quest to reunite with her. It’s Disney, folks, so nothing but cuteness all around in this one.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding [Blu-ray] (2008) Toula is 30. And unmarried. Which means as a nice Greek girl — she’s a failure. All her cousins did the right thing — married Greek boys and made Greek babies. So everyone worries: what will become of Toula? Then one day she sees the ultimate unattainable guy and realizes the only way her life will get better is if he gets away from her big, fat Greek family. Toula escapes from the family restaurant. She exchanges her seating hostess jacket for a college diploma, convinces her aunt to give her a new job, and trades in her coke-bottle glasses for contact lenses, just in time for “him” to walk back into her life. Ian Miller is tall, handsome but definitely not Greek. Their courtship is an Olympian culture clash. Can Ian handle Toula, her parents, her aunts, uncles, cousins and several centuries of Greek heritage? Will Toula discover the love she’s been missing right in the heart of her big, fat family? One thing is for sure, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, with Ian’s proposal Toula is headed for her big, fat Greek wedding.
Moonstruck [Blu-ray] (1987) Academy Award winners** Cher, Nicolas Cage and Olympia Dukakis excel in this explosively funny tale which also features flawless performances by Danny Aiello, Vincent Gardenia and Frasier’s John Mahoney. Cher is “devastatingly funny, sinuous and beautiful” (Pauline Kael) as Loretta, an unlucky in love Italian widow who finds romance through the intervention of the Manhattan moon. With her wedding to a close friend just weeks away, she meets and falls hopelessly in love with his younger brother (Cage)! Her dilemma and her equally passionate and hilariously eccentric family make for an unforgettable film you’ll find “beguiling” (Time), “enchanting” (Newsweek) and “irresistible” (“Today Show”).
- The Bridges of Madison County (1995) This movie is one of my all-time favorite romances! Clint Eastwood was an unusual and (as it turned out) perceptive choice to direct and costar in this lush adaptation of Robert James Waller’s phenomenally bestselling novel. Meryl Streep costars as Francesca, the lonely Iowa farmer’s wife who is instantly attracted to Robert (Eastwood), the photographer from National Geographic who is in the area to photograph the bridges along Iowa’s rural roadways. The two fall in love while Francesca’s husband and children are away at a county fair, but the story’s passion and lasting appeal derive from their decision to part forever after just a few brief days of intimate connection. Superbly acted with an emphasis on quiet, graceful moments of tender revelation, the film builds to a crescendo of powerful and conflicting emotions. Like David Lean’s Brief Encounter (to which it bears marked similarities), The Bridges of Madison County (movie and book) is destined to become one of the classic movie love stories.
- When Harry Met Sally (Special Edition)… [Blu-ray] (1989) – This film is based on the ever-enduring question, can women and men ever be friends? According to Harry (played by Billy Crystal), the answer is an unequivocal ‘no’. Yet Sally (played by Meg Ryan) wants to do just that… be and remain best friends. Through eleven years of ups and downs, they remain best friends, but ultimately they can no longer deny their feelings. Both Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan shine in this film and the famous scene in which Sally demonstrates how much she is “enjoying” her sandwich at Katz Delicatessen has become iconic.
- The Way We Were (1973) Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand star as sociopolitical opposites–he’s a WASP novelist, she’s an activist–who nevertheless strike up a romance in the 1930s, and have a rocky relationship through the next two decades that reflects much of America’s history. An essential part of the movie–the Hollywood blacklist and the McCarthy witch- hunt years–comes across as a botch, due to some excessive cutting before the film was released. But except for that hole in the heart of the story, director Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa) has crafted a strong and moving drama about two interesting characters. Redford (always good with Pollack) is at the height of his powers, and Streisand is persuasive. Definitely a time piece. Great The Barbra Streisand Collection, includes The Way We Were , The Prince of Tides and the The Mirror Has Two Faces.
- Gone with the Wind [Blu-ray] (1939) — This epic is considered the best movie ever made by many. Scarlett O’Hara finally realizes that the man of her dreams has always been in her hands, but perhaps too late. Dashing Rhett Butler, played by the ‘King of the Actors Clark Gable, realizes that living a life of charm and grace is more important than a woman who wants someone else.
- Casablanca [Blu-ray] [Combo] (1942) — In this classic, Bogey gives up the only woman he will ever love, Ingrid Bergman, to beat the Nazis and hang out with a good buddy, Claude Rains. Definitely one of both Bogey and Bergman’s best films!!
- The African Queen [Blu-ray] (1951) — Crusty Humphrey Bogart gives “skinny old maid” Katharine Hepburn a ride down a dangerous African river. By the time they encounter a German destroyer, these two people who can’t stand each other are in love. Casablanca / African Queen [Blu-ray] combo set…
Compiled by Marion Algier – Twenty of these choices were put together by the late Pat Butters and staffers at The Washington Times in 1997.
Happy Valentine’s Day!!