I do love Casablanca. I’ve seen it multiple times and the film certainly holds up. What I hate is that this is the default movie for most people. When asked, “What’s the most romantic movie?”, most folks blurt out Casablanca. No hesitation, total commitment. I’m sure they think that is hast to be the most romantic film because so many other people also agree. (I searched the internet and every list I came across put this film at the top.)
Yes, Casablanca is great, but not that great. (I know I’ll get flack for this). First, most of the knee-jerk reactions come from people who probably haven’t even seen the film. Second, I don’t think it’s the best film of the period. Rope of Sand was producer Hal Wallis’s attempt to recapture the Casablanca magic. I think he did it better. Check it out.
So what I present here are five films that I found romantic. These aren’t the world’s best. They even might upset you, but they’re all films I’m drawn to. As a genre writer, I tend toward the same in films.
The Hunger (1983)
No, not the Hunger Games. This film has Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and David Bowie in a three way love affair. If you loved the film “Let the Right One In,” then you ought to see the film they stole the plot from: The Hunger. Catherine Deneuve is a centuries old vampire with her lover, David Bowie. Yet he suddenly begins to age, rapidly. While seeking a cure, Deneuve falls for Susan Sarandon. This has everything Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyers attempted to fill their pages with. One of the best vampire films on top of being incredibly sorrowful.
Rutger Hauer transforms to a wolf every night. His love, Michelle Pfeiffer, must live as a hawk each day. They were cursed by an evil bishop to ensure that they could never be together. There is even a heart wrenching scene where they see each other briefly in the morning twilight before Pfeiffer transforms into a hawk.
Add to that Matthew Broderick as a comical thief and you have a film that zig zags between laughs and romance. Since the two can never talk to each other, Broderick must relate their words of love. Check out these lines:
“For she is my life, my last and best reason for living. One day, we will know such happiness as two people dream of, but never do.”
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Baz Luhrmann delivers a heart-stopping romance that is woefully overlooked in most romantic movie lists. Ewan McGregor is a struggling writer who falls for courtesan Nicole Kidman. He must love her in secret because a rich patron also seeks her affections. Set this against extravagant Paris at the turn of the century and the most amazing music and you’ll be swept up into the magic.
Somewhere in Time (1980)
I was flabbergasted that this movie made none of the lists I found on the internet. This is the epitome of a love tragedy. Here we have a modern day (albeit 1980) Christopher Reeves visited by an old lady, Jane Seymour. She begs him to “Come back to me.” He researches and finds that she was a famous stage actress from the 1900s. Reeves travels back in time in what I find the most plausible method I’ve yet seen. He goes to a room in a hotel Seymour had visited. He wears period clothing and brings money from that time. He tunes out the modern world and simply wakes up in her time.
Of course, the two fall in love, though you might sense the problem here. If Seymour showed up as an aged lady in 1980, something must have gone wrong. Honestly, this will tear your heart out. Be warned.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The concept of this film is off the map. A company advertises that they can completely erase someone from your memory, like say, and ex-lover. So we have Jim Carrey who discovers that his former girlfriend, Kate Winslet, had him erased. He undergoes the procedure, only to discover that he still desperately loves her. He tries everything he can to cling to his memories of her.
What’s great about this film is it feels real. It’s no fairy tale flick where everything is perfect at the end. These are real people who really have major relationship issues. Only in the end, that doesn’t matter.
Okay, here are the lines that get the tears out of me every time.
Carrey: I can’t see anything that I don’t like about you.
Winslet: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.
Winslet: [pauses] Okay.
That’s it. My list of tear jerkers and romantic flicks. True, I’m a guy and into all aspects of horror and comics, but that doesn’t mean that these films don’t deserve merit. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.
Damn it. I just wrote a long comment and it got erased. Okay, here we go again (but shorter). I agree about “Casablanca”. I think it’s contrived and cliche, and this is putting it into historical perspective. “The Hunger” is too gory for me to consider it a romantic film, although it’s definitely memorable. I never saw “Somewhere In Time” and “Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind” altlhough very good, would not be in my top five. “Moulin Rouge” bored me to tears (sorry!) so much that I walked out of the theatre. I loved “Ladyhawke” and was pleasantly surprised by Rutger Hauer’s performance, but I wouldn’t rate it in my top five. For me, nothing even comes close to “Gone With The Wind”, second choice would be “Camelot”, third “Out of Africa”, I’d have to give it more thought to come up with the other two…
Yeah, I hate it when I type a long comment and it gets erased. Now in the habit of copying it before clicking “ok” just in case it get’s erased.
First off, you need to see Somewhere in Time. If you listed Out of Africa in the top three, then this is your sort of movie. Yeah, I love Gone with the Wind, but I think this underscores the guy/girl romantic split. I think guys need a certain level of adventure in their romances (thus all the flicks I picked have stand alone plots along side the romance). Whereas girls might lean toward character driven stories where the emotion is in the forefront.
Let’s take a stab at this theory. What are your thoughts on Romancing the Stone?
I am sorry to say I haven’t watched Casablanca (you call yourself a movie lover????), but I will. Promise. The Hunger, i saw when I was too small to understand it… I’ll try again. Somewhere in Time is the most romantic movie ever, and a tragedy, as you well say. Cried A LOT when I saw it (actually I just wrote a post, that’s how I found your blog). Eternal Sunshine I haven’t seen, because I haven’t had a chance… Moulin Rouge I haven’t seen either… And Ladyhawke I agree completely. Beautiful movie, but I saw it recently and… I don’t know, while the story holds up, and the acting does too, it needs revisiting… the same movie, but with good special effects (and better music, for goodness sake!!), would be amazing!
Loved your post!
Actually at the time I dug the music. But then I’m a big Alan Parson’s fan.
Ladyhawke. <3 <3 <3 <3
I will never be able to describe in coherent words how much I love you for including that movie on this list. It's an amazing fantasy romance that time seems to have forgotten, despite its incredible cast. I bet this movie would be really popular now if it was rereleased with a new score with less synth. (Although I personally adore the synth.)
Trying hard to get through the things I missed in November and found notice from this blog of follow up comments. Upon my return, I find that my comment was not here, so I re-posted. Checking back today and I still do not exist. Funny, the site picked up that I check the notifier.
This probably won’t post either. Alas,I guess it was not to be.
I’m not sure what happened to the previous comment, but I’ve been swamped and had trouble getting to my comment approval lately. Hope you see that this is posted. Thanks.
Had to come back after I saw ‘Ladyhawke’ during the Christmas Break. While I see the romantic element you talked about, I would not list this as one of my top five most romantic films ever but I have to say I loved it completely. A little on the Ferris Buheller meets MacBeth side, but engaging all the same.
I do agree with ‘Somewhere in Time’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’. Love the tragedy of it all. Along with ‘Out of Africa’ and any version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ but particularly the old one with Olivier.I tend to love, ‘the characters you love to hate’.
Currently writing tragic love with a ghost. Terribly romantic in a ghoulish sort of way.
Oh! I said repeatedly, agreeing with all but “Moulin Rouge” (sorry!). How can I resist a list of romantic films which begins with “The Hunger,” though? Stunning choices, Tim. Off-beat, deeply romantic films which didn’t always get the audience they deserved. Maybe that’s part of what makes them special to some of us? They seem like more privately appreciated little gems. Regardless, thank you for this thoughtful compilation.
Love your choices, especially ‘Somewhere In Time’. That’s one that I agree should be on more movie lists. My personal favorite romantic film is ‘Sommersby’ with Jodie Foster and Richard Gere. One that I always cry over. Another favorite is ‘Remains of the Day’.
I don’t get to see ‘romantic’ movies much so, of all the ones on your list, I’ve only seen Ladyhawke, but I love it. Even Hubby likes it and we’ve watched it several times. Moulin Rouge never appealed to him (he doesn’t like musicals) and the others, I haven’t heard of before. I might have to check them out sometime when he’s golfing! 🙂
Do check out Spotless Mind. Soooo good.
I would have to admit my list would be very different. For me, it would be, in no order, The Princess Bride, Lady and the Tramp, Serendipity, While You Were Sleeping, An Affair to Remember.
Princess Bride is one of my favs.