Top 25 romantic movies
We’ve compiled our list of the top 25 movies to cuddle up to when you’re in a romantic mood. Find out where previous chapters in the “Before’’ trilogy (pictured: “Before Midnight’’) landed on our list.
25. EVER AFTER
This 1998 Cinderella re-telling imagines the title role (played by Drew Barrymore) as an egalitarian-minded peasant — living with her brutal step-mother (Anjelica Huston) of course — who reads “Utopia’’ and pals around with Leonardo DaVinci. It’s all the more ironic then that while mimicking a courtier, the Prince (Dougray Scott) falls for her. As you can imagine, he’s a bit put off when he discovers the truth. But don’t worry, the glass slipper fits in the end. It always does.
24. THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY
“This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime’’
The four days Francesca (Meryl Streep) spends with photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) while her husband and children are away at the Iowa State Fair are the most significant in her life. But she’s torn between her familial obligations and the special connection with this man she’s met. Ultimately, she decides to stay in Iowa. It’s only years later after her death that her children discover her diaries and learn about this time in their mother’s life.
Though we wouldn’t classify “WALL-E’’ as a “romantic’’ film per se, the story line between WALL-E, a Waste Allocation Lift Loader, and EVE, an Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, is particularly heartwarming. WALL-E is in awe of EVE — sleek, shining, New Age — a counterpoint to his version 1.0 technology. It all comes together for the pair when, mimicking a scene from “Hello, Dolly!’’ he’s watched (presumably) hundreds of times, WALL-E reaches out to hold EVE’s “hand.’’
22. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
“This is our destiny’’
From the time they were children living in the slums of India, Jamal (Dev Patel) has always felt compelled to protect Latika (Freida Pinto.) After they get separated, Jamal spends the rest of his life searching for her and finally appears on a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’’ type game show as a way to bring her to him. It is their destiny, after all.
21. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S
“Did I tell you how divinely and utterly happy I am?’’
For all her fancy clothes and parties, beneath the facade of her Upper East Side lifestyle, effervescent socialite Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is lonely. When the writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) moves in to her building, they find in each other what they’ve been looking for. Perhaps the most romantic scene is at the film’s closing, when Paul arrives in a cab to pick up Holly from prison, her nameless cat in tow.
20. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
“Like a sickness and its cure together’’
Like a storyline out of one of the Bard’s plays, Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) disguises herself as a man so she can act in a William Shakespeare production (back then, women weren’t allowed to act in plays.) In the meantime, the real Viola falls for “Will’’ (Joseph Fiennes), as he’s referred to throughout, and their story bleeds into his scripts. The film won seven Academy Award nominations, garnering Paltrow her first Oscar nomination and subsequent win.
19. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
“I wish I knew how to quit you’’
Set in the 1960s, Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) are sheep herders who spend months of the year living in isolation atop the rugged Brokeback Mountain. When they develop feelings for each other, it’s something neither of them can ignore and each will spend decades torn between what society expects from them and their passion for each other. Based on the short story by Annie Proulx, the film won three Academy Awards.
18. LEGENDS OF THE FALL
“I’ll wait for you. However long it takes. I’ll wait for you forever’’
This sprawling epic set in Montana tells the story of the Ludlow family’s heartbreak and sacrifice in the early 1900s. Tristan (Brad Pitt) is tortured and distraught after his brother Samuel is killed in WWI. Soon after Tristan’s return, he begins a relationship with Samuel’s fiancee, Susannah (Julia Ormond). But Tristan is restless and leaves, ending their relationship in a letter. When back again, he discovers that Susannah has married his other brother, Alfred, so Tristan marries Isabel, and with her builds the life that Susannah always wanted.
17. LOVE ACTUALLY
“To me, you are perfect’’
This 2003 holiday film is laced with all different stories of love: puppy love, lost love, unrequited love, and great big declarations of feelings. The most romantic scene (for us) is perhaps also the most heartbreaking. Mark (Andrew Lincoln), long smitten with his best friend’s girl (Keira Knightley), appears at her door with a series of hand written posters expressing what he’s always wanted to say: “To me, you are perfect.’’ He gets us every time.
16. JERRY MAGUIRE
“You had me at ‘Hello’’
Is there anything as heartbreaking and frustrating and yet at the same time completely fulfilling and joyous as the relationship we have with sports? At least that’s the case for football agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise), who’s trying to rebuild his career after getting fired for pointing out the moral corruption in his company. Along the way he falls for Dorothy (Renee Zellweger) and is forced to admit — to himself and to her — that there’s more than just one love in his life. “You complete me,’’ he tells her, and boy, do we believe him.
15. SAY ANYTHING
“I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen’’
Admit it: if the person you were crushing on stood outside your window blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes’’ like Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) does in “Say Anything,’’ you’d be smitten too. Not only is this one of the best expressions of love on film, but it’s also become an icon in its own right, spoofed by countless TV shows and movies. It’s a brazen, unabashedly romantic display of affection and it’s the perfect way to kick off our countdown.
14. GONE WITH THE WIND
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’’
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchel, “Gone With the Wind’’ tells the story of the selfish Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and the hardships she must endure — the Civil War, loss, dead husbands. She’s rather opportunistic, but so is Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), her third husband and the first man who won’t play her games. It’s a sprawling, epic story about love and loss, disappointment and heartache.
“I’ll never let go, Jack’’
She was upperclass, well-bred, and educated, while he rode in steerage with the rest of the poor. James Cameron’s 1997 epic about Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a tearjerker for sure: these two were doomed from the start. Any obstacles their polarizing life stations may have incurred were null and void as soon as the ship hit that iceberg.
12. AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
“There must be something between us, even if it’s only an ocean’’
Leaving it all up to fate is a dangerous gamble, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Though they’re both involved with other people, Nicky (Cary Grant) and Terry (Deborah Kerr) can’t help but fall for each other aboard a cruise bound for New York City. Is it their destiny to be together? They plan to meet six months later at the top of the Empire State Building — if it’s meant to be, then both will be single by then. But fate has other plans.
11. BULL DURHAM
“You’re playing with my mind’’
A pitcher, a catcher, and one adoring fan … a little too adoring. The game of baseball turns into a love triangle when Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) goes after two players on the same minor league team, the Durham Bulls: Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) and Ebby Calvin “Nuke’’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins). Romance, and comedy, ensue.
10. ROMEO + JULIET
“You kiss by the book’’
There’s a moment during Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play about star-crossed lovers where we hope (in vain) that it just might work out. In the film’s final moments, Juliet lays comatose, having swallowed a potion to fake her own death. But Romeo missed the message and presumes her dead, ending his own life just as his love wakes. The two lock eyes knowing the huge mistake that’s been made, leaving Juliet with only one option: to follow suit.
9. ROMANCING THE STONE
“You’re the best time I’ve ever had’’
What’s more romantic than getting lost in your own love story? Romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) embarks on a journey to Colombia to save her kidnapped sister. She winds up in her own action-adventure tale packed with danger. But when she gets lost in a jungle, she meets Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), the alluring adventurer who says he’ll get her out of harms way — a passionate reality for one fiction writer and her daring companion.
8. BEFORE SUNRISE
“I like to feel his eyes on me when I look away’’
What if you only had one day to spend with a stranger you just met who you can’t stop thinking about? Carpe diem! American tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets French student Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train to Vienna. Sparks fly, so they decide to spend the day in the city before Jesse leaves the next morning. A kiss, intimate glances, shared laughs — and an intensity caused by the shortage of time. Can they tear themselves away? That’s the hook that draws us in and doesn’t let go (oh to be on such a trip ourselves).
7. PRETTY WOMAN
“You and I are such similar creatures Vivian. We both screw people for money’’
Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) is handsome, charming, rich — and alone. Vivian Ward, a pretty prostitute with a loud mouth, walks the streets in tatters, wears a wig, is broke, and never kisses on the lips. Edward picks her up one lonely night, and to Vivian’s surprise and delight, he asks her to spend the week with him in his luxury hotel for money. She eventually transforms into a beauty, both outside and in. And Edward, the ruthless businessman, finds his softer side. While this appears a Cinderella story, they really save each other.
“I love you, Molly. I’ve always loved you’’
Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) loves Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) so much that he just can’t seem to leave her side — even after death. When a mugging goes wrong, Sam is killed, and Molly is devastated. An unsuspecting stranger, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), can communicate with Sam’s ghost, leading her to find Molly at Sam’s beckoning. Molly’s in danger, and Sam will do anything to save the woman he loves. When Molly is safe and Sam goes toward the light, they finally say good-bye. The duo may let each other go, but their passion (remember the pottery scene?) can never be forgotten.
5. DIRTY DANCING
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner’’
Is there anything more romantic than a guy who will go to bat for the girl he adores? Despite a class division laden with socioeconomic tension, Johnny (Patrick Swayze) sums up what we’ve all been thinking with his famous line. He escorts Baby (Jennifer Grey) away from her mother and father and onto the stage for one last dance as a celebration of their summer together and as an acknowledgment that what they had was real. Cue that Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes song.
4. THE PRINCESS BRIDE
“As you wish’’
After Westley’s one true love — Buttercup — is nabbed by Prince Humperdink, he sets out to rescue her. It’s your typical fairytale framework: sword fights, royals, dungeons, and wizards all factor into this 1987 flick. But it’s Westley’s tenacity in the face of endless difficulty and his sheer will to rescue the woman he loves that bumps “The Princess Bride’’ toward the top of our list. As you wish, indeed.
Pictured: Robin Wright Penn as Buttercup and Cary Elwes as Westley.
3. THE NOTEBOOK
“It wasn’t over – it still isn’t over’’
Just try not to cry while watching this 2004 flick based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. It’s a tearjerker for sure, but there’s an underlying sentimentality that rings true. What really does us in is the juxtaposition of Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie’s (Rachel McAdams) story of young love set against the modern reality of Allie’s deteriorating health.
2. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible’’
The thing that puts this 1989 film (written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner) so high on our list is that its story is true to life. The romance here is in the waiting. It takes Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) years — filled with broken hearts, false starts, and other people’s weddings — before they realize what they’ve needed all along is each other.
“Here’s looking at you, kid’’
Recipe for a perfect romance film: take one part war-torn Europe, add in a torrid romance in Paris, sprinkle in some Humphrey Bogart and a dash of Ingrid Bergman and whisk it all together to the sounds of a Moroccan nightclub. Let it simmer until an awkward love triangle develops and someone must ultimately sacrifice their own happiness for love. Top it off with one of the most iconic movie lines of all time and voila: “Casablanca.’’ In our first annual romantic movie competition, readers chose “Casablanca’’ as their favorite. Who are we to ignore your wishes? Not to mention — we happen to love it, too.