The Unromantic’s Guide to the 10 Most Romantic Movies of All Time
Here’s a prescription for a memorable Valentine’s Day: ‘Netflix and chill’ with one of these amorous classics.
Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris, but we’ll always have this great flick. Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, Ingrid Bergman walks into Bogie’s. The former lovers reunite and sparks fly. But there happens to be a little skirmish going on called World War II, and frankly, their problems aren’t worth a hill of beans in comparison. In the end, Bergman goes off with her war-hero husband (Paul Henreid) and Bogie exits with his new BFF, played by the incomparable Claude Rains.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Over here, trying to get over the worst case of writer’s block you’ve ever seen. In this funny and witty romance, Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is having the Dickens of a time getting motivated to finish his next play, Romeo and Juliet (his first draft is titled Romeo and Ethel). Then he meets an alluring young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow in her Oscar-winning role) who gives him all the inspiration he needs to finish the play.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
Everyone will tell you that this is the ultimate story of unrequited love between a Southern Belle (Vivian Leigh) and her rogue-ish beau (Clark Gable). Actually, it’s a love affair between Scarlet and her house. It’s a nice house, so we’ll put the flick on our list.
The African Queen (1951)
Hey, it’s Bogie again! This time he teams up with Katherine Hepburn in World War I-era Africa. Directed by the great John Huston, the film has humour, action, and two of the great personalities of the American screen. Bogie and Heppie are as different as can be. Hepburn plays a spinster missionary on the run from Germans. Bogie is the alcoholic, grizzled captain of a patched-together-with-spit old tub who has offered her safe passage. Together, they dodge leeches, white water, and nasty Huns, on the way to discovering that love looks past various hygiene problems.
I didn’t like this movie, but my wife did and she’s far more romantic than me (and she’s looking over my shoulder right now). She cried when Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore make love over a pottery wheel. I cried when they ruined a perfectly good pot. The movie does have Whoopi Goldberg, who everyone can agree was hilarious.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
A frumpy, accident-prone woman decides to take control of her life at the age of 32. Her first order of business: Keep a diary. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, not bad for a frumpy, accident-prone woman. Unfortunately for her, the two men hate each other. Fortunately for us, their mutual loathing leads to a riotous fistfight. Without a doubt, the most endearing film on the list.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
You really get to know someone when you go on a robbing and shooting spree with them. And with each bank robbed and lawman dispatched, Bonnie and Clyde’s love grows. Of course, it’s a little easier to fall in love when the person you’re making googly eyes at looks like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who play the depression-era gunslingers. Although director Arthur Penn churns up a lot of bloody action, at its core this is a romance between two beautiful psychopaths.
The Notebook (2004)
This is one of my daughter’s favourite films, which makes me happy since any day that I get to think about James Garner is a good day. Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, the film tells the story of an elderly man whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s. Garner shows up everyday at the rest home to read her a chapter from his notebook. The story he weaves is one of two young lovers in the ‘40s, but her wealthy parents don’t approve. How will it end? Well, you can kind of guess pretty early on. But who cares, the film is sweet and the actors—Garner, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, and Gena Rowlands (whose son Nick Cassavetes directed)—are great. As they say, this is one for the entire family.
The Apartment (1960)
Boy, this film has everything going against it as a romance. In exchange for being promoted, our hero, Jack Lemmon, lends out his apartment to his oily boss (Fred McMurray), who is having an extramarital affair with our heroine (Shirley McClain). Of course, in the end, our hero and heroine fall in love. So how does this film succeed in being funny, charming, and utterly romantic and not sleazy? It has something to do with the writer/director being Billy Wilder, one of Hollywood’s true auteurs.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Charles (Hugh Grant) is unlucky in love, that is, until he meets a beautiful American named Carrie (Andie MacDowell) at a wedding. As Charles and Carrie’s paths continue to cross—over four weddings and a funeral (gee, where’d they get the title from?)—he comes to believe that maybe he’s finally lucky in love. The film is often hilarious and Grant is at his most charming.
Originally published as The Unromantic’s Guide to the 10 Most Romantic Movies of All Time on ReadersDigest.com.