50 Favorite Romances: 41 - 45

Also check out 1 - 56 - 10, 11 - 15, 16 - 20, 21 - 25, 26 - 30, 31 - 35, and 36 - 40.

41. Moulin Rouge (2001)

Never fall in love with a woman who sells herself. It always ends bad!
Did anyone go into this movie thinking it was going to be terrible because a lot of its promotional ads used this horrendous version* of "Lady Marmalade"? And then the first half hour was so ridiculous you didn't know what was happening, but once Ewan McGregor starting belting "Your Song," you kind of loved it? At the end of the day, this really is a downer of a love story, but it's so pretty and it remains the only successful pop-songs-to-musical musicals I've ever seen. It helps that it's about show business in the first place, but they also chose some great music. This movie would be noteworthy even if "Roxanne" were the only scene--with the growling vocals, passionate dancing, the tragic cross-cutting, Christian's new, harmonizing verse to the song--I would still say this film is worth it. That Moulin Rouge  manages to have so such emotional resonance for how melodramatic and frantic it is, is amazing.

42. Sabrina (1995)

- I never thought of you as a dancer.
-I'm crazy about it. They call me Bojangles at the office.
I'm always bummed that Harrison Ford didn't do more romantic comedies, but maybe that's what makes Sabrina so effective. Ford plays Linus Larrabee, head of the family business. He's so all business that he wears ugly bowties. His younger, more charismatic brother, David (Greg Kinnear), attracts the attention of the chauffeur's frumpy daughter, Sabrina (Julia Ormond). Sabrina spends some years abroad in Paris and comes back totally hot, distracting David from his finacee who happens to be in business with the family's company. Linus decides to save the business by seducing Sabrina away from his brother, only he starts falling for her (WHO KNEW THAT WOULD HAPPEN?). It's done in a relaxed and socially awkward way that ends up being endearing, hitting emotional beats that make sense. And let's be real, Dana Ivey as the assistant Mack steals the show.

43. The Village (2004)

It is all that I can give you.
I feel like I should apologize for this selection because popular opinion is that this was where Shyamalan went off the rails. While I don't think it's a perfect movie, it's got a lot going for it, including some effective scary scenes that give this film an interesting mixed-genre feel. It's also got a sweet romance between Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix). Maybe I'm a sucker for romances set in more formal eras of courtship, but their humorous and endearing coupling manages to gloss over the excessive and confusing twist back before there was a twist in the movie but then it isn't actually a twist back because the first twist was right in the first place. My point is this: Shyamalan makes hand holding thrilling. Outside of a Korean drama, you'd be hard pressed to find something so chaste be so effective, and effective this film is.

44. Moonstruck (1987)

We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.
So much fighting, so much love making, so many dogs howling at the moon. This film is just plain fun if you like listening to multiple generations of Italian people argue about relationships. It also reminds you of when Nicholas Cage could harness his crazy into a weirdly attractive and hilarious role and teaches you that Cher is kind of awesome. Plus, there's a makeover scene. CASE CLOSED.

45. Forget Paris (1995)

Here, have some bread. Everything will look better after bread.
Apparently 1995 was a good year. In Forget Paris, Debra Winger is an American working in Paris who meets an NBA referee played by Billy Crystal. We learn about their romance through mutual friends telling their story to one friend's new fiancee. Their story is at times romantic and funny, and then stressful and sad as they're shown navigating compromise, taking care of her father, infertility issues, and throwing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out of a game. Mixed in is old school Crystal humor, but it works well here. Winger and Crystal aces at creating realistic chemistry, and the supporting cast telling their story is a delight, new people coming in at each break from the story and giving us characters that feel comfortable and fully formed.  I would give this movie a hug.

*Where Christina decimates all other female voices in an effort to prove once and for all that her voice is abrasive and unblendable? And for some reason Missy Elliott shows up at the end?


50 Favorite Romances: 36 - 40

Also check out 1 - 56 - 10, 11 - 15, 16 - 20, 21 - 25, 26 - 30, and 31 - 35.You should also check out my sister's list since she's decided to try to make a more awesomer one. You be the judge.

36. Love Actually (2003)

Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love.
I don't know that I have much to say about this movie except that I almost OD'd on it in college because this movie is so full of warm fuzzies. Some of the storylines fall flat (the one including January Jones's dead eyes), but the Laura Linney/Rodrigo Santoro story KILLS ME every time. Girl, get yourself a hot Brazilian man! Anyway, it's charming, cheesy, and sweet, with just enough surprisingly dirty humor that is works. Plus, Christmas.

37. Strictly Ballroom (1992)

I have to help Wayne with his Bogo Pogo.
When I first saw this movie in the early 2000s, I think it took me a while to realize this movie was set in the early 90s because ballroom fashion is always beyond-the-pale bizarre. Anyway, Scott Hasting (Paul Mercurio) lets his the old guard of the ballroom scene down when I starts dancing his own steps. The only one who believes in him is Fran (Tara Morice), a frumpy beginning dancer. They begin to practice together and fall in love and everyone learns lessons and there are a lot of sparkles. It's frantic enough to be amusing and save a very predictable plot.

38. The Painted Veil (2006)

As if a woman ever loved a man for his virtue.
In college I was a writing tutor, and the most satisfying session I ever had was with a girl writing a psych paper about The Painted Veil. We bonded about how adorable Edward Norton was and all the small moments where he awkwardly shows affection toward the woman he married. I think I eventually told the girl that she needed to cut down her paper to just the key moments in the film that proved her thesis even though it was like killing her children. However, you never have to feel like you're killing your children as you watch Naomi Watts learn to love Edward Norton despite the fact that she was sleeping with Liev Shreiber on the side. Crazy what China and cholera can do for a couple.

39. Corrina, Corrina (1994)

-You know, Billie Holiday does a better version.
-No one's better than Louis.
My sister also included this on her list of favorite romances, so it must be a classic. Corrina (Whoopi Goldberg) becomes the housekeeper to a widower Manny Singer (Ray Liotta) and his selectively mute little girl Molly (Tina Majorino). The Singers are both still mourning the loss of a wife and mother, and of course Corrina helps them learn to be happy and love again. Mostly, I'm always so surprised Ray Liotta is in this movie considering that he's best known for gangster films. Seeing him in a Hawaiian shirt jumping on a pogo stick is a little jarring, but that's okay. I'll allow him to wear cardigans and make up jingles about pudding with an assist from sassy Whoopi.

40. Anastasia (1956)

The poor have only one advantage: they know when they are loved for themselves.
Y'all, I carry a large torch for Yul Brynner. As Bounine (kind of a proto-Dmitiri*), he's strict and always has a plan. He's training lost soul and possibly crazy Anna Koreff (Ingrid Bergman) to act as the presumed-dead Princess Anastasia of Russia to claim money from the Dowager Empress. Things get muddy as Anna starts to believe she is Anastasia, and those around her start to question what's reality as well. In between some rather slowly paced moments, Bounine and Anna share some fiery exchanges and a few flirtatious ones. There's not much of a thread to their relationship, but it works for me. Besides, if it means I get to watch Yul dance, play guitar, and simply just walk across a room, I'll watch it all day.

*The 1997 version of Anastasia just barely didn't make this list. It's basically a romcom with creepy undertones and glossy history.


50 Favorite Romances: 31 - 35

Also check out 1 - 56 - 10, 11 - 15, 16 - 20, 21 - 25, and 26 - 30.

31. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

He always said you could fight with somebody and still like him.
Here's proof that Martin Scorsese can direct women without the male gaze. Ellen Burstyn plays newly widowed mom Alice Hyatt, trying on a new life and new career in a new town. She has some missteps in romance and finding a job, but eventually lets David (Kris Kristofferson) into her life. It's not an easy transition, and there's some tension with Alice's child (Alfred Lutter III plays one of the most kid-like kids I've ever seen in movies*), but they make it work. This recap is cheesier than I mean Alice to sound. Since it's Scorsese, it's much grittier and has some genuinely terrifying moments. I appreciate that most about this movie, besides 1970s Kristofferson.

32. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Comedy, love, and a bit with a dog. That's what they want.
I could watch Joseph Fiennes look like he's in love all day. As Shakespeare, he's rather charming as a frenetic writer/actor who falls in love with a cross-dressing woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) who wants to be in the theater despite her gender. Blah blah blah, there are arranged marriages and since it's an all-star British cast, Colin Firth's character is getting shafted and Judi Dench is shrill and Geoffrey Rush is there. What makes this film so delightful are the Shakespeare in-jokes. They manage to use many of his techniques for humor and drama (hidden identities, forbidden love, puns, double entendres, humor mixed with tragedy, allusions to Shakespeare's other works) without being cloying. That's quite a feat. 

33. Brief Encounter (1945)

It's awfully easy to lie when you know that you're trusted implicitly. So very easy, and so very degrading.
There's something very British and restrained about Brief Encounter. It's a film about possibility and choices. Laura Jesson (Cecelia Johnson) is a married housewife who meets an also married doctor (Trevor Howard) on the train during her weekly trip into town. They enjoy each other's company and meet up again. The slowly realize they're falling in love and have to make a decision about where their relationship is heading. Not much happens in the film, but that doesn't make it less effective. It means we get to live inside Laura's brainspace as she works through the events of the last few weeks and how significant it was for her to be interested in someone new.

34. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

My embarrassing admission is I really like that you're nice right now.
Science fiction as I wish it was used more often: to highlight the human condition** in a heightened world. In this world, Joel (Jim Carrey) gets the memory of his recent ex Clemintine (Kate Winslet) removed from his brain. But as he's in the process, he realizes he doesn't want to forget the memories, because all the good ones are going, too. The quirky supporting cast also supports the messiness of love and posits that some relationships are inevitable.

35. Roman Holiday (1953)
I've never been alone with a man before, even with my dress on. With my dress off, it's most unusual.
Audrey Hepburn plays Princess Ann of Madeupland who goes off on a holiday all by herself for the very first time. She lives out her dream with the help of a newspaper man Joe Bradly (Gregory Peck) with an assist from bearded photographer Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert). Mishaps, blackmail, and wholesome fun are had by all, all while Ann and Joe grow an attachment to each other. It's one of the sweeter tales of journalist-only-hangs-out-with-girl-for-a-story-but-then-falls-in-love, and I like it. The ending is bittersweet and real to the characters. I'll always wish for a Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and the facial features to pull of Audrey's short haircut. Sigh. If only.

*Meaning, he's kind of super weird and gets annoying, but is also surprisingly smart and sometimes intentionally funny.
**Feel free to slap me through the screen for that phrase.


50 Favorite Romances: 26 - 30

Also check out 1 - 56 - 10, 11 - 15, 16 - 20, and 21 - 25.

26. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn't mean she's your soul mate.
I feel like people either love, hate, or cringe at this movie. I myself find it delightful. Sure, it's twee and hipster, what with the handrawn title cards and love of the Smiths. And sure, Zooey Deschanel is obviously not the best female character of all time, but I'm okay with seeing the film from Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's character's perspective. It even acknowledges that his view of her is never quite accurate. Mostly, I'm charmed by the film, and I think it offers an interesting way to tell a story in a nonlinear way. Also, I would love to do karaoke with drunk JGL.

27. Vibes (1988)

What's your problem, aside from your face?
Yeah. It's on this list. I dare anyone to find a more successful "romance in the midst of an action adventure" film. (Seriously, let me know so I can go watch them.) Psychics Nick (Jeff Goldblum) and Sylvia (Cyndi Lauper!) are recruited by Peter Falk to find a missing son. Instead they find Julian Sands being kind of creepy. Come for the ridiculous cast, remain intrigued by the tango scene, find yourself oddly moved by a pretty weird romantic storyline.

28. The Last Station (2009)

Why should it be easy? I am the work of your life, you are the work of mine. That's what love is!
Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) is dying, and his wife Sofya (Helen Mirren) is worried he's not taking care of their family's finances. There are several witnesses to the histrionics that follow this argument, including a young and devoted Tolstoyan, Valentin (James McAvoy). Turns out, Valentin learns more about how to live life from Sofya and another young follower, Masha (Kerry Condon). There's a sweetness about this film that elevates the fairly sparse material into genuine stories of love, both at the end of life and at the beginning. Also, James McAvoy.

29. Splendor in the Grass (1961)

We've got to stop all this kissing and fooling around, Deanie. I just don't think we'd better see each other for a while.
Would you like to relive the sexual repression of your youth but set 1920s Kansas? Would also like to include mental breakdowns that lead to institutionalized care? And maybe some social commentary? You're in luck! It stars the very handsome Warren Beatty and beautiful Natalie Wood. In all seriousness, for such an overdramatic movie, it manages to get a lot right about hormones/feelings contradicting social/religious pressure.

30. What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

There's nothing to see, really. We're inside a Chinese dragon.
Ryan O'Neal, of all people, is making this list twice starring as total nerd square Howard Bannister. He's engaged to a person named Eunice (Madeline Khan), but gets sidetracked when the spontaneous/crazy Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand) gets to town. There's something about music and stolen jewels or something, but really the point of this movie is ridiculous one-liners and madcap hijinks. Surprisingly hilarious every time I've seen it.


50 Favorite Romances: 21 - 25

Also check out 1 - 56 - 10, 11 - 15, and 16 - 20.

21. In the Mood for Love (2000)

Feelings can creep up just like that. I thought I was in control.
When a man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and a woman (Maggie Cheung) find out their spouses are having an affair together, they start a relationship of their own. It's a measured love story, with moments of unbearable tension as these two try to decide between having an affair or remaining faithful to their cheating spouses. The music also keeps you on edge, reminding you of the controlled closeness of a dance by using a waltz and rhumba throughout the film.

22. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

I realize that when I met you at the turkey curry buffet, I was unforgivably rude, and wearing a reindeer jumper.
Bridget Jones has all the characteristics of a film I would hate--woman obsessed with her weight, nice guy vs. bad boy, embarrassing costumes, Renee Zellweger--but it works so damn well. Probably the because the potential boyfriends make sense to me. I mean really, has Hugh Grant ever been as sexy as he is here? I can totally buy a woman being on that guy's hook. And has Colin Firth ever been this adorable (okay, maybe the Pemberly scenes in P&P)? But also, the film remembers the comedy part of a romantic comedy. My favorite moments of comedy, of course, are the inappropriate things the mother says. I can relate.

23. Say Anything... (1989)

Kickboxing. Sport of the future.
First things first: this movie is on this list probably as much for Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" as anything else. Other reason it's on my list: the high school awkwardness of it all. I'm not sure what the deal is with a lot of people writing for high schoolers, but teenagers are not that cool. They're doing a lot of things for the first time, so they're kind of bad at it. So Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack) starting a new relationship with Diane Court (Ione Skye) is interesting because it capture the nerves of falling in love that first time. That we watch it as Diane's father (John Mahoney) loses his perfect man luster perfectly captures the other part of growing up: disillusionment. So, with naivety and disillusionment, these two start a life together. A life maybe doomed for failure, but they're giving it a shot.

24. Love Story (1970)

-You know, Jenny, you're not that great looking.
-I know. But can I help it if you think so?
Much like Bridget Jones, this movie should be on my hate list, but instead, the tragic love story of college sweethearts makes swoon a little bit. Oliver (Ryan O'Neal) and Jenny (Ali MacGraw) meet at the library and instantly start fighting/falling in love. It's the sort of self-defense fighting that's full of false bravado and hidden emotions and I LOVE IT, and the lead actors have enough chemistry to pull it off. Overall, the story is simple: boy and girl meet, boy gets disowned from rich family, boy and girl marry, girl dies from cancer. It strangely effective, too, in the last moments, even though the end of the relationship is conveyed from the opening scene. Just ignore the line about love meaning you never have to say you're sorry (terrible advice) and the soundtrack. Talk about overkill.

25. The New World (2005)

I feel like I should be embarrassed by this choice, but I'm not. In essence, you get a twofer of love stories: one of young love and careless decisions and one of cautious love that comes after heartache. The fact that the film manages to take the old chestnut of the Pocahontas story and make it fresh should be proof enough of the film's effectiveness. Terrence Malick's signature montage/voice over style is perfect for conveying the small moments that create a relationship. The film may be overly long, but in segments, it's perfect.


50 Favorite Romances: 16 - 20

Also check out 1 - 56 - 10, and 11 - 15.

16. My Man Godfrey (1936)

-Do you think you could follow an intelligent conversation for a minute?
-I'll try.
Who knew Depression-era social politics could be so adorable? Derelict Godfrey (William Powell with scruff!) gets to roped into being the butler/straight man to a rich family, including the daughter falls in love with him (Carole "I married awesomely twice" Lombard). Fast talking one-liners and amusing sight gags abound. And my god, if I didn't find Powell incredibly sexy in this role. Is it just me?

17. The Sound of Music (1965)

You brought music back into the house. I had forgotten.
Since this list is all about me confessing my sometimes embarrassing preferences, I have to confess I enjoy the first half of this film more than the second half and maybe sometimes only watch the first part of this movie. It just gets so nationalistic and lacking in chaste sexual tension and pep talks from nuns. Anyway, I'll always root for a tough guy getting with the spunky girl who brings out his soft side. The fact that it involves beautiful musical numbers and children dressed in curtains is just icing on the cake.

18. Casablanca (1942)

Tell me, who was it you left me for? Was it Laszlo, or were there others in between? Or--aren't you the kind that tells?
Apparently this is turning into the "romance in times of civil unrest" portion of the list. More to the point: Casablanca is a perfectly crafted film. Beautifully filmed, beautifully paced, beautifully cast (Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at their finest, not to mention the impeccable Claude Rains among others in the supporting cast). It also doesn't take itself too seriously, remembering to have a sense of humor, even in the midst of illegal business transactions and Nazis occupation.

19. Charade (1963)

This is a ludicrous situation. I can think of a dozen men who are just longing to use my shower.
Let's talk about the movie that made me fall in love with old movies. I was 12 years old and at a Sunday school ice cream party, and we watched this 1960s delight of a thriller. Never before did I realize that old movies could be just as exciting a romantic as new movies. Audrey Hepburn plays naive widow whose life is endangered as old war buddies vie for her husband's money. Cary Grant is the mysterious man who may or may not be helping her out of this pickle, all while effortless charming this younger lady into falling in love with him. There are so many twists and turns in Charade, it's a relief that the film isn't sanctimonious about the whole affair. So classy fabulous.

20. Monsoon Wedding (2001)

Whether our parents introduce us or whether we meet in a club, what difference does it make?
There are a few plotlines running through this film, but the two love stories are both beautiful, even as they juxtapose each other. The main love story involves a young Indian woman, Aditi (Vasundhara Das), who is set up in an arranged marriage with a man living in America (Parvin Dabas). She's having trouble saying goodbye to her old flame and jumping into a relationship with a man she barely knows. The second, and perhaps more endearing romance, involves the goofy wedding planner (Vijay Raaz) who falls in love with a servant (Tillotama Shome). Their innocent love is all the more charming among the chaos of the elaborate wedding.


50 Favorite Romances: 11 - 15

Also check out 1 - 5 and 6 - 10.

11. The Remains of the Day (1993)

I don't believe a man can consider himself fully content until he has done all he can to be of service to his employer.
Is this an outright romance? No, I guess not, considering that there's hardly a word spoken to that end in the film--just glances, body proximity, and looks of regret. And anyway, it's as close of a romance as Anthony Hopkins' Mr. Stevens would ever get with Emma Thompson's Miss Kenton considering his allegiance to his job as a butler over all else. It's to the lead actors' credit that the relationship comes off as powerful as it does given the subtlety of the whole film.

12. Penelope (2006)

All Halloween I've been running into someone I used to know.
Y'all, James McAvoy could have chemistry with a hairdryer, he's just that good and generous of an actor. As a gambling addict/faux-blue blood, he adds a little sex to this sweet fairytale of a young woman cursed with a pig nose (Christina Ricci). He helps give her a push to the outside world where she finds a life of her own, away from her overbearing mother (Catherine O'Hara), pushover father (Richard E. Grant), and the pressures of marriage. And seriously, just embrace your inner 13-year-old girl when the final kiss is planted--it's magical.

13. A Man and a Woman (1966)

It's crazy to refuse happiness.
This is a simple film that acknowledges its cliches but also its originality outright. Two single parents (Anouk Aimee and Jean-Louis Trintignant) meet one weekend after meeting up with their children at boarding school, the woman needing a ride back to Paris having missed the train. We watch their first encounters play out in color, black and white, and sepia tones, and see their past lives play out in flashbacks as they swap stories. There's a genuineness to keeping the film's conflict mostly about the awkwardness of moving on to a new relationship. With the addition of a jazz/samba soundtrack, it oozes mid-century humor and class.

14. Mostly Martha (2001)

I'm not compulsive, I'm precise.
Emotionally cold and determined German chef + her niece whose mother just died + the new fun loving Italian chef at the restaurant she works at = heartwarming hijinks. Beyond this unbeatable formula, what makes the film work is the strong undercurrent of sadness that contrasts and highlights the humorous moments in the film. Plus, there's enough food porn to motivate you to try to cook something and feed it to someone sensually to French/English language jazz.

15. A Walk in the Clouds (1995)

She's like the air to me.
Am I kind of embarrassed for myself for adding this film to the list? A little bit. But let's get real: it's a beautiful film even if it's cheesy as hell. Already married Paul Sutton (Keanu "surprisingly appropriate stilted delivery" Reeves) pretends to be Victoria Aragon's (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) husband to make an excuse for her recent pregnancy. Grape harvesting, cliched lines from an overbearing father, WWII PTSD, and humorous grandfather moments ensue, as does the couple's affection for each other. Mostly, if you've ever wanted to see pretty people dappled in golden light fall in love for an hour and a half, this is the film for you.


50 Favorite Romances: 6 - 10

Also check out numbers 1-5.

6. Gone With the Wind (1939)

You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how.
I feel like I'm under obligation to put this on the list. I adore GWTW the novel (Civil War romance, duh), but I'm a little lukewarm about the epic movie--except with Rhett Bulter (Clark Gable) comes around to spice thing up with Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh). His sleazy smile and pragmatic business sense are rather fabulous, especially when compared to the milquetoast Ashley Wilkes (Lesley Howard).

7. Two for the Road (1967)

-What kind of people just sit in a restaurant and don't say one word to each other?
-Married people?
Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney ooze chemistry from their first meeting to their bitter fighting days to their tacit acceptance of their marriage. Add a little nonlinear plot and a Henry Mancini soundtrack, and I can't resist the charm and tragedy of this film.

8. While You Were Sleeping (1995)

I got Ice Capades! I know a guy.
While You Were Sleeping is classic in my mind. Sandra Bullock was never more adorable than when swathed in oversized sweaters, and Bill Pullman never quite recaptured his floppy-haired charm in later years. Exaggerated plot contrivances involving comas and amnesia aside, the film is a great stage for an ensemble of amusing supporting characters. Also, I can't resist a good Christmas movie.

9. The Princess Bride (1987)

There's a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours.
This movie is perfection. While the romance of Wesley and Buttercup are the linchpin of the story, everything else is what makes it worthwhile. I was going to list out my favorite parts and characters, but that would end in an entire plot summary. Suffice it to say, this is the least annoying self-aware fairytale I've ever seen. It embraces its cheese and puts a Mandy Patinkin cherry on top (go with it).

10. Philadelphia Story (1940)

I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know one time I secretly wanted to be a writer.
I don't have much of a taste for Kathrine Hepburn. I do however have a strong taste for comic Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart acting drunk, and comedies of remarriage. There's something cozy about watching two people who know each other very well fall back in love with each other after learning life lessons, all with whip smart dialogue.