It’s February and Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. This year, instead of bundling up and trudging out into the cold with the rest of the crowd, why not celebrate under a blanket at home with a loved one, order Chinese and let a movie take you on a sentimental journey?
The following are some of my favorite romantic films from years past to present, broken down into categories to help you select the right flick to watch with your special someone, whether it be your husband, boyfriend, child, best friend or a box of tissues.
Movies to watch with your kids
- Lady and the Tramp (1955, NR)
Most children see their first on-screen kiss while watching a Disney film. Do you remember the first time you saw the iconic smooch Lady and Tramp share over a plate of spaghetti? In my opinion, there is no sweeter, more romantic kiss in any Disney production.
- The Sound of Music (1959, NR)
It’s probably not the first film that comes to mind when you think of romance, but the way Maria looks at Captain Von Trapp while he’s playing “Edelweiss,” their waltz on the patio during the party and their kiss in the gazebo will quicken your pulse. It’s so innocent, yet so steamy. If you’ve got 4 hours to kill, watch it. It’s guaranteed to make you giddy.
The Baroness to the Captain (speaking of Maria): “Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.”
- Sixteen Candles (1984, PG)
John Hughes’ crowning glory. My favorite scene: Samantha (Molly Ringwald) and hunky Jake Ryan sitting across from one another atop his dining room table gazing at each over the birthday cake he brought her.
- The Princess Bride (1987, PG)
This fairytale involves a giant, a wizard, a prince, oversized eels and rats, heroes, villains and lots of laughs. However, its ridiculousness does not undercut the romance between Buttercup (Robin Wright) and the courageous Westley. As in most fairytales, love triumphs over evil and everyone lives happily ever after. This utterly quotable film will steal your heart.
Westley: “Hear this now: I will always come for you.”
Buttercup: “But how can you be sure?”
Westley: “This is true love – you think this happens every day?”
- The Twilight Saga (2008-2011, PG-13)
A story about a teenage klutz involved in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf doesn’t seem particularly romantic, but somehow it’s just that. Full of teen angst, longing and action, the Twilight films take you out of reality into the realm of supernatural love and makes it believable.
Movies to watch with your long-time love
If you are living in a long-term relationship you may identify with the story lines and characters in the following films. They are not boy-meets-girl, boy-marries-girl, boy-and-girl-live-happily-ever-after tales. These are love stories for realists. They affirm what you already know if you’ve stayed with someone through the honeymoon stage: Relationships are hard work. Life is messy. They also reinforce that true love withstands the tests of time. It survives the evolution of the relationship and honors the differences of two people.
- When a Man Loves a Woman (1994, R)
You won’t be able to help falling in love with Andy Garcia and his character, Michael Green. He stands by his wife, Alice, (played by Meg Ryan) through her battle with alcoholism, and is forced to recognize his enabling tendencies. The chemistry between Garcia and Ryan is undeniable. This film is full of sweet, sexy scenes. You’ll find yourself rooting for them from start to finish.
Michael Green: “My wife is an alcoholic. Best person I ever met. She has 600 different smiles. They can light up your life. They can make you laugh out loud, just like that. They can even make you cry, just like that. That’s just with her smiles. You’d have to see her with her kids. You’d have to see how they look at her, when she’s not looking. To think of all the things she lives through, and I couldn’t help her. See I love her. And I tried everything, except really listening. Really listening. And that’s how I left her alone. I was so ashamed of that, and I couldn’t even tell her. Maybe if I tell her she’d love me anyway.”
Alice Green: “Or more. She would have loved you even more. I think you should tell all this stuff to your wife.”
- Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011, PG-13)
This romantic dramedy is a must-rent. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore play a couple in crisis. Love endures but not before the story breaks your heart a little. It’s worth watching just for the close-up shot of Ryan Gosling’s abs and the “Dirty Dancing” lift between his character and Emma Stone’s. Marisa Tomei’s portrayal of a spurned lover will have you laughing out loud.
- The Story of Us (1999, R)
A similar, less compelling but worthy love story starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer as a couple on the verge of divorce.
Movies to watch with your macho man
These are not your run-of-the-mill romances. These films team tenderness with violence and/or sex. The outcome? You will both be happy.
- True Romance (1993, R)
Elvis-obsessed Clarence Worley(Christian Slater) falls in love with and marries novice call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). When he goes to get her stuff from her pimp’s lair, things turn ugly (I’m talking about the scene and the pimp) and Clarence winds up with a suitcase full of cocaine.
The film, written by Quentin Tarantino, is full of top-notch performances from actors James Gandolfini, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Michael Rapaport and Samuel L. Jackson. That’s a lot of testosterone! Also making an appearance is then newcomer Brad Pitt, who plays a stoner without a clue.
Alabama: “I had to come all the way from the highway and byways of Tallahassee, Florida to Motor City, Detroit to find my true love. If you gave me a million years to ponder, I would never have guessed that true romance and Detroit would ever go together. And till this day, the events that followed all still seems like a distant dream. But the dream was real and was to change our lives forever. I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing and things seemed to be getting so shitty. And he’d say, “that’s the way it goes, but don’t forget, it goes the other way too.” That’s the way romance is… usually, that’s the way it goes, but every once in awhile, it goes the other way too.”
- Wild at Heart (1990, R)
Wicked and weird but sometimes sweet, this film follows lovesick Sailor (Nicholas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) as they try to outrun her psychotic mother and her hired henchmen.
Lula to Sailor: “Uh oh. Baby, you’d better get me back to that hotel. You got me hotter than Georgia asphalt.”
- The Last of the Mohicans (1992, R)
Three men raised by Mohican Indians help protect the British Colonel’s three daughters during the French and Indian War. The casting is brilliant. Madeleine Stowe (Cora) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Hawkeye) steam up the screen. Watching their characters falling in love will make your heart soar, while the numerous battle scenes will get him pumped.
Hawkeye to Cora: “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you!”
Movies to watch with a girlfriend
The following selections are the ultimate chick flicks. I have never been able to get a man to watch one of these films with me, and that’s just fine. I would rather watch them with a girlfriend. She will never ask me why I’m crying because most likely she will be crying too. I love these films for their strong, principled female protagonists, masculine male protagonists, and for the fact that the stories are so good and poignant without an ounce of sex or violence. Read on and let the swooning begin.
- Pride & Prejudice (2005, PG)
Story by Jane Austen. Mr. Darcy. Enough said.
Case in point: Mr. Darcy: You must know… surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. I believe you spoke with my aunt last night, and it has taught me to hope as I’d scarcely allowed myself before. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on. (sigh) My favorite version is the newest with Keira Knightley.
- Emma (1996, PG)
I loved this version with Gwenyth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse. Emma tries her hand and matchmaking and fails miserably. She’s so obsessed with the relationships of others that she almost misses her own chance at happiness with the arrestingly charming Mr. Knightley (played by Jeremy Northam).
Mr. Knightley: “I rode through the rain! I’d ride through worse than that if I could just hear your voice telling me that I might, at least, have some chance to win you.”
For a funny, Valley Girl, teen adaptation of the story, rent Clueless with Alicia Silverstone. It’s a classic or whatever.
- Jane Eyre (2011, PG-13)
Since 1910 there have been 19 reprisals of the role of Jane Eyre on the silver screen. You know it’s a good story if it has been retold that many times. This newest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s novel is the best I’ve seen. It’s so riveting that you will find yourself wishing it wouldn’t end.
Movies to watch with a box of tissues
Spoiler alert: None of these films end well. They will, however, resonate with you. They are the kind of films that touch you and stay with you, the kind that pop into your head while you’re standing at the sink washing dishes or in line at the grocery store.
- Romeo and Juliet (1968, G)
Shakespeare’s most beloved tragedy. Anyone who’s finished 9th grade English has become familiar with this compelling love story. Two star-crossed lovers + two houses divided = a recipe for heartbreak.
Romeo: “Tis torture, and not mercy. Heaven is here where Juliet lives, and every cat and dog and little mouse, every unworthy thing, live here in heaven and may look upon her, but Romeo may not.”
For a contemporary, edgy twist on the classic, try Baz Luhrmann’s version,Romeo + Juliet , starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. Bonus: The gratuitous violence and hip soundtrack will keep your guy’s attention so he can be there at the end to hand you his hanky.
- Dangerous Liaisons (1988, R)
Wicked to the core, the Marquise de Merteuil (played expertly by Glenn Close) bets her ex-lover, Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) that he can’t seduce the chaste, married Cecile de Volanges (Michelle Pfeiffer).Valmont’s plan backfires when he falls deeply in love with his mark.
- Moulin Rouge (2001, PG-13)
A struggling poet (Ewan McGregor) falls in love with the most beautiful courtesan in Paris (Nicole Kidman). She loves him too. There’s just one problem: The Duke, a repugnant man with a violent streak, wants her too.
Silly at times, heartbreaking at others, this film has it all. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll hear some pretty good music. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor can sing! Who knew?
Sistine and Christian in song: “Come what may, I will love you until my dying day.”
- Shadowlands (1993, PG)
This is my favorite Anthony Hopkins role. His performance is so raw and heartfelt that it gives you chills. Not in a scary, “Silence of the Lambs” sort of way, but in a wow, that was really amazing acting kind of way. Hopkins plays British author C.S. Lewis (Jack), and Debra Winger plays brash American poet Joy Gresham. The two start off as friends, but end up falling for one another. Jack realizes just how deep his affection is for Joy after she receives some bad news from her doctor.
C.S. Lewis: “Why love, if losing it hurts so much? I have no answers anymore, only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice, as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”
I hope you enjoyed this list. What’s on your Best Romantic Films list?