Not all of us will be rushing out to flash restaurants or getting flowers and chocolates, but we can – whether in a couple or on our own – find a movie to suit on this day for romantic fools. There’s some serious romance here as well as some romantic comedy. Which will suit you and your love? Get a bottle of wine, some really nice chocolate (Lindt, Ferrero Rocher) and cuddle up on the couch, enjoy. (Note how many of these are based on books – remember you need to read to really make the most of romantic stories, but that was the previous post.)
Serious stuff first, where death and suffering reign, then some lightness and laughter to make us feel good about romantic love, whether we have it in our lives at the moment or not.
Love Story (1970)
Erich Segal’s book which became a major tear-jerker of a movie. Ryan O’Neill and Ali McGraw – modern star crossed lovers who meet and marry. His family abandons him but they remain madly in love despite the many obstacles – snow angels and all. But she gets cancer and dies. Tears all the way.
An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
Richard Gere at his handsome, insolent best. We know the final scene when he picks up Debra Winger and walks her out of the factory as an iconic romantic gesture, one we cheer at and cry over. It’s a well crafted story that stands the test of time. More than just a romance: it’s a story of friendship, of character and finding out who we really are, of believing in ourselves and finding love amidst it all.
Out of Africa (1985)
Based on a true story so even better really – Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in the heart of Africa – Kenya in the days when the Empire was great, although Streep is Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen (writing as Isak Dinesen) who struggles with the ebbing fortunes of her farm and the infidelities of her husband. Then she has an affair with Denys Finch Hatton (Redford) a local big game hunter. But the farm is lost and she must return to Denmark. Finch Hatton dies just before their final farewell. It breaks your heart. A film as much about Blixen’s love affair with Africa as it is with Finch Hatton. Streep and Redford make a very handsome couple.
The English Patient (1996)
Almost as good as the book. Great cast – Ralph Feinnes, Kristen Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe – beautiful setting: the desert is as much the star as the actors, plus the Italian countryside is lush and sensual. This is a movie of the senses, two love stories set against the war, suffering, sadness, loss. Read the book, watch the film, feel the pain of forbidden and lost love all over again. (It’s long though.)
Romeo and Juliet (1968 + 1996)
Classic story of star-crossed lovers – we all know how it ends, but you can watch it again and again. But which version? Franco Zeffirelli’s traditional (1968) version was the first to have actors more closely approximating the age of the characters. Remember Juliet dies before she turns 14. Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were incredibly beautiful as the doomed lovers and the setting was classically realized and the film wonderfully true to the original play. Then of course there is the Baz Luhrmann (1996) hyper-energy version with Claire Danes and Leonardo diCaprio as the lovers. It was a stroke of genius to modernize the setting while remaining faithful to the language of Shakespeare. Whichever version you choose, it’s the same – young love, misunderstood love, passion, gangs, testosterone, beautiful words, death and tragedy. Ah, what it is to die young before the corrosion of age destroys love.
The Lake House (2006)
I love this – moody, time travelish, evocative, Keanu Reeves actually acting not just smouldering and lovely Sandra Bullock exchanging love letters across the space-time divide. You want to cry, you end up happy. It’s a beautiful film. If you like Sandra (& I do!) check out The Proposal (with Ryan Gosling) and Two Weeks Notice (with Hugh Grant) for a bit of extra Sandra romantic magic.
The Princess Bride (1987)
How can you go past this? Romance, sword fighting, evil princes, giants, pirates, magic, the fire swamp, true love. This is the romantic movie of the list. ‘As you wish…’ You just know Wesley and Buttercup belong together and will get there in the end, but the adventure is well worth having. For romantics of every age.
When Sally met Harry (1989)
Just one of many Meg Ryan classic romances – perhaps the best, perhaps best known for her ‘orgasm’ scene in the café with Billy Crystal. It’s sweet, she’s lovely; there’s a happy ending. But I’d also watch You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, French Kiss. There was a time when Meg Ryan was America’s romantic sweetheart then she met Russell Crowe and lost it all. Still, you can revisit these movies and remember how lovely she was and why everyone wanted to be in love with her.
Bridget Jones’ Dairy (2001)
You know I love this – all the modern angst of the 30 something woman with all her anxieties and insecurities. The film is wonderfully close to the novel and the casting makes it even better – Rene Zellweger is wonderful, Colin Firth is great and Hugh Grant (who isn’t really playing Hugh Grant) is brill as the dastardly Daniel Cleaver. It is standard girl falls for wrong guy, makes a fool of herself, finds right guy, makes fool of herself but right guy wins in end. It’s worth repeating – Mark Darcy loves Bridget ‘just the way she is.’
Love Actually (2003)
You have to have this in a list of Romantic Movies. Aside from the nauseating child of Liam Neeson bits, the rest are fabulous: all sorts of love there for all sorts of people and yes, it has a stellar Brit cast. You can’t go past Hugh Grant as PM, Bill Nighy and Billy Mack (become a pop-star and get your drugs for free). But the best love stories amidst it all are the newly wed triangle (Keira Knightly, Chiwetel Eijofor & Andrew Lincoln); Emma Thompson’s gut wrenching sadness at the betrayal of foolish Alan Rickman; and the joy of Colin Firth re-finding love after his wife’s betrayal with his brother. It’s great at Christmas and better on Valentine’s Day.
And a few others to be going on with – Shall we Dance, Pretty Woman, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Brokeback Mountain, Death in Venice, Titanic, The Note-book, 27 Dresses. So, something for everyone. Happy Valentine’s Day, to you and yours. (Images courtesy Google Images)
Tags: An Officer and a Gentleman, Bridget Jones' Diary, chocolate, flowers, Hugh Grant, Love Actually, Love Story, Meg Ryan, Out of Africa, Richard Gere, Robert Redford, Romantic movies, Romeo and Juliet, Sandra Bullock, tear jerker, The English Patient, The Lake HOuse, The Princess Bride, Valentine's Day, When Harry met Sally