The first romance film ever made was a 20 second clip called The May Irwin Kiss. While it simply captures a not-so-good-looking couple fondly whispering sweet nothings to each other and kissing in conclusion, it became the most popular Edison Vitascope Film in 1896. Since then, romance films have multiplied like rabbits, traveled the world, employed better-looking actors, and made A-LOT of money. The genre may have spawned plenty of cornball lines (“Shut up, just shut up. You had me at hello.”) and terrible plots (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), but here are ten films you are bound to fall in love with.
1. Gone With The Wind (1939)
Four hours, 3.5 million dollar budget, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, the rise and fall of the Old South … do I need to go on?! The multiple Oscar-winning epic, Gone With The Wind, is classic Hollywood cinema at its best. It blends rich visual style with genuinely enjoyable melodrama, perfectly cast roles, and a sumptuous narrative about unrequited love, fiery passion, and tragedy. Taking Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel of the same title and juicing it into popular entertainment for the screen, Gone With The Wind is one of the greatest love stories to be told onscreen.
2. Casablanca (1942)
This World War II romance film sees two old flames – Rick Blaine (Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Bergman) – sacrifice love for a higher cause i.e. helping defeat the Nazis. Stylish, adventurous, thrilling, and full of wisecrack humor, Casablanca turned out to be a lot more popular and significant in American cinematic history than was expected at the time of its release. Created under the constraints of a tight budget, and screened with relatively low expectations from the studios, Casablanca has proven to stand the tests of time as an entertaining show of acting talents and an impressive handling of production values and visual direction.
3. Annie Hall (1977)
It’s hard to say how autobiographical Annie Hall is considering Alvy Singer is a neurotic, intellectual New York comedian, and Diane Keaton’s real name is Diane Hall. Regardless, Annie Hall has an authenticity and intimacy rarely captured in romantic comedies. Combining witticism, cultural references, and a bittersweet touch to romance, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall lays the foundations for his future works and comedic style. In observing the breakdown of a relationship with a wonderfully perceptive eye, Annie Hall combines the awkwardness, intimacy, and painful memories of a modern, romantic experience.
4. Groundhog Day (1993)
Groundhog Day is one of those movies you can watch over and over and over again. The comic genius of the film may not strike you the first time round, but as you watch it for a second or third time, pure and simple enjoyment turns into a bigger appreciation for the film’s larger themes and plethora of interpretations. For weatherman Phil Connors (Murray), being condemned to relive the same day of the year, February 2nd, in Punxatawney, Pennsylvania, for Groundhog Day, is absolute torture. The different stages of his dismay, bitterness, and near-suicidal despair essentially teach Phil the significance of his mortality and capacity to love others, lifting Groundhog Day out of the formulaic and simple nature of other rom-coms.
5. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
When it comes to laugh-out-loud humor, the Farrelly Brothers have got it right. Screw political correctness or intellectual jokes – There’s Something About Mary gives us the luxury of simply laughing explosively at disabled people, drugged up dogs, and accidents involving the fly of your pants. Having said that, There’s Something About Mary also has heart. Ted (Stiller) may have screwed up his dream prom night with the beautiful and magnetic Mary (Diaz) in high school, but thirteen years later, he is given the chance to try again. And of course, things go drastically wrong. The humor may be gross and in bad taste, but here that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.
6. Moulin Rouge (2001)
Directed by the visionary Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge is a fantastical blend of opera, theatre, and the razzle-dazzle musical tradition that captures the wild, bohemian spirit of Paris in 1900. Against the backdrop of a colorful, vibrant, and deliriously playful recreation of Paris’ famous nightclub, Moulin Rouge tells the love story between a penniless writer and a beautiful, modern-day courtesan. From Bollywood numbers to a tango version of The Police’s Roxanne, Moulin Rouge is both entertaining and exhilarating.
7. Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (2001)
Amelie Poulain (Tatou) has a big imagination and an even bigger heart. When it comes to mending the broken hearts of those around her, Amelie turns into a masked hero that works miracles anonymously, but when it comes to pursuing her own love, she lacks the courage to make bold moves. Charming, witty, and unique in its blend of quirkiness and affection, Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie is the definition of ‘feel-good’.
8. I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK (2006)
Korean director Park Chan Wook is best known for his films, Oldboy and Sympathy For Lady Vengeance. It may come as a little bit of a surprise then that director Park decided to take on the romantic comedy genre following the completion of his three bloody, and rather visceral revenge films. I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK, however, brings out director Wook’s imagination in a more playful light. Teaming Korean pop star, Rain, with Lim Su-Jung, I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK tells the story of two hospitalized patients at a mental institution who fall in love. While one of them believes she is a cyborg, incapable of eating human food for fear of malfunctioning, the other uses his skills as a personality thief and deceiver to help her continuing living. Opening up magical worlds of fantasy and make-believe with his vivid visual sensibilities, Park Chan Wook’s I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK finds affection and love in a cocktail of mental illnesses and sad realities.
9. The Loved Ones (2009)
Lola (McLeavy) asks Brent (Samuel) to the prom. Sadly for Lola, Brent says no. Sadly for Brent, Lola kidnaps him and forces him to sit through a DIY prom night at her own home with her psychotic father and some handy hardware tools for torture. Sure, this isn’t a conventional love story, but the combination of torture porn and teen romance conventions in this Aussie horror is sure to win a horror film fan’s heart. As director Sean Byrne’s debut, The Loved Ones, takes modest production values and churns out a satisfying gore fest that will no doubt remain a favorite amongst midnight movie audiences.
10. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This very Wes Anderson-esque love story takes place in 1965 on an island off the coast of New England where two pre-teens fall in love and go on the run. Sam (Gilman), being a Khaki Scout packs sufficient camping gear for the two to make food and sleep under a tent roof, while Suzy (Hayward) provides the music and literature. While the two enjoy dancing on the beach and kissing in caves, their disappearance causes a stir at home, and the two are quickly pursued by the small island’s law enforcement, scouts, and social services representative. Starring Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, and Wes Anderson favorites, Jason Schwartzmann and Bill Murray, Moonrise Kingdom combines innocence and quirky comedy in a whimsical romance that is as sweet as it is beautiful.