You know the one I’m talking about. The first. The one that made you say, “oh, so this is what everyone’s on about.” When that special someone smiled, you wanted to smile, and when they laughed, you wanted to laugh, too. That’s l’amour. Love, for you non-francophiles. Nothing like it in the world.
Romance movies aim to capture the highs of love found, the lows of love lost, and everything in between. They help us see that the elusive — feeling? emotion? noun? — happens to everyone, sometimes when we least expect it, and makes us do and say crazy things. They prove to us that we’re not alone; love shapes our lives, changing everyone it touches, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. We feel you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We know your pain.
Now, without further ado, grab some popcorn, sit back, and dim the lights. The show’s about to start.
Once bi-polar Pat gets out of a mental institution after finding his wife with another man, he moves back in with his parents. His plan is to kindle things with his ex-wife, but instead he meets depressed Tiffany, a widow with her own laundry list of problems, and the two form an unlikely duo. Funny, smart and sweet, this was one of the best films of 2012.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBIl Postino
Set in an idyllic fishing village off the coast of Italy, the local idiot falls for the hottest gal in town. To win her over, he seeks advice from the famous poet Pablo Neruda, who resides there after being exiled from Chile. It’s a lighthearted underdog story that still asks all the right questions surrounding love.
Amazon DVD / Netflix / IMDBCrazy, Stupid, Love.
A 20-year marriage ends in divorce, sending Cal (Steve Carrel) back into the singles bar scene. It’s there that he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a young and dapper womanizer who helps coach him in the art of the pick-up. A romcom you won’t be shamed for enjoying, the film features additional performances by Julianne Moore, Emma Stone and Kevin Bacon.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBHiroshima, Mon Amour
This film solidified French auteur Alain Renais as one of the 20th century’s most original and influential directors. With a screenplay written by Marguerite Duras, the nonlinear narrative takes place in postwar Hiroshima, Japan. There, a French actress meets a Japanese architect for a brief affair lasting just over a day. The pair share a long series of conversations which illuminate previous romances and disparate perspectives from WWII.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBPunch-Drunk Love
Barry (Adam Sandler), a lonely business owner, falls in love as he tries to accumulate one million frequent flyer points by purchasing large quantities of pudding, escape extortion from a fraudulent phone sex company, and deal with the trauma from his emotionally abusive family of sisters.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBA Single Man
Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, fashion designer Tom Ford’s sole endeavor into cinema is a highly stylized tour de force (designed with help from the same team responsible for the look of AMC’s Mad Men). Set in southern California in the ‘60s, the plot follows a day in the life of a college professor (Colin Firth) dealing with the recent death of his partner. The film is a gorgeous meditation on the absence of love and the banality of life that often follows loss.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBMoonrise Kingdom
Though not director Wes Anderson’s most iconic picture, his seventh full-length feature is one of his most charming. The film depicts the innocence of young love as a troublesome, twelve-year-old Scout, Sam, plans to run away with his introverted and troubled pen pal, Suzy, setting off a series of events that stirs their entire New England village.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBBlue is the Warmest Color
The winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, this fearless coming-of-age tale follows French teenager Adèle as she pursues a relationship with a blue-haired art student named Emma. On many critics’ shortlist for best film of the year in 2013, director Abdellatif Kechiche’s 3-hour odyssey anchors on the protagonist’s pursuit of sexual freedom and self-exploration amid social pressures leaning against her.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBRust and Bone
Chronicling the relationship of an orca trainer and a former boxing champion after a terrible accident, this French melodrama is a raw and sometimes brutal portrayal of two individuals overcoming strife through romance. Both actress Marion Cotillard and director Jacques Audiard were nominated at the Golden Globes for their contributions to the film.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBAmour
Now in the their 80s, the lives of Georges and his wife Anne are forever changed when she has a stroke over breakfast one morning, triggering a steep descent into the final stages of her life. Georges’s love is tested by his wife’s mental and physical decline as he too battles weariness and old age in this poignant and tender reminder of the duties shared by lifelong partners.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDB3-Iron
Korean director Ki-duk Kim forges an entirely unconventional love-story. Golf balls become deadly projectiles, characters learn to be invisible, and two lovers fall in love without ever speaking to each other. The movie is shot beautifully, with Kim carefully composing the interiors of Korean homes (he says, off hand, that the film was created to show how Koreans live). The love story develops quietly and delicately, and silence plays as active a role in the film as any of the characters. But, as Kim says, “sometimes silence delivers truer feelings.”
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / IMDBEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
If you loved someone but don’t remember, did you ever love them? In his best role, Jim Carrey plays a heartbroken boyfriend who decides to erase the memory of his recent ex because she did the same to him. At the last minute, he decides to change his mind, and must rectify his mistake before it’s too late.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesTitanic
Near…far…wherever you are! Try and get that song (and Leo’s glorious hair) out of your head. Like Romeo and Juliet, you already know the story, but that doesn’t make the movie any less glorious.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesSleepless in Seattle
Everyone needs a son like Jonah Baldwin, who convinces his father (Tom Hanks) to call in to a radio show on Christmas eve and spill out his heart about the death of his beloved wife. Among those who hears the broadcast is Annie Reed, who falls in love with him. It’s a chick flick, for sure, but it’s one of the better ones.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesAmélie
A charming young woman dedicates her life to helping those around her and finds love along the way. It’s better if you know French, but subtitles are cool, too.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesYou’ve Got Mail
The stars of Sleepless in Seattle return in this romantic comedy about two business rivals who fall for each other online. Is that…is that Dave Chapelle?
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesWest Side Story
Romeo and Juliet, in New York City. The Jets, led by Riff, and the Sharks, led by Bernado, hate each other. But when Riff’s best friend meets Bernardo’s younger sister, sparks (and blades) fly. Cue the snaps.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesGhost
Sam (Patrick Swayze) and Molly (Demi Moore) are the kind of happy couple that makes singles want to puke. After Sam is killed in a botched mugging, he tries to communicate with Molly (through Whoopi Goldberg) as a ghost.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesBrokeback Mountain
A gripping, realistic portrait of what it’s like to live and love in fear of societal pressure.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Download / Netflix / iTunesAtonement
After the young Briony Talliss misinterprets an incident between her older sister and Robbie Turner, the son of a family servant, she falsely accuses Robbie of raping her cousin. It’s a bummer, but Atonement is based on a novel by Ian McEwan, so who’s surprised?
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunes(500) Days of Summer
Trying to recover from a breakup with your supposed soulmate? So is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This movie teaches us that life happens, it’ll happen again, and “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap is a really good song.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesSay Anything…
Lloyd Dobler, a.k.a. John Cusack (a.k.a. the man), wants to go out with the beautiful, intelligent Diane Court. Which is good for him, but it’s not going to happen as long as her overprotective father has anything to say about it.
Amazon DVD / Netflix
Marrying hookers, stealing cocaine, action, violence, Christian Slater, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, Tarantino…now that’s our kind of romance.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesHigh Fidelity
Rob (John Cusack) likes lists, owns a record shop and can’t quite figure out what to do with his life. He meets Laura and still quite can’t figure things out.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesAnnie Hall
One of Woody Allen’s definitive treatises on love in New York City, the movie traces the collision of two neurotic Manhattanites and their ensuing, sometimes-dysfunctional relationship.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesDay for Night
We love Francois Truffaut, even if we can never remember the keystroke for the cedilla under the “C” in his name on a Mac, nor can we figure out how to describe this film. It’s about a film crew, sure, though we struggle to say more. Just watch it — you won’t regret it.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesMy Night at Maud’s
The fourth of Eric Rohmer’s incredible Six Moral Tales tells the story of a devout Catholic who tries to remain faithful to his ideals against the advances of the charming and worldly Maud. What do the French know about love? Uh, maybe everything.
Amazon DVD / Netflix / iTunesBreakfast at Tiffany’s
Based on the book by Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s tells the story of Holly Golightly, a New York socialite who becomes interested in the writer that moves into her apartment building and inspires a great single by Deep Blue Something.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesThe Artist
A chance meeting with silent movie star George Valentin jumpstarts Peppy Miller’s career at the same time that George’s is taking a turn for the worse. It’s a movie from a past generation (that was made in 2011).
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesSome Like it Hot
Two musicians witness a mob hit and disguise themselves as women to hide in an all-female band. It’s a great idea until one of the musicians falls for Marilyn Monroe, who’s also in the band. Hilarity (and romance) ensue.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / NetflixBefore Sunset
The second of Linklater’s trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight), this story takes place nine years after Jesse and Celine spend a day together in Vienna. We won’t say more about the plot, but rest assured it resonates.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesSideways
Before Thomas Haden Church gets married, he and his friend Paul Giamatti go on a tour of California’s wine country. Sometimes, when it comes to love, it helps to see what NOT to do.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesGarden State
A depressed young man (Zach Braff) returns to his quiet New Jersey town for his mother’s funeral. There he meets a beautiful young girl (Natalie Portman) and starts taking control of his life. Speaking of love, do you want to get married, Natalie Portman?
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesHarold and Maude
Poor Harold isn’t like other children. While they’re outside playing in the yard, he’s staging his own death or attending funerals. When he meets the elderly Maude, he learns a thing or two about life from her infectious joie de vivre. Admittedly one of the strangest love stories ever told, and not just for the sex scene.
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This classic coming-of-age story tells the tale of Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald), a 16-year-old girl who everyone seems to forget. Shoutout to Anthony Michael Hall for his performance as “the geek.”
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesBull Durham
Susan Sarandon plays Annie Savoy, a groupie to a minor-league baseball team who becomes involved in a love triangle between the team’s hot-shot rookie pitcher and his mentor, a veteran catcher. If you like baseball, this one’s for you.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / NetflixThe African Queen
After Reverend Samuel Thayer is killed by German imperial troops, his sister, Rose Sayer, vows revenge. She enlists the help of Charlie Allnut, a grumpy boat captain, for an impossible mission: destroy the Louisa, a German warship.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesBeauty and the Beast
It’s a tale as old as time about a tail as cranky as hell who begrudgingly goes after some tail as cute as a button. Also, talking candlesticks.
Amazon DVD / NetflixMy Best Friend’s Wedding
She’s in love with her best friend, but he’s gonna get married even though they made a pact in college to get hitched to each other if they’re both unwed at a certain point in time. So she gets a gay guy to be her date and they go to the wedding and oy vey does everything go haywire.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesLove Story
Where shall we begin to tell the story of…this movie? Two young folks decide that love is more important than everything else in life and commit through the worst of it. And it gets quite bad. But nobody’s sorry.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesPretty in Pink
One of John Hughes’s enduring Brat Pack films, this one follows a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who jumps head-first into love for the first time. And by love, we mean the prom. Obviously.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesWhat Dreams May Come
Does love end when we die? What would you endure to bring someone you loved to salvation? Robin Williams takes a dramatic turn in a film that grapples with life, love, death, life after death and love after death in the most imaginatively gorgeous way.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesAs Good as it Gets
Melvin Udall is a terrible person, Carol Connelly is a single mother with a sick son and Simon Bishop is a gay artist down on his luck. But love moves in mysterious ways and, in the end, makes us all want to be better men.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesWhen Harry Met Sally
Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way? Possibly. But what about when love gets in the way? And what about when the friend and/or woman fakes an orgasm so impressively?
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesLove Actually
Everyone’s got their favorite storyline. Regardless of which one you pick — bumbling Hugh Grant, grief-stricken Liam Neeson, puppy love, love from afar, forbidden desires, continent-spanning love, etc. — this is (sort of) how love actually is. It’s funny, it’s difficult and it can seem impossible — like an eight-year-old playing the drums really, really well.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunes10 Things I Hate About You
A modern sendup of the Bard’s Taming of the Shrew, this flick features breakout roles by a young Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Never will you see a more charming rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
Amazon DVD / Netflix / iTunesThe Notebook
We know. But it’s an archetype. And it’s not so schlocky as much as it is overdramatic. We forgive it because it’s a good reminder that love is powerful and sometimes it wins in the end.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesFour Weddings and a Funeral
It absolutely sucks watching someone you love get engaged and married, but it’s absolutely delightful watching someone with hair as good as Hugh Grant’s watch someone he loves get engaged and married — especially good for those of us who are of a certain age when time can be measured in the weddings we attend.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesManhattan
One of Allen’s best. It’s both a terrific love story and a gorgeous love letter to its namesake city.
Amazon DVD / Amazon Video / Netflix / iTunesMeet Joe Black
Wouldn’t you know that even when he’s inhabiting Brad Pitt’s body, Death doesn’t quite fully grasp the concept of love. In order to live a little longer, Anthony Hopkins agrees to serve as an earthly tour guide for Death, who goes all gaga for Hopkins’ daughter, Claire Forlani (who wouldn’t?). There are decisions to be made.
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