Valentine’s Day: 10 Cinematic Romances

I’m going to say this straightforwardly and quickly: I simply cannot stand The Notebook. Yes, it made stars out of romance veteran Rachel McAdams and current golden boy Ryan Gosling (and I agree they give solid performances), and yes, that big kiss in the pouring rain is pretty epic and swoon-worthy, but like all Nicholas Sparks film adaptations (The Last Song, Nights in Rodanthe, today’s Safe Haven) it’s nothing more than a sappy, clichéd romance. And yet, this film has become the standard go-to love story for my generation (even more so than Love Story!), and if there’s one phrase that frustrates the hell of out me, it’s “Well (insert romance film) wasn’t as good as The Notebook.” What the hell! Since when did The Notebook become the definitive film in the romance genre? The bottom line is that there are so many other great cinematic romances out there and I hate the fact that the genre has been grounded by the flimsy The Notebook. So then, if you’re trying to please that special someone today with a movie, skip over McAdams and Gosling (I know, it’s hard ladies) for once and try something else! Below is a list of romance films to please any significant other without having to endure The Notebookfor the 100th time:


A film poster showing a man and a woman in a passionate embrace.For the old fashioned one: Gone With The Wind – It’s a tragedy that more people my age have seen The Notebook than this timeless epic with one of the most famous on screen romances. I mean, seriously, does it get any better than sly ladies man Rhett Butler and socialite Scarlett O’Hara? In one of the great cinematic performances from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Vivien Leigh steals the show as the emotionally restless O’Hara, portraying a woman that is forced to set her arrogant nature aside during the Civil War in order to save her wealth and her home, the gorgeously shot Tara Plantation. With epic music, beautifully shot sunsets, sweeping landscapes, and a thrilling ride through the burning of Atlanta, it’s no wonder why Gone With The Wind remains one of the greatest love stories as well as movies ever put to screen. Adjusted for inflation, it would even be the highest grossing film of all time! Take that, Titanic and Avatar! Oh, and Clark Gable is in it too – what more could a girl ask for?


For the quirky one: Annie Hall – Though he made one of his best films last year with the charming Midnight in Paris, Annie Hall is still Woody Allen’s greatest feature film. As nervous wreck Alvy and offbeat Annie (she’s like a hipster before there were hipsters!), Allen and Oscar-winner Diane Keaton give us a realistically clumsy and emotionally genuine portrayal of love in New York City. Just as people fall in and out of love over the years so do Alvy and Annie, and as we follow them through their lives in the past and present and into the future (typical Allen stuff!) we realize that love is not only desired, it’s also insanely complex, painful, and, at the end of the day, worth it. The movie is in some ways the original (500) Days of Summer – it’s understated, inventive (Allen’s use of subtitles to “translate” the thoughts of Alvin in one scene is outstanding), simple, and extremely poignant.


For the simple one: Before Sunrise – This little gem, directed by the great Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Bernie) and staring Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply as strangers who meet on a train to Vienna, is one of the most genuine love stories ever put on film. Instead of sweeping us off our feet with grand romance and lush landscapes, Sunrise scales all the way back to uncover the real bond between man and woman: conversation. For a little over an hour and a half, all we do is watch these two people meet, walk, and talk about their lives and outlooks on love and loss, and yet somehow it’s all enthralling. The chemistry Hawke and Deply suggest at first is tantalizing and as their characters come together, there’s an urge to see them really connect that is unshakeable. Before Sunrise has no rain soaked kiss, no sweeping music, and no big moment of realization – instead, there’s an unnerving simplicity to these two strangers’ casual conversations and through this simplicity we see that love is a once in a life time kind of thing and that we may meet people for reasons other than coincidence (the sequel, Before Sunset is equally as romantic).


For the fun one: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist  If there’s one movie that I suspect most people have seen out my picks it’s this one, and thank god! I love this movie, I really do. In the hands of Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, teenage love is conveyed so naturally (it’s awkward, passionate, obsessive, troubling, and awesome when it works out) that the film simply charms the hell out of you. In fact, every time I see this movie about two teens on a scavenger hunt to find a secret New York show by their favorite band, I find myself smiling the entire time. In addition, the movie also has a killer soundtrack and a supporting turn from Ari Graynor that is flat out hilarious (a scene with a piece of gum and a toilet is particularly memorable). All in all, it’s a guaranteed enjoyable time, what more could you want on Valentine’s Day?


For the intellectual one: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – There aren’t many films where I can say that every component is truly and utterly original, but this 2004 masterpiece is just that – truly and utterly original. Part romance, part science fiction, part drama, part comedy, and part everything else, Eternal Sunshine is like the Inception of all romances, a trippy journey through the mind of man (Jim Carrey in his best performance ever) trying to remember his two-year fling with a free spirited chick (an insanely likeable Kate Winselt) after the two of them hired a firm to erase their memories of each other. If it sounds confusing, it is, but only at first – this is one of the most enthralling romantic journeys ever put on screen and its complexities are only part of its many comments on love and the happiness and regrets that come from it. This one is a definite must see!


For the quiet one: WALL-E – Did anyone ever have a doubt that Pixar wouldn’t be able to pull off a love story between robots who can’t really talk? My god, even though I was expecting WALL-E to be another Pixar classic, not even I could fathom the beautiful, emotional, and relatable romance that sparked between WALL-E and EVE. These two robots may be only able to speak in bleeps and techno-blurps and squeaks, but the love between them is universal, communicated through their ever increasing desire to connect and be loved. WALL-E may be a garbage compacter but there’s a bit of all of us in that clumsy, rusty robot who just wants to be loved, and when the sleek, sexy EVE comes to Earth with the promise of love and life (quite, literally), she sweeps all of us off our feet. In this Pixar masterpiece – the best they’ve ever done if you ask me – love defies language and becomes an energy that binds are lives together. Now that’s something I’d never expect to see in an animated film!


For the adventurous one: Casablanca – If there’s one romance that gives Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara a run for their money, it’s easily the dashing Rick Blaine and the beautiful, enigmatic Ilsa Lund, played so famously by the legendary Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Gentleman, if you have never seen Ingrid Bergman before, stop what you’re doing and watch this tonight – to say she is one of the most beautiful actresses of all time would be a disservice, she’s a knock out! And yet, Casablanca is so much more than the sex appeal of its two stars – it’s a dashing thriller of sorts set against the back drop of Nazi occupied Casablanca (will Rick get the transport visas in time?), it’s a buddy movie between Rick and the iconic Captain Louis Renault (played with bumbling wit by Claude Raines), and it’s a timeless romance about two people madly in love at the wrong time in history. When it comes to Classic Hollywood, it doesn’t get more perfect than Casablanca, and the climax delivers everything you could want – suspense, resolution, and a line for the ages (“I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship!”). Rick and Ilsa will “always have Paris”, and we’ll always have Casablanca. Here’s looking at you, kid!


For the musical one: Once – Whether you’ve heard of or seen the Tony-award winning musical, allow me to recommend the film that inspired it all, the poetically gorgeous, Once. Set in culturally rich city of Dublin, Ireland, Once is a musical that follows a down-on-his-luck songwriter as he attracts the interest of a female stranger who shows a fond interest in his music and lyrics. Ingeniously, Once is the anti-musical of musicals, and instead of over blown musical numbers, the film relishes in its alternative/independent vibes, breaking for music moments when the characters play for one another or go to a studio to record music (oh, and the music is absolutely fantastic, headed by the Oscar-winning original song, “Falling Slowly”). Natural and extremely realistic, the film shows how music – just like the techno-blurps and bleeps in WALL-E – can transcend language and add to that binding energy  we call “love”.


For the experimental one: In The Mood For Love  If subtitles aren’t your thing, get over it! Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai’s seductively impressionistic In The Mood For Love is foreign cinema and its most beautiful and visually expressive. Telling the story of two lonely neighbors who form an attraction when their own partners begin having affairs, Love sizzles with dream-like haziness and red hot intimacy. As the two grow closer and closer, our desire to see them connect grows and grows to extreme lengths, but do they stoop to the lows of their partners and cheat themselves? It’s a rather fascinating dilemma, one directly related to how love controls our psyches and how our society controls our love (it’d be a crime of sorts to have an affair in conservative 1960s Hong Kong). If anything, see it for Kar-wai’s dazzling cinematography, with its flickering yellows and smokin’ reds, the look of the film is enough to seduce the hell out of you.


For the ex: Fatal Attraction A bat-shit crazy, nymphomaniac Glenn Close trying to kill Michael Douglass after their passionate affair spirals out of control???? Do I need to say any more???


Seen any of my picks? What are your favorite cinematic romances of all time?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Article by Zack Sharf


2 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day: 10 Cinematic Romances

  1. Pingback: Valentine’s Day: 10 Movie Characters We Want To Date | Reel Reactions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s