So, I’m something of a romantic. Give me movie with a heartfelt romantic plot and I’ll leave the theatre crying like a baby or convinced I’ll fall in love with the first woman I see across a crowded cafeteria. I’m a sucker for love and it seems that I’m not alone. Love, with all its many ups and downs, provides endless fodder for filmmakers; after all, there are so many romantic movies released each year.
Capturing what love means isn’t easy; I’ve spent years figuring it all out and I’m not even close yet. Trying to condense that feeling into two hours is incredibly hard. Once in a while though, a movie is made that captures that feeling in its entirety. They speak directly to the soul of someone who has loved passionately, painfully and entirely.
Not every romantic movie follows the ‘Boy meets Girl and falls in love and they live happily ever after’ formula. Many of the best tell tales of tragedy, romance, pain, pathos, pride, and loss.
The following is a sample of the movies that totally capture the unique spirit of the greatest and most enduring thing on earth, love.
Warning: The following list contains spoilers.
Nothing is cuter than a first kiss. Nothing is sweeter than figuring out life. Nothing is more tragic than loss.
The innocent love between Thomas J and Vader is so enduring because of the selfless way Thomas J follows Vader around and sticks with her despite her many character flaws. It’s a selfless love that few adults can ever hope to replicate.
It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s mainly known for its ending but what truly holds this picture together is George and Mary Bailey’s love story. It’s not an easy love story for them- their marriage requires a lot of compromises on both sides. What makes this couple work so well is that they are equally supportive of each other through difficult times. There is a love between them that outshines George’s despair and ultimately saves him from himself. While Clarence the Angel may get a lot of the credit, it’s Mary that pulls the town together to save George.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The pain of a relationship ending can be unbearable. Psychologists have proven that the feelings associated with missing the other part of you equate to genuine feelings of physical pain. It’s understandable that you’d want that pain to end, even if it meant forgetting you’d ever known the person to begin with. But, as the saying goes “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. Joel learns this as he takes a journey through his memories. He’s reminded of the fun and tender moments he shared with Clementine and ultimately chooses to retain his memories of her rather than erase the pain of losing her.
Not all great love stories have a happy ending. Ultimately, you can give your everything and the weight of circumstances can still break you. Blue Valentine captures this kind of love perfectly. Two people, both imperfect, fall in love and try everything to make it work. There is a genuine pain felt by the audience as they crumble under the weight of their past mistakes and they struggle to hold it together. There is an intensity that can only be felt by those who know that, despite everything, you can try your best and still fail to hold onto the one you love.
When Harry met Sally
There’s few things cuter than the bickering, back and forth between two people that are meant to be together. This movie basically invented the ‘will they, won’t they’ trope that’s been a staple of romantic comedies ever since.
The Princess Bride
Every time Buttercup gives her farm boy, Westley, a command he simply replies “As you wish” and happily complies. Eventually she realises that every time he says that he means “I love you” and that she loves him too. It’s a little thing, but it stands out due to the tenderness in Westley’s voice every time he says it. Whenever I hear the words “As you wish” I’m reminded that the greatest declarations of love aren’t always the loudest or the most passionate, sometimes it’s enough to simply be there in a supportive way.
2 Days in Paris
There’s something about Julie Delpy that captures the essence of love. Perhaps it’s her French accent, or perhaps it’s the silent intensity that sits in her eyes. Whatever it is, whenever she makes a movie with love as a central theme, it’s worth watching. 2 Days in Paris captures, unsurprisingly, a couple spending two days in Paris visiting relatives. The movie perfectly embodies the fine line between adoration and irritation that many couples walk throughout their lives.
The world is radically changing in its attitude to love. The last few years have seen marriage equality become a legal right in numerous western countries. I’m a big supporter of this. I firmly believe that it’s hard enough to find your soulmate and make things work, without society saying you can’t be with the one you love because of something like being gay.
In 1960s Wyoming, things were very different. Two cowboys fell in love but there was very little either could do about it. Brokeback Mountain will always be remembered as a watershed moment that changed, and challenged, many people’s opinions of what love is. More than that, it depicted a love between two men that is, and will remain, one of the saddest and most enduring love stories ever told.
The Fault in Our Stars
Some infinities are bigger than others. Between each moment and the next, there an infinite amount of seconds and nanoseconds, therefore no matter how long you love someone you can still have an infinite love. Even if your infinity isn’t as long as you would hope. The Love between Hazel Grace and Augustus is tragically short and the tragic nature of his passing leaves a lasting impression. The final scenes with Hazel Grace staring at the stars, remembering Augustus' life and love, are understated and poignant. The barrier of death is only temporary.
There are many people that say you can’t fall in love at first sight. They’re probably right, but it’s hard to deny that sometimes you just look at someone and know that they’re destined to alter the course of your life forever. For all that has been said about Titanic, it’s impossible to deny its place in cinema history. Its massive box-office success is thanks to, in part, that feeling of first love. For anyone that’s looked into the eyes of another person and just known that the feeling their feeling will last forever, there’s something to relate to in Titanic.
I’ve only been in love once, but I can tell you, I knew it was love the very first time I kissed her. For some, they need more - for Jack and Rose, it was the first look, the first kiss, and the first… yeah you get the picture.
One thing to take note of, Jack never tells Rose he loves her, ever. Truthfully, the words are so often hollow anyway, but she knows; because true love is never having to say it.
It’s hard for me to be objective about this movie. I watched it in stunned silence with the love of my life next to me. When the credits rolled, we looked at each other, both in tears and probably understood our own feelings better than either of us ever had.
The real triumph of The Notebook, and the reason it’s still considered a masterpiece a decade after its release, is that it manages to capture so many aspects of love. It perfectly captures the simplicity of a first love. Two people, both unburdened by past failures, falling for each other in an innocent, yet passionate way. It then captures them finding each other after failures, resentment and pain. It also shows the greatest aspect of love - the lifelong commitment of two people. Noah continues to love Allie even when she doesn’t remember him. His lifelong love for her doesn’t fade, even as she dies in his arms. It’s beautifully shot, but the real success of the move comes from the hope that love truly can last a lifetime. Most people would kill for that kind of love.
One thing is for certain, there are many great loves, but never the same love twice.