Whether you love them or hate them, films about love hold a certain power over their audience.They're made to comfort and inspire you, to help you believe that your own true love could be waiting outside for you in the rain, playing your favourite song, and declaring their undying love for you. Then again, they're also there to remind you that you're lonely and sitting on the couch on Valentine's Day eating the chocolates you bought yourself because they were on sale.
Whether they make your heart swell or your eyes roll, there's one thing which almost all romantic films share: inevitable corniness. You can't tell a love story without at least one cringe-worthy moment.
Despite their shortcomings, I actually like every single film on this list, and while I would usually brush their corniness to the side, now is the perfect time of year to acknowledge their flaws.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
"For the first time in my whole life I realised that I totally and utterly loved one person, and it wasn’t the person standing next to me in the veil, it was the person standing opposite me now ... in the rain.”
“Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.”
Forever regarded as one of the most cringe-worthy lines to ever come out of an actor’s mouth, "Is it still raining" is the kind of line that makes your face twist together like you’ve just sucked on a lemon.
Its cheesiness is only made worse with the swelling music in the background, Andie MacDowell’s wooden delivery, and the adorkable stuttering of Hugh Grant, who cemented himself as the King of Sappy British Rom-Coms in the ‘90s. The line has developed such a reputation that MacDowell still defends it over twenty years later.
“The character was so in love, she wasn’t thinking about the fricking rain!”
But really, is that any excuse for clunky dialogue?
Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
"What d'you wanna be married to me for anyhow?"
"So I can kiss you any time I want."
Not that romantic comedies are generally known for being innovative or unpredictable, but Sweet Home Alabama basically gives away the ending in the first five minutes when we see the two leads as children in the midst of young love (they're also in the midst of a thunderstorm and are struck by lightning, but it's a rom-com so they're completely unharmed). We all knew it'd be ending the same way it began (sans being struck by lightning).
Again, the musical score of the scene mixed with the rain (it's a standard rom-com staple) make for an overly cheesy setting, but this time the use of slow motion, different camera angles (just in case you missed the part where they embrace the first time) and reliving their childhood kiss add a whole new level of corniness.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
“You said you couldn’t be with someone who didn’t believe in you. Well I believed in you. I just didn’t believe in me. I love you … always.”
Inspiring speeches of any kind are usually cringe-worthy at best, but this one from Pretty in Pink is only made worse by the fact that it's done in the presence of Duckie (Jon Cryer), a.k.a. the King of the Friendzone, a.k.a. the guy most viewers wanted Andie (Molly Ringwald) to end up with. But instead she chooses Blaine (Andrew McCarthy), who makes it his mission to deliver the speech without blinking.
While his words are meant to warm our hearts, we all know their romance is more than likely doomed thanks to both of their insecurities. For a dose of real-life, check out Molly Ringwald's spot-on cameo in Not Another Teen Movie.
The Notebook (2004)
"Now say you're a bird too."
"If you're a bird, I'm a bird."
There are many moments in The Notebook that I could have chosen, but Ally's (Rachel McAdams) "say I'm a bird" line takes the top spot. The flapping of her 'wings,' Noah's reluctance, Ally's insistence that he join her in this avian fantasy - it's the kind of moment where, if you found yourself on that same beach, you might roll your eyes and mutter something about PDA before packing up and leaving the beach, alone, because you forgot to feed your cats.
Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks - the master of churning out formulaic romantic tearjerkers - The Notebook ticks off most romantic cliches, even pulling off a pretty solid 'dramatic kiss in the rain.'
Jerry Maguire (1996)
“You complete me...”
"Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello."
The great thing about Jerry Maguire is how quotable it is. The other great thing about it is how much the above scene has been parodied since its release twenty years ago.
With the intense stares between Jerry (Tom Cruise) and Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), the roomful of women staring equally intensely, and Dorothy's repeat of "You had me at hello" in a broken voice, you begin to wonder if something like this - complete with a well-thought-out monologue - would ever actually occur in real life. It's hard enough to express a simple "I like you" in person without having to worry about a roomful of people witnessing your potential failure as you lay your heart on the line. This is corniness at its scripted best.
Notting Hill (1999)
"And don't forget ... I'm also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her."
It's not a real 'corny moments' list without at least two Hugh Grant films on it. He's at his awkward, bumbling best in Notting Hill, which means that a top-tier cheesy moment is bound to happen. Watching Anna (Julia Roberts) get rejected by Will (Grant) is painful enough, but then her tearful "Just a girl" line steers the scene deep into the dark corners of corniness and there's no going back.
It would also be the right time to point out that this is the second Hugh Grant/Richard Curtis collaboration on this list (the man behind "is it still raining" and any other British rom-com you've enjoyed). With their film history, it would almost be unfair to include each of their rom-com collaborations, so I'll settle on leaving room for another film that wasn't written by Curtis.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
"I hate it when you're not around, and the fact that you didn't call. But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all."
If a scene involves a poem, you can be sure that at some point you're more than likely going to cringe. As Kat (Julia Stiles) reads out her work to the class, directing it at her love interest Patrick (Heath Ledger), you're momentarily assured that it'll be relatively painless, thanks in part to Kat's flat delivery. But then her face turns red and the tears begin to spill and you realise it was all a ruse and now you have to sit and watch as she dramatically ends the poem and walks out of the room while her classmates stare in awkward silence.
At this point, I just feel bad for the teacher who would have to break the silence with a "would anybody else like to share their poem?"
Honorary mentions go out to 85% of Love Actually (another Curtis/Grant collaboration), Colin Firth's "Just the way you are" speech in Bridget Jones' Diary (another one), and any film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.