Many of our greatest films have had a strong element of romance. Here are ten of the best of them.
Camille (1936): This classic version of Camille stars Greta Garbo as the consumptive Marguerite Gautier, a Parisian courtesan who falls in love with Armand Duval, played by the dashing Robert Taylor. Armand’s father, played by Lionel Barrymore, comes to Paris to try to save his son from what he thinks is a destructive relationship, and the result is a sublime tear-jerker. This movie is based on La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas Fils. The director is George Cukor.
Gone With the Wind (1939):Gone With the Wind needs no introduction, at least to American audiences. Scarlett O’Hara, perfectly portrayed by the young Vivien Leigh, is, in turn, spoiled, manipulative, emotional and incredibly heroic. She meets her match in Rhett Butler, also perfectly portrayed by the incredibly sexy Clark Gable. Rhett’s parting statement to Scarlett, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was a shock to 1939 moviegoers, who were not used to such “strong” language. Add a great supporting cast, led by Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard and Hattie McDaniel, and you have one of the greatest movies of all time. Victor Fleming is the credited director, although George Cukor and Sam Wood also worked on it.
Casablanca (1942): Directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains, Casablanca is probably the most popular romantic movie of all time. It is so popular that references to it appear in other films, most notably Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. There is also a brief reference to Casablanca in the beginning of the movie When Harry Met Sally. Although it was not originally written for this movie, the song “As Time Goes By” is indelibly linked with it.
The African Queen (1951): Again, we have a great romantic film with Humphrey Bogart. This time, his leading lady is Katharine Hepburn. At first, they are a completely mismatched pair. He is a scruffy, gin-drinking riverboat operator and she is the prim spinster sister of an English missionary. They are thrown together by circumstances and make an eventful river trip together, during which they not only fall in love but also contribute to the World War II allied war effort by blowing up a German warship. The director of this film is the great John Huston.
West Side Story (1961): Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this wonderful adaptation of the original Broadway musical of the same name is a must-see. When you combine the great music of Leonard Bernstein with the choreography of Jerome Robbins you get some of the most impressive dance sequences ever filmed. This modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is very striking indeed.
The Way We Were (1973): Directed by Sidney Pollack and starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, The Way We Were is a bittersweet story of two very different people. Katie is a committed political activist and Hubbell is a talented writer who sells out his talent to Hollywood. Although they love each other deeply, their differences are too strong, and Katie’s communist past threatens to destroy Hubbell’s career. There is a very moving scene at the end of the movie, and Barbra Streisand’s singing of the theme song is memorable.
When Harry Met Sally (1989): Directed by Rob Reiner, written by Nora Ephron and starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally is one of the most brilliant romantic comedies ever put on film. Although the fake orgasm scene (which was filmed in the famous Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City) is the best-remembered scene, the entire film is romantic comedy at its best.
Pretty Woman (1990): If you like Cinderella stories, you are sure to like Pretty Woman. Directed by Gary Marshall and starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, it is a story of a street hooker who meets a wealthy corporate raider, and how they change each others’ lives. It might not be the most realistic movie ever made, but as fairy tales go it is very entertaining. Hector Elizondo and Jason Alexander are among the fine supporting cast.
Ghost (1990): Love endures even after death in this tale of a man (Patrick Swayze) who is murdered, but who remains on earth as a ghost, finds out who killed him and why, and saves the woman he loves (Demi Moore) from a similar fate. Ghost is a very entertaining fantasy/romantic movie. Among the strong supporting cast is Whoopie Goldberg as a fake psychic who suddenly finds that her gift for communing with the other side is real. The soundtrack includes the Righteous Brothers’ version of Unchained Melody, which is used to great effect.
Titanic (1997): James Cameron’s blockbuster is one of those movies that you always find yourself watching. Even though the leading characters are completely fictional, Titanic is a riveting film. Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet turn in fine performances, as do all of the supporting cast, including Kathy Bates as Molly Brown and Gloria Stuart as Rose in old age.
There is nothing like a good romantic movie.