There’s an obscure little film called Fifty Shades of Grey out for Valentine’s Day–today!– this year. Maybe you’ve already bought your tickets. Maybe you’re waiting to see it on Netflix. Maybe you’re waiting until hell freezes over. While we do have some staffers who are planning to see it and write a review, in the meantime, here are some favorite romantic films AAR staffers have already seen and can enthusiastically suggest for a romantic night in.
Caroline: I think nothing sets the mood like laughing together, so I pick Bridget Jones’s Diary. This movie has great one-liners, a fantastic cast (someone finally let Hugh Grant have some fun!) and a really lovely core relationship in which Mark Darcy falls in love with Bridget – just as she is.
(Side note: I floated this question to my husband, who promptly nominated Happy Gilmore. I said, “Why am I even married to you?” Then he said, “Oh, wait, can I suggest a miniseries? Because that latest Jane Eyre (Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens) was awesome.” Ah, that’s why.)
LinnieGayl: I’m going with a pair of movies: Beauty and the Beast (Disney version) and La Belle et la Bête (1946) (Cocteau). I saw the Cocteau version years ago in a college French lit class and it made a huge impression. I didn’t think I’d like the Disney version, but when my niece was little she could convince me to watch anything, and I fell in love all over again, so much so that it became a family Christmas Eve tradition. What’s particularly romantic about both versions for me is that our heroine manages to see through the ugly façade of the Beast and fall deeply in love with his inner beauty.
Anne: Dang! Somebody beat me to La Belle et la Bête! I even have the two-disc edition of the French version with the commentary. Although some of the commentary takes the fun out of the movie, especially when they criticize the heroine’s acting. The behind-the-scenes stuff is great, though. Did you realize it was almost impossible to find clean white sheets in postwar France?
Haley: I think my favorite romance movie (although it’s actually a mini series) is North and South by the BBC. There is just nothing that compares to the gorgeous Richard Armitage being madly in love with his lady. I have seen it so many times.
My favorite Rom-Com is the French film I Do (Prête-moi ta main) because it is really silly and yet heartwarming at the same time. It has some really zany moments that make me laugh and I was totally rooting for the couple the whole time.
I also second the vote for the first Bridget Jones’s Diary because what is there not to love about Colin Firth and Hugh Grant tussling in the street?
Mary: North and South is also in my top 10 romantic movies of all time. I absolutely love this movie and have watched it at least 10 times. Sometimes, I just put in the DVD and fast forward to all of the best parts. One of the best romances was Firelight with Sophie Marceau and Stephan Dillane. Then there are the two most recent adaptations of Jane Eyre and the series and movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. The girls in my family get together periodically to watch romantic movies, and last year we watched The Outsider (based on Penelope Williamson’s novel) with Naomi Watts. The only problem with romance movies is there are not nearly as many of them as romance books
Lee: I’m going to go with While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. She falls in love with Peter Gallagher, who doesn’t really know who the heck she is but then he is injured and she rescue him and he falls into a coma. There are so many fun scenes with Sandra Bullock’s boss and her landlord’s son as well as lovely family scenes with Bill Pullman’s family. My favorite scene is when he gives her a snow globe of the city of Florence.
Heather: My favorite romantic movie is Dirty Dancing. I distinctly remember seeing it in the theater and having the sudden realization that boys were not “yucky,” not at all. It’s infinitely quotable, but my favorite line comes from Baby: “And most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”
Bessie: I always remember And Now My Love (Toute Une Vie) from 1974. It ends with the couple’s meeting– the story arc of the film is how both their pasts going back two generations brought them together.
Maggie: I’ve done a few blogs on favorite movies, notably one about buried treasure romance films and another on favorite teen romance films. Sadly, the only new film I’ve added to my lexicon of beloved romance movies since then is About Time. This sweet movie is about geeky Tim who is “too thin, too tall, too orange”. When he becomes a barrister in London, a night out with a friend has him meeting Mary, an ordinary girl who seems extraordinary to him. When a time travel glitch tears them apart Tim expends all efforts in getting her back and creating an extraordinary, ordinary life with her.
Jenna: I don’t think I can pick just one for my all-time favorite romantic movie. If I did, it would probably be one of the Austen’s – either Pride and Prejudice (either Kiera Knightly or Jennifer Ehle version) or Sense and Sensibility, so I won’t go with the obvious. I will say that my favorite swoon-worthy romantic movie may have to be Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis and Madeleine Stowe. Who doesn’t just want to melt when Hawkeye tells Cora “Stay alive! No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.“? It’s like an historical romance novel come to the screen. My favorite doomed romance has to be Shakespeare In Love with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes. My heart just broke at the end when they had to part forever. And my all time favorite sweet romance has to be Disney’s Tangled. I don’t care if he is animated, I just fell in love with Flynn Ryder!
I think my favorite epic romance might be Baz Luhrmann’s Australia with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. I thought this was one of the most underrated movies – it didn’t get great press nor do very well at the box office, I believe. But the chemistry between Nicole and Hugh was white hot. Also, the story is absolutely one of enemies to lovers, which I always love when done well. All of it set in a time period and location that should be used in romances more often – Northern Australia at the beginning of World War II. It truly is an epic story, spanning several years. I cried more than once and – SPOILER ALERT – the moment when the Drover realizes that Sarah is still alive….swoon!!
Caz: I’ve never really noticed this before, but my film-watching tastes are rather different from my reading ones, as I’m not a great fan of romantic movies. Perhaps it’s because the ones I’ve seen have been disappointing – I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I suppose it at least didn’t mean that I had hundreds of favourites to choose from for this post; in fact I’ve got just two from the last few decades. I agree that While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman is wonderfully romantic without being sappy, and both leads were perfect in their roles. I also loved the warm and slightly crazy family dynamic that is everything Lucy never had and something she longs for as much as she longs for someone to love her.
My other favourite is When Harry Met Sally. Friends-to-lovers is a trope I generally like in books, and this one is the queen of the crop. Smart and Funny is my catnip, and this has both in spades.
Other than that, I go back several decades to the great movie couples of the 30s and 40s – perhaps not romances, but definitely romantic, I can watch The Philadelphia Story, Holiday, His Girl Friday, Bringing up Baby and others of their ilk until the cows come home.
Blythe: I feel like my favorite romantic movies have shifted as I have gotten older and my life has changed. There are always oldies but goodies – I mean, I NEVER get tired of the A&E Pride and Prejudice, which I think was total perfection. But of the last decade, my favorite has to be The Holiday. Granted, the Jude Law factor is huge for me. But I also like that they are adults who have had relationships before, and I find myself relating to Cameron Diaz. Now, if I could also relate to her gorgeous Los Angeles home and ability to pack up on a whim and go to a cottage in Surrey for Christmas, that would be kind of nice.
Dabney: That’s a challenge… there are so many good choices. (Love stories are my favorite kind of film.) My current favorite is probably Notting Hill, which was the second big hit from Richard Curtis. (The first was Four Weddings and a Funeral which I would love a lot more if it were Three Weddings and a Funeral and the Hugh Grant character had ended up with the lovely if “Duck Faced” Henrietta. I also love About Time and most but not all of Love Actually, also from Mr. Curtis.) My favorite romantic tear jerker is The Way We Were which my husband can’t make it through without bawling alongside me. My favorite romantic comedy is Bull Durham which is also my favorite sports comedy. No one unsnaps a garter like Kevin Costner. (Second place: Moonstruck, the only film I ever found Nic Cage attractive in.) My favorite teen romance is Say Anything, the film that made John Cusack a star and began Cameron Crowe’s illustrious directing career. Lastly, my favorite oldie but goldie is The Sound of Music.
Melanie: I’m not much for romance movies, honestly – I’m more an action girl. If I had to pick some of my favorites though, I’d have to start with The Princess Bride – how can you not? It’s got the epic love story, the action and the comedy, and just enough cheese to make it delicious. I absolutely adore The African Queen – it’s kinda a romance, right? Katherine Hepburn wins every time, and I loved Bogart in his role. I also second the vote for the 1993 Much Ado About Nothing (though I did enjoy the more recent Joss Whedon adaptation). The couples had such great chemistry, and nothing beats Kenneth Branagh chewing the Shakespearean scenery.
Meanwhile, a friend is trying to convince me that Kate and Leopold wins for best romantic comedy. My vote is torn between French Kiss (the only Meg Ryan movie I really love. I think it’s because of Kevin Kline) and The Proposal (Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds? Yes please! also, I love the age difference, and how it’s not actually a big part of the story line. It’s just an accepted thing. That seems kinda rare when the woman is older than the man.)
For the epic feel, though, I will always watch and rewatch and cry at Last of the Mohicans. The sweeping majesty of the scenery and the score don’t hurt!
Lynn: I think Sense and Sensibility is probably my favorite romantic film. It’s hard to pick just one movie, but this is one of the few that completely swept me away on first viewing. That moment when Colonel Brandon sees Marianne for the first time…you can almost feel the longing come off the screen.
What do you all think? Are your top choices on here, or are there great romantic movies we missed? Given a choice, would you prefer a night in with an old favorite or a night out seeing something new?