I’m not going to bother defending romantic movies to anyone – if you aren’t interested in stories about love, that’s that. I watch romantic movies when I want to lower down the volume of my thoughts and turn up the tears and oxytocin instead.
The movies on this list are ones I’ve watched at least five times. I don’t particularly think they’re the best out there; these are just the ones I keep coming back to because I personally like them best., and here they are in order of release date.
Disclaimer: These may look like mini film reviews, but they’re not really. I’m not qualified to review films in any way, nor am I trying to make it sound like I am. I just like to talk a lot about my favourite things. I should probably just let this disclaimer stand for all future blog posts from now on.
Pretty Woman (1990)
Starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, this is basically the best Pygmalion adaptation since My Fair Lady. There’s a killer late 80s soundtrack and a great piano theme, the opera La Traviata is woven into its narrative, and Julia Roberts’ wardrobe is amazing. If you’re an IMDB geek, go read up on the working relationship between the director Gary Marshall and actor Hector Elizondo – extra bonus points if you’ve watched The Princess Diaries (a close contender for this list) and know what the two dinner scenes are about.
Sure, the premise seems horrifically basic and white-knight at first – prostitute falls in love with emotionally unavailable, millionaire businessman. But Vivian is a wonderful mix of strong character and emotional vulnerability, and she shows that the two don’t necessarily have to exist in opposition to one other. I think the way her character is written as a woman and a sex worker was dealt pretty well with given the premises and something we could all learn from in 2017.
“Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Technically a Christmas-and-family movie type, this is a quirky and wholly unrealistic rom com where Sandra Bullock pretends to be a comatose man’s fiancée and falls in love with his brother. Actually, I don’t really know why I like this movie so much. It’s a bit creepy. Oh wait, that’s probably why. I’m a bit creepy. I’m kidding.
Too often the single girl craving for a relationship and family is painted as some unwanted, manic klutz. Maybe Lucy comes off that way to some, but to me her longing for love in this movie, more filial than romantic at times, is deeply believable, even if it isn’t entirely probable. Honestly though, I’d watch this movie just because the Callahans are hilarious.
“The truth was that I fell in love with you… All of you.”
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Jerry Maguire is about people, ideals, recognition and interestingly, the sports agent industry. The three main arcs of this movie are Jerry’s relationship with Renee Zellweger’s character, his relationship with his client Cuba Gooding Jr, and his own personal growth; the last of these is confusingly both independent from and related to the two aforementioned relationships. This is an example of a romantic movie that’s not a rom com because there’s hardly comedy in this; it’s real, and it’s realistically downing in the way life sometimes is .
There are just so many well-written, brilliantly acted scenes in this movie – it was nominated for five Academy Awards. And yes, the voiceover to Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden messes me up big time. Also, when Tom Cruise cried, I cried.
“You complete me.” (Shut up, it’s a fucking good line.)
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Man, we really have to bring back all these angsty US high school adaptations of Shakespeare, but maybe it doesn’t matter, because this one, based on The Taming of the Shrew, will always be the best. Sex, dating, infatuation, forbidden love, complicated love, deceit and all-around adolescent drama, I don’t think I have to go very in-depth on this one. This movie was the blazing flame of a very niche movie genre we’ll never get back again, and probably shouldn’t try to.
Sigh. Remember when Julia Stiles was still famous? Remember when Heath Ledger was still alive? And baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt!
“You embarrassed the girl. Sacrifice yourself on the altar of dignity and even the score.”
Notting Hill (1999)
Hugh Grant stars as Hugh Grant in this clearly Richard Curtis movie written by Richard Curtis. Context: Richard Curtis has written other romance movies Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Bridget Jones, and Hugh Grant plays pretty much the same character in all of them. Bonus fact: Richard Curtis’ ex-girlfriend left him for a guy named Bernard, and so he names a shitty character after that guy in all of his movies. Never date a writer, y’all. Look what happened in Gone Girl.
William Thacker falls in love with an American movie star played by Julia Roberts (hello again!) and for some unknown reason, she reciprocates. The strength of this movie, however, lies in the ensemble cast of supporting characters that actually add value to the plot. It also left some pretty iconic footprints, like that “I’m just a girl speech”, the house with the blue door and that bookshop in London which I may or may not have gone to visit, because I’m a nerd.
A Walk To Remember (2002)
Move aside, The Notebook, if you had to watch only one Nicholas Sparks movie your entire life (and really, you should cap it at two max, because really, Nicholas Sparks, how many goddamn movies do you want to make), this should be it. And since I’m comparing, this movie is so much better than The Fault in Our Stars. This one actually has stars in it. I like stars. And yeah okay so maybe Ryan Gosling built Rachel McAdams a house. But here Shane West builds Mandy Moore a telescope. Don’t you think that’s just as sweet and slightly more realistic?
Other reasons why this movie is my favourite: every single song on the soundtrack, that early 00s high school vibe, and how the story arc actually feels gradual both in terms of personal character and romantic development. Also, she hangs out in a graveyard. And he names a star after her. And learns to dance for her. I’m just going to stop here.
“Can I ask you something? _______”
Love Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis strikes again, and I’ll save you the time by telling you this is the only holiday-based interconnected mass love story rom com out there worth watching. It’s a movie dedicated to different kinds of love and a staple must-watch every Christmas. Honestly, this film is just something you need to watch for yourself (also because there are like ten different stories and I can’t describe all of them here). Don’t be put off by the ugly poster like I was and just do it. It’s iconic, it’s got a star-studded cast and has the best rendition of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is You sung by a fifteen-year-old.
Favourite quote? Every single thing that silent Walking Dead guy’s character says or does for Keira Knightley.
Update: I just found out they’re shooting a ten-minute sequel for Red Nose Day. YES.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
To me, this movie is a cinematographic masterpiece, with a stirring soundtrack and ironic undertones that Austen herself would be proud of. Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden absolutely kill it in this adaptation, whereas the rest of the cast are a colourful reminder that Pride & Prejudice was never meant to be a story about two characters alone.
Call me a plebeian, but I infinitely prefer this to the BBC’s miniseries, which was so wooden it needed a wholly unnecessary wet shirt scene to evoke anything close to emotion in its audience. The book Pride & Prejudice was masterful in its dialogue and narrative voice. The strength of this movie, however, lies in its moments of silence: the building of suspense, physical expression, and beautiful cinematography to story-tell in the absence of dialogue, making the grand speeches of the film all the more impactful.
“What on earth have you done to poor Mr. Darcy?”
Warm Bodies (2013)
This isn’t a joke entry. This movie is amazing; it’s quirky, sweet and features a protagonist voiceover narrative. Nicholas Hoult is the hottest zombie I’ve ever seen and Theresa Palmer is like a less awkward version of Kristen Stewart. Also, not only is this movie an adaptation of sorts to a great piece of literature (I won’t say which), it has a Pretty Woman tribute in it. What more could you ask for?
The thing that made me absolutely fall in love with this movie, though, was the soundtrack. It’s absolute indie sunshine roadtrip gold and the narration wouldn’t be the same without it. That, and the colouring of this movie is absolutely gorgeous, so watch it in HD. I have no idea why the poster looks so shit visually. The movie certainly doesn’t.
“I mean, I know it’s really hard to meet guys right now, with the apocalypse and stuff… but Julie, this is just weird.”
La La Land (2016)
No, I haven’t watched this movie five times since it came out, but I’ve included it because I know I will. I’ve been wanting to write about La La Land since I watched it, but got discouraged by the sheer amount of reviews and opinion articles already out there. However, I started writing about it for this post and got to three paragraphs before I was even halfway done, so I think I’ll save my thoughts on this movie for its own post.
“People love what other people are passionate about.”