With the release of one my colleagues, Brandon Fibbs, ABSOLUTELY favorite movie of the year, (500) Days of Summer, we take a look at our 21 Favorite Romantic Films.
While several films on this list wouldn’t be considered your typical romantic Hollywood fare, what they all have in common is at least one central character that feels so good loving their “somebody while that somebody is loving them back.”
We considered hundreds of films but thought it best to keep the focus within the past 25 years. While love was the primary theme, the films that ultimately were selected were films that either made us feel warm and fuzzy (among other feelings). Notable films that we struggled with but ultimately passed on included Brokeback Mountain, Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Wall-E, When Harry Met Sally, When Stella Got Her Groove Back and Moulin Rouge”
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here is our 21 Favorite Romantic Films.
Love Jones | 1991
From the opening strains of Theodore Witcher’s intelligent ode to love you have a feeling that something special is about to unfold – and you would be correct. Anchored by the amazing chemistry between Nia Long and Larenz Tate, “Love Jones” is an instant cult classic that lets us in as this handsome couple woo, fight and ultimately makeup under the gritty lights in Chicago. The film examines love among a group of young urbanites but it is this “brother of the night’s” signature line, “Let me tell you somethin’. This here, right now, at this very moment, is all that matters to me. I love you. That’s urgent like a motherf***er,” that gives the film it’s powerful center.
Titanic | 1997
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet radiated sensuality as a pair of young lovers aboard the doomed liner. While the sinking of the ship may have been the primary story, the romance between these two is largely what people remember about this film – along with Celine Dion’s theme. These two were so good together that they would reconnect a decade later in “Revolutionary Road.”
Love Actually | 2003
This collection of interconnected stories about a group of people falling in love was a warm tender Valentine to holiday moviegoers. The film showed several stages of love including unrequited between a supervisor and his assistant as well as a young boy and an attractive classmate. Our personal favorite was the author and his maid. But the film’s best story was between an author and his language-challenged maid. Guaranteed to leave your heart aflutter!
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | 2004
This tender story of a man who has his memory erased to lose memories of a lost love – but keeps finding her, is an amazingly creative premise that works because of the fine work of Jim Carrey and Winslet. Directed with a flourish by Michel Gondry, Carrey is a lost soul who is magnetically attracted to the oblivious Winslet like a moth to a white-hot flame. Never has the phrase, “love conqueror all,” been more applicable.
The American President | 1995
Long before he developed one of the most acclaimed series on TV, “The West Wing,” Aaron Sorkin’s tale of an unmarried President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) who falls in love with a political operative, Sidney Wade (Annette Bening) may be highly unlikely but there’s no denying that these two definitely won the popular vote.
Jerry Maguire | 1996
In addition to giving us the classic line, “You had me at hello,” Cameron Crowe’s story of a renegade sports agent and his assistant (Renee Zellwegger) who slowly fall in love is another tender, funny story that also benefits from another solid supporting love affair between Regina King and Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. While Crowe’s tale showed us the money, his living room confession of love got him the honey!
Pretty Woman | 1990
On paper, this story of an out-of-town executive who pays a prostitute to be his companion on a business trip is nothing special. Add Richard Gere and an emerging actress with billion dollar smile, Julia Roberts and you have a phenomenon. The chemistry between the two was so special that even a lackluster script couldn’t keep this film from being a hit. The two later reunited in “The Runaway Bride,” but couldn’t duplicate the magic of this film.
Dirty Dancing | 1987
Patrick Swayze became a household name as sexy dancer Johnny Castle who woos “Baby” (Jennifer Grey) in this late-80s dance hit. Women loved looking at Swayze who would hit the jackpot several years later in “Ghost.” For fans of this movie, we all had the time of our lives watching this story. One thing for sure after that explosive, energetic finale, indeed NOBODY puts Baby in a corner!
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button | 2008
This magical story of a man who finds the love of life as child – while aging in reverse was timeless, sad yet inspirational, simultaneously. What makes the story so interesting was the two lovers (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) who enjoy the pinnacle of their relationship when they meet in the middle of their lives. Film shows that love truly is timeless and never, ever dies!
Bull Durham | 1988
One of the few sports movies to make the list find a love triangle between a young cocky pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a veteran minor league catcher, Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) and baseball seductress, Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) who takes the pitcher under her wing only to fall in love with Davis. This film features something for everyone, sports for the guys, love for the ladies – and Sarandon who met her husband, Robbins while making this film.
Say Anything | 1989
Crowe strikes again with this loving story of an underachiever who falls in love with a beautiful valedictorian the summer before she goes off to college. John Cusack radiates an everyman quality and he has never been as vulnerable as he was in this film. Who can forget the famous scene when he tries to woo his love while holding a boom-box over his head to win her heart. Forbidden love has never be as sexy as it is here.
Love and Basketball | 2000
No woman is more identified with African-American romantic comedies as sexy actress Sanaa Lathan. In this film, she teams with Omar Epps in a titanic struggle for his heart. The two lovers grow up together, remain close but she is slow to discover her true feelings for him. The film climatic scene where the two play a one-on-game for their relationship is one of cinemas most heart-wrenching moments. For sure, all is fair in love and basketball!
Lust, Caution | 2007
This politically charged film featuring a group of students trying to assassinate a high-ranking secret agent backfires when a young woman (Tang Wei) falls for her target, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. In our review we wrote that this highly-charged erotic tale was so hot, it should be watched with a condom. While Wei and Chiu-Wai may have not made not have really done “the beast with two backs,” director Ang Lee’s steamy, NC-17 rated political drama also had a damn powerful story to match.
Notting Hill | 1999
Everything about this film contributed to it’s tremendous success and cult-like appeal as a real-life A-lister Julia Roberts plays . . . A-lister Anna Scott who falls for a local travel book store owner in “Notting Hill.” Trying to make a film in London, Scott must battle the paparazzi as she begins a relationship with the ordinary William Thacker (Hugh Grant). By the time, Scott utters the film’s signature line, “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her,” and Elvis Costello croons “She,” a feeling of love will wash over you like a wave in the ocean . . . and passionately swallows you up!
Bridges of Madison County | 1995
Who would think one of Hollywood’s toughest actors, Clint Eastwood could direct and star in such an engaging love story. Playing a National Geographic who falls for a married woman (Meryl Streep) in the 1960s. At the end of the film, Eastwood stands in the middle of the road in the pouring rain almost telepathically begging for Streep to come to him. You see her hand on the move to the door latch and release as Eastwood drives away forever. There was not a dry eye in the theater as Streep delivers the film’s killer line, “this kind of certainty comes once in a lifetime! WOW!!!
Mr. and Mrs. Smith | 2005
This clash of the beautiful people, Angelina Jolie and Pitt, who secretly are rival spies resulted in winning chemistry, a hot kick-a** film AND a real-life love affair. It’s almost like we’re watching the two of them in the throes of the beginning of their love affair during the making this film. Of course, Pitt left his long-time love, Jennifer Aniston for his sultry leading lady at the conclusion of this film. The rest, as they say, is history!!!
Forrest Gump | 1994
Tom Hanks won his second Oscar in a row for his portrayal of a man of few words who LOVES his Jenny (Robin Wright-Penn) in “Forrest Gump. While Gump narrates his story that finds him involved in several notable real-life events, through it all his love for Jenny never diminishes. While “life was like a box of chocolates,” we always knew what Forrest would get with Jenny – the eternal love of his life!
Ghost | 1994
When Sam (Swayze) is brutally murdered, he summons a phony clairvoyant (Whoopi Goldberg) to help him reconnect to his long-lost love, Molly (Demi Moore). Who ever thought making pottery could be sexy? It’s amazing what could happen over the strands of The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” Along with “Dirty Dancing,” Swayze would surely be in the Romance Hall of Fame – if one existed. Not only does true love never die but you take it with you!
Brown Sugar | 2002
Using hip-hop as a backdrop, director Rick Famuyiwa’s tale of two friends who grow up and fall in love is intelligent, funny and insightful. It also doesn’t hurt that if features the queen of Black romantic comedies, Lathan and handsome leading man, Taye Diggs. One of the first movies filmed in New York after 9/11, the winning chemistry between Lathan and Diggs is largely responsible for the success of this “sugary” tale where Lathan ended up with “the buddy AND the booty!”
Mississippi Masala | 1991
It’s surprising that an actor as handsome as Denzel Washington has strayed away from many leading romantic characters but in “Mississippi Masala,” Washington was in full effect as a local carpet cleaner who falls for a sexy young Indian woman (Sarita Choudhury) whose family is from Uganda. When their union is discovered, their respective families go crazy, proving that racial politics are not always Black/White. Washington and Choudhury make an attractive couple in Mira Nair’s engrossing tale.
Jason’s Lyric | 1994
Long before she became wife of one Hollywood’s biggest stars, Jada Pinkett Smith was a successful working actress. Fifteen years ago, her hot steamy love scenes with co-star Allen Payne almost earned “Jason’s Lyric” an X-rating. This story of a romantic dreamer who falls for a troubled young Houston man with an insane-in-the-membrane older brother will always be remembered for the hot nude love scene in a bed of flowers. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who thought the two were hot – Will Smith married Jada several years later!