So it’s Valentine’s Day. You and your sweetie have had a romantic dinner, or a nice walk (pleasant and warm even with the chill in the air), arm in arm, hand in hand, you decide to go back to the apartment and have a cuddle while watching a romantic movie that isn’t overly sappy… What do you choose?
Well, here’s a few of my favorites, ones that are always reliable and I always enjoy watching, and I can be a total hopeless romantic, so how’s that for a pedigree?
In no particular order we have…
Casablanca (1942) – What’s not to love about this one? There’s fantastic music, there are fantastic performances by Bogart and Bergman, some of the most quoted and misquoted dialogue ever, and what an ending!
Sacrifice, heartbreak, love, all set against the backdrop of World War II, as trouble comes in to Rick’s Cafe American in the form of the lovely Ilsa. They were lovers in Paris before the Germans rolled in, and she left him with nothing but a letter while he waited at the train station. Now, she strolls back into his life, hoping to obtain travel visas that he has. And she’s come in with her husband, resistance hero, Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid).
Who does she really love? What is she going to do? A beautifully crafted film, with enduring characters and moments, that still have the same resonance in the human soul, even as time goes by…
When Harry Met Sally (1989) – A perfect companion piece to Casablanca as the main characters, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) talk about Ilsa’s choices throughout the movie, even as their own relationship, romance, break-up and more happen to them…
Crystal and Ryan have great chemistry together, and are surrounded by a stong cast including Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, and there is a great soundtrack featuring some great tunes, including Harry Connick Jr. belting out It Had To Be You.
Yes, one could argue this movie is a good New Year’s Eve movie, what with the film’s climax, but it’s also a great film about two people who hate each other, become friends, sleep together, hate one another, and fall in love…
There are some priceless moments in this film, including Sally’s faux orgasm in the delicatessen, that have gone on to make film history. But at it’s heart it is almost the perfect rom-com.
Sleepless In Seattle (1993) – I love the three films that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have done together, Joe Versus the Volcano, You’ve Got Mail, and this middle film, Sleepless In Seattle. These series of films, along with Harry Met Sally, are my favorite performances from Ryan. Hanks plays widowed and single parent Sam Baldwin. One night, his son, Jonah (Ross Malinger) calls into a radio talk show to talk about his dad, when the announcer gets Sam on the phone to chat, Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) on her way to a Christmas party, here’s the interview and just connects with him.
Sam begins to think about getting back out there, and maybe meeting someone, and Annie begins to feel that she has to meet Sam, until finally Jonah, who has been going through all the ‘fan-mail’ Sam’s gotten from his radio appearance insists Annie is the one, and arranges for everyone to meet atop the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.
This one makes a nice tie-in with An Affair To Remember, in that the film is referenced throughout.
Once again, this one has fantastic music, has a sweet heart, and you want these two to end up together, you know things won’t always be perfect, but you know they’ll make a wonderful couple, and wonderful family, and hey… It’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, what’s not to like about that?
Notorious (1946) – Alfred Hitchcock’s classic is a very welcome member of this list, as Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman take center stage in this tense drama. Grant plays Devlin, a government agent, who approaches Alicia Huberman (Bergman), who’s German father was convicted of treason, to go to South America and infiltrate a group of Nazis who escaped there after the war.
As the film progresses, Devlin falls more and more in love with Alicia, even as she falls deeper and deeper into her work.
Hitchcock has crafted a masterful film, that allows these two actors as well as Claude Rains as lead Nazi Alexander Sebastian and Leopoldine Konstantin as his mother.
It becomes apparent very quick that Devlin is falling for Alicia in a big way, and is worried about the risks she’s taking, especially when Sebastian begins to suspect that she may not be all that she is pretendibg to be.
A fantastic classic film that I need to watch again very soon!
Love Actually (2003) – Yes, it’s a movie that is set at Christmas, yes, this one is a gimme, but it also has a brilliant, star-studded cast, is a British comedy, and definitely wears its heart on its sleever. You either love it or you hate it.
Hugh Grant is the new PM who finds love at 10 Dowling St, Liam Neeson is a single widower, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson are a married couple who are about to fall on hard times when Thompson’s character lears Rickman’s is having an affair, Martin Freeman and Joanna Page are stand-ins for a porn film, Kiera Knightley is married to Chiwetel Ejiofor but his best friend is in love with her, Colin Firth is heartbroken when his girlfriend is discovered cheating and heads off to a remote location to work on his book… And Bill Nighy is an elderly rocker with a new version of the classic tune Love is All Around just in time for Christmas.
The story weaves in and out, has laughter, and tears, and proves that if you want a romantic comedy done right, you should leave it to the Brits.
This one you can watch anytime of the year and share with those you love.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her entire relationship with Joel (Jim Carrey) erased via a new technology. Out of spite Joel decides to undergo the same procedure, but over the course of the evening, as the memories are expunged from his mind, he realizes that he wants to hold onto all the moments he had with Clementine, good and bad.
He tries to hide her in other memories, clinging to every little bit of her he can recall, even though in the real world she doesn’t even know him anymore, and someone else, Patrick (Elijah Wood), is using her removed memories to try and romance her in the way that Joel did.
Filled with heartache, honesty, and the belief that love isn’t going to be perfect but that it is going to be real, this film touches a chord inside me.
I feel bad that I don’t watch often, but I enjoy it everytime I do, the concept of memories and how we perceive others, and that timid and easily hurt form that is the human heart in love…
This is a gorgeous film that never fails to disappoint.
Serendipity (2001) – John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale… I like them both, throw in Eugene Levy, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan and you’ve got a fun little romantic comedy. Cusack and Beckinsale are Jonathan and Sarah, who have one chance meeting one night in New York at a department store counter, and spend a wonderful evening together.
Sarah believes that if they are meant to be together, life will find a way to bring them back into one another’s lives, and slowly, but inevitably, they begin to intertwine as marriage is on the horizon for both of them.
Imbued with a gentleness, a sense of fun, and one that makes you want to believe that things like this can happen all the time (and who says that they don’t?! Sometimes some insanely crazy things happen in this world, and makes you wonder if we really are all connected somehow), Serendipity never fails to entertain me.
I love when Cusack plays comedy, and I also enjoy anytime he and Piven share the screen together, because they are comic gold!
Also, a good portion of it was shot here in Toronto (posing for New York) and I love learning stufff like that!
The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – At the most inorppotune times, I find myself stopping and exclaiming… “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.” That, or whistling the brilliant score by Trevor Jones…
Daniel-Day Lewis plays Hawkeye, who is asked to oversee the protection of Cora Munro (Madelilne Stowe) while war between the French and English wage around them.
Slowly the romance between the two develop, much to the chagrin of the British officer who would have Cora for his own, and climaxes in a massive pursuit that sees Hawkeye facing down all comers as he seeks to save her from a raiding party of Huron, led by the vicious Magua (Wes Studi).
Fantastically paced, and interweaving well-crafted action sequences with stong characters and an engaging love story, this one doesn’t get enough play in my blu-ray as it should!
It Happened One Night (1934) – This is a film I was just introduced to recently, filling a blind spot that had been left there for way too long, and I can’t believe how much I enjoyed it. Obviously, some of it is a little dated, but the characters, the whip-smart dialogue, and the premise all stand the test of time.
Clark Gable is newspaper man Petter, Claudette Colbert is Ellie, a bit of a rich girl who is trying to get to New York to meet her fiancee, despite her father’s opposition.
The two get thrown together, and smelling a story, Peter agrees to help, as he’ll get an exculsive, but along the way, the two of them begin to first get on one anothers’ nerves, then under the skin, and finally into the heart.
Although neither of them realize that almost until the last moments of the film.
Frank Capra made a romantic, funny and escapist film that 80 years on can still entertain you. Don’t give this one a miss!
The Princess Bride (1987) – Another gimme, but this one is a winner each and everytime, whole-hearedly romantic, action, and tons of comedy, this film has something for everyone and sends me back to the first time I saw it back in 87 every time I watch it.
Learning the stable boy she loved is dead, Buttercup (Robin Wright) agrees to marry Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon). The prince has other plans for her, he wants her dead so that he can have a war, and things seem to be headed that way when she’s kidnapped by Inigo (Mandy Patinkin), Fezzik (Andre the Giant), and Vizzini (Shawn Wallace). A masked man, the dread pirate Roberts (Cary Elwes) comes to her rescue.
Revelations, adventure, revenge, monsters, death, and true love make up this film directed by Rob Reiner from William Goldman’s beloved book.
It also features music by Dire Straits frount man Mark Knopfler, and like every other title on this list, has easily stood the test of time, don’t you think?
Finally as an honorable mention I wanted to mention two Pixar films that have incredible love stories in them.
The first almost entirely silent half of Wall-E (2008) where a little trash droid meets and the probe named EVE, who has come to Earth to see if it is suitable for human colonization again.
After interminable years of being alone, but for his friend, a cockroach, Wall-E is dumbstruck by EVE and falls for her almost immediately. For her, it takes a little longer, but watching the beauty of their relationship come to life is something to see.
And the first 15 minutes of Up (2009) when Carl and Ellie meet as children, become inseperable, choose to live and love one another despite the tragedies that life often brings, and celebrate the beauty of it as well, until the final heart-breaking moments that will eventually send Carl on the adventure he’s dreamed about all of his life.
Pixar knows how to make them.
So, what will you be watching this Valentine’s Day?