Everyone loves romantic films, right? They are perfect to watch in almost any mood – to have a secret cry if you are feeling lonely too, while cuddling up with your other half, while sitting with your friends. They’re even great to watch with family. It’s no surprise that romantic films are one of the best selling film categories ever! But if someone asked you to name the top 7 romantic films of all time, what would you say? See if you agree with our list – and make sure you’ve watched them all!
1. Jules Et Jim
Okay, so this might not be as well known as some romantic films, but it’s still utterly brilliant. It was the biggest box office success that the French New Wave ever enjoyed, and when it opened in Paris in January 1962, it played for 3 months straight. It even inspired Bonnie & Clyde. Although it’s set in the era of the first world war, its sexual mannerisms are distinctly '60s, with Catherine in love with and loved by two men – a German and a Frenchman. It’s an amazing tribute to the magic of women, to the fragile nature of love and to feminine principles. It’s sentimental, awe-inspiring and amazing. Truffaut at his best.
2. A Room with a View
Okay, so this one is definitely more well known. At the time, this was a fresh and arresting film-making, more swooningly romantic than anything before. Lucy Honeychurch is on a tour with her cousin Charlotte when she encounters free-thinking Mr Emerson and his dreamy son George. Through a series of physical confrontations and sticky etiquette breaches, Lucy’s desire for emotional freedom starts to bubble up, and she finally explodes when George kisses her in a cornfield. Unfortunately, Charlotte saw the kiss, and takes Lucy back to Surrey to get engaged to a priggish young man called Cecil. It sounds starchy, but it’s fresh and spring-like, and it bounces along. You’ll be moved, and the final season will have you cheering.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The title of this film was borrowed from a 1717 poem by Alexander Pope, which charts the side of love that movies tend to ignore: the arguments, the irritating habits, the boredom. That’s what this film touches upon, too. It starts with a classic boy-meets-girl, and the pair fall in love. Girl soon gets fed up, though, and moves on by erasing all trace of boy from her mind. Boy does the same. There’s a great twist that you’ll need to get your head round, and the moral of the story is definitely that love is the most precious thing in the world.
4. Before Sunrise
The plot for this one is very simple – an American man and a French woman in their early 20s meet on a train through Europe, and spend some time in Vienna together. 15 hours of ambling around together might not seem long, but it’s what isn’t said that plays a big part here. The camera is an unobtrusive companion while they kiss, flirt, show off and mess around, and there is a real sense of their feelings for each other, as well as time slipping away. When the morning arrives, and the pair agree to meet six months later in a pre-social media era, the arrangement seems far too fragile. There’s even a sequel, Before Sunset. Jesse has grown up, and is a successful writer with a novel about a one-night stand. He meets Celine in Paris but can only spare 80 minutes with her before he returns to his wife and child in the US – crushing. It’s honest, affectionate, tantalizing and gutting, all at the same time. And yes, you heard right, a third was released nearly a decade later. Before Midnight saw the pair get their happy ending, coming together as a couple in Paris before moving to a writers’ retreat in Greece. Their cares and preoccupations might be distinctly middle-aged – mainly exes, money and children – but they seem just as young and in love as they did way back when.
5. Brief Encounter
Parting has never been as sad. Laura Jesson is a suburban housewife married to a man who seems to starve her of attention, and fixate on crosswords. She falls for Alec, a medic, and tries desperately to repress her feelings. “This can’t last. This misery can’t last.” I won’t give away the ending, but you should definitely give it a watch.
6. The Graduate
Who wouldn’t want their wedding to be interrupted by a breathless man screaming their name, only to leave on an unforgettable bus ride?! That’s exactly what happens here. Dustin Hoffman’s screams to Katharine Ross are so believable that they are almost manic, and you’ll love the moment her mother realizes she’s leaving time and time again. “It’s too late” sounds so final, but “Not for me” was just THE ultimate comeback. Amazing.
7. The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn just had to appear on a list of romantic films somewhere! Never has class war seemed more elegant than George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story. The story springs from Katharine learning to love the right man by kissing the wrong one. She’s at her most impressive here, and you’ll fall in love with her yourself!
So, did your favorite romantic films make the list, or are we missing some? Do you think Casablanca should have made the list, or Solaris? I’m a bit shocked that An Officer and a Gentleman isn’t here…let me know your favorite romantic films in the comments!