The 100 best romantic movies: 40-31

The 100 best romantic movies voted for by experts including Tom Hiddleston, Joan Collins and EL James

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40

Titanic (1997)

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio

Best quote: 'Where to, Miss?' 'To the stars!'

Defining moment: Oh, go on then: the prow scene, where Leo claims to be the king of the world, and just for a moment we all believe him.
 

My heart will go on… and on… and on…
Few films inspire as much passion as James Cameron’s epic would-be folly. Following a troubled production, when the film finally splashed into cinemas, it became the biggest money-spinner of all time, provoking an ocean of housewives’ tears and one of the biggest Oscar hauls in history. Then the backlash hit, like an iceberg in Arctic waters: wait a second, people pointed out, the dialogue’s godawful, the depiction of social class is farcical, and the romance is just join-the-dots Mills and Boon nonsense.

So which is true? Well, both, to be fair. ‘Titanic’ is an incredibly involving experience, especially once the ship hits the berg and all hell breaks loose. Sure, it’s about as intellectually valid as a Jilly Cooper novel, but if you’re looking for a high-concept crowd-pleaser with its heart firmly on its sleeve, they don’t come much bigger, sillier or more enjoyable. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'Titanic'

39

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe

Best quote: 'Stay alive. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.'

Defining moment: Declaring undying love against a thundering waterfall.
 

Hip to be squaw
Is ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ really a boy’s own adventure? No, of course not. It’s a romance cleverly disguised as a swashbuckler. The year is 1757, and the British and French are fighting for control of North America. Daniel Day-Lewis is Hawkeye, a white man raised by Native Americans who saves British general’s daughter Cora (Madeleine Stowe) from a murderous tribe.

But Cora is no helpless dame – watch her slip a musket into her pocket. There is no game-playing between these two. ‘What are you looking at, sir?’ she asks. ‘I’m looking at you miss.’ In that one moment, in their shy smiles, we know they are destined to be together. This is epic romance, and you can’t help being swept away – in spite of that Enya-ish soundtrack. CC

Read the Time Out review of 'The Last of the Mohicans'

38

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Director: Blake Edwards

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard

Best quote: 'Oh, golly gee damn!'

Defining moment: Holly Golightly sings ‘Moon River’ at the windows of her NYC apartment.

 

The original pretty woman
It’s the role that Audrey Hepburn will forever be remembered for: the beautiful, bolshy city girl with a brittle edge in this handsome, well-dressed adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella. Of course, Edwards’ film deftly sidestepped the sadder, seedier aspects of Holly Golightly’s life in the book – working as a high-society escort in early 1960s Manhattan. Instead, the film prefers to indulge the on-off, will-they-won’t-they aspect of her relationship with Paul (Peppard), her dapper neighbour.

To be frank, the spark between Hepburn and Peppard is lacking, and there’s little about ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ that truly sets the heart ablaze. What’s fun, though, is the giddiness of Holly’s life and her dashes about town with Paul (to a strip club, a stuffy library and, of course, the famous jewellery store). What the film most bequeaths us is the romantic ideal of the witty, couture-clad, urbane, dark-haired beauty: the Hepburn that launched a thousand Audreys. DC

Read the Time Out review of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

37

Breathless (1960)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg

Best quote: 'Informers inform, burglars burgle, murderers murder, lovers love.'

Defining moment: The lovers’ ambiguous parting words in the final scene. What do they mean?
 

A girl and a gun
As love stories go, 'Breathless' ('À Bout de Souffle') is not one for the ages. Jean-Paul Belmondo, playing a Parisian wideboy on the run after shooting a cop, and Jean Seberg as the hipster American newspaper girl who unwittingly shelters him, look impossibly beautiful together, smoking Lucky Strikes and debating existentialist theory in bed. But they seem entirely too cool to be in love.

Yet Godard’s groundbreaking New Wave take on the Hollywood B-movie is romantic almost in spite of itself. Its still-youthful jazz rhythms, its fresh exploration of Paris at its most invitingly chic and its sexy bedroom talk are what so many of us want romance to look and feel like. So we’re more than happy to indulge it, like the cinematic equivalent of a dirty weekend. GL

Read the Time Out review of 'Breathless'

36

All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Director: Douglas Sirk

Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson

Best quote: 'The only Kirby I know is the old gardener, and the last I heard, he was dead!'

Defining moment: The newly-entangled Cary and Ron turn up at a cocktail party full of nosy neighbourhood types.
 

Let them all talk
The swooning Technicolor palette, the pristine costumes and the fairly standard odd-couple romance between a rich widow, Cary (Wyman), and a Thoreau-reading gardener, Ron (Hudson), only serve to make the social commentary in Sirk’s film all the more powerful.

‘All That Heaven Allows’ is a blistering exposé of how society’s attitudes serve to throw cold water on passion and keep our purer romantic instincts in check. Scenes of folk gossiping behind the couple’s backs or predatory men leaping on Cary are shocking and only make us root even more for Cary and Ron’s relationship (even if the film lacks a genuine spark between the pair).

The film proved an inspiration for two later inquiring romances, Fassbinder’s ‘Fear Eats the Soul’ and Todd Haynes’s ‘Far From Heaven’, both of which took Sirk’s interest in sexual repression and love-across-the-divide in very different directions. DC

Read the Time Out review of 'All That Heaven Allows'

35

Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Cast: Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem

Best quote: 'We'll be rich, Ali. And we'll buy ourselves a little piece of heaven.'

Defining moment: The scene where Emmi reveals her relationship to her family is a masterclass in awkwardness and character tension.

Achtung, baby
Many of cinema’s most exciting moments come about as a result of unlikely juxtapositions. Who would’ve thought that taking the structure and form of 1950s Hollywood ‘womens’ pictures’ and transplanting them to grim, urban 1970s Germany would result in one of the sweetest, most challenging and emotive romantic films ever made?

Mira plays Emmi, the solitary, spreading middle-aged cleaner who starts an affair with a Moroccan ‘gastarbeiter’ two decades her junior. What’s remarkable about Fassbinder’s film is that he takes these two diametric characters and makes their love completely convincing – not for a second do we wonder why the strapping Ali cares so much for crumbling Emmi, or vice versa. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'Fear Eats the Soul'

34

Blue Valentine (2010)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams

Best quote: 'In my experience, the prettier a girl is, the more nuts she is, which makes you insane.'

Defining moment: When Dean threatens to throw himself from a New York bridge if Cindy won't tell him what's up.
 

In sickness and in health
The rough follows the smooth in this bittersweet US indie which flits back and forth from the dying embers of a five-year marriage to the first throes of heady passion. Cindy and Dean are tired, frustrated young parents, but not long ago they were dancing on the streets. Cianfrance gives us a frank portrait of where love can head if there are problems from the start.

It's a difficult and sad watch, but an invigorating one as we run along with the energy of Cindy and Dean's first meetings and then scratch our heads at where it all went wrong. What makes 'Blue Valentine' a smart summary of a faltering romance are the specifics of Dean and Cindy's problems: there's no cynical suggestion that all or most relationships head south with time. Instead, Cianfrance makes subtle suggestions as to why this one might not last the distance. DC

Read the Time Out review of 'Blue Valentine'

33

Vertigo (1958)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Kim Novak, James Stewart

Best quote: 'Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.'

Defining moment: Judy finally gets the hair right and ‘Madeleine’ lives once more.
 

My fair lady
It has pitched up at number 33 on our Top 100 Romantic Films list. And Hitchcock's noirish psychodrama about a former policeman's obsessive love for a dead woman also recently ousted the apparently unimpeachable ‘Citizen Kane’ from the number one spot in Sight & Sound magazine's critics' poll of the Best Films of all time.

Perhaps that means this tale of a lover moulding his girlfriend in the likeness of the memory that haunts him is too sinister to rate higher as pure romance? Surely not – for what could be more romantic than an extreme makeover with vague necrophiliac undertones? CB

Read the Time Out review of 'Vertigo'

32

The English Patient (1996)

Director: Anthony Minghella

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas

Best quote: 'Swoon, I'll catch you.'

Defining moment: The last kiss in the firelit Saharan cave, just after the Count tells the doomed Katherine he’ll never leave her – a promise they both know he can’t keep.

Desert song
Thanks to ‘Seinfeld’, Anthony Minghella’s Oscar-guzzling, two-planed love story became the butt of many a joke with harder-hearted viewers. But the film’s lingering impression in the public imagination as a kind of saturated desert swoon does a disservice to its subdued yet shimmering sense of melancholy.

For all its sweeping sequences of radiantly lit passion, this adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning novel is more a story of love’s withered aftermath, as the disfigured Count de Almasy, dying in an Italian monastery at the end of WWII, is ironically sustained by memories of a lethal liaison with patrician married beauty Katherine. For a supposed romantic throwback, it’s impressively bleak, yet tinged with rapture – not least in the matchless beauty of its three leads. GL

Read the Time Out review of 'The English Patient'

31

Amour (2012)

Director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Best quote: 'Please never take me back to the hospital… Promise… Promise me.'

Defining moment: When Anne suddenly freezes in the kitchen one morning.
 

Looks like we made it to the end
‘What will survive of us is love,’ wrote Philip Larkin, a poet equally known for being a cuddly old romantic as Michael Haneke, the writer and director of ‘Amour’. In his Paris-set film, Haneke examines what love means when we’re reaching the end of our lives. Haneke gives us Georges (Trintignant) and Anne (Riva), a couple in their eighties who struggle to cope when Anne falls ill from a stroke.

‘Amour’ isn’t romantic in any traditional sense of the word, but it’s steeped in ideas about living life as a couple. It’s deeply thoughtful – and thought-provoking – in relation to what it really, properly means to be with someone all your life, to the end of your life. It’s heartbreaking and totally free of false sentiment. DC

Read the Time Out review of 'Amour'

Continue to numbers 30-21 in our list of the 100 best romantic movies



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