The 100 best romantic movies: brainy

Experts including Tom Hiddleston, Joan Collins and EL James vote for the best films about love and romance

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Now we know which are the 100 best romantic movies of all time. But which are funny and which are heartbreaking? Which depict a dignified romance and which are saucy tales of lust? Which are strictly arthouse and which are simply cheesy? We’ve applied 19 handy labels to the 100 films in our list. Here you’ll find all the films we think deserve the label ‘brainy’.

Got something to add? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

The 100 best romantic movies: brainy

4

Annie Hall (1977)

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Diane Keaton, Woody Allen

Best quote: 'Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.'

Defining moment: Call the lobster squad! Dinner has escaped.
 

Analyse this
Irrational, crazy and absurd. ‘Annie Hall’ gives us love in its all its messy glory. It’s the anatomy of break-up. ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ asks Woody Allen’s neurotic comedian Alvy Singer after his split from scatterbrain singer Annie (Diane Keaton, enjoying a killer fashion moment in boyish slacks and a fedora).

Allen has said that ‘Annie Hall’ was his first film to go ‘deeper’. And at its heart is the sad message that finding your soulmate doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. Or, as an old woman tells Alvy: ‘Love fades.’ But for all that, ‘Annie Hall’ is hands down the most hilarious film ever made about love, hysterically funny and packed with gags. CC

Read the Time Out review of 'Annie Hall'


9
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Director: Michel Gondry

Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet

Best quote: 'I've never felt that before. I'm just exactly where I want to be.'

Defining moment: That final conversation in the hallway, in which the repetition of the simple word ‘okay’ means so much more than just ‘I love you’.

Brainwashing for beginners
You might see this extraordinary film, a joint career peak for Michel Gondry, writer Charlie Kaufman and its improbably but perfectly matched leads, described in generic DVD catalogues as a romantic comedy. It’s a term that seems wholly unequal to its dizzying conceptual acrobatics, not to mention the profound sadness in its absurdist excavation of post-romantic trauma.

But a rich, tragedy-tinged comedy it is: Kaufman has essentially given a scruffy sci-fi makeover to a ‘Philadelphia Story’-style farce of second chances and destiny denied, without letting the film’s beating screwball heart get overly chilled by its wintry New York cool. No longer just the hipster’s choice, it’s become the go-to love story for an entire generation of, to paraphrase Kate Winslet’s Clementine, fucked-up girls – and guys – looking for their own peace of mind. GL

Read the Time Out review of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'


19

Manhattan (1979)

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep

Best quote: 'You look so beautiful I can hardly keep my eyes on the meter.'

Defining moment: The stately black-and-white shots of the city cut to Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.

A hell of a town
There’s so much in ‘Manhattan’ that’s familiar from Woody Allen’s other films, not least Woody himself playing a writer, Isaac, with endless hang-ups and a variety of women in his life. Here, those women are his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tracy (Hemingway); another love interest, Mary (Keaton); and his ex-wife, Jill (Streep).

For Woody, romance is fluid, complicated and alive. Yet by far the biggest romance in ‘Manhattan’ is Woody’s affair with the city itself. New York is often the backdrop for Woody’s films, but here a sense of place is more important than ever. There are those famous montages of the Manhattan skyline, lent a rare beauty by Gordon Willis’ loving black-and-white photography, and at the film’s climax we see Isaac running through the streets that have shaped him – and Woody Allen – and continue to do so. DC

Read the Time Out review of 'Manhattan'


24

Before Sunrise (1995)

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Best quote: 'Isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?'

Defining moment: It happens off-screen – Linklater purposely doesn’t show us the did-they-or-didn’t-they sexual encounter.

This means something to me
Proof that you don’t need a plot to fall in love, ‘Before Sunrise’ sees strangers on a train Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delphy) meet-cute, disembark in Vienna, and dance a verbal tango into the night as the deadline of Jesse’s flight home looms.

You’d say that Delphy and Hawke have never been better were it not for the 2004 sequel ‘Before Sunset’, which shows us what happens next, and the 2013 instalment ‘Before Midnight’, which revisits the pair as middle age encroaches. A classy antidote to the notion that passion is purely physical, it’s the sporadically articulate philosophising and spiky gender-focused sparring that glues these two chatterboxes together. CB

Read the Time Out review of 'Before Sunrise'

25

When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby

Best quote: 'When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.'

Defining moment: Too many to mention, but the orgasm scene in the diner has become something of a classic.

Friends with hissy fits
In 2012, the world lost a legend. True, Nora Ephron’s work may have declined over the years, but her screenplay for ‘When Harry Met Sally...’ remains a masterpiece of romcom construction. Embracing, upending and inventing clichés left and right, crammed with one-liners, goofy asides and enough valid life lessons to rival the scriptures, it’s one of the few movie scripts that works just as well on the page as it does on the screen.

And pretty much everything else about the film is perfect, too, from Crystal and Ryan’s just-this-side-of-smug central couple to Fisher and Kirby as the petri-dish of marital dysfunction, from Harry Connick Jr’s just-the-other-side-of-smug crooning to the gorgeous photography of New York through the changing seasons. Bliss. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'When Harry Met Sally...'


29

Before Sunset (2004)

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Best quote: 'You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details.'

Defining moment: Celine’s zero hour Nina Simone impression.
 

First world problems
Nine years after the tantalisingly open ending of ‘Before Sunrise’, Richard Linklater revisits the couple who crackled with such chemistry in 1995 to see where life has taken the thirty-something versions of Jesse and Celine. This time, actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy not only played but also co-wrote their parts, and the result is that rare sequel that betters the original.

Plausibly seasoned by life’s knocks but unwilling to let go of a deeply ingrained romanticism, this Jesse and Celine are older, wiser and – just maybe – more suited to each other. Will they let go and make that leap into love? The question presses harder as the film’s fleeting 80-minute runtime slips past with a resolution apparently no closer. CB

Read the Time Out review of 'Before Sunset'


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'


42

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray

Best quote: 'It's possible I may wet the bed, by the way.'

Defining moment: Sam and Suzy kiss an awkward kiss on the beach.

 

Children, behave
Romance isn't the first thing you expect from a Wes Anderson film, but in this delightful 1960s-set tale, the American auteur employs all his usual tricks – hip soundtrack, arch dialogue, super-careful production design – in the service of a story about the chaos and madness of young love.

Sam and Suzy are 12-year-olds on the run. Suzy is precocious and independent; Sam is nerdy and serious. They don't get very far, but a mile's a long way when you're 12, and danger is never far away. What's lovely is how seriously Anderson takes Sam and Suzy's adventure, while also laying on the humour and the irony. By the time the pair steal a smooch on a deserted beach, we're totally smitten. DC

Read the Time Out review of 'Moonrise Kingdom'


44

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn

Best quote: 'When a man is wrestling a leopard in the middle of a pond, he's in no position to run.'

Defining moment: The prison scene: enter Swingin’ Door Susie and Jerry the Nipper.
 

Romance, red in tooth and claw
Like its bumbling protagonist, Hawks’ archetypal screwball classic went from disaster to darling. The tale of a paleontologist (Grant), a society dame (Hepburn), a snappy terrier and a stray Brazilian leopard, ‘Bringing Up Baby’ ran seriously over budget and over schedule thanks to animal misbehaviour coupled with Grant and Hepburn’s inability to stop making each other laugh during takes.

It flopped disastrously on first release: Hawks’ contract with producers RKO was cut short and Hepburn was labeled ‘box office poison’ by a top exec. Two decades later, following a series of successful TV showings, the film was rightly recognised as the pinnacle of the screwball art: no film was ever so fast, so witty and so gorgeously irrational. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'Bringing Up Baby'


50

His Girl Friday (1940)

Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant

Best quote: 'You’ve got an old-fashioned idea of divorce as something that lasts forever. Till death do us part.'

Defining moment: Hildy tries to tell Walter she’s getting married but can’t get a word in edgewise.
 

Takes two to tango
You’ll need to hover your finger over the pause button of your remote to catch the one-liners in the fastest-talking screwball comedy of them all. Hildy Johnson (Russell) has just quit her job as star reporter on the Morning Post to marry a nice-but-dim insurance salesman. Trouble is her boss, Walter (Grant), who just so happens to be her ex husband, won’t let her go.

Adapting the hit Broadway show ‘The Front Page’ into a movie, director Howard Hawks made a stroke-of-genius change: turning it from a story about two male reporters into the tale of a former husband and wife couple. Naturally, they’re still crazy about each other. And Russell’s shoulder pads are almost as sharp as her wit as she fires off insults at Grant: ‘You’re wonderful in a loathsome sort of way’. CC

Read the Time Out review of 'His Girl Friday'


52

Notorious (1946)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains

Best quote: 'There's nothing like a love song to give you a good laugh.'

Defining moment: The stars lock lips in the wine-cellar, but is it real or play-acting?
 

A spy in the house of love
Vertigo’ gets all the love from the critical fraternity, but Hitchcock’s earlier romantic thriller is equally potent in its passionate turmoil. Just after WWII, party girl Bergman has a chance to atone for her Nazi father’s sins by helping US secret service agent Grant uncover a nest of spies in Rio. They begin a torrid affair, yet her mission entails seducing her way into the house of sleek schemer Rains. Is Grant’s suddenly icy demeanour a reflection of professional responsibility? Or a spurned lover’s hauteur?

Churning emotions, deliciously complex and grown-up, run through an increasingly gripping suspense plot, and though it’s the star-powered glamour we remember, closer reacquaintance reveals an anguished undertow of guilty yearning and chastening self-denial that’s quintessentially Hitchcockian. TJ

Read the Time Out review of 'Notorious'


56

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Director: George Cukor

Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

Best quote: 'The course of true love gathers no moss.'

Defining moment: Brittle ice-queen Tracy (Hepburn) has her eyes and her heart opened following a few choice words from her disappointed Dad.
 

A little taste of heaven
Look up ‘fizzy’ in a film dictionary and you’ll find a shot of Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord (no relation to the porn star), the snappy, snippy, self-regarding heroine of Cukor’s magnificent country house comedy.

Taking his cues from Shakespeare (it could comfortably have been retitled ‘Much Ado About a Midsummer Night’s Shrew-Taming’), playwright Philip Barry weaves a tangled web of delicious misunderstandings and deliberate misdemeanours as three mismatched men – sarky but self-improved ex-husband Grant, youthfully exuberant writer Stewart and dull, well-meaning fiancé John Howard – take it in turns to tilt at Hepburn’s hard-nosed heiress. And if there’s a sneaking suspicion at the end that she picked the wrong one – ‘Four Weddings’-style – that’s all part of the film’s restless, headspinning charm. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'The Philadelphia Story'


59

The Way We Were (1973)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Cast: Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Bradford Dillman

Best quote: 'When you love someone… you go deaf, dumb and blind.'

Defining moment: The first sight of Babs and His Bobness as 1930s college students.
 

Let’s call the whole thing off
‘Scattered pictures from the corners of my mind…’ Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s lyrics and Marvin Hamlisch’s melody proved an Oscar-winning combination, bolstering the already considerable star power which has long made this a mums’ favourite. Barbra Streisand is a bolshy, strident Jewish lefty, Redford a WASP prince out to further his own literary career. They seem like chalk and cheese, but such is the stuff of romantic sagas.

That said, the movie never seems quite sure whether it’s unabashed retro-styled escapism or a serious look at the currents of US politics leading to the cultural strife of the ’50s – though the studio’s slashing cuts to the McCarthy-era footage certainly tip it towards the former. Like the song says, ‘Misty watercolor memories, of the way we were’. TJ

Read the Time Out review of 'The Way We Were'

60

(500) Days Of Summer (2009)

Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

Best quote: 'This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.'

Defining moment: A post-coital Tom struts to work to Hall & Oates’s number ‘You Make My Dreams’.
 

Cynical attraction
A post-modern post-mortem of love – or something like it – ‘(500) Days Of Summer’ introduces us to Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel), a lady since invoked in countless discussions of that stock indie romcom character, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

A trainee architect working as a greetings card writer, Tom falls hard for the kooky charms of his boss’s new secretary, despite the advice of friends who warn him off and Summer herself, who tells him she doesn’t believe in love. Against all the odds, the couple bond over a shared affection for little-known balladeers The Smiths – and the rest is non-linear narrative history. CB

Read the Time Out review of '(500) Days Of Summer'


62

Gregory's Girl (1981)

Director: Bill Forsyth

Cast: John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn, Clare Grogan

Best quote: 'Hard work being in love, eh?'

Defining moment: Gregory (Sinclair) realises that the women in his life have all ganged up to get him into the ‘wrong’ girl’s clutches.
 

The beautiful game
Figuring out who we’re in love with is, of course, a key part of the romantic process. Too many films feature lightning-bolt moments, where the rightness of a match is obvious and irrevocable – cue happy ending. So it’s nice that there are a few movies out there saying, well, hang on a minute. Love at first sight is all very well, but isn’t that a rather shallow and reckless way to select a mate?

‘Gregory’s Girl’ starts with the lightning bolt – gangly Glaswegian Gregory spots leggy keepy-uppy expert Dorothy (Hepburn) – then patiently explains why, for someone as irrational and irregular as Gregory, that kind of perfect love probably won’t work. So why not try someone a little closer to home? The result is pragmatic, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less romantic. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'Gregory's Girl'


64

Jules et Jim (1962)

Director: François Truffaut

Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre

Best quote: 'One is never completely in love for more than a moment.'

Defining moment: Catherine throws herself into the Seine.

 

Three’s a crowd
Truffaut’s freewheeling tale of a menage à trois burns as brightly today as it did in 1962, tripping along on playful New Wave energy. Moreau is unforgettable as force of nature Catherine, who steals the hearts of two young writers in 1910s Paris. Catherine is Jules’s girl. She’s not beautiful or intelligent, but she is a real woman, he says. The three skip around Paris together. Life’s a holiday.

One night, as the two men spout nonsense about a Strindberg play, Catherine hurls herself into the Seine. She’s unpredictable like that. Later, when she switches allegiances to Jim, Jules can’t bear to be apart from her. Let Jim have her, but let her stay in his life. The years can’t dim the warmth or humanity of Truffaut’s third (and best) film. CC

Read the Time Out review of 'Jules et Jim'

65

The Graduate (1967)

Director: Mike Nichols

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross

Best quote: 'Would you like me to seduce you?'

Defining moment: Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, a red Alfa Romeo Spider and the Southern California highway system.
 

We’d like to help you learn to help yourself
How romantic is ‘The Graduate’, really? Are we talking about the affair between Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) and Mrs Robinson (Bancroft), in which he’s driven by adolescent lust and gnawing boredom, and she by a desperate desire to revisit her youth, to feel something, anything for a change? Or do we mean the engagement between Benjamin and Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine (Ross), in which both characters appear to be marching through some sort of societally mandated courtship routine, without ever really meeting in the middle?

And yet, despite the cynicism and the ironic distance, despite that frankly terrifying closing shot of Ben and Elaine on the bus, miles distant, there’s still something bracing and heartfelt about ‘The Graduate’. Perhaps in showing us all this tragic emptiness, Nichols is encouraging us to confront it. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'The Graduate'


68

Wings of Desire (1987)

Director: Wim Wenders

Cast: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin

Best quote: 'That's what makes me clumsy. The absence of pleasure. Desire for love.'

Defining moment: She flies through the air with the greatest of ease, that lonely young woman on the flying trapeze.
 

From her to eternity
Long before his face became part of a thousand ‘Downfall’ memes on Youtube, Bruno Ganz played an angel in love with a mortal trapeze artist in West Berlin, in Wim Wenders’s romantic metaphysical fantasy. Employing a similar coded combination of colour and black and white to Powell and Pressburger's ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, the celestial perspective is purer but more remote, asking us to consider the appeal of everyday humanity from the outsiders' point of view.

Check out the loose Nicolas Cage remake ‘City of Angels’ if you'd like to see a Hollywood spin on the same big questions (‘Never date a man who knows more about your vagina than you do.’). CB

Read the Time Out review of 'Wings of Desire'


70

Bright Star (2009)

Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw

Best quote: 'In what stumbling ways a new soul is begun.'

Defining moment: The unpromising first meeting between Fanny Brawne (Cornish) and John Keats (Whishaw) is so spiky and sweet it’s like a screwball comedy in period dress.

A wild surmise
Sometimes the line between disaster and perfection is alarmingly fine. By all rights, ‘Bright Star’ should’ve been awful: a simpering love story between a fey poet and a bolshy society girl, all bulging bodices and whispered nothings. But then Jane Campion grabbed the reins as director, and produced perhaps the most intense and mesmerising romantic film of the century so far, a gorgeous, gossamer-light look at love as living poetry.

The Georgian trappings are beautifully designed, but they’re never allowed to overwhelm the story: this could’ve been shot in sackcloth on a sound stage and it would still have been deeply moving. The two leads are wonderful, but the real acting honours are unexpectedly stolen by Paul Schneider as Keats’ colleague Charles Brown, whose snappy Scots irascibility somehow allows the central romance to shine out all the brighter. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'Bright Star'


72

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

Director: Philip Kaufman

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin

Best quote: 'I don't understand how someone can make love without being in love.'

Defining moment: Lena Olin clambers over a mirror, reflecting the film's running theme of solitary sexuality.

Je t’aime... moi non plus
Some of the greatest love stories hinge on denial rather than devotion. Philip Kaufman's shiveringly erotic adaptation of Milan Kundera's 1968-set novel – which many thought too tangled up in its characters’ psychologies to be filmed at all – is remarkable for the romance it builds around a man with no desire to be in love.

Daniel Day-Lewis is ideally cast as Tomas, a young Czech surgeon whose pursuit of an emotion-free sex life is fostered and challenged, respectively, by Lena Olin's uptown artist and Juliette Binoche's sincerely adoring country waif. Between and beyond this brittle love triangle are some of the sexiest sex scenes ever put to celluloid, as the Prague Spring withers and the true cost of free love is learned. GL

Read the Time Out review of 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being'


83

Juno (2007)

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera

Best quote: 'I still have your underwear.' 'I still have your virginity.'

Defining moment: Baby, schmaby: it’s all about Juno declaring her love for geeky Paulie Bleeker.
 

Que Cera, Cera
On release, first-time scriptwriter Diablo Cody’s Oscar-winning unplanned teen pregnancy comedy ‘Juno’ was all-but obscured by one debate: was it a pro-lifer tract deceptively gussied up in indie clothing?

The film’s abortion issues are still up for debate; leaving that aside for a moment, what’s left is a sweetly funny romantic comedy about relationships both teen- and middle-aged, and love of many kinds: parental, romantic and platonic. And sure, the teen-speak might bear about as much resemblance to real teenage slang as the actors in ‘Grease’ did to actual teenagers, but Ellen Page and Michael Cera’s performances remain pitch perfect. CB

Read the Time Out review of 'Juno'

84

Say Anything (1989)

Director: Cameron Crowe

Cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye

Best quote: 'I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.'

Defining moment: Come on, like you don’t know. Window. Trenchcoat. Boombox. Peter Gabriel. Iconic.

 

Rich and strange
Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut may be remembered for That Scene With the Ghettoblaster, but there’s so much more to it than moody John Cusack and his synth-scored adolescent angst.

For one, there’s Ione Skye as his posh-kid paramour, who may suffer from occasional dream-girl tendencies but shows enough spark to justify John’s obsession. There’s also a terrific supporting cast including Frasier’s Dad John Mahoney, Joan Cusack, Jeremy Piven and a magnificently brash and spiky Lili Taylor.

But it’s the sweet, thoughtful, zinger-studded script which explains why, for one brief moment, we actually believed that Crowe could be the next Woody Allen, only with more New Wave hair and classic rock references. Oh, what might have been… TH

Read the Time Out review of 'Say Anything'


86

Pierrot Le Fou (1965)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina

Best quote: 'I think your legs and breasts are very moving.'

Defining moment: When Belmondo and Karina flee from a burning car.

 

Bonnie et Clyde
This anarchic romance was made by French New Wave filmmaker Godard at the height of his powers and starred his then-girlfriend Karina and Belmondo, the thick-lipped, brooding star of his earlier ‘Breathless’. It foreshadows ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ in its story of a beautiful, lawless couple leaving polite society behind and going on the run, from Paris to the Med, pursued by gangsters.

It’s a cluttered burst of colours, ideas and emotions – a frantic essay on real life and movie life that overflows with energy and heady thoughts. It looks and feels like an outlaw romance, with Karina and Belmondo bringing style and attitude to the table, but it’s also a strongly experimental work made by someone determined to shake up cinema and the world. That itself is pretty romantic, no? DC

Read the Time Out review of 'Pierrot Le Fou'


88

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Director: Mike Nichols

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton

Best quote: 'You make me puke.'

Defining moment: George shoots his wife, kind of.


 

Love is a battlefield
Mike Nichols' acid-drenched adaptation of Edward Albee's stage play isn't everyone's idea of a great screen romance, but there's a reason we haven't called this list 100 Great Date Movies.

Yes, rarely has a Hollywood film depicted a marriage more bitter than that of George and Martha, an academic couple who wind up drunkenly airing their very dirty laundry in front of younger colleagues at a drinks party. But it's also an unusually truthful and compassionate study of the lies and defence mechanisms that keep even unhappy couples together. And casting Burton and Taylor as George and Martha – their own famously fraught marriage bleeding into the one they're acting out – was a masterstroke. GL

Read the Time Out review of 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'


91

Submarine (2010)

Director: Richard Ayoade

Cast: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige

Best quote: 'This is the moment where you leave him and come with me.'

Defining moment: A fortnight of atavistic lovemaking is turned into the Super-8 footage of memory.
 

Sperm Wales
15-year old Oliver Tate (Roberts) is desperate to lose his virginity to indifferent pyromaniac Jordana Bevan (Paige). He attempts to convince her with three good reasons: 1. You are fatally in love with me. 2. Best to do it before legal. 3. Bound to be disappointing, so why wait?

Writer-director Ayoade does a superb job of taking Joe Dunthorne's darkly comic debut novel and, rather than turning it into the Brit-com one might expect from somebody so integral to shows like ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘Garth Marenghi's Dark Place’, he creates a lithe and oddly elegant deadpan romance that recalls the French New Wave at least as much as it does its other clear ancestor, the Adrian Mole books. CB

Read the Time Out review of 'Submarine'


93

The Fly (1986)

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis

Best quote: 'Help me be human.'

Defining moment: The climax. Is there anything more romantic than attempting to fuse on a genetic level with your intended?
 

2 become 1
Wait, isn’t that the one where the guy mutates horrifically into an insect? The origin of the phrase ‘Be afraid, be very afraid?’ What could possibly be romantic about that? Well, kind of everything.

The opening is a flawless meet-cute – ballsy reporter meets mad scientist, love blossoms – helped along by the fact that real-life partners Goldblum and Davis are a screwball couple to rival Grant and Hepburn. Then, when disaster strikes in the form of a teleportation accident, she’s forced to make a choice: stick by the man she’s fallen in love with despite his terrifying, irrational transformation, or flee for the sake of her unborn child. Cronenberg’s masterpiece may be grotesque, but it’s as heartfelt, honest and endearingly human as any film on this list. TH

Read the Time Out review of 'The Fly'


95

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Cast: Gerard Depardieu, Anne Brochet

Best quote: 'You give me milk instead of cream. Say how you love me!'

Defining moment: Cyrano's 'Non, merci!' tirade against the world.
 

Where’s John Nettles?
Russia’s most celebrated film talent since Eisenstein – the inimitable Gérard Depardieu – achieved the unusual feat of securing an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a foreign language film for his portrayal of France’s answer to the Elephant Man.

Despite his unconventional looks, Cyrano is a spectacular lover – at least on paper, writing letters that cause sexy cousin Roxane (Anne Brochet) to fall deeply in love with the man from whom she erroneously believes she’s received the billets-doux – the dashing but inarticulate Christian (Vincent Perez). Unlike José Ferrer, who did win the Oscar for his 1950 portrayal of Cyrano, Depardieu didn’t take home the little gold statue in the end, but it’s probably his take on Cyrano that’s become the more iconic. CB

Read the Time Out review of 'Cyrano de Bergerac'


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