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The 50 most romantic movies of all time

What films made Humphrey Bogart the man of our dreams and had Woody Allen turn us into hopeless romantics? Check out our top picks of the most romantic movies of all time.

Spring isn't in the air just yet, but we don't need an excuse to get our hearts pumping. Here, Time Out's 50 most romantic movies—not, mind you, our favorite sex romps (though expect plenty of sizzle), nor our favorite romantic odes to Chinatown or the Old West or whatever. We're talking love love love: the kind of movie that starts up the waterworks and makes you believe again. Naturally, being Time Out Film geeks, we've included some off-the-beaten-path choices you might not have seen. But please don't break up with us if we've left out your favorite. Instead, share your most romantic movie favorites in the comments below.


Certified Copy (2010)

Yes, the movie came out just a month ago, but we're in the presence of greatness. A sun-dappled Tuscan village is the dreamy setting for Abbas Kiarostami's profound and playful conversation piece. What begins as an intellectual game—two strangers pretending to be married—transforms into emotional territory that leaves you breathless.—Keith Uhlich

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Starman (1984)

Long before winning his Oscar, Jeff Bridges managed to be both out-of-this-world strange and undeniably lovable (particularly to widowed earthling Karen Allen) in this affecting between-the-sheets version of E.T.The unlikely director was horror master John Carpenter, proving capable of far more than bloodletting.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Happy Together (1997)

It's obvious that Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung's relationship is on the skids, and that tooling through Argentina isn't going to fix a thing. But Wong Kar-wai's melancholic gay drama turns the duo's disintegration into one sad, sexy long goodbye. That peppy title pop song never sounded so perversely ironic.—David Fear

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Voyage in Italy (1954)

Roberto Rossellini's heartbreaker follows an unhappily married European couple (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) as they visit Naples on family business. Emotions run high and quarrels are constant. Yet the breathtaking Italian landscapes act as a kind of cosmic counterpoint—perhaps their union is more solid than they realize.—Keith Uhlich

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Ninotchka (1939)

"Garbo laughs!" promised posters for this immortal romantic comedy (a tagline riffing on the famous one for her first talkie, Anna Christie: "Garbo speaks!"). But the studio heads might just as well have declared "Garbo melts!"—as in, thaws into a human being. Playing this film's Soviet diplomat warming to Paris and Melvyn Douglas, she's a bonfire.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Summertime (1955)

Ah, Venice—the perfect place for spinster Katharine Hepburn to fall head over heels for a local merchant. David Lean's other extravagant ode to transient love (see also our No. 10) is filled with colorful scenery and woozy innuendos—the pair's first kiss ignites literal fireworks—that make your heart explode.—Keith Uhlich

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Love Affair (1939)

Man meets woman. They fall in love. They part ways, promising to reunite six months later. Fate intervenes. How many movie romances have been influenced by Leo McCarey's classic? There'd certainly be no Sleepless in Seattle without it. Even McCarey himself remade the film as An Affair to Remember. But the original is still the best.—Keith Uhlich

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Sideways (2004)

Love is often about second chances: Alexander Payne's middle-age comedy has a beauty of a flirtation in Paul Giamatti's courtship of the never-so-radiant Virginia Madsen. But isn't the movie bromantic, too? An egocentric Thomas Haden Church, proud yet wounded, nearly steals the show.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Now, Voyager (1942)

The incomparable Bette Davis goes from dowdy to hottie in this consummate Hollywood soaper. She's the introverted Charlotte Vale, who cuts ties with her domineering mother and falls in love with a handsome gent. Trouble is, he's married. Intoxicating twists and turns culminate with one of the greatest final lines in cinema. We're not spoiling it.—Keith Uhlich

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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Not even the Great Beyond will keep British RAF pilot David Niven from radio operator Kim Hunter; when you've finally met your true love as you're bailing out of a plane, death is simply a speed bump. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's fantasy lets a celestial courtroom decide their fate. Take a guess whether the duo's romance wins out.—David Fear

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WALL-E (2008)

We went to the theater expecting Pixar's usual genius with animation. But who knew we'd be romantically wrecked by a pair of robots? Set in a postapocalyptic wasteland eons after the abandonment of our planet, WALL-E reminds viewers of the purest of needs: companionship, protection and trust.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Videodrome (1983)

Romance probably isn't the first word that leaps to mind when thinking about David Cronenberg. Yet his most extreme movie is built upon the steamily amorous relationship between TV programmer Max Renn (James Woods) and his boob-tube-residing lover, Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry). Their face-to-screen kiss belongs in the pantheon of lip-locks.—Keith Uhlich

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Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Here's your recipe for a screwy romance: Mix one uptight egghead and one daffy rich dame. (It helps immensely if they're Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.) Add in a rare dinosaur bone, a pet leopard, some pratfalls and witty dialogue set to warp speed. Then sit back and see how two stars make you believe they fall for each other.—David Fear

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The Clock (1945)

She made a great foil for Mickey Rooney and James Mason, but Judy Garland's most romantically vulnerable turn is in this star-crossed love story, about a female office worker and a handsome soldier on leave (Robert Walker), who spend two days together. If their frantic search for each other in Penn Station doesn't choke you up, it's time to see a doctor.—David Fear

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Head-On (2004)

Never mind Sid and Nancy; Fatih Akin's tale of two beautiful losers in a marriage of convenience is the greatest punk-rock romance ever to grace a screen. Stumbling around Berlin in a nihilistic haze, these two self-destructive immigrants eventually find within each other a reason to live—which only makes the dead-end last act more devastating.—David Fear

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Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Love has lasted for Barkley and Lucy Cooper, an elderly couple about to be separated so as to lessen the financial burden on their grown children. Leo McCarey's superb family drama shows how the duo's ardor endures, even in the face of unspeakable heartache. Orson Welles famously said the film would make a stone cry.—Keith Uhlich

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The Apartment (1960)

Its premise is smutty—a corporate lackey lends his flat out for afternoon delights—but Billy Wilder's comedy couldn't have a sweeter coupling at its core. You know that Jack Lemmon's white-collar nebbish and Shirley MacLaine's elevator operator are perfect for each other; the fun is in watching how these two fight it out before giving in.—David Fear

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The General (1926)

Buster Keaton's Civil War comedy may seem like a love story between a man and his runaway train. But watch Keaton's romantic interest, Marion Mack, hand him a useless splinter of firewood. Keaton mock-throttles her—then plants a loving smooch on her. That one moment tells you everything about this movie's goofy attitude toward affection.—David Fear

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Bull Durham (1988)

Has any film made baseball, the men who play it and the females who go gaga for over them seem so incredibly sexy? Love of the game is catcher Kevin Costner and supergroupie Susan Sarandon's foreplay—and once this couple takes things to third base and beyond, you may want to stand back from the heat.—David Fear

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Badlands (1973)


Two lovers hit the road, escaping the law for just a span of a daydream. It's a premise good enough for many great romantic movies, but Terrence Malick's achingly gorgeous version—starring a pre-Carrie Sissy Spacek and the equally moving Martin Sheen—might be the best of them.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Wild at Heart (1990)

David Lynch brings his surreal worldview to this beautifully bizarre romance-noir. Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) are lovers on the lam from a crazy mom and a bevy of baddies. There's plenty of hot sex, but nothing turns on the gush quite like Sailor's "Love Me" serenade. Elvis would be proud.—Keith Uhlich

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Titanic (1997)

A boy, a girl, a boat: James Cameron's historical epic—in which upper-crust Kate Winslet is romanced by steerage-class Leo DiCaprio on the unsinkable ship—made audiences worldwide weak in the knees. Unabashedly corny (oh, that nude drawing scene), yet continually thrilling, our hearts will go on for this one.—Keith Uhlich

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The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

They can't stand each other, but they're perfect for each other. That's the central predicament in Ernst Lubitsch's immortal comic delight. Budapest co-employees James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan browbeat one another on the job, but unknowingly romance one another as pen pals. Are there Xs and Os at the end of their correspondence?—Keith Uhlich

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Pretty in Pink (1986)

Now widely considered the essential teencentric auteur, John Hughes doled out sarcasm with a huge heart. (He didn't even need to direct this one for it to bear his stamp.) The soundtrack for the movie dominated cassette decks. So did one profound question: Why not Duckie? The film still works, in case you were thinking of returning.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Morocco (1930)

Everyone mentions the smooch between Marlene Dietrich's chanteuse and a female customer as being this melodrama's steamiest moment, but the flirty scenes with Foreign Legionnaire Gary Cooper are really what give this movie its lusty allure. Dietrich's doomed desert trek behind her man is the most romantic image her longtime collaborator, director Josef Von Sternberg, ever gave his star.—David Fear

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The Graduate (1967)

A classic American rom-com that set the standard for many films (and acting careers) to come, Mike Nichols's nebbish-in-love tale must be counted as one of the most seismically influential movies of the 1960s. Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin toggles between MILF sex and youthful passions; stealthily, Nichols makes fun of both options.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Harold and Maude (1971)

In Hal Ashby's enduring cult classic, death-obsessed rich boy Bud Cort meets septuagenarian Ruth Gordon after they crash the same funeral. She teaches him the pleasures of the flesh, much to several characters' hilarious chagrin. Harold falls head over heels and prepares to propose. Ready your tear ducts.—Keith Uhlich

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Groundhog Day (1993)

The movie's brilliant gag—a glib weatherman (Bill Murray) is doomed to repeat the same 24 hours ad infinitum—positions Harold Ramis's comedy at a philosophical height unheard-of for Hollywood. But remember, it's love that saves the day. Ultimately, this is a film about opening your heart to the here and now.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Notorious (1946)

Alfred Hitchcock never directed a more erotic scene than this film's lingering kiss between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, right before Grant sends his comely undercover agent into the grip of Claude Rains. Their love is stronger than national security or Nazi poison—resulting in an equally hot climactic clutch as he swoops in to save her.—David Fear

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King Kong (1933)

Much more than a mere monster movie, this majestic love story spans continents and species. At its core is a psychosexual nightmare: A woman draped in next to nothing (the legendary Fay Wray) is dangled hundreds of feet above the pavement by a simian beast who will destroy anything to possess her.—Joshua Rothkopf

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The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Sparks fly the second adopted Mohican Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and general's daughter Cora (Madeleine Stowe) cross paths in Michael Mann's thrilling frontier epic. The giddy moments are plentiful, from the duo's sunrise make-out session to their iconic waterfall parting ("I will find you!"). Couldn't history class have been this sensual?—Keith Uhlich

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Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The rarest of sequels that eclipses its forebear for emotional power, James Whale's follow-up to his global sensation upped the voltage considerably. It expands a subplot of Mary Shelley's original novel into a full-on artificial romance. Still, the affair is doomed, as suggested in a crushing line spoken by the husband-to-be: "We belong dead."—Joshua Rothkopf

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Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

"I want to scoop out your eyes and eat them." Most films would make that line a threat; in Paul Thomas Anderson's blissful, off-kilter romance, it's pillow talk. When Adam Sandler and fellow loony Emily Watson finally kiss, you'll feel that even the biggest screwup has a soulmate somewhere.—David Fear

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City Lights (1931)

This silent masterpiece ends with the greatest close-up in cinema history. It's performed by Charlie Chaplin (working with his costar Virginia Cherrill), transforming a simple tale of a blind flower girl and a doting tramp into a profound, Depression-era statement of compassion. In that moment, both characters know each other fully, and are reborn.—Joshua Rothkopf

Two for the Road (1967)

Unhappy couple Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney take a lively, revealing road trip in Stanley Donen's poignant marital classic. The film bobs and weaves through time, moving through the highs and lows of the couple's relationship while they ponder the ties that bind. Anyone who has ever loved another will relate.—Keith Uhlich

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History Is Made at Night (1937)

Incurable romantic Frank Borzage directed this bewitching melodrama about a divorce (Jean Arthur) whom fate puts in the arms of a handsome waiter (Charles Boyer). There's murder, backstabbing and a strangely familiar ship-crossing (iceberg included). All that is prelude to some impassioned smooching.—Keith Uhlich

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Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Trust Tim Burton and his male muse, Johnny Depp, to turn a suburban freak into a soulful, lovelorn outsider. Cursed with shears for hands, Edward is destined to hurt anyone close to him—including Winona Ryder's bleach-blond object of affection. "Hold me," she implores; his pitiful response ("I can't") cuts to the bone of this fairy-tale-like tragedy.—David Fear

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Say Anything... (1989)

He's a trench-coat-wearing misfit who kickboxes. She's the school valedictorian heading off to college. But damned if Cameron Crowe's teen rom-com doesn't this into a full-bodied emotional triumph. If we had a dollar for every man who's hoisted a boom box playing "In Your Eyes" above his head to win back his girlfriend, we'd be millionaires.—David Fear

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Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Max Ophls made romantic movies for closet cynics, and anyone else would have turned this turn-of-the-20th-century love story between obsessed Joan Fontaine and callow musician Louis Jourdan into a stilted period piece. Instead, the director made a classic heartbreaker, renowned for reducing grown men to puddles.—David Fear

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Brief Encounter (1945)

The British get a bad rap for being emotionally repressed, yet as David Lean's film proves, nothing is more stirring than watching stiff upper lips quiver with desire. Housewife Celia Johnson meets married doctor Trevor Howard at a train station; one innocent cup of tea eventually threatens to turn into something carnal and adulterous. Neither wants to cheat on their spouse, but the more they try to bottle up their attraction, the bigger the flood of temptation becomes. It's hard to think of another film that makes two people so determined to not sleep together so romantic, or that makes you feel so sorry that an illicit attraction is never consummated. They do the right thing, as we know these two must. Still, you feel your heart shatter as they part with such sweet sorrow.—David Fear

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The Lady Eve (1941)

Most romances operate on a fairly simple principle: Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. Preston Sturges's screwball masterpiece flips this setup on its head: Beer heir Henry Fonda gets seduced by female grifter Barbara Stanwyck, dumps her after discovering he's been duped, then she wins him back by posing as another woman. In Sturges's cockeyed world, love is a showdown between predator and prey. (Not for nothing are snakes referenced ad infinitum in this movie.) Yet thanks to Fonda and Stanwyck, who generate more chemistry than a laboratory, getting conned is the ultimate coitus substitutus; even something as innocuous as fixing a broken shoe becomes hilarious and unbearably erotic. For once, the writer-director's peerless wit goes after your heart and your hormones with as much fury as it does your funnybone.—David Fear

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Brokeback Mountain (2005)

It will survive the parodies, the controversies, even its tag as the "gay cowboy movie." The plot (from Annie Proulx's short story) packs the wallop of high tragedy. But go back to the film now, and the mere sight of Heath Ledger could slay you on its own. This is the late actor's triumph, revealing untapped depths in his taciturn portrayal of Ennis Del Mar, a quiet ranch hand who is lured to rodeo "fuckup" Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Director Ang Lee found empathy on the Wyoming range; multiplex audiences felt it too, however unlikely. A tender, majestic score by guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla completed the quietly daring film, a landmark of gay subject matter positioned in the mainstream.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Annie Hall (1978)

Whether or not Woody Allen based this comedy on the experiences of dating costar Diane Keaton is almost irrelevant: We've all wished we could read subtitles of our date's thoughts as we made small talk, or wondered if our partners are stepping out of themselves during an intimate moment in bed (a scene that always makes men visibly wince). And most everyone can recall the bittersweet feeling of running into an old flame, remembering old times and then going your separate ways. For a movie that represents such a specific neurotic '70s New Yorker mind-set, Annie Hall taps into remarkably universal notions about the ups and downs of love. You recognize that first spark of attraction, that bonding moment as you join forces against a killer lobster, that sense of disconnection as you start to drift away from each other. Allen has made his share of romantic movies, but this one resonates the deepest, because he acknowledges that, despite the flaws, we all need the eggs.—David Fear

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In the Mood for Love (2000)

If we were to invent a romantic classic from scratch, what would we include? No doubt there would be lush cinematography—images that drip with passion. We'd find room for the crooning serenades of Nat King Cole, inviting trysts every time the sun goes down. And above all, we'd cast gorgeous actors like Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung to swivel and dance around their attraction. Writer-director Wong Kar-wai spent more than a year collecting the shots for this Hong Kong near-romance; his meticulous attention to detail resulted in a movie that's closer to a spell than a story. Here's easily the most exquisite movie on our list—try it.—Joshua Rothkopf

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His Girl Friday (1940)

Ultimately, isn't love really about two people coming together and having it out? Howard Hawks's supreme screwball captures the essence of flirtation in a rollicking, intensely verbal hour and a half. (You'll wonder how the cast fit all the words in.) Svengali editor Cary Grant and ace reporter Rosalind Russell share a past—a failed marriage, to be perfectly honest. But what's a little divorce in the face of scooping a big story? They fight, they bicker, they double-cross each other, they shelter a crazy criminal on the loose from jail. But can't you see where it's all going, sensible suitors be damned? Don't let the arguing distract you; that's just foreplay.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004)

After witty larks like Slacker and Dazed and Confused, filmmaker Richard Linklater's first entry in this series was the sweetest of surprises. Suddenly, here was a director who yearned to chronicle the earnest pull of attraction, the freedom of international travel and the impulse of youth. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, perfectly cast, converse through a Vienna night (an encounter based on a real-life one of Linklater's), taking in the sights and parting just as their feelings crest. Before Sunrise was a lovely movie, made lovelier by its belated sequel, filmed a full nine years later with the same cast. A promise to reunite has long been broken—instead, you see nostalgia on their faces, even a touch of resentment. But as the older characters swirl through their Paris afternoon, something reblooms.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Vertigo (1958)

Love makes you do crazy things. Look at detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) in Alfred Hitchcock's supreme masterpiece. He's already inclined to swoon—albeit over heights rather than ladies. Then he meets Madeleine (Kim Novak), a mysterious blond who leads him down a destructively obsessive path. Hitch keeps us as spellbound as his protagonist: Scottie pursues Madeleine relentlessly, from the steep San Francisco streets to his own twisted dreamworld. He even re-creates another woman in her image (or does he?). As movies go, there is no finer exploration of the doomed, yet endlessly enthralling nature of l'amour fou.—Keith Uhlich

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

No one tells a love story like Jacques Demy, the French auteur behind this unbearably moving gem. There's a boy and a girl, of course: Young Genevive (Catherine Deneuve, gorgeous as ever) is an umbrella shop employee in the city of Cherbourg. She's secretly in love with auto mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), of whom her mother disapproves. Familiar story, right? But here's a twist on convention: Every line of dialogue is sung. (Demy wrote the lyrics; the great Michel Legrand composed the music.) But doesn't it make sense? The act of being in love has its musical qualities (the heart sings for another), and Demy realizes this conceit beautifully, from the searingly saturated color palette to the haunting strains of their balladeering. The quintessential tearjerker.—Keith Uhlich

Casablanca (1942)

A woman walks into a bar, requesting a tune. The proprietor—a world-weary charmer named Rick—berates his pianist for playing "that song," and then he notices the customer. Their eyes meet. And that's when Casablanca officially starts, almost a half hour into its running time; none of the quotable dialogue, thrilling intrigue and caustic humor that precedes or follows that moment would matter if the romance between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman didn't leave viewers breathless. Will they resume their tryst, husband (and WWII) be damned? Or will the affairs of the world take precedence over affairs of the heart? "The problems of three people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world," Bogie declares, but the genius of Casablanca is that it makes you feel that the problems of two lovers, caught in the machinations of history, are all that matters. They'll always have Paris—and we'll always have this perfect Hollywood ode to the heart, to heroism and sacrifice.—David Fear

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