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The Notebook

The best and worst romantic movies, according to relationship experts

Toxic or realistic? We ask psychologists and dating coaches to analyse the most famous big-screen relationships

By Ellie Walker-Arnott

We all know that relationships are hard work in real-life and that love is nothing like the movies. But which screen romances are the worst offenders? And can falling for their charms really do any harm? We asked a team of psychologists, therapists and dating coaches which movies have the most unhealthy attitudes to love.

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The romantic movies experts hate

Dirty Dancing

Film Drama

Why it’s unhealthy: No one should want their other half to be a knight in shining armour.

‘Why is it up to Johnny to say, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner?” Why does it take a man to rescue a woman? What about Baby herself? The storyline implies she’s going to be constantly dependent on him for whatever is to come in life. But you can’t and shouldn’t expect your partner to solve your problems or be there for you every single moment.’ 

Gurpreet SinghRelate counsellor and psychotherapist

Notting Hill


Why it’s unhealthy: The likelihood of finding your soulmate in a bookshop is virtually nonexistent.

‘The chances of literally bumping into your ideal soulmate is unrealistically romantic. People watch movies like “Notting Hill” and think it’s going to happen when it’s the right time. That’s a myth. It just doesn’t happen like that. You shouldn’t sit back and wait for “The One”. You actually have to be proactive to find a soul mate and a partner. Sometimes you need to tackle it like finding a job. You have to put time and effort into it.’ 

Jo Barnett, dating coach


The Notebook

Film Drama

Why it’s unhealthy: You’re unlikely to meet someone who builds a house with his own hands as an expression of their true love.

‘Noah restores a house for Allie. He writes letter after letter waiting for her. They die holding hands. Talk about idealised love! If you believe in it you start to think: I shouldn’t settle for less. But most average couples are nothing like that. We are humans, we are fallible. Love is imperfect because we are.’ 

Gurpreet Singh 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Film Animation

Why it’s unhealthy: Real-life relationships are about the long haul.

‘Who is that prince in the woods? What makes him an ideal partner for Snow White? She has never seen or spoken to him, but he’s the love of her life? Fairytales stop where the real story should start. It’s never about how a relationship matures. It’s never about comfortable relationships with a real connection. It’s about the exciting bit, the huge fireworks. It makes couples think that is the most fulfilling thing in life when it’s not.’ 

Goedele Liekens, clinical psychologist, sexologist and UN Goodwill Ambassador



Film Drama

Why it’s unhealthy: No one should have to change for their partner.

‘Sandy has to completely transform for Danny to become interested in her. Why should she have to become someone else? Why does Sandy really want to be with that person anyway? Opposites do attract but what’s left once they get past the sexual attraction? If you’ve got shared values things are likely to last. If it’s purely physical, it will quickly fizzle out.’ 

Gurpreet Singh

The Lobster

Film Comedy

Why it’s unhealthy: Relationships don’t work just because you have a lot in common.

‘This is one of the most boring films about love I’ve ever seen. No one in it has any good ideas about what love is or how to do it. The idea that love relies solely on mutual sameness – on both partners having a limp or nosebleeds – is dumb. Even the people who design dating sites know it’s not really about that. In love, you have to be agile and inventive.’ 

Anouchka Grose, psychoanalyst and writer

And a few the experts like:

Annie Hall

Film Comedy

‘“Annie Hall” has a helpfully realistic and pessimistic take on what love is really like. It shows us how difficult communication is, how much of what we have to say remains as subtext, or never gets communicated at all. It also shows that one can’t make a relationship work on passion alone. It’s simply not true that if two people are deeply passionate about one another everything will work out. A long-term relationship is far more complex than that. It has to do with compromise and empathy and an ongoing acceptance of your partner’s shortcomings.’ 

Sarah Stein Lubrano, The School of Life

Dale Robinette

La La Land

Film Comedy

‘Mia and Seb have a spark but they give each other the room to become who they want to be. It’s a fantastic relationship but it’s the wrong timing, a missed opportunity. That’s what life is about a lot of the time. Even though they didn’t end up together, when they look at each other at the end you know it was worthwhile.’ 

Gurpreet Singh


Bridget Jones's Diary

Film Comedy

‘Bridget reveals the neuroses behind a lot of modern women and the insecurities that get in the way of dating. Those are the obstacles that real people have to go through to get a happy relationship. The confusion and crossed wires between her and Darcy are very true, too – the communication between people is what will mess up a relationship. People come to me to learn communication skills because they are just not communicating with their partners well enough. A relationship might end and they don't even know why.’ 

Jo Barnett

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Film Action and adventure

‘If you want to look on the dark side, nothing demonstrates a dysfunctional relationship better than Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker. It didn’t end happily, but it is realistic. She was older, he was younger and infatuated. Even if you forget the age difference, there were so many signs that the relationship was toxic. A good relationship is based on communication, shared values and respect. They failed to communicate effectively. Rather than dealing with it, problems were ignored.’

Gurpreet Singh

More romance on screen


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