They’re irresistible when you’re happy, they’re irresistible when you’re sad — there’s really no wrong time to watch a classic romantic movie. And whether you prefer your love stories frothy and old-fashioned or tortured and intense, no matter: There’s something for everyone on this greatest hits list. In these movies, emotions run high, obstacles abound, and it all only makes the happy endings that much sweeter. So grab the nearest box of tissues and read on to see how your favorite romantic classic fares.
10. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
It’s a rare movie romance in which the lovers don’t meet until the final frames. In this poignant movie, Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) and Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) muddle through the longest lead-in to a blind date in history, and when they finally lock eyes on — oh, for heaven’s sake — Valentine’s Day, at — oh, for heaven’s sake — the Empire State Building, it somehow makes you sob instead of rolling your eyes, and for that it takes the basement spot.
9. Valley Girl (1983)
This movie doesn’t get nearly enough credit, and it should, because no other movie combines the brilliance of a jokey Frank Zappa song with the talents of a young Nicolas Cage, and arrives at a sort of Romeo and Juliet/Lady and the Tramp mash-up. Valley Girl is both a timeless tale of unlikely love and a snapshot of a particularly embarrassing chapter in the history of the English language. Granted, it’s a pretty unconventional entry, thus the low spot on the list. Which brings us to…
8. Pretty Woman (1990)
In an ideal relationship, each partner makes the other a better person.
So if, say, you’re a down-market Hollywood hooker, you want a fella who
can teach you to dress fancy and eat snails. And if you’re a
cold-blooded corporate raider, you want a gal who can loosen you up
and… sleep with you for money. As
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Vivian and Edward, Julia Roberts and
Richard Gere are too pretty by half for their roles, but heck, it’s
just a movie. A montage-heavy, completely unbelievable, insanely
charming movie. Thus, it comes in eighth.
7. Titanic (1997)
The showy effects may overshadow the affair, but James Cameron’s
goldmine still has at its center the heady romance between Rose (Kate
Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio). Their joyful, intimate scenes,
when he sketches her portrait, when they lean out over the bow, are
even more resonant than the disaster sequences that follow. Ultimately,
she sacrifices her future, and he his life, but it’s all worth it
because it gives Celine Dion something to sing about. Which earns Titanic its lucky number seven.
6. Ghost (1990)
Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) and hottie potter Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) are actually a little too happy
together at the outset of this romance, so his tragic murder might
prompt a smidgeon of schadenfreude from lonelier viewers. But even
haters will be pulling for the couple once psychic Oda Mae Brown
(Whoopi Goldberg) gets involved in helping Molly find closure. When the
scratchy chords of “Unchained Melody” kick in, good luck resisting this
5. Annie Hall (1977)
Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s most successful romance, not least
because it tracks the entire life cycle of Alvy Singer (Allen) and
Annie’s (Diane Keaton) rocky, over-thought love affair, while locating
the couple within a very distinct period in the annals of American
navel-gazing. Even with the bizarre fantasy sequences — Alvy sporting
full Hasid garb at a Wasp-y dinner party, anyone? — the movie rates as
one of the most naturalistic depictions of a romance on record, so it’s
a shoe-in for the middle of this list.
4. Moonstruck (1987)
two star-crossed lovers ever quite so, well, tortured as Loretta
Castorini (Cher) and her fiance’s brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage)? She’s a dowdy Brooklynite; he’s a one-handed
baker with troubles of his own, yet their unexpected romance perfectly encapsulates the woozy
rush of being swept off your feet — but with a refreshing cynicism
that earns it the fourth place slot on this list. When Ronny expresses
his feelings, Loretta slaps him across and hollers “Snap out of it!”…
And you know they’ll be together in the end.
3. Casablanca (1942)
The romance in Casablanca
between Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) ends before
the story even begins: She’s married to someone else, he’s sworn off
love, but they will always, always have Paris. Compellingly conveying the
opposing forces of the head and the heart, Casablanca manages
to make believable every character’s difficult choices, however
self-defeating. The problems of three little people may not amount to a
hill of beans in this crazy world, but in Casablanca, they certainly do.
2. West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story is the gold standard of Shakespearean rip-offs.
The famous dance scene at the gym, where Tony (Richard Beymer) and
Maria (Natalie Wood) first lay eyes on one another, is still a
heart-stopper, and there’s never a dry eye in the house when she cradles
his dying body in her arms and screams “Don’t you touch him!” at the
gang members who snuff out his short life at movie’s end. Leonard
Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant songs aren’t too shabby,
either, but this one’s still only second to…
1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
ne plus ultra of romance movies is part sweeping historical epic, part
portrait of a willful woman, and all love story. Rhett Butler (Clark
Gable) and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) have one missed connection
after another, and when the feisty pair finally does get together, they
still manage to flub their best chance at happiness by sniping at each
other the morning after their best!sex!ever! Leaving the ending
unresolved allows romantics to write their own happily ever after — a
stroke of genius that earns this classic the gold.