In honor of Valentine's Day, I figured I'd do something special and recommend my ten favorite romance movies. As the title suggests, majority of these films are not what you would consider traditional Hollywood romance films, and that is part of the reason why I find majority of them so affecting. All of these films deal with love in varying, often atypical ways for romance movies. Not all of these movies have happy endings, but there and again, the assumption that everyone on Valentine's Day has a significant other is a little outdated, so therefore why watch a movie that is about two soul mates coming together? Why not watch a good break-up movie that makes you feel better about yourself? I believe I have a film for every person on Valentine's Day, so without further ado, here are the ten romance movies that I would deem my ten favorite romance films of all-time:
10. The Empire Strikes Back
The geek's Valentine's movie. What qualifies it for this list? Oh, just Han Solo and Princess Leia, quite possibly the most unlikely romantic pairing imaginable, and yet it works, all thanks to the brilliant dialogue and the charming Harrison Ford. I mean, what other actor could conceivably pull off the line where Princess Leia says, "I love you," and Han merely replies, "I know." That is cinematic gold, and is the greatest confession of love I think that has ever transpired on the silver screen.
9. Slumdog Millionaire
Slumdog is one of those rare perfect storms, a film that is both challenging and uplifting. The finale is one of the most joyous I've ever seen in a film, I mean, who doesn't love a good Bollywood, song-and-dance ending? But what really makes this 2008 Best Picture winner such a marvelous work of film, is that the story is literally that of the underdog, who starts in the slums of India, is orphaned, grows up literally looking simply to survive, and all this time he's been in love with the same girl, Latika, who he was separated from. His entire life he has searched for her, and he eventually finds himself on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, in an attempt to find her. If that doesn't qualify this film as one of the greatest romance films of all-time, then I don't know what will.
8. One Wonderful Sunday
This is the hardest film to find on this entire list, so if you're that kind of romance film lover who loves seeking forgotten movie gems, then One Wonderful Sunday may just do the trick. The story follows engaged couple, Yuzo and Masako, in 1947 Tokyo, Japan, still rebuilding from World War II. With only thirty-five yen to spend, they try to make the most out of their one day of the week they have to spend time with one another, but as the day progresses, they progressively start to lose all hope in themselves and in humanity in general. However, what makes this film such a stand-out romance movie is that the two young lovers must rely on one another and their dreams of true love to pull one another out of depression and into happiness. By the end of the film, I promise you will be smiling and genuinely believing in the power of love once more. As an added side note, if you love Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), this is one of his first films, and while it is at times rough around the edges, it still stands as one of my favorite films from his filmography.
7. Superman: The Movie
This is the romance film that both guys and girls can agree on.
It's got action, it's got humor, it's got heart, and it also has a great
romance at the core of it. The romance between Superman and Lois Lane
is so utterly charming, that when they fly through the night sky, you're
soaring along with them. Not to mention the great banter between
Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent and Lois, while at the Daily Planet.
Then, there's the moment where Superman finds Lois dead and turns back
time to bring her back to life, proving that Superman's capacity for
love is what makes him strong and is what enables him to do all of his great feats of strength.
6. In the Mood For Love
This is the film on this list for that foreign film lover, the arthouse couple looking for a good love story to move them on Valentine's Day. Wong Kar Wai's sumptuous film, In the Mood For Love, is the Hong Kong based filmmaker's greatest work to date. It's in many ways more of a poem than a straightforward narrative. While the film does have a narrative spine and a plot, the film is more about the visual images and the thematic ideas explored between actors Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, portraying two people who live in the same apartment building that discover that their spouses are having an affair with one another, drawing these two lonely souls together. What is so brilliant about Wong Kar Wai's filmmaking here is that hey never act on their feelings, they never truly succumb to love, which is what makes this story of lost love so much more real and affecting. Bottom line, if you're looking for a romance movie that is different and aspires to higher artistic ground than most on Valentine's Day, then In the Mood For Love is the film to seek out. (This film is hard to find, but is currently on Netflix instant streaming).
5. Singin' in the Rain
If you adore musicals, then this is the perfect Valentine's Day film. The romance between Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds is the glue that holds this film together and gives it a narrative spine. Without this romance, the film would just be a musical revue of some old Arthur Freed songs, but thanks to their star-crossed romance, it allows the viewer to lose themselves in the sheer joy and frivolity of quite possibly the grandest, and most spectacular movie musical of all-time.
Director Rob Reiner's 2010 hidden gem, about two middle schoolers discovering their first crushes, all the while having their first brushes with love, is one of the most honest and true films I have ever seen. This film perfectly captures the innocence and purity of the romantic notions of that pre-teen age range when we first discover the opposite sex. Taking place in pre-Vietnam 1960s, the film's setting allows your mind to be freed and enjoy the simplicity of this love story, that is genuinely sweet and moving.
3. (500) Days of Summer
This is the guy's romantic comedy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as everyman, Tom, who falls hard for Indie-chic actress, Zooey Deschanel, playing Summer Finn, the unobtainable girl that every guy has always fallen head over heels for when she didn't ever actually feel the same way. (500) Days of Summer is a fresh and modern look at the tolls of being a hopeless romantic in today's society, but where the film shines is in its ability to create cartoonish, laugh-out loud moments, and balance that with its Indie rock music video sensibilities and the genuine humanity that comes from both Tom and Summer. Featuring my favorite Joseph Gordon-Levitt performance to date, this is a film that I think most average guys, at least geeky guys, can relate with. It's perfect for a single guy who's going through a break-up, or the single guy who's never had a real girlfriend. It's funny, charming, and is perfect catharsis for the viewer on a day where we're told it's all about love.
2. The Apartment
If you are the, "I would do anything for love," kind of movie viewer, then you will love 1960 Best Picture winner, The Apartment. Literally, this entire film is all about Jack Lemon's character, C.C. Baxter, doing just about anything for love, even if that involves taking care of the love of his life, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), who overdosed on sleeping pills in his apartment after she found out that Baxter's boss would not leave his wife for her. And what was she doing in Baxter's apartment, you may ask? Well, Baxter had been loaning it out to his bosses at work to conduct their affairs in so their wives wouldn't find out, enabling Baxter to move up the corporate ladder. Whew! It sounds heavy and melodramatic, but believe me, it's not. The Apartment is honestly the precursor for majority of modern romantic comedies, but here's the thing, it does it all right. The characters are not represented as larger than life cliches, but as flesh-and-blood humans with real psychological issues, so while it is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen, it manages to be dramatic all while being laugh-out loud funny thanks to director Billy Wilder's brilliant ability to bring out genuine humanity through the situations.
1. Howl's Moving Castle
If you are a lover of animation, or simply a romantic in general, then Howl's Moving Castle is the perfect Valentines Day movie for a date, or if you're single, just for viewing on your own. I can't think of any other movie that quite reinforces the optimistic nature of true love than this Japanese animated fantasy about a shy, meek young girl who is transformed into a 90-year-old woman, whilst falling in love with a heartless, vain wizard who lives in a castle that is made up of ramshackle mechanical parts and literally walks. This is just a perfect fantasy, with the American dub featuring voices from the likes of Christian Bale, Josh Hutcherson, Jean Simmons, and Lauren Bacall. It's a fairy tale, much like many of the American made animated romance movies, but unlike those films, Howl's Moving Castle has more to say than just it's sophisticated love story that isn't merely about a Princess meeting her Prince Charming, but rather it also deals with pacifist themes and the idea of finding your true self. All of this makes Howl's Moving Castle not just my favorite romance movie, but also one of my 10 favorite movies of all-time. Not to mention the fact that I can't watch this movie and not be smiling by the time the credits roll.