With a long history of making romantic films, Hollywood is more than capable of setting the mood for those who don’t want to go out to a crowded restaurant and pay for an overpriced meal, but still want to spend some quality time with their significant other. Some here are fun and light, while others require a box of tissues to be on hand. But all are classic movies that have stood the test of time.
Nothing beats this classic romantic epic in terms of size and scope. Clocking in at almost four hours, director Victor Fleming's adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was really just a tale of a spoiled Southern girl, Scarlet O’Hara (Vivian Leigh), and her hopeless love for the roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), though its setting during and after the Civil War elevates it into a sweeping historical epic that has no peer. Endlessly watchable and filled with memorable quotes, including Rhett’s famous parting words to Scarlet, Gone With the Wind will forever remain a fan favorite.
As she had so often in her career, Katharine Hepburn plays a stubborn high-society girl having trouble with the men in her life. Here, the men in question are her ex-husband (Cary Grant) who still holds a flame and an intrepid reporter (James Stewart) who seeks to publish an exposé on her father (John Halliday). Quick-witted and full of snappy dialogue, The Philadelphia Story was Hepburn’s comeback vehicle after being labeled box office poison and written off by Hollywood. It may feel dated with its focus on high society types, but the film remains funny, poignant and one of Hepburn’s best.
No list of romantic movies can be complete without Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, the classic to end all classics. Always popular with fans young and old, the film never ceases to lose its popularity. That has to do, of course, with the powerful performances between the two leads, Humphrey Bogart, as a world-weary nightclub owner, and Ingrid Bergman as his one true love who left him after the Nazi occupation of Paris. Full of burning desire and international intrigue, Casablanca is must for even the most casual film watcher.
If there was ever a single image that defined on-screen romance, it was the kiss between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr at Halona Cove in Hawaii with waves crashing around them. That scene was an iconic moment in one of the greatest romantic dramas Hollywood ever produced. Set during the onset of World War II and the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor that dragged the U.S. into the conflict, Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity was an extraordinary epic that won eight Academy Awards and featured uncharacteristic turns from Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine.
Though dated for modern sentiments, An Affair to Remember still remains one of the most romantic movies ever made. It stars Cary Grant as a carefree playboy and amateur artist who meets a woman (Deborah Kerr) on an ocean liner bound for New York. Of course they fall in love, but they’re both involved with others. They make a pact to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months if both are available. A debilitating accident deters the rendezvous, leading to chance encounters and an eventual melodramatic reunion.
Adapted from one of Tennessee Williams’ most well-known plays, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof smolders with sensuality and long-dormant passions, and features two outstanding performances from its stars Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, both of whom earned Academy Award nominations. Newman played the resentful and self-destructive Brick to Taylor’s hopelessly devoted Maggie. He think she cheated on him with a deceased friend, which leads him not to sleep with her anymore. Though Brick’s struggles with sexuality were toned down from the stage version, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof touched upon other then-taboo topics like infidelity, alcoholism and infertility.
It’s not the movie per se, but rather the bubbly performance of Audrey Hepburn as the cheerfully naïve Holly Golightly that this classic romantic comedy is best remembered. Though shy and reticent in person, Hepburn’s turn as Golightly was a revelation to many. Few could have guessed that she could ably tackle Truman Capote’s perky society girl whose carefree New York lifestyle is thrown for a loop after meeting a struggling writer (George Peppard) and falling in love.
A passionate love affair set against sweeping historical events, director David Lean’s epic romance starred Omar Sharif as the titular doctor, who is swept up by the Russian Revolution while carrying on with his mistress, the beautiful, but dangerous Lara (Julie Christie). Often compared to Gone With the Wind, this monumental adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s acclaimed novel was a huge box office hit, though critics at the time were less than receptive than audiences. Regardless, the movie became a classic and the sweeping “Lara’s Theme” became one of the most famous movie leitmotifs of all time.
The tearjerker to end all tearjerkers, Love Story was a monster hit that helped propel the careers of its two stars, Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. O’Neal played Oliver, a well-off pre-law student at Harvard who falls for McGraw’s foul-mouthed blue-collar Jenny, much to the disapproval of his wealthy father (Ray Milland). Both are young vibrant kids head over heels in love, until tragedy strikes and McGraw learns that she's going to die. Some might find that sudden shift to be cynical and manipulative, but there is no doubt that we all suffer with Oliver when Jenny finally passes. Have plenty of tissue on hand with this one.