Some of you might remember that in my contrary way I refused to post my list of most romantic movies at Valentine's Day and stubbornly took an alternative view by posting movies that tried to be romantic but weren't.
So I'm making good and smack in the middle of May for no reason other than that spring is in the air I give you my favorite romantic movies and why I think they're romantic. I'm a sap I tell you.
1. The Scarlet Pimpernel. I bet there's a lot of you who remember Jane Seymour before she was famous in this made-for-television movie that had little to do with the original book. I mean the general gist of things was the same but it was structured completely different and actually? I think this is a case where the movie was better than the book. Or maybe I was just terribly in love with Anthony Edwards, who knows? It was junior high so there's no accounting for my taste. My eighth-grade friends and I watched this movie ad nauseum until we wore out the VHS tape.
I loved the music, loved the actors, loved the costumes and tragedy, loved Ian McKellan as the bad guy (back before he was Sir Gandalf). I found an old video of the movie and recently watched it to see if it was as romantic as I remembered it and actually? It stood up pretty well, as has Jane Seymour.
2. While You Were Sleeping. Now not only is this a romantic movie it's hysterically funny. Great lines to quote. For example, "Is this guy bothering you? Because he's leaning." We'll still quote about mashed potatoes being creamy and Argentina having good beef. Sandra Bullock plays the sad-and quirky-but-innocent girl looking for love and the way the movie plays out is just so sweet and fun that I can watch it over and over again.
3. Casablanca. Why is this one so romantic when it's so sad? Because Ingrid Bergman does the right thing and stays with her husband. It's sad but yet it's romantic that she loves Sam so much but still values honor above her personal longings. Romance always goes well with a side order of tragedy. Kind of like steak and potatoes.
4. Return to Me. Have you seen this one where Mini Driver is a heart transplant patient who gets the heart that belonged to David Duchovny's dead wife? No, it's not Poltergeist, it's sweet and I love this movie. The actors are charming, Mini Driver has a wicked good sense of style in the movie and the Irish-Italian old guys are a hoot. When David Duchovny says, "I love Elizabeth--I'll always love Elizabeth--but I long for Grace" I get all gushy inside.
5. Cinderella Man. This might surprise you but I thought this was a romantic movie because first of all Russell Crowe is a terrific actor--maybe the best right now--and his relationship with Renee Zellweger hangs on against all the horrible things life throws at them. Maybe it's because I could relate to the feeling that when you're with someone and you go through the hard times together it can pull you closer together (or it can also tear you apart unfortunately) making your relationship stronger than ever. I kind of felt that with this one and I liked it. Rocky had a similar feel that way.
6. Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are a smashing good couple (though I think I would have preferred Cary Grant if the truth were told) but the real star of the movie is Rome. I think the romance here hinges on the locale and the atmosphere of the Eternal City. Audrey and Gregory are sweet together too, and once again unrequited love is always a good sell, but it's really Rome that gets the romance vote.
7. Out of Africa. Probably the same is true with this one because really, if you went by my reasoning in my other list of unromantic movies you'd question why I have this one included. How horrible is it? Robert Redford--the jerk--won't marry beautiful Meryl Streep and insists on keeping their relationship of the pay-per-view variety. That is, a kind a month-to-month lease arrangement rather than a commitment to buy. But oh the music and the scenery and the plane flying over the flamingos and the scene where he washes her hair while they're on safari. Sigh. If I just close my eyes . . . .
8. Shall We Dance? Have you seen this? I'm not a fan of Richard Gere (see my Pretty Woman comments in the previous list) OR Susan Sarandon OR Jennifer Lopez but somehow this movie works for me and makes me feel sappy. I think it's because that man-with-mid-life-crisis thing that could go so many ways but ends up finding him back happily with his wife makes me sigh with contentment. I like the dancing and how he's trying to learn something new. My favorite part is when Sarandon and Gere confront each other and they realize he really wants her to be his dance partner. I like that.
9. The Village. Why oh why would I have a thriller listed on my list? Simply for the scene where Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard are sitting on the front porch at night and she asks him if he will dance with her at their wedding and asks him why he won't say what's in his heart.
He says in this breathy-macho whisper:
Why can you not stop saying what is in yours? Why must you lead, when I want to lead? If I want to dance I will ask you to dance. If I want to speak I will open my mouth and speak. Everyone is forever plaguing me to speak further. Why? What good is it to tell you you are in my every thought from the time I wake? What good can come from my saying that I sometimes cannot think clearly or do my work properly? What gain can rise of my telling you the only time I feel fear as others do is when I think of you in harm? That is why I am on this porch, Ivy Walker. I fear for your safety before all others. And yes, I will dance with you on our wedding night.10. Unbreakable. Since I'm shocking you with obscure love scenes from B-list thrillers I might as well go all the way and name this movie too. I like M. Knight Shyamalan's movies (except for the freaky mermaid one) but this is completely my favorite. It's not only emotional, layered, interesting and creative but it's cool and romantic too. The relationship between Bruce Willis and Robin Wright Penn, their failing marriage but desperation to keep it together is so sad and moving. I love it when they go out on a "first date" and try to carry a conversation, then at the end when Willis finally finds his purpose in life and finds the fulfillment he needs the romance blossoms once again and it makes me so happy. When he carries her up the stairs? That's just sweet without being slick. Good stuff. Besides, I think their relationship with its durm and strang is a lot more realistic than most Hollywood romances. Except for the superhero part--you don't see that every day.
11. The Age of Innocence. Oh, if you like the repressed sexual tension that only a Victorian period movie can generate then this is the romance for you. I think it's the only Martin Scorsese movie I've ever seen. Michelle Pfieffer is smokin' hot, and especially so next to Winona Ryder's crystal purity and sweetness. They represent two opposing forces pretty convincingly and the only question is which one is Daniel Day Lewis gonna choose? I loved the Countess and cheered when he . . . well I won't spoil it. You'll have to see it to find out who ends up with him in the end.
12. Runaway Bride. Cheesy, funny--no, make that hysterical, and goes against my "no Richard Gere" policy. Hmmm . . . actually, he makes it twice on this list so maybe I'll have to rethink that there policy. I will see nearly any movie with Joan Cusack in it--and pair her up with Julia Roberts and I'm in heaven. My favorite line is when Julia hitches a ride in a Fedex truck and someone asks, "Where is she going?" and the answer comes, "I don't know, but wherever it is she'll be there by 10:30 tomorrow morning." I'm not sure why I like this one--it's probably the lines and the cheese. There is no other explanation whatsoever.
13. Pride and Prejudice. No surprises here, Jane Austen is Queen of Romance enough that I'd have to insist Sense and Sensibility shares the title of "Most Romantic Movie" with P&P.
Tell me you don't swoon over Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman--they're just perfect for those roles. Though I have this theory . . . humor me for a minute here . . . there are really only two dozen British actors in the world and they just get recycled through every period movie that comes out. And they ALL make it to Harry Potter one way or another. Seriously. Think of a British actor--Kenneth Brannaugh? Emma Thompson? Miranda Richardson? They're ALL in Harry Potter. That's why I predict for the next movie they'll have Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Rupert Everett as the only possible additions to Harry Potter cast. They're the only ones left.
But anyway, while the recent remake of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly feels more authentic I just can't handle my Jane Austen characters so unbearably skinny. Seriously, if Keira had lived back in Austen's time they would have sworn she was consumptive and sent her to die in a TB ward somewhere. Where's the beef?
I like Matthew MacFadyen's Mr. Darcy--no complaints there--but the part that seals my preference for the A&E version is the last scene where he keeps calling Elizabeth Bennett "Mrs. Darcy." It's so over-the-top with cheese (make that Velveeta--it's not even real cheese for goodness sake) that I can feel Ms. Austen lurching with horror in her grave the two times I've seen the scene. Yes, I'm harsh--but maybe I'm just a purist and prefer to stick to the real dialog as much as possible. Which is why I vote for the A&E version--even given the amazing cinematography and soundtrack of the remake. And the scene where he comes to her through the fog and rain--that's none too shabby either.
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