Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and, for movie buffs, there’s no better time to sit back, relax and enjoy a romantic movie with the one you love.
The following is a list of my top 10 romantic-movie suggestions. It is by no means a complete list. There are so many good romantic movies out there that it’s almost impossible to narrow the list down to 10, and even now I think there are titles that should be on this list that didn’t make the cut.
One quick note: I limited my selections to movies that featured love — true love — as their central theme, a decision which booted some obvious classics, like 1942’s “Casablanca” (it’s as much about intrigue and regret as it is about love, in my humble opinion) and 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (it features two great love stories, but it’s as much a social commentary as a romance).
So, for better or worse, here we go:
10. Almost any version of “Romeo and Juliet.”
— The quintessential tale of star-crossed lovers by William Shakespeare has been made and remade many times. Baz Lurhmann’s 1996 “Romeo + Juliet” (PG-13) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes is one of the most well-known adaptations, although the 1968 PG-rated version directed by Franco Zefferelli is still regarded by many critics as the best version ever made. In terms of being purely fun to watch, though, it’s hard to beat the modern American musical version — 1961’s “West Side Story” (NR).
9. “The Notebook” (2004, PG-13)
— This movie stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a young man and woman whose love can’t be denied by each other, their families or their place in society (she’s rich, he’s “poor-yet-passionate,” according to the International Movie Database description.) Make sure your date has a box of tissues — you may need one, as well.
8. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989, R)
— This one’s also about an enduring love, this time complicated by the desire not to let sex ruin a friendship. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan star as the titular neurotic characters in this comedy directed by Rob Reiner.
7. “The Wedding Singer” (1998, PG-13)
— Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have been paired in several romantic comedies, but none comes close to the story of Robbie and Julia, who are clearly meant for each other but are involved with other people. This flick has the complete date-movie triple threat: music, romance and comedy — plus a rare cameo by Billy Idol, who totally gets it.
6. “The Taming of the Shrew”
Let’s clarify — this list includes the story, but not the actual 1967 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (who seem to delight in hurting each other more than courting each other). Again, Shakespeare is the gold mine that keeps on giving, and there are many adaptations of this tale of a lovely young woman who can’t get married until her “shrewish” (i.e. chronically crabby) older sister is wed. Of all of them, I recommend the 1953 musical “Kiss Me Kate” (NR) starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller and Tommy Rall, which is a true classic filled with laughs, great music and some truly fantastic dance numbers. A more recent approach is 1999’s “10 Things I Hate About You” (PG-13) starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, which sets the story in a high school.
5. “The Philadelphia Story,” (1940, NR)
This film stars Katherine Helpburn as a young, rich divorcee who is getting ready to marry again, much to the chagrin of her ex-husband, played by Cary Grant. Jimmy Stewart co-stars as a reporter who gets caught up in the mayhem. And, just in case you think reboots are something new, Hollywood remade this flick in 1956 with “High Society” (NR) starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, which, aside from a song or two, is exactly the same story. The original is better, but both are worth watching.
4. The Princess Bride (1987, PG)
— The power of true love is taken to new heights in this magical fairy tale comedy filled with pirates, princesses, miracles and monsters. Be warned: It also has kissing, which you may or may not mind too much, depending on where you are in the story. The second movie on this list directed by Rob Reiner, it stars Cary Elwes and Robin Wright.
3. “My Big, Fat Greek Wedding” (2002, PG)
— It stars writer Nia Vardalos as a 30-year-old ugly duckling who finds love and blossoms when she dates someone outside her community. Her newfound relationship causes some friction with her parents, who want her to settle down with a “nice Greek boy.”
2. “Roman Holiday” (1953, NR)
— Audrey Hepburn stars as a sheltered princess who escapes her entourage of servants and advisers during a trip to Rome, where she meets and falls in love with an American writer, played by Gregory Peck.
1. “Moonstruck” (1988, PG)
— “Moonstruck” stars Cher as a middle-aged woman planning to settle down with a safe-and-secure fiance. But when she meets her fiance’s estranged brother, played by Nicholas Cage, sparks fly and a full moon that predicts true love is high in the sky. Suddenly, she has to choose between long-held family expectations and what her heart desires.
Full disclosure: I am slightly partial to “Moonstruck,” because nearly 32 years ago, my lovely wife, Tammy, and I saw it at the Lake of the Ozarks on our second date. When we walked out of the theater, a large, full moon was hanging low in the sky, just like in the movie.
Now, I’m no astronomer, and I’m certainly not saying that lunar events can predict true love.
But that one did.
Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy viewing!