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Romance: Best Ten All-Time Great Romantic Movies of the 20th Century
Anyone attempting to make a list of the best, most romantic Hollywood movies of the twentieth century would be researching from now 'til the end of the next century. There are so many great candidates from which to choose! ...and where to start? What criteria would you use to select only the best of the best?
The main criteria for the inclusion of a film in this list was that the central theme, the core of the movie had to be love. Whatever else the story entailed or the plot required in terms of scope, historic backdrop, or characterization, the heart of the film had to be the love story between the protagonists.
I am sure I have missed some great films - I hope not too many of your favorites.
Casablanca - 1942
When the subject of romantic movies comes up, one of the first that comes to mind in any list of all-time greats is Casablanca. Generations of women have sighed into their hankies and grown misty-eyed as the story of Rick and Ilsa unfolds.
This tale of love lost, love regained, and love transcendent contains some of the most memorable lines in the history of movie making.
"Of all the gin joints in all the world..." Delivered in Bogie's inimitable growl, dripping bitterness and barely smothered pain, this simple phrase illuminates the bleak, grinding loneliness of Rick's life without Ilsa.
"Play it, Sam..." Often misspoke as "Play it again, Sam." this piece of dialogue has achieved iconic status. It is without doubt, one of the most quoted of all the dialogue to come out of Hollywood.
"We'll always have Paris..." This tearful send-off set a high standard for silver screen farewells. Few screen couples since have been able to capture the same poignancy.
"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." To end a film with such an exchange between two rogues, albeit lovable ones, was a master stroke. In fact, this brilliant ending was not written until after the shooting was wrapped, and Bogart had to fly back to record the dialogue.
Sabrina - 1954
The original, filmed in 1954, starred Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. A remake was filmed in 1995, starring Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, and Greg Kinnear. Both were delightful romantic comedies about a young woman's coming of age, and the reformation two brothers, one a n'ere-do-well, and the other, a workaholic.
To choose between Humphrey Bogart and Harrison Ford as portrayers of Linus Larrabee, would be difficult, as each puts his own stamp on the role.
Ford's Linus Larrabee the master banker was meticulous and driven, but his mantle as Linus the romancer seemed to fit him easily. He required little in the way of a push to fly to his departing love.
Bogart's Linus had a more uphill road to romance. This offbeat piece of casting produced one of his best and most celebrated performances. His bemused Linus is totally believable as a businessman out of his element and his patent lack of belief in himself as a romantic sort of fellow was totally convincing.
Lady and the Tramp - 1955
Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp has all the elements of a great love story. A girl from a nice family falls for a lovable rogue from the far side of the tracks. Misunderstood by her family and falsely accused of a crime, threatened by a pair of dastardly interlopers, she must rely on her courage and her steadfast friends to eventually save her.
Featuring the amazing vocal stylings of the inimitable Patti Page, the music from the movie ranges from a statement of territorial take-over by Si and Am, the mayhem-wreaking cats, "We Are Siamese," to the torchie "He's a Tramp", delivered by a jail-house vamp, Peg, and the finally to the unabashedly romantic, "Bella Notte."
Dr. Zhivago - 1965
Directed by David Lean, this sweeping romantic epic based on Boris Pasternak's novel, starred Omar Sharif as Dr. Yuri Zhivago, Julie Christie as Lara Antipova, Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya Gromeko, Rod Steiger as Viktor Komarovsky, Alec Guinness as Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago, Tom Courtenay as Pasha, Siobhan McKenna as Anna, Ralph Richardson as Alexander Gromeko, and Rita Tushingham as The Girl.
Since the book was banned in the Soviet Union, the movie was filmed largely in Spain, with the entire Moscow set being built from scratch outside of Madrid. Winter scenes of the family traveling by rail were filmed in Canada.
The film left its mark on the popular culture and fashion of its era, and remains extremely popular to this day. Maurice Jarre's score - particularly "Lara's Theme" - is one of the most famous in cinematic history.
Somewhere In Time - 1980
This cult classic, time-travel/romance film stars Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer, Teresa Wright and features an early appearance by then-unknown William H. Macy.
Filmed on location at the Grand Hotel, the former Mackinac College, and Chicago, the movie was well received during its previews, but failed at the box office. It has, however, earned a large and loyal following since its release to cable television and video.
Known for its musical score, composed by John Barry, the film features the eighteenth variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini which runs throughout the film.
Somewhere In Time
Dirty Dancing - 1987
Set against the background of rigid class consciousness, at a Catskills resort of the mid-1960s, this story of a young girl's coming of age and her romance with the man who awakens her, features some of the hottest dance scenes to grace the big screen.
Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey light up the screen. This low-budget film by a new studio with no major stars, went on to become a massive box office hit. Its dance finale contains some of the best known pulse-raising choreography in cinematic history.
Moonstruck - 1987
This quirky romantic comedy directed by Norman Jewison, takes place within the Italian-American community of Brooklyn, New York, and stars Cher as Loretta Castorini, Nicolas Cage as Ronny Cammareri, Olympia Dukakis as Rose Castorini, Vincent Gardenia as Cosmo Castorini, and Danny Aiello as Mr. Johnny Cammareri.
There are numerous subplots woven throughout the film, mostly involving the older members of Loretta's family, who all live together in a single, enormous house, but the main story revolves around Loretta and Ronny. Loretta is engaged to Johnny Cammareri, a safe choice, and perhaps her last chance. When she goes to the bakery to invite his estranged brother, Ronnie, to the impending wedding, the two begin to fall for each other.
In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten top Ten" best films in ten classic American film genres. Moonstruck was acknowledged as the eighth best film in the romantic comedy category.
Pretty Woman - 1990
Down-on-her-luck prostitute, Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), is hired by wealthy businessman and corporate raider, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), to be his escort for several business functions - not your typical boy meets girl scenario.
Their developing friendship sparks some "personal development" on the part of both. Vivian is tutored in manners, and the businessman's humanity begins to re-emerge.
My favorite scene, though Richard Gere climbing up to her "balcony" runs a close second, is the scene in which Vivian returns to the dress shop where she was shabbily treated with her businessman in tow, and informs them of the magnitude of their mistake, and what it will now cost them. I think every woman in the theater cheered.
Ghost - 1990
Starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost is a timeless story about the power of love. Walking back to their apartment one night, Sam and Molly are mugged, leaving Sam murdered in a dark alley. Unable to leave her, Sam discovers that Molly is in danger With the help of shady but good-hearted medium, Oda Mae Brown, Sam is able to communicate with Molly, eventually foiling the bad guy and saving his beloved.
Director Jerry Zucker's Ghost was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Whoopi Goldberg won a Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.
This is one of the most romantic movies of all time. The chemistry between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore is phenomenal, and the scenes with Goldberg's Oda Mae strike exactly the right balance with the addition of her manic comedy. Vincent Schiavelli turns in a truly scary performance as Sam's ghostly mentor, nicely foreshadowing the eventual gruesome fate of Sam's murderer.
One of the musical highlights of the movie was the scene involving a pottery wheel and this famous song, given a renewed lease on life through the movie soundtrack.
Titanic - 1997
Written and directed by James Cameron, this sweeping disaster epic about the sinking of the RMS Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater.
Two young people from different social classes meet and fall in love during the ill-fated maiden voyage of the mighty ship. Their (fictional) story is set against the backdrop of the sinking of the "unsinkable" passenger liner. Some characters, members of the ship's passengers and crew, are based on historical figures.
The love theme, sung by pop-great Celine Dionne, underscores some of the most romantic scenes ever filmed.
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