50 Love Stories We Love

You have your favorite love stories. These are ours.

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Notorious (1946)

Alfred Hitchcock's tale of a man and woman who look so fantastic together they must fall in love combines gorgeously lit romance with shadowy emotional undercurrents. In the convoluted espionage plot, Ingrid Bergman is a masochistic lush whom misogynistic agent Cary Grant recruits to seduce and marry a mama's-boy Nazi in South America. Alas, when love ignites between Bergman and Grant before the mission can begin, she turns out to be so masochistic she can't beg him to beg her not to go through with it, and he turns out to be so misogynistic he can't beg her to beg him to beg her not to go through with it.

Before Sunrise (1995)

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have charm to spare in Richard Linklater's tale of two stray pups who meet in Vienna and spend one perfect night together talking big issues and small till they fall into each other's arms just before dawn. It's like Brief Encounter meets My Dinner With Andre.

Love in the Afternoon (1957)

The best of Audrey Hepburn's May-December romances (the others being Funny Face, Sabrina and My Fair Lady) succeeds on the deliciously profound wit of cowriter/director Billy Wilder and on the chemistry of Gary Cooper as the womanizing, wealthy older man, and Hepburn as the girl who's too good to resist him.

Chinatown (1974)

The story of Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) and Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) is a murder mystery and a history lesson laced with social criticism, but ultimately, most importantly, it's a love story between a man who knows better than to trust anyone and a woman who dies because she trusts him.

Afterglow (1997)

A highly dubious theme-- the healing effects of adultery--is put over persuasively thanks to superb turns from Julie Christie and Nick Nolte as marital burnouts whose straying ways lead to a rediscovery of their love for each other.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

It only seems unlikely that the beautiful daughter of a British colonel in the American colonies during the French and Indian Wars would fall for the buckskinned, sharp-shooting adopted son of a Mohawk chief she meets in the middle of a massacre. The kind of chemistry Madeleine Stowe and Daniel Day-Lewis have here makes it inevitable. Demonstrating the basic good sense that has typified the American spirit from colonial days, Stowe and Day-Lewis decide that the best thing to do as French cannons inch ever closer to their doomed fort is to find a nice, dark, out-of-the-way spot and make out.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Emerging straight from the heart of a generation hopelessly polarized between emotional idealism and brutal cynicism, Cameron Crowe's modern romantic comedy tells the story of love between a toughly sweet young accountant (Renee Zellweger) and the ambivalently greedy sports agent (Tom Cruise) in whom she persists in seeing good. The movie has truly touching moments and terrific laughs and, since we'd all kill ourselves if we were forced to come to the opposite conclusion, it reassures us in the end that committed love is still possible.

Carmen Jones (1954)

The movies have served up 20 Carmens so far, yet neither Rita Hayworth's va-voom gypsy goddess in 1948's The Loves of Carmen nor Laura Del Sol's flamenco-mad gypsy goddess in the 1983 Carmen can hold a candle to the electrifying Dorothy Dandridge's torrid, tragic mantrap. As a creature too consumed by passion to commit to any one man, Dandridge is superbly matched by lust-crazed Harry Belafonte in this unusual, moving, Americanized musical overhaul of the Georges Bizet opera.

The English Patient (1996)

Movies about Grand Passions That Cannot Be Denied (Whatever the Cost) are a rare breed in today's era of tinny, teen-style romances, making this World War II adult tear-jerker particularly welcome. If you're not moved when Ralph Fiennes carries Kristin Scott Thomas out of that cave, check your pulse.

Casablanca (1942)

Whereas the World War II-era lovers in The English Patient decide that, compared with their love, the problems of millions of people caught in a fight to the death between good and evil don't amount to a hill of beans, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the World War II-era lovers in Casablanca, decide the exact opposite.

A Star Is Born (1954)

This version of the much remade story of doomed love between a rising superstar (Judy Garland) and a fading movie hero (James Mason) is the definitive dissection of why Hollywood marriages fail. All the details are mercilessly right--the makeovers, the back-stabbing agents, the grueling hours at the sound-stage. Offscreen, many a Hollywood couple is living out this inevitably sad romance this minute.

It Happened One Night (1934)

Spoiled runaway heiress Claudette Colbert finally figures out that it's wisecracking working-guy reporter Clark Gable she's meant to love, not the spineless playboy she fell for to thwart Daddy. The road trip she unwillingly takes with Gable offers more than one night on which things happen, but the night when the "it" of the title happens is clearly the one in which she gets an eyeful of Gable without his shirt on.

Moonstruck (1987)

In the movie for which she will be most deservedly remembered, Cher joins with Nicolas Cage to play a pair of fiery, blue-collar eccentrics in Brooklyn. They are mismatched in every which way, but destined for each other in the only way that counts--they throw off genuine sparks. It's a fairy tale--complete with a magical moon, a man-beast boyfriend and wishes fulfilled--but an edgy, smart one.

Parting Glances (1986)

Have Kleenex on hand for this independent movie mostly featuring actors you've never heard of. It's a bittersweet tale of a gay man (Richard Ganoung) struggling to learn what love really is when he must choose between his untrustworthy, good-looking boyfriend (John Bolger) and his dying-of-AIDS ex (Steve Buscemi).

Two for the Road (1967)

Beautiful couple Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney swap witticisms and wounding blows while literally driving in circles in France over the decades of their marriage. It's a view of conjugal togetherness as the plight of people too addicted to punishing each other to part.

Rebecca (1940)

This Alfred Hitchcock mystery tells an unsettling tale about the kind of love that must blossom inside a marriage to make it a real union. So here is a love story about insecurities, secrets, inequalities and crises. The unspectacular young woman (Joan Fontaine) who is swiftly courted by the aristocratic widower (Laurence Olivier) of a legendary society goddess struggles to figure out who she has really married and why she's worthy of his love--and doesn't get righteously kissed until she does.

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