Talkback: What's the Most Romantic Film of All Time?

It's Valentine's Day, lovebirds -- time to hash out some passionate debate over the films that get your pulse racing and make your chest heave, the romances that get your hankies flying and fill your hearts (and your loins!) with longing. Whether you're planning the perfect V-Day date or preparing to love vicariously this Valentine's Day, chime in and tell us which of cinema's greatest love stories hits you the hardest. Let's start with a classic, shall we?

Casablanca's been named AFI's greatest American love story of all time, and it's hard to argue the choice; few films have managed to capture the heartbreak and sacrifice of love than Michael Curtiz's 1943 romance. The lyrics "You must remember this/a kiss is still a kiss" still conjure the magic of place and time captured at Rick's Café Americain, where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are propelled into each others' arms in the midst of war, only to be parted again. Sigh.

For a long while my favorite romance was An Affair to Remember, the Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr tale that spawned many a fateful meeting at the Empire State Building (and itself was remade from director Leo McCarey's Love Affair). It was a movie that insisted that no matter what disfiguring, horrific accident befell you, your partner would love you just the same. Swoon! But then I saw Sleepless in Seattle and got annoyed that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks were co-opting the classic. Thanks, but no thanks.

Ghost features some deliciously melodramatic lovemaking (oh, pottery) and the added layer of emotion that stems from death coming between two soulmates. Ditto Titanic, which taught a generation of lovers to never let go. At any cost. EVEN IF YOU'RE FREEZING TO DEATH SO YOUR GIRLFRIEND CAN FLOAT TO SAFETY ON SOME SHRAPNEL. Downside to Titanic worship: You'll just get that damned Celine Dion song stuck in your head again, which is pretty much how I spent all of 1997.

Alternately, you may opt to go the lighter route, John Hughes-style, with a selection along the lines of the underrated teen romance Some Kind of Wonderful -- the movie that promised tomboys everywhere that our crushes would come to their senses sooner or later and taught boys that meaningful diamond stud earrings (okay, and reciprocated heart flutters) are a quicker way to a young woman's heart than waking up a girl by blasting Peter Cetera outside her window. I mean, that works, too, but it takes at least one montage more to get to happily-ever-after.

Then there's the entire oeuvre of weepie specialist Nicholas Sparks, who never met a love story he couldn't ruin with gut-wrenching tragedy. The Notebook? SHE CAN'T REMEMBER HIM! A Walk to Remember? SHE'S DYING! Pass the tissues and hit rewind!

My favorite film of all time, and one of the most heartbreaking movies about love ever made, is Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg -- a movie that could also be considered an anti-romance, depending on how you look at the world and how much you perversely enjoy the visceral sting of heartbreak. Candy-colored palettes and entirely sung dialogue mask this tragically sad tale within the trappings of a musical melodrama, but the stark realities of life and love lost sneak up on you in the film's final moments when former lovebirds Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve) and Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) meet again by chance on Christmas Eve. After pledging their undying love to one another as youths, they've both moved on -- even if the memory of what they once had still lingers. It's something like a French '60s cinema equivalent of an Adele song, devastating and gorgeous and felt all the more deeply because we feel, acutely, what's been lost and what might have been.

But you tell me, folks -- which are your favorite, go-to, can't miss tales of love, lust, romance, and longing? (And what will you be watching on Valentine's Day?)

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  • MartiniShark says:

    "Heartbeeps" 'Nuff said.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      You and your 'Heartbeeps'! Sheesh!

      • MartiniShark says:

        I refuse to apologize for being so moved by automoton love which culminates in a happy ending in a junkyard. You cannot rule the heart, and you are a cad for trying.

  • Patrick Hallstein / McEvoy-Halston says:

    Off the top of my head, the ones I liked were / are Grease, Bourne Identity, Harry Met Sally, Jerry McGuire, and Grosse Pointe Blank. Of the John Hughes films -- Pretty in Pink, and the twin pairings in Breakfast Club.

  • Capote99 says:

    "Roman Holiday" is just about perfect.

    Funny how in so many "romantic" movies the couple doesn't even end up together in the end.

  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:


  • The Winchester says:


  • The Winchester says:

    But in all seriousness, in the House of Winchester, it's a 3-way tie between Harold & Maude, Amelie, and Once.

  • Shala says:

    I would have to say "Bright Star". Romantic in sight and sound.

  • Dave says:

    Random Harvest

  • Ankur Pathak says:

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - How can one miss this mini-masterpiece?
    You've Got Mail.
    Notting Hill.
    Pretty Woman.
    The Purple Rose of Cairo
    Groundhog Day
    It Happened One Night
    Annie Hall
    Gone With the Wind

  • Citizen Bitch says:

    I agree with Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind.

  • blizzard bound says:

    "Summertime," "A Special Day" (not technically a love story, but it is kinda, and is also one of my favorite movies of all time), and I might be one of the few people who liked "Falling In Love."

  • Jake says:

    I read the title of your article and thought, "what's the most romantic movie I've ever seen?" After a few moments, I thought, gotta be The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Then I read the article and to my surprise, you listed as your favorite. I wish I could definitively say you and I are right, but I haven't seen a lot of the "romantic" movies touted by others. But the story and romance in Umbrellas has got to be tough to beat. Plus, Catherine Deneuve. Plus amazing music. Plus amazing production design. Plus, did I mention the music? Truly an amazing film.

    • Jen Yamato says:

      Great minds, Jake!

      And what's been interesting so far in these comments is that while I've seen and enjoyed many of these other popular favorites, the appeal of specific stars/characters has a lot to do with how much they stay with me.

      Example: I loved Eternal Sunshine when it came out, but if pressed I wouldn't call it one of my enduring favorites. And anything with young Tom Hanks in it I am quite fond of, but somewhere around You've Got Mail he started turning me off.

      • Jake says:

        Agreed. Eternal Sunshine was a very good movie about relationships, and cerebrally, I think to myself, "that's a great movie," but it's never one I think of when pressed about movies I like. Maybe its because Kaufman got it so right it was scary. I remember thinking throughout that film, "hmm, I've felt that way before." Or "I've thought that exact same thing." Too real = less romantic.

        Speaking of Tom Hanks and You Got Mail, it made me think of what I consider the quintessential Rom Com of all time, another Nora Ephron penned film, When Harry Met Sally...

        A lot of the films mentioned by others here are also great. But When Harry Met Sally drew from all those old love story movies but modernized it at the same time and really re-energized the genre. It's definitely a classic.

        And while Casablanca is an amazing film, for me the love story is almost secondary to the exciting and scary world of Casablanca with your magnetic lead, Humphrey Bogart, who, for me, is the greatest leading man of all time. There's something to be said for a guy who can be as ugly as he is and yet still be as commanding a personality as he was. I can watch him in anything. I account it to his upbringing in Brooklyn, but whatever it was, that guy was a star the likes of which we have never seen since. And I love Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant and all that, but Bogart... he was the man!

  • Chris Dohse says:

    My Beautiful Laundrette

  • SunnydaZe says:

    Edward Scissorhands

    "You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren't up there now... I don't think it would be snowing.... Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it."

  • guachinango says:

    Beautiful Thing
    Also gotta jump on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, it really does have it all and then some
    The Old Maid (not strictly a romance, but it is all about love)

  • I'd definitely agree with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It even takes place on Valentine's Day. Some of my other favorites (although I'm sure I'm forgetting some):

    Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
    The Road Home
    Pride and Prejudice

  • Cinekif says:

    Random Harvest. I can't beliveve more people havent mentioned this, it is clearly a forgotton masterpiece - sadly. In terms of emotional force and mega tissue box drama the final scene is arguably one of the best in flim history. There re many other delightful gems throughout the film and Garson and Colman (who display a special chemistry here)are right at their peak. A multi award winning film of its day - it is a must see for any cinefile or indeed any valentine! One of the truely great films of all time.

  • whoneedslight says:

    Persuasion. The one with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root (of course).

  • justine says:

    Moulin Rouge!

  • Fergus says:

    Like Water for Chocolate.

  • sappy youngman says:

    "P.S. I Love You" made me laugh and cry so many times....

  • Hiro the Eighth Samurai (and 14th Assassin) says:

    It seems like no one's mentioned Zeffirelli's "Romeo & Juliet," from 1968, starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. If I had to choose just one, that's it by a longshot.

  • danny says:

    Water for Chocolate

  • Kyle says:

    I'm shocked nobody has mentioned the Notebook yet.

  • anonymous says:

    Beauty and the Beast
    Jerry Maguire
    Pride and Prejudice