Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Love is in the air: What are the best romantic movies for the season?

Every year when Valentine’s Day rolls around, there’s a definitive shift in the atmosphere.

Some people are just a little bit more patient.

Others just smile a little more readily.
What do I attribute this shift to?

The only thing I can think of is Valentine’s Day.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the Hallmark holiday. Truth be told, I’m more of a Halloween girl.

The two holidays do have a lot in common, though. Both feature candy as a central gift and both have an entire genre of movies revolving around them. While I prefer my movies to have a little more action and a lot more blood, there are a few romance movies that have managed to penetrate my heart.

Following is a list of my 10 favorite Valentine’s Day movies:

10. Bridget Jones’s Diary – I don’t like Renee Zellweger and yet I love this movie. I can’t explain it. There’s something magical about the three leads – Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth – coming together in a beloved book series. If I’m being honest, I like the central message of being yourself no matter what anyone thinks of you. If I’m being shallow, I have to admit that my favorite part of the movie is the very British fight between Grant and Firth in the courtyard. These are not buff action heroes but real men in a slap fight. Good times.

9. Pride and Prejudice – There are actually two options here. There’s the Colin Firth miniseries and the Keira Knightley movie. I like both, but I love the 2005 movie version. I’m not big on period pieces, but for some reason this movie just resonated with me. For one thing, the cinematography is spot on. For another, the score is outstanding. I think, though, it’s Knightley’s chemistry with Matthew MacFadyen that ultimately sells me on the love story. Donald Sutherland’s wizened performance as Knightley’s father offers a certain gravitas to the film, too.

8. Ghost – You know going in there’s no way this movie is going to have a happy ending – and yet you root for Sam and Molly anyway. Sam is a ghost in the first 15 minutes. Molly is heartbroken throughout the bulk of the movie. Yet, with all that going on, you can’t help but be inspired by their doomed love story. It also helps that Whoopi Goldberg manages to lighten things up with her irrepressible Oda Mae Brown. As viewers, we really did want to believe.

7. Overboard – This movie excels for two reasons: Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. They have mad chemistry. It’s not hard to see how they’ve managed to sustain a love affair for almost 30 years in real life – especially since they practically sparkle onscreen together. The movie’s premise is simple – and the kids kind of steal the show in a lot of scenes – but I don’t think anyone can watch the final scene in the movie and not get a little excited at a woman going overboard in an evening dress.

6. Pretty Woman – This is the most least possible romantic movie ever made. There is no way that a billionaire meets a street walker, pays her to be his “beckon call girl” for a week and then falls madly in love with her. No one actually believes that’s going to happen. It’s still a fun movie. It still has a great soundtrack. It also has two appealing leads in Julia Roberts and Richard Gere that manage to sell this outlandish plot. Is it realistic? No. Is it romantic? You betcha.

5. The Princess Bride – The hero may have been mostly dead all day, and the sidekick may have spouted the same line a few too many times, but any way you look at it ‘The Princess Bride’ is intentionally magical. Princess Buttercup, Prince Humperdink and Wesley make one of the funniest (and sexually charged) trios in history. When you throw in inconceivable mind games and ROUS’s, there really is no going wrong with this movie.

4. When Harry Met Sally – When you think of romantic comedy leading men, Billy Crystal doesn’t generally pop into your head. He’s funny, yes, but he’s really not love story material. That’s probably what makes his sparkling chemistry with a then cute-as-a-button Meg Ryan (did she really have to ruin her face?) so fetching. Crystal and Ryan prove that old adage that you don’t have to like someone to love someone -- but sometimes that makes the best love story of all. Plus, I don’t think anyone will ever forget Ryan’s fake orgasm scene in the diner. Not only did Harry learn something in that scene – but so did men everywhere.

3. Dirty Dancing – This movie is filled with every 1980s cliché they could pack into it. Prissy girl who’s never seen the world meets boy from the wrong side of the tracks with a heart of gold. Sparks fly. Sex happens. Everyone learns a little something from each other. Blah, blah, blah. Most girls my age wanted to learn how to dirty dance after they saw this movie. I just wanted to drive Johnny’s car. Either way, the improbable love story of Johnny and Baby seems to transcend time. And, speaking of solid sound tracks, you can’t go wrong with this one. No one puts Baby in a corner.

2. The Notebook – This is the rare case of a movie being better than the book. That rarely happens, I know, but this is the prime example. All four leads – Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, Gena Rowlands and James Garner – embody their roles. The story is actually heartbreaking, and I’m not sure if anyone really believed that young Allie would truly pick anyone but Noah, but the entire journey of the film is what makes getting to the end so satisfying – and ultimately sad. Yes, the ending is sad and uplifting at the same time. Go figure. I still don't know how they did it.

1. Harold and Maude – This is the unlikeliest of love stories – that of an 80-year-old woman obsessed with life and a young man obsessed with death. Still, the love story of Harold and Maude reverberates today. Besides boasting one of the best soundtracks ever, the movie also has some of the funniest scenes. Despite being filmed in the 1970s, not only does the movie still hold up today – but in this age of bullying and mass assimilation, its central message of being yourself has never been more poignant.

Honorable mentions go to ‘Love Actually,’ ‘Say Anything,’ ‘Casablanca,’ ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ and ‘The Cutting Edge.’

What do you think? What’s your favorite romantic movie?


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