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Greatest Love Stories 25-21

I’m dedicating this February to counting down the 100 greatest love stories of all time. I’ll be posting five films every day, Monday through Friday.

Disclaimer: Any film list is fairly subjective, but I think putting together one person’s idea of romances or love stories might be the most subjective list of all. What one person considers powerful, another considers depressing; what someone thinks is sigh-inducingly romantic, someone else thinks is tooth-decayingly sappy. Any interesting list is bound to create comment and controversy and that’s okay. This is my personal list of 100 films. I picked them from a larger list of 300 movies. Once I have completed the top 100, I’ll post the entire list of 300. Perhaps one of your favorites that didn’t make the final cut was there…or maybe not.

25. Charade (1963): This was Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn’s only film together…more’s the pity. It’s startling to read the myth about this movie, propagated by Audrey herself, that she and Cary never kiss. I hate to contradict a wonderful lady but in fact they kiss several times. In fact, one of Charade’s best exchanges occurs between lip-locks: “Well, when you come on, you really come on.” “Well, come on.”

24. A Room With a View (1986): This is Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of E. M. Forster’s famous novel. Howard’s End is, perhaps, more celebrated these days, but I prefer this earlier film. Florence is one of my favorite cities in the world and it is caught in all of its romantic glory here. Helena Bonham Carter is delightful as Lucy Honeychurch (which is a bonus because Lucy can be a little annoying in her stubborn obtuseness at examining her own heart) and Julian Sands is appropriately brooding and passionate as George Emerson. Daniel Day-Lewis is also present as Lucy’s stuffy fiancé, Cecil Vyse. He’s practically unrecognizable and quite different from the performance he gives in the next film on the list…a consummate actor’s actor.

23. The Last of the Mohicans (1992): Here Daniel Day-Lewis is at his most romantic playing Hawkeye, a white man adopted by a Mohican. He travels with his foster father, Chingachgook, and brother, Uncas. The love story that plays out between Hawkeye and Cora (Madeleine Stowe) is passionate and suspenseful as they deal with the complications of the French and Indian War. The film is also notable for its prominent use of Native American actors in important roles, including a subplot with Uncas and Alice. Adding considerably to the atmosphere is the beautiful score by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman.

22. Dead Again (1991): This movie is in many ways, director/star Kenneth Branagh’s homage to classic Hollywood. Flashbacks are filmed in a gorgeous black and white film noir style while the present scenes all take place in L. A. Branagh plays Mike Church, a cynical P. I. who specializes in missing persons cases. Emma Thompson is a mysterious woman who is mute and has amnesia although her night terrors cause her to scream out from her sleep every night. To say much more might ruin a genuinely intriguing plot. The supporting cast, including Derek Jacobi, Andy Garcia and Robin Williams, are just as good as you would imagine and once again Patrick Doyle lends a dramatic, atmospheric score.

21. Summertime (1955): Ah, Venice! That beautiful city is the heart and soul of David Lean’s Summertime. Katharine Hepburn plays a middle-aged spinster who goes to Italy on vacation. Rossano Brazi plays the Venetian merchant she falls in love with. Hepburn’s character blossoms in this movie. She is forced out of her comfort zones into taking uncharacteristic risks. By the end of the movie, she glows. It might be Hepburn’s most unabashedly romantic character.

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Greatest Love Stories 30-26

I’m dedicating this February to counting down the 100 greatest love stories of all time. I’ll be posting five films every day, Monday through Friday.

Disclaimer: Any film list is fairly subjective, but I think putting together one person’s idea of romances or love stories might be the most subjective list of all. What one person considers powerful, another considers depressing; what someone thinks is sigh-inducingly romantic, someone else thinks is tooth-decayingly sappy. Any interesting list is bound to create comment and controversy and that’s okay. This is my personal list of 100 films. I picked them from a larger list of 300 movies. Once I have completed the top 100, I’ll post the entire list of 300. Perhaps one of your favorites that didn’t make the final cut was there…or maybe not.

30. The Princess Bride (1987): If I were to attempt to quote my favorite lines from this film, I’d end up typing up the whole script. This movie is simply wonderful. It is funny, romantic, exciting and moving. It works as both a parody and a celebration of fairy tales and swashbuckling adventure stories. It has one of the best (and funniest) sword fights in movie history. Part of the reason it works so well has to do with its framework. A young boy is sick in bed and very bored. His grandfather comes to visit and to read him the book that has been read on such occasions for three generations. The young boy sighs petulantly and inquires, “Does it have any sports in it?” “Are you kidding?” the grandfather replies. “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” “It doesn’t sound too bad,” the boy decides, “I’ll try to stay awake.”

29. To Catch a Thief (1955): This is another film that I could quote multiple lines from. It taught me quite a lot about double entendres and how important the delivery of a line could be. This is a Hitchcock film, but it’s a lighthearted one. There’s Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and the French Riviera. Once again, as in most Hitchcock films, the romance is ambiguous. Cary Grant is pursued and enjoys it, but isn’t sure he really wants to be caught either by the police or by Grace Kelly.

28. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999): 10 Things is smart, funny and touching. It respects its source material (Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”) without being slavish. It also hits on a lot of a teen’s insecurities while managing to be tons of fun. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger have a lot of chemistry together, and I love Julia’s Kat who is strong and vulnerable at the same time. Heath Ledger is a revelation: charming, funny with effortless charisma. This was his breakout role, which brings a bittersweet edge to the film today.

27. Much Ado About Nothing (1993): “We are too wise to woo peaceably,” Benedick tells Beatrice, and that’s precisely why we love them so much. Shakespeare was the original purveyor of banter and it never gets better than his bickering couple here. Beatrice is such a wonderful character. She’s intelligent, independent, witty, and wise. It’s no wonder that the Prince proposes to her, but her answer is perfectly in character: “No, my lord, unless I might have another for working days. Your Grace is too costly to wear everyday.” Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh are perfectly cast here and as the production was filmed on location in Tuscany the scenery is gorgeous…all topped with Patrick Doyle’s lovely, lively score.

26. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): This is a science fiction love story, and as such has interesting things to say about love and memory. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet stare as a mismatched pair of lovers. She is a free-wheeling extrovert and he is the opposite. She decides to break up, and when next they meet she literally doesn’t recognize him. He discovers that she has had him wiped from her memory. In a fit of pique, he decides to retaliate, only to realize as his memories are being extracted that he doesn’t want to forget her. This is one of the most thought-provoking love stories I’ve ever seen. It addresses how important our memories are, good and bad, and poses a question: if we remove the painful memories from our lives, aren’t we diminished? Pain is as important to life as pleasure. Even more importantly, some of our most painful memories are actually, ironically, also the most pleasant. Painful because the person is no longer in our life, but joyful as they occurred. Is it worth losing the pain to forget the joy? Jim Carrey has his most rewarding and challenging role here. Kate Winslet is glorious and the supporting cast is excellent: Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson. This is an unusual love story, but very moving.

Greatest Love Stories 35-31

I’m dedicating this February to counting down the 100 greatest love stories of all time. I’ll be posting five films every day, Monday through Friday.

Disclaimer: Any film list is fairly subjective, but I think putting together one person’s idea of romances or love stories might be the most subjective list of all. What one person considers powerful, another considers depressing; what someone thinks is sigh-inducingly romantic, someone else thinks is tooth-decayingly sappy. Any interesting list is bound to create comment and controversy and that’s okay. This is my personal list of 100 films. I picked them from a larger list of 300 movies. Once I have completed the top 100, I’ll post the entire list of 300. Perhaps one of your favorites that didn’t make the final cut was there…or maybe not.

35. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947): This is the grandfather of the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore hit Ghost, and I much prefer it. Gene Tierney plays Mrs. Muir, a young widow with a child, who moves into a cottage haunted by the ghost of a sea captain played with panache by Rex Harrison. The captain first tries to scare Mrs. Muir into leaving, but quickly learns to respect her spunky pluck. He dictates his memoirs to her, which she gets published as a very successful novel that provides for herself and her son. The movie keeps sentimentality in check, so that the emotion lays right under the surface not blatantly in your face. This is easily one of the best supernatural romances.

34. An Affair to Remember (1957): One of the tests of a movie’s greatness has to do with its impact. Once seen, very few people (especially women as shown in Sleepless in Seattle) ever forget it. Although a remake of an earlier film (Love Affair with Irene Dunne), this is the version that endures the most. The first half is quite funny and the end is a tearjerker. Cary Grant is at his most debonair and Deborah Kerr is the epitome of a lovely leading lady.

33. Rear Window (1954): This is one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. The plot is engrossing, the suspense taut and the romance both engaging and ambiguous. James Stewart is at his “everyman” best, and Grace Kelly is positively luminous as she pursues him. A young Raymond Burr plays the salesman across the street who may or may not be a murderer, and Thelma Ritter steals every scene she’s in.

32. Two for the Road (1967): Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney play a married couple. Despite being over forty years old, the film doesn’t feel dated in its look at married life. The structure of the film shows us events out of order: courtship, honeymoon stage, parenthood, and ennui are all jumbled up. Hepburn and Finney play well against each other, and this remains an interesting, fairly honest, examination of domesticity.

31. The Age of Innocence (1993): Sigh. My favorite novel by my favorite novelist brought to life by two of my favorite actors: Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer. Martin Scorsese pays meticulous attention to the setting of turn of the century New York City. The production is gorgeous, the acting is fantastic (including a memorable turn by Winona Ryder as May Welland) and the ending both poignant and perfect if you understand Newland Archer’s character. An exploration of honor for a time that could stand a little more of it, this movie is scrumptious.

Greatest Love Stories 40-36

I’m dedicating this February to counting down the 100 greatest love stories of all time. I’ll be posting five films every day, Monday through Friday.

Disclaimer: Any film list is fairly subjective, but I think putting together one person’s idea of romances or love stories might be the most subjective list of all. What one person considers powerful, another considers depressing; what someone thinks is sigh-inducingly romantic, someone else thinks is tooth-decayingly sappy. Any interesting list is bound to create comment and controversy and that’s okay. This is my personal list of 100 films. I picked them from a larger list of 300 movies. Once I have completed the top 100, I’ll post the entire list of 300. Perhaps one of your favorites that didn’t make the final cut was there…or maybe not.

40. House of Flying Daggers (2004): This visually stunning film features a powerful love triangle between three people are hide secrets within secrets. At the center is Mei, a young blind woman with amazing martial arts abilities. Watch this one for director Zhang Yimou’s famous eye for color and the powerful ending. Be sure to stock tissues.

39. The Quiet Man (1952): This is not your typical John Wayne film. As its title indicates, it is much quieter than the usual western/war/action films that he was known for. Instead, it is director John Ford’s love letter to Ireland. Wayne’s character moves to Ireland and falls in love with beautiful feisty Maureen O’Hara. They have problems because Wayne refuses to stand up to her brother, or specifically refuses to fight her brother. She doesn’t know that Wayne was a former boxer who had accidentally killed someone in the ring. The final bout is a lulu that sprawls all over the village and countryside. Still, the fireworks are mostly between the battling couple.

38. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967): This film is, of course, important because it was the first mainstream film to deal with an interracial romance in such a positive way. In South Pacific, the mixed race couples were separated by death, but in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner we get a happy ending. Many people complain that any parents would be insane to reject Sydney Poitier’s character (a renowned doctor no less) as a son-in-law. That’s very true, but in such volatile times perhaps there’s something to be said for hitting a nail on the head. Still, for me, the most romantic moment of the movie has to be when Spencer Tracy gives a speech at the end talking about how much his wife has meant to him. It’s one of those times when character and actor blend seamlessly as Tracy looks at Hepburn. They both knew he was dying in real life and this would be their last work together on-screen. The look in her eyes as she silently acknowledges the truth of the moment is indescribable and completely unforgettable.

37. Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): Errol Flynn is, by far, the best Robin Hood that’s ever been on-screen. (Next in line, as Robin, for me, is Sean Connery in Robin and Marian.) His gifts of grace, athleticism and charisma mesh with the underrated ability to give period dialogue completely natural line readings. He made eight films opposite Olivia de Havilland, but this may be their finest hour together. They are joined by a mouthwatering rogue’s gallery: Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Alan Hale and Una O’Connor. This movie was one of Hollywood’s first Technicolor blockbusters and boasts famous composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s most popular movie score. If you watch this in Blu-Ray, you’ll be amazed by how beautiful the film is.

36. Wuthering Heights (1939): There have been several adaptations of Emily Bronte’s classic 19th century novel, and I’m very fond of the ‘90s version with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. Still, none can top the 1939 version starring Lawrence Olivier and Meryl Oberon. Heathcliff is a perfect role for Olivier – very meaty and multi-layered. He gets to languish, brood, scheme and seek his revenge. Oberon was never one of my favorite actresses, but that works for her here as Cathy is a character you can’t help but be annoyed with. Working with Olivier helps her to push her performance past her normal level into something stronger. This is a film screaming to be brought to Blu-ray, as currently the only DVD release available that I’m aware of is an import.

Greatest Love Stories 45-41

I’m dedicating this February to counting down the 100 greatest love stories of all time. I’ll be posting five films every day, Monday through Friday.

Disclaimer: Any film list is fairly subjective, but I think putting together one person’s idea of romances or love stories might be the most subjective list of all. What one person considers powerful, another considers depressing; what someone thinks is sigh-inducingly romantic, someone else thinks is tooth-decayingly sappy. Any interesting list is bound to create comment and controversy and that’s okay. This is my personal list of 100 films. I picked them from a larger list of 300 movies. Once I have completed the top 100, I’ll post the entire list of 300. Perhaps one of your favorites that didn’t make the final cut was there…or maybe not.

45. Witness (1985): This may be Harrison Ford’s finest performance. He plays John Book, a Philadelphia police officer, hidden among the Amish to protect a young boy from other corrupt cops. The romance between Book and Kelly McGillis’s character, the boy’s mother, is understated and beautiful in its simplicity, elegiac in its longing. For me, the most romantic scene in the movie is when Book teaches her to dance to the sounds of Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World.”

44. The End of the Affair (1999): Neil Jordan’s film is a war story, a mystery, a love story and a close examination of jealousy, obsession, promises and faith. It is truly an adult love story, not only for its frank love scenes but also for the depth of its themes. There are triangles within triangles within triangles here, and what we assume to be true changes in the blink of an eye. The actors are all marvelous: Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, and Stephen Rea. The script is based on Graham Greene’s semi-autobiographical novel. The film is gorgeous and will leave you pondering many things upon its end.

43. Lady Jane (1986): When I was six, I watched Snoopy Come Home on television and cried. My father made fun of me for it, telling me it was silly to cry over something that wasn’t real. For many years thereafter, I rarely cried while watching a movie. This film is one of the only exceptions. It was my introduction to both Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes, whom I have loved ever since. They portray Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guilford Dudley. Usually, I can be very harsh on historical films set during this period if they seem inaccurate. Once again, this is an exception. Really though, as long as one accepts that the arranged marriage between Jane and Guilford grew to become a love match, you’re good to go. (This is a suspension of disbelief, as there’s no evidence I’ve ever seen to support such a supposition.) The movie gives us flesh and blood characters to care about and I cry every time that I hear Michael Hordern quote, “The soul takes flight to the world that is invisible. And there arriving, she is assured of bliss, and forever dwells in paradise.”

42. Gone With the Wind (1939): This is another case of an irresistible force meeting in immovable object. The crowning glory of the classic studio system, this is the great grandfather of all blockbusters. Although it’s the fashion to bash Scarlett these days, I still admire her strength. Yes, she took the entire movie to realize something we, the audience, have known since the movie started, but not many people could have held their families together the way that Scarlett did after the war. She did things that the rest of the family found distasteful, but since it kept them together and fed they really had little right to criticize. Vivien Leigh is mesmerizing, but of course it is Clark Gable who dominates the picture and gets the line everyone remembers.

41. Atonement (2007): This is another haunting film. An ode to the beauty and fragility of love, it is based on the Ian MacEwan novel. Keira Knightley and James MacAvoy are affecting as young lovers separated by class, war, and perhaps most devastating of all, misunderstanding. Saoirse Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave are marvelous at creating Briony Tallis. Briony is such a strange creature, but Ronan’s and Redgrave’s talents allow us to understand her. The famous tracking shot at Dunkirk is appropriately epic, but this story is about interior space more than exterior. The most dangerous and enduring thing in existence may be the human heart.

Greatest Love Stories 50-46

I’m dedicating this February to counting down the 100 greatest love stories of all time. I’ll be posting five films every day, Monday through Friday.

Disclaimer: Any film list is fairly subjective, but I think putting together one person’s idea of romances or love stories might be the most subjective list of all. What one person considers powerful, another considers depressing; what someone thinks is sigh-inducingly romantic, someone else thinks is tooth-decayingly sappy. Any interesting list is bound to create comment and controversy and that’s okay. This is my personal list of 100 films. I picked them from a larger list of 300 movies. Once I have completed the top 100, I’ll post the entire list of 300. Perhaps one of your favorites that didn’t make the final cut was there…or maybe not.

50. Bonnie and Clyde (1967): How many times have we described other couples on the run as “Bonnie and Clyde”s? They have been often duplicated but never matched. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway have never been as young and beautiful on-screen. They seem larger than life, untouchable, until that final horrific sequence.

49. The Long Hot Summer (1958): A legendary partnership begins on-screen and off in this loose adaptation of William Faulkner. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s chemistry is as scorching as the summer of the title. Their slow dance around each other is fascinating as they find each other’s weaknesses. Woodward’s character is undeniably attracted to Newman’s bad boy, but she refuses to give in except on her own terms. Her strength is a strength of the film and the respect she earns for it a sweet victory to be savored.

48. Rebecca (1940): This film was Alfred Hitchcock’s debut in the Hollywood system. Starring Joan Fontaine and Lawrence Olivier, it explores the story of a young bride’s insecurities and obsession with her husband’s first wife. Judith Anderson is unforgettable as the housekeeper who preys on the young wife’s weaknesses and inflames her inferiority complex. George Sanders plays a rakish good-for-nothing as only he can. Fontaine is letter perfect in her innocence and awkwardness while Olivier makes his character a charismatic enigma.

47. Adam’s Rib (1949): For my money this is one of the three best Tracy/Hepburn films. It deals with the middle part of a marriage past the courtship/honeymoon stage but never allows the relationship to go flat. The comfort level these two actors bring to their work together only heightens our enjoyment. The story is pretty funny too as these two lawyers fight each other in court over a case that every day dwindles into a hysterically insane circus.

46. Say Anything (1989): Cameron Crowe began his career as a journalist for rock magazines like Rolling Stone, and this affinity for music has served him well as a director. John Cusack holding up a boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” ranks high up on the list of many people’s most romantic scenes ever. The film is an honest, charming look at one of life’s important milestones: the summer after graduating from high school. Unlike many teen films, this one treats the characters as real people, not as stereotypes. Cusack and Ione Skye are a lovely couple, with Cusack’s Lloyd Dobbler gifting the audience with this immortal quote: “I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.”

Greatest Love Stories 55-51

I’m dedicating this February to counting down the 100 greatest love stories of all time. I’ll be posting five films every day, Monday through Friday.

Disclaimer: Any film list is fairly subjective, but I think putting together one person’s idea of romances or love stories might be the most subjective list of all. What one person considers powerful, another considers depressing; what someone thinks is sigh-inducingly romantic, someone else thinks is tooth-decayingly sappy. Any interesting list is bound to create comment and controversy and that’s okay. This is my personal list of 100 films. I picked them from a larger list of 300 movies. Once I have completed the top 100, I’ll post the entire list of 300. Perhaps one of your favorites that didn’t make the final cut was there…or maybe not.

55. Ninotchka (1939): The film was marketed as “Garbo Laughs!” More accurately, it was a switch from romantic drama/melodrama to romantic comedy for the superstar. She is a revelation as the title character, a Soviet inspector sent to Paris to collect some misbehaving diplomats. Garbo seems to be having the time of her life. As her character succumbs to the seduction of the City of Lights, you can almost sense Garbo herself relaxing. It’s a refreshing change of pace, quite romantic and her character doesn’t have to die at the end.

54. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): Audrey Hepburn’s signature role as Holly Golightly can never be forgotten in a list of the most romantic films of all time. Younger viewers whose only knowledge of George Peppard comes from watching The A-Team (or its reruns) are in for quite a surprise. It’s the quiet yearning in his eyes as he watches her that wins us over. We live vicariously through him and fall for Holly despite her illogical, flighty ways. As a bonus, we get to hear Audrey croon “Moon River” before it became a cliché.

53. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): Director Ang Lee impishly called this film “Sense and Sensibility with martial arts.” He had a point. Although set in China and filled with breathtaking fight scenes, at the heart of the film lies two love stories. Like Sense and Sensibility, there are two women, one older and more experienced, the other young and passionate. I find the older couple’s story the more touching. Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat give beautifully restrained performances that hint at the longing beneath the surface.

52. The Philadelphia Story (1940): This film saved Katharine Hepburn’s career. After several of her films had failed to make money, she had been labeled box office poison. She left for the Broadway stage and was a hit in this play. Howard Hughes bought the film rights for her, which gave her a perfect bargaining position. If MGM wanted the play, they had to take her. Of course, they did…she is Tracy Samantha Lord. She also had some influence in choosing her leading men. She wanted Gable and Tracy. She got Cary Grant and James Stewart. As she herself remarked, “Not bad.” Tracy finds herself in not just a triangle, but a square. She has to decide between her current fiancé, her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and James Stewart’s newspaperman. One of my favorite lines, that I quote several times a year, comes from this film: “Not wounded, sir, but dead.”

51. Roman Holiday (1953): This is Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role and she is luminous opposite Gregory Peck. She is a princess who steals away from her responsibilities for a day, looking for fun and freedom. He is a reporter who figures out quickly that this is the exclusive of a lifetime, but didn’t expect to be enchanted by his target. After watching this film, you’ll want to go straight to Rome for a romantic vacation.