It sometimes seems that the world has gone mad for celebrating every single facet of our lives. Suddenly, there’s a day for everything and now romance has a whole month of its own. The cynic in us wants to decry it all as an over-the-top, extravagant indulgence, but the romantic in us actually thinks it’s a pretty adorable idea.
Created by Eileen Buchheim, the purpose of Romance Awareness Month is to encourage couples to spend the whole of August going that extra mile and in doing so improve their relationships for the long-term. But how to go about it? We suggest taking your inspiration from some of the most love-struck couples on the silver screen, by watching these fifteen gorgeously romantic films.
The Notebook (2004)
What list of great and beautiful love stories would be complete without the cinematic tour de force that is The Notebook? The tale of pampered Southern debutante Ali and her unlikely soul mate Noah, a rough-earth mill worker from the wrong side of the tracks, this tale of love and loss is as powerful and moving the fiftieth time around as it is the first. If you don’t weep as old, ailing Ali emerges for an instant from the lonely, frightening world of Alzheimer’s and recognises her husband again, you have a heart of absolute stone.
Bright Star (2009)
Based on the clandestine, real-life love affair of poet John Keats and his effervescent muse Fanny Brawne, this touching tale of young love in 19thcentury Britain will leave you wishing for a different ending. With its dreamy cinematography, intimately explored and intricately developed central romance and tragic outcome, it’s poignant, powerful and as ironically poetic as the works of Keats himself.
Directed by the inimitable Baz Luhrman, Moulin Rouge stars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman as star-crossed lovers Christian and Satine. Effortlessly blending myth, musical, comedy and romance, this tale of a naïve and child-like writer and a disillusioned courtesan has a surprisingly sad and stirring ending, one that somehow makes the love story at its centre even more brilliant and beautiful. That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom: its pop culture soundtrack is the best part of the film and will have you singing along at the top of your lungs for most of the movie’s duration.
An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
Starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger as the photogenic couple at the centre of this great and sweeping love story, An Officer and a Gentleman is one of the best and most enduring movies of the 80s. Telling the tale of perfectly coiffed protagonist Zack Mayo – a man with his sights set on becoming a US navy pilot – and his factory worker love Paula, it’s a story of romance, hardship and triumph over the odds. You’re absolutely guaranteed to cry with happiness at Zack’s final dramatic declaration of love.
Whether you met your partner while searching for nearby singletons on Badoo or have an old-fashioned love story to rival Romeo and Juliet’s, Ghost will make you want to grab your beau and never let them go. A beautiful blend of romance and humour wrapped up in one immaculately acted film, it charts the tale of soulmates Sam and Molly, who are torn apart by a fatal mugging. Starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, this ghostly love story was the highest grossing film of 1990 and once you’ve watched it for yourself, you’ll understand exactly why that is.
Pretty Woman (1990)
Starring 90s movie star staples Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman is no ordinary romance. Telling the tale of hooker Vivian and business tycoon Edward, it deviates from the norm by casting a heroine who’s rough, ready and perfectly capable of being her own knight in shining armour. Despite this, its sharp dialogue and great chemistry combine to make a slick comedy and a swoon-worthy love story – one that will have you watching it over and over again. Thoroughly enjoyable and delightfully character driven, this is a film that puts modern-day chick flicks to shame.
What 80s romance would be complete without a dose of retro Adonis, Patrick Swayze? Set in the 1960s, Dirty Dancing is the tale of sheltered teen ‘Baby’ and her reluctant lover Johnny, a hunky dancer from the wrong side of the tracks. A story of forbidden desire set in the world of a luxury holiday resort, this is a film that will have you falling in love with its all-singing, all-dancing characters, its vintage setting and its triumphant (and exceedingly romantic) ending.
Show us a nineties teen who didn’t want to marry young Leonardo DiCaprio and we’ll prove to you that pigs can fly. As one of the most expensive films ever made, Titanic was always set to be a cinematic tour de force, but not even those involved in its production could have envisaged the degree of success it was set to enjoy. Charting the beautiful and doomed love affair between privileged rich girl Rose and plucky but poor Jack, this is a tale of true love set against the backdrop of one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever known.
The 1990s seems to have been a decade defined by its great and enduring cinematic love stories and The Last of the Mohicans is one of the finest offerings to have graced the silver screen. Set in the mountainous frontier wilderness of New York circa 1757, it explores the role played by hero Hawkeye in the complicated conflict between the English and French, as well as their respective allies among the Native Americans and immigrant settlers. Born the latter but adopted by the Mohicans as a child, its plucky protagonist is not only warrior and peacemaker in equal measure, but also the illicit lover of colonel’s daughter Cora. It’s an epic romantic adventure of the sort rarely seen.
The English Patient (1996)
Starring Ralph Fiennes at his tempestuous best, The English Patient is one of the greatest love stories ever told. Set in Tuscany and the Sahara, it begins with a dying man and a Canadian nurse holed up in a bombed-out monastery. The burned protagonist shares his memories of the pre-war years when he fell in a love with a married woman and embarked on the most passionate of affairs. It’s real, it’s raw and it’s achingly beautiful.
Another gift from the cinematic romance gods of the 90s, Wild at Heart is a love story with a difference. Far from being sweet and soppy, it’s gritty, genuine and occasionally a bit scary. Set in the Deep South, it’s the story of petty criminal Sailor (Nicholas Cage) and his lover Lula (Laura Dern). Pursued by sleazy oddballs Lula’s mum hires to end their relationship and bring her home, it harks back to director David Lynch’s earlier work, with bloody murders, violent passion and an array of freaky characters. At its heart, however, it’s a romance: messy and flawed, but utterly believable.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Hailed as a milestone movie by the LGBTQ community at the time of its release, Brokeback Mountain is too often simplified as a ‘gay cowboy film’. Although it does great things in its tender and intimate depiction of a queer relationship, its true strength lies in the old-fashioned love story at its core, which just so happens to be between two men. Relying on the tried and tested trope of star-crossed lovers kept apart by circumstance, it explores everything from forbidden romance to lost opportunities and the sort of enduring love that can last a lifetime.
While on paper The Fault in Our Stars might sound like just another cheesy film based on young adult fiction, this film is anything but. The story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two terminally ill teens, it’s a devastatingly beautiful exploration of first love and first loss. Watch it and weep.
Blessed with the acting brilliance of both Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, this romantic war drama is based on the book of the same name. Chronicling a crime and its terrible consequences across the course of six decades, it centres around the love between privileged Cecilia and ambitious, intelligent housekeeper’s son Robbie. Charting the course of their lives and love – from the charmed summer of 1935 to the dark days of World War II – this is one movie that’s guaranteed to break your heart into a million tiny pieces.
Last but not least on our list is sci-fi flick Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Bringing together the unlikely duo of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, this is the love story of estranged couple Joel and Clementine, who erase all memories of their relationship. Heart-wrenching, imaginative and poignantly sweet, it explores the very nature of romantic love and has a beautiful ending to boot.
Isn’t it time to create a great and sweeping love story of your own?