A-List: Top Five Movies About Love

By J. Don Birnam

June 11, 2015

Oh, to be young and feel love's keen sting.

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It’s spring and love is in the air. Movies are nothing if not romance, so today we explore some of the best movies about love of all-time.

Inspiration for this list comes in part from the recently released The Age of Adeline, the first true romance I have seen this year. Panned by critics who were unable to get away from the admittedly ridiculous premise of the woman who doesn’t age, the Blake Lively romance was, in my view, unfairly dismissed. In a space where so many movies superficially focus on the beauty of youth, The Age of Adeline contains a subtle message about the beauty of love as it ages. I’m fully aware of the irony in writing these words about a movie that features the impossibly beautiful and young Blake Lively. But what the movie does exquisitely is remind us that love does transcend time, space, and generations; a force that touches different people in different ways, it remains the universal language that unites us and that is worth fighting for. The Age of Adeline may not be award-worthy, but it’s a touching breath of fresh air in the season of otherwise mostly forgettable movies.

The list of superb romances in movie history is really endless. And because essentially every movie that comes out of Hollywood (from Iron Man, to Scream, to Star Wars) features love stories (or attempts at them), today I’m focused solely on movies whose central and almost sole theme is romance, or that elusive, intangible human emotion of spiritual attraction towards another being. I’m also going to exclude from consideration romantic comedies (or the list would be interminable) however hard it is to distinguish those from straight-up romances. So, with apologies to movies from Love Actually to Maid in Manhattan, the cutesy, mostly fairy-tale approaches to the subject are out today.


The idea with today’s column is to have purposefully unconventional picks, given that the topic is so broad. Otherwise, you could just Google “most romantic movies of all time” and undoubtedly you’ll come up with a list of epics that includes Titanic, West Side Story, and Gone With the Wind, to name a few. But the power of these behemoths to overwhelm subtler films is so great that I’ll try to stay away from them. Plus, while those great movies are beautiful and feature deep, and (some would say) timeless love stories, they’re also about a lot more and can be seen independently of their romantic storylines.

By contrast, the epic and magnificent Shakespeare in Love is truly a romantic movie, one that revolves solely around the love story of its protagonists and analyzes the effect of the relationship on their lives.

So, other than Shakespeare, what are some honorable mentions? Most Woody Allen films should be listed here, and a Woody Allen A-List would be an impossible task in and of itself. Who else has understood the helplessness of being in love than Woody himself, from Annie Hall to Hannah and Her Sisters?

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