BOP's 50 Most Romantic Movies: 30-21

February 10, 2006

Mmmmm...euphemistic. 30) Pretty Woman

Say what you want about mega-diva Julia Roberts, but she may not have been anywhere near as well known today if it weren't for her role in Pretty Woman. She catapulted to stardom after the blockbuster brought her into the hearts and minds of millions of women (and men) everywhere, and even garnered her first Oscar nomination in the Best Actress category for her role as a lucky prostitute on the streets of LA.

Of course, the movie isn't nearly as serious as that sounds. This is a romantic comedy, through and through. But as much as Roberts steals the show with her big lips and smile, and her character's fish-out-of-sea naivete and inner charm, it is Richard Gere who is ultimately the backbone of the movie. He gave Julia (and the audience) something to strive for, rather than just going back to their normal routines. Was everyone going to see the movie (and watching it over and over again when it appears for the 1,000th time on TBS) because they wanted to be glorified hookers for some goofy rich guy? Maybe some, of course. But most people fell for the story because of the theme of being swept off their feet and given a better life with a kind, good looking rich man, because they deserve it. Can't argue with that. (Michael Bentley/BOP)

How Well Do You Know: Pretty Woman

Dear Penthouse Forum, There I was in the streets of Paris. 29) Before Sunset

"Baby, you are gonna miss that plane."

After treating us to one of the most unconventional romances ever to grace the screen with Before Sunrise in 1995, director Richard Linklater reunited his leads from that film for a continuation of the story, set almost ten years in the future. Although Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are older, wiser and more cynical than they were in the impetuousness of youth, there's still a spark and a connection between them. As with Before Sunrise, the film consists of the two of them wandering the streets of a European city, expounding ideas about politics, love, family and work.

The movie is deeply intelligent and exceptionally talky, which adds up to a cerebral experience for the viewer even as they are charmed by the connection between the two leads. Everything within the story's small capsule rings true, and it's certainly worth watching again and again, particularly in conjunction with Before Sunrise. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Yeah, we're gonna have to work on the kissing. 28) While You Were Sleeping

Speed may have made Sandra Bullock a star, but it's While You Were Sleeping, where she played lonely token collector Lucy Eleanor Moderatz, that made her America's Sweatheart. She saves the life of the man she has a crush on, and when he winds up in a coma his family mistakes her for his bride to be. In a bit of a twist from the normal romantic movie, Lucy proceeds to fall in love with the entire family. Of course, the real complication arises when she falls for the conscious brother of her supposed fiance. There's a complete and utter sweetness to the movie that's largely due to the fact that it focuses on the entire family instead of just the romantic protagonists. There is more at stake than just one relationship as Lucy stands to lose an entire family if things go wrong. (Dan Krovich/BOP)

Rats, I was hoping for Martin Sheen. 27) The American President

Before Aaron Sorkin developed the same concept as a television series, won numerous awards then was unceremoniously fired from his own creation, there was this movie. Sorkin took an idea originally offered in 1993's Dave and ran with it. The romantic premise utilized to make his screenplay unique was simple: what would it be like for the President of the United States to date? The resulting output is magical.

Michael Douglas portrays a widowed father of a precocious pre-teen girl who happens to be the commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces. This man, President Andrew Shepherd, finds his world turned upside down when he triggers the ire of a lobbyist named Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening). She is a heavy hitter who has been brought in by a Washington D.C.-based environmental group to push through legislation for better emissions standards. He's a popular politician who discovers he is lonely and wants a date.

What follows is a series of romantic entanglements predicated upon the awkwardness of her growing into the role of being the president's girlfriend. Meanwhile, he struggles in finding a balance between his personal happiness and the opportunity cost of its political expense. Of course, since this is a genteel romantic comedy, the politics are never obfuscating and the Harlequin aspect is dialed up to 11.

The American President works so well as a tale of romance, because it establishes that even the most powerful of people are bungling boobs at love. There is something innately reassuring about the fact that a guy with his finger on the shiny red nuke button stumbles mightily in an attempt to buy roses. It makes us all feel a bit better about ourselves as we debate whether it's too soon to call again and castigate ourselves for the prior date's snafus. If the fictional leader of the free world can't get it right, why should we beat ourselves up over similar awkward attempts? I find tremendous comfort in that. (David Mumpower/BOP)

How Well Do You Know: The American President

I'm just gonna come out and say it. Your mother is becoming a problem. 26) Notorious

This suspense/romance marks the second pairing of both Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, and the first time the two actors costar. The story of the budding romance between a lonely socialite and a government agent in the dangerous world of espionage combines the very best elements of a love story with the suspense and action of a thriller. Viewers who only know Hitch as the master of suspense will likely be surprised to find that he was a master at romance, too, and can blend the two seemingly-disparate elements together with the ease others blend drinks. His love story subplots never take the obvious route; there is no Meet Cute, none of the "They hate each other so they must be in love" banality that sinks most rom-coms. Instead, Hitchcock's couples behave as adults, albeit adults who sometimes have almost too much baggage to make their relationship succeed. And while most Hitchcock romances do have the requisite happy endings that romantic films demand, the circuitous route which the couple must travel to reach said destination keeps the bluebirds-and-rainbows cliched finale firmly at bay, providing instead a well-earned moment of joy in what one suspects will continue to be a bumpy road to love.

Notorious provides not only a ripping suspense yarn, but also a satisfying romance for those of us who prefer our love stories more bittersweet than saccharine. (Stephanie Star Smith/BOP)

I can do anything I want and you won't remember it tomorrow. 25) 50 First Dates

I can't believe an Adam Sandler movie actually made our list of top romantic films, but 50 First Dates is certainly worthy of inclusion. Henry Roth (Sandler) can get any girl he wants. He mixes the beauty and tropics of Hawaii with the easygoing attitudes of vacationing young ladies and has managed to set himself up a nice, commitment-free existence while still hooking up with some of the best-looking women around. One day, by accident, he meets Lucy, played wonderfully by Drew Barrymore, and they hit it off like gangbusters. There are just a couple problems. She's a local and she has short term memory loss. What follows is a delightful little movie about one man having to win over the girl of his dreams, every single day. I found 50 First Dates to be as touching as it was funny. (Jim Van Nest/BOP)

Nothing says romance like a purple nurple. 24) The Apartment

That's the way it crumbles. Cookie-wise.

Another entry from director Billy Wilder, this film stands apart as one of the classic romantic films of the 20th century. However, for those who enjoy their romance straightforward and consistently upbeat, this film does not fit the bill. At all. It's a surprisingly dark and thoughtful project, and deals with subject matter that was unusually forward-thinking for its time (1960).

The story begins by introducing us to C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), a struggling clerk in a big New York insurance company. Although he has self-confidence problems of his own, Baxter believes he's found the key to his potential rise through the ranks: he lends out his apartment to company executives so that they can conduct their extramarital affairs in comfort and secrecy. He even develops a schedule so that no awkward encounters will occur. The trouble is, he often has to deal with the aftermath of the nights spent at his place, though this usually amounts to messes and gossip. That all changes, though, when Mr. Sheldrake, his cad of a boss (Fred MacMurray, playing against type) leaves a big problem in Baxter's lap. Fran (Shirley MacLaine), a sweet, intelligent young lady from the office, is having an affair with Mr. Sheldrake, and his treatment of her leaves her so devastated that she attempts suicide in Baxter's bed. Baxter tries to pick up the pieces and help Fran get back into shape, and from there unlikely romance springs. It's a brave film that still feels timely. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Apparently, I just ordered you a stripper gram. 23) Indiscreet

What's the best way for a confirmed bachelor to avoid the inevitable getting-more-serious talk that comes with every romance? Why by pretending to be married, of course.

Such is the premise of Indiscreet, Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant's second screen outing. Indiscreet is a sterling example of the romantic comedies of the '40s and '50s, when that appellation meant something entirely different, and far more satisfying, than it does today. Instead of the formulaic sit-com-type plot that has come to be associated with modern rom-coms, a romantic comedy during the heyday of the studio system instead dealt with adult situations handled with wit and sophistication, whilst avoiding all the saccharine cliches that seem to have become de rigeur.

Witty dialogue and a slightly unusual plot carry the day in this one, as does the incredible on-screen chemistry between Grant and Bergman. The supporting players build on that chemistry, and the comedy is reminiscent at times of the British stage stalwart, the bedroom farce. But the core message that love can change even the most steadfast of views and soften the most cynical of hearts is delivered with panache and flair, and the action never devolves into cloying sentimentality while still delivering a satisfying, and happy, denouement. (Stephanie Star Smith/BOP)

If you say the words Mile High Club one more time, I will slap the taste out of your mouth. 22) When Harry Met Sally

I've watched this movie dozens of times, and it always makes me happy. The film shows the evolution of a relationship over many years. In the beginning, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) meet as they share a ride across the country, and upon arrival, they shake hands and hope to never see each other again. As time passes, though, their paths cross again and again and eventually, they become close friends (though each of them is involved with other people). At some point, though, a seismic shift occurs and the nature of their relationship changes, causing both confusion and turmoil. And the story is punctuated by the musical stylings of one Harry Connick Jr., which is the perfect accompaniment. Everything comes to a peak on New Year's Eve, where Harry at last confesses his feelings to Sally:

"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

Swoon! (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Folks, it doesn't get any stalkier than this. 21) Groundhog Day

At first glance, you may be thinking, "Groundhog Day? You mean that Bill Murray lives the same day over and over movie? Romantic?" Yep. That's the one. The beauty of this film is that guys will want to see it over and over again and not realize that they're essentially watching a chick flick disguised as a comedy. Bill Murray is absolutely hilarious as Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors, who's inexplicably forced to relive the same day over and over. In this case, it's Groundhog's Day in the groundhog capital of the world, Punxsutawney, PA. While the film is hilarious, the romantic message that is underneath is really quite sweet. As he tries everything he can to move on to tomorrow, he realizes he's beginning to fall for his idealistic new producer (Andie McDowell). All of a sudden, he begins to turn his focus away from suicide and into winning her attention. He does countless things to "better" himself for her - quite possibly the first time he's done something for someone other than himself. After spending who knows how many days making her fall for him over and over again, he proves that he really can care for someone more than himself and that turns out to be the "trick" to getting out of this never-ending day. Again, until you sit back and think about it, it's easy to miss how sweet this film is. But once you see it that way, it's hard to see it anyway else. (Jim Van Nest/BOP)

How Well Do You Know: Groundhog Day



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