Movie Musings,  Movie Talk

Love Stories – Movie Musings

Wait, didn’t I just do this topic? No, not quite. There are plenty of good love stories out there that are not rom-coms. Sort of the “a square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares” thing: all rom-coms are love stories, but not all love stories are rom-coms, and I didn’t want to leave these out of the discussion just because they aren’t funny. Which ones do I love?

Last of the Mohicans (1992) – Tragic in many ways, but I still consider this one of the most romantic movies ever. It also makes me cry every single time (in a good way). The connection between them is both tangible and powerful. Truly a sweeping love story. The musical score for this film is one of my particular favorites. And did I mention the eye candy? Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe are just… [chef’s kiss]

Playing By Heart (1998) – This is one of my all-time favorite movies, and no one has ever heard of it. (You will see it again – with more details about the story and the style – when I get to that topic.) This movie also portrays many different kinds of love, not just romantic love, and it nails every one of them. You’ve got at least 6 different story lines going on, and they’re all as amazing as the spectacular ensemble cast: Gillian Anderson (right in the heart of her X-Files fame), Ellen Burstyn, Sean Connery, Anthony Edwards (in the midst of ER fame), Angelina Jolie (very early; after Gia but before Girl, Interrupted), Dennis Quaid, Gena Rowlands, Madeleine Stowe, Jay Mohr, John Stewart (two years into The Daily Show; this was really my introduction to him), and Ryan Phillippe (before Cruel Intentions). Yes, the movie is as wonderful as it sounds!

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – It’s hard to think of any love more true than that between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter. The day I saw this movie, I told my husband that this is the closest we’re ever going to get to a Marvel chick flick. They make my heart go pitty-pat.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) – The triumphs and tragedies of true, real, long-term love, which often seems to be difficult for extraordinary people. All four leads were amazing, and even the more minor characters were wonderful. I know their life together was not perfect, nor is this movie an entirely accurate portrayal, but it is still a beautiful thing. And most importantly, the real life John and Alicia Nash were happy with it.

Up (2009) – I saw a meme several years ago that said something to the effect of “Up tells a better love story in 7 minutes than Twilight tells in 5 movies.” I’ve seen those movies, and I find it difficult to argue with that sentiment. Carl and Ellie are the epitome of #CoupleGoals, IMO.

The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001) – This is really more about Rick and Evie as a couple than the movies themselves, though you can’t have one without the other. They love and respect each other, they consider themselves equals, and they recognize that each of them brings something different and yet valuable to the relationship. They are definitely another case of #CoupleGoals! And I love that you get “both sides” of the couple in the two movies. (Yes, ONLY two. We will not talk about that other alleged film with the other alleged Evelyn! No Weisz = No movie, IMO.) You get the “meet cute” in the first one, but you also get to see them deep into their marriage in the second film and yet still in love.

An Affair to Remember (1957) – It’s a classic for a reason, y’all. Yes, I know there are at least 3 versions of (more or less) exactly this same movie, not to mention various spins on the subject (most famously Sleepless in Seattle), but it doesn’t get any better than Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in my book. Corny or contrived or cliche, it’s still a wonderful movie.

Roman Holiday (1953) – This could certainly have gone in the rom-com pile, but it has a different feeling than that for me, and not necessarily because of the ending. (If you know the basic premise of the movie and the era, then you already know how it ends.) Gregory Peck is, well, himself (insert heart eyes emoji here), and Audrey Hepburn is also her spectacularly luminous self in her first major film role. I love the legend about Peck demanding that Hepburn’s name also be above the title along with his, even though her “standing” didn’t earn her that rank because it was her first major film role. He was convinced she would win an Oscar for her performance and didn’t want to look like a jerk with only his name up there. Smart man!

Chocolat (2000) – Such a sweet movie, pun intended! Another movie that features more than just romantic love. Delightful performances at every turn by an all-star cast.

Little Women (1994) – There are oodles of versions of Little Women out there, but this is far and away my favorite, even if it is somewhat less faithful to the book than others. (Note: I have not seen the 2019 version by Greta Gerwig yet.) This is another case of many different kinds of love being represented – romantic, sibling, parental, friendship – and they are all done splendidly. It’s also another case of “holy cow, check out that cast,” though it is interesting that some people were bigger stars then than they are now, and some were relative unknowns then who “hit big” later on.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) – A profound love story in and of itself, and so critically important for representation, this movie is a standout in many ways. And I know that The Notebook usually gets the vote for best kiss, but in my book, the one when Jack picks up Ennis to go fishing is far better!

The Bridges of Madison County (1995) – Though this movie came out when I was in my late teens, I didn’t see it until I was in my mid to late 30s. I resisted seeing it because I just could not envision Clint Eastwood as a romantic lead! I’m also guessing that seeing this movie as a teenager versus seeing it as someone a decade or two into her own marriage is a radically different experience.

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) – Another one for the “more than one kind of love” category, though romantic love is definitely the focus here, even if it isn’t explicitly conveyed on screen (though how people missed it, I’m not sure). Family love is very strong as well, though, especially the family you choose for yourself.

Miss Potter (2006) – This movie was such a sweet surprise! It’s a lovely little story inspired by real events in the life of Beatrix Potter, though as with most biopics, it plays a bit “loosey goosey” with the facts. It definitely falls into the “movies no one has heard of category.” I know I hadn’t when it popped up on one of the movie channels a few years ago. How could a film have come out during the height of the careers of both Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor that I had never heard of?! But it’s one of those small British films that flies completely under the radar, at least here in the US.

Far From Heaven (2002) – I randomly caught this movie on a movie channel several years ago. In spite of the amazing cast – Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, and Viola Davis – and having been nominated for 4 Oscars, I had completely missed that this movie existed. Definitely worth seeing.

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) – Yes, it is a supremely weird movie in places. Uncomfortably weird. Like “if we’d been at home, I may have turned it off” level weird. But if you can get through those bits, it is so so SO good. Romantic love does play a small part in the movie, but it is much more about family love and self-love. But even if none of that is enough for you, the entire movie is worth watching for Ke Huy Quan’s performance alone. He was astonishing and 100% earned every single golden millimeter of that Oscar!

Dirty Dancing (1987) – One of innumerable “wrong side of the tracks”/forbidden love/Romeo and Juliet stories, but Jennifer Gray, Patrick Swayze, the music, and the dancing make it all worthwhile. A true classic, worth seeing at least once (though I’ve seen it many more than that).

Sommersby (1993) – Much like Clint Eastwood, I had a hard time seeing Jodie Foster as a romantic lead, but this movie changed my mind. It may not be the best movie, but I really love her and Richard Gere here. It is also one of those “clues” that my husband was “the one” when *he* asked *me* if I had seen it. Wait, you’ve not only seen this movie, but you’re admitting to actually liking it? Be still my heart! (BTW, if you like her in romantic roles, I encourage you to watch both Anna and the King for another serious-type part, and Maverick, which is as much a romantic comedy as it is a western.)

Tangled (2010) – As a huge Disney fan, it felt like there would be a gap on this list if I didn’t include my favorite animated love story. Surprised by this choice? You shouldn’t be. Spunky princess, plucky hero, great animal sidekicks, ridiculously catchy songs, and one of the most gorgeous moments in any movie ever, animated or otherwise! It may not be my favorite Disney movie (that’s still Sleeping Beauty), but it is WAY high up on that list, and it is my favorite (long form) love story as told by Disney. (Best Disney love story overall? See Up a little higher on this list!) Favorite quote: “Frying pans, who knew?”

Honorable Mention: The Last of Us, Season 1, Episode 3, “Long, Long Time” – Not a movie, and I don’t care one bit. You don’t need to watch any other episode of The Last of Us to appreciate this one, and there are very very few “infected” in it. If Bill and Frank don’t leave you simultaneously shattered and yet 100% believing in true love, then you’re doing it wrong.

On my “to see” list for this category: Past Lives (2023), The Last Letter From Your Lover (2021), The Photograph (2020), Little Women (2019), Call Me By Your Name (2017), Spoiler Alert (2022), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)


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