Punch-Drunk Love (2002) by Dusty Somers
My list of favorite movies is overflowing with romantic films made long before I was born. The Earrings of Madame de..., Casablanca, All That Heaven Allows, A Matter of Life and Death -- all achingly romantic and superb films.
Finding a truly romantic modern film -- at least one made in the U.S. -- is a much more difficult proposition that becomes nigh impossible when you narrow it down to romantic comedies. That most turgid of genres is responsible for perhaps the bulk of insipid Hollywood studio fare these days (although the comic book movie can't be far behind).
That's part of why I love Punch-Drunk Love (my favorite P.T. Anderson film, and I like them all) so much -- it decimates rom-com conventions by giving us an angry, naïve, troubled and yet, thoroughly romantic protagonist in Barry Egan (Adam Sandler, whose man-child persona has never been channeled better). Here, his meet-cute with Emily Watson is preceded by a bizarre and sudden car crash, and the couple's sweet nothings sound like this:
"I'm looking at your face and I just wanna smash it. I just wanna fucking smash it with a sledgehammer and squeeze it. You're so pretty."
"I want to chew your face, and I want to scoop out your eyes and I want to eat them and chew them and suck on them."
There's certainly an element of Punch-Drunk Love that's obliquely approaching the expected romantic beats, but it's not so much a deconstruction as a blissful, dreamlike, lovely, feeling film.
City Lights (1931) by El Bicho
Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece finds The Little Tramp falling in love with a blind girl (Virginia Cherrill) who works at a flower shop. She thinks he's rich and he doesn't dissuade her from that opinion. He works very hard to raise the money needed to pay for an operation that will restore her sight and winds up in jail for his efforts.
He gets out after a few months and finds her, but is only able to stare at her. With his dishelved appearance, she is amused by him. Wanting to help a guy down on his luck, she offers him a coin. Embarrased, he tries to run off, but she calls him back. When she grabs his hand, she realizes who he is and you can feel her heart swelling with gratitude and love.
The beauty of that moment is so pure it wrecks me every time, and it's created solely with their eyes as the film is silent. I don't even need to have been invested in watching the story up to that point. Seeing that final scene on its own or even just thinking about it can, and usually does, bring me to tears. It did as I wrote this.
Legends of the Fall (1994) by Amanda Salazar
This has to be the most epic, melodramatic and simply romantic film that I have seen and that is Legends of the Fall by Ed Zwick. For anyone that hasn't seen this film yet, get yourself a box of tissues and two hours to sit down and do yourself an emotional favor.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, Aiden Quinn, and Julia Ormand, this film follows a family of brothers as they are brought together and torn apart by war and love. Hopkins plays Ludlow, the father of this family that has moved them out to Montana in the 1900s. His youngest son brings home Susanna (Ormond) to marry and he is ultimately killed at war. The eldest (Quinn) falls for her but tensions between Susanna and Tristan (Pitt) begin to arise creating a great divide within the family.
When I think of a great romance, it is not always one that ends happily but instead something that makes you think, feel, and hopefully spurt a few tears. In over dramatic and sometimes subtle ways this film takes the viewer on an epic journey through the romance of family and of love. With a sweeping soundtrack, vague dialogue, and pouting attractive people that always seem to have hair blowing in the wind, I can't say that there is another film that is any more romantic than this.
Groundhog Day (1993) by Shawn Boudo
The Romantic film genre is probably the one I have the least experience within. I'm probably not the most romantic fellow and it is reflected in my movie choices. I am a sucker for a love story - but that's different. I like my love story to fall within the confines of a greater story. Preferably one that has little to do with just love. There are exceptions to the rule - sometimes the love story can trump the rest of the plot and make an interesting film...When Harry Met Sally or Before Sunrise being prime examples. But when told as part of another genre, I'm usually a much bigger fan. When thinking of all my favorite films that could be considered "romantic", most fell within the comedy genre. My favorite has to be the one that appeals to my most sentimental side - Groundhog Day.
This 1993 comedy trumps all the other romantic comedies for a few reasons - but not the least is the combination of one of my favorite comedic actors in Bill Murray and one of my dreamboat actresses in Andie MacDowell (I thought it might be weird to pick Sex, Lies and Videotape as my most romantic but I considered it). The heart of the film is Phil's transformation from self-centered to the man that Rita can eventually fall in love with. I love the idea of doing something over and over until you get it right. As a guy that second guesses himself constantly - the idea that this man can find a way to be the man he wants to be to win the girl is touching. It's the theme of a ton of films but the concept of repeating the same day to do it is unique. And that he has to go though it by himself each day is uplifting. And luckily it's pretty darn funny too.
This is one movie experience that is worth repeating. (sorry).