Hopeless romantics be warned: this article will not cure you of your many issues. It won’t keep you from being overly sentimental. It won’t save you from your ridiculously high expectations. It won’t even offer you comfort that your Mr. Right is out there. But we’re hopeless romantics. Since when did we care about the consequences of a good love story? We’re hopelessly hopeful. So sue us.
We suffer from something much more depressing than a romantic disposition. Our movies suck. Romcoms are trite. Tragedies are pure sap. Dramedies are too busy being artsy to be romantic. Nowadays, a movie presents two beautiful people and says, in its most bored, unconvincing tone, “They love each other.” We aren’t buying it.
So we turn to the classics. Jack and Rose give hope. Harry and Sally are precious. Christian and Satine bring the tears. But we’ve seen these a thousand times. They can’t be the only couples worth rooting for, can they?
I’m an obsessive hopeless romantic, the kind of person who indiscriminately consumes romantic movies by the bucket load. In between Strictly Ballroom and Runaway Bride, I actual found some beautiful, heart-rending romances. Here are some of the more obscure, oddly forgotten romantic movies worth watching. These are some ill-fated love affairs. But those are the best kind, right? You’ll find yourself rooting for Kitty and Walter, Seth and Maggie, and, er, Starman and Jenny.
A prison warden’s wife falls in love with a convicted murderer and helps him escape. It may sound like a trashy paperback but it’s actually a true story, and one hell of a movie. Mel Gibson plays the incarcerated Ed Biddle, handsome and ruthless. Diane Keaton, as the sweet, innocent Kate Soffel, succumbs to Biddle’s charms. As she falls under his spell, the viewer is both sickened and captivated. Then, halfway through the film, it goes from a tale of creepy exploitation to romantic adventure. Gibson and Keaton seem an unlikely pair, but their chemistry is at once tender and believable. Any woman would melt under Gibson’s blue gaze, and Diane Keaton is no different.
John Carpenter made one of the most romantic movies of all time. Don’t believe me? Watch this ridiculously sweet movie about a widow (Karen Allen), an alien (Jeff Bridges), and their road trip to Arizona. For a sci-fi film with cheesy graphics, the film packs an impressive emotional punch. When we first meet the widow Jenny, she is grieving over the death of her husband. Then an alien crash-lands in her backyard and takes on the appearance of her late husband. He needs a ride to Arizona. Naturally, she takes him. Over the course of the trip, there is healing love and one of the most romantic goodbyes in the sci-fi universe. And Jeff Bridges is cute. Really cute.
British romances set in the 1920s don’t always make love an enjoyable experience. It can be cold and stilted, resentment and tension running under every comment. And that’s how The Painted Veil starts. Kitty (Naomi Watts) and Walter (Edward Norton) are strangers who happen to be married, living in the disorienting world of colonial Shanghai. After Kitty has an affair, Walter decides to punish them both by taking them to a rural, cholera-infected village. Sick, right? But then things take a surprising turn. They grow to know each other, then admire each other and finally love each other. It’s a painful, rewarding journey.
I don’t need to tell you that Richard Gere is a romantic god. He’s the cad with the heart of gold, the man who won both Julia Roberts and Debra Winger. Now it’s Jodie Foster as Laurel, the widow of Jack Sommersby, who is presumed dead after the Civil War. Then one day, Sommersby walks back onto the plantation, his demeanor completely changed. He is no longer the callous, abusive husband he used to be. He is a kind and gentle lover. But rumors begin to circulate that Sommersby is not who he says he is. Laurel must face the truth: she has fallen in love with an imposter. While the film may seem like melodramatic fluff, it’s really melodramatic poetry.
Meg Ryan will always be known for her romantic turns in Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. But she should also be remembered for City of Angels, a deep, tragic love story between an angel and a surgeon. Seth, played by a serene Nicholas Cage, is an angel who spends most of his days hanging around the hospital. Maggie (Meg Ryan) is a tough surgeon, haunted by the people she looses on the operating table. Soon, Seth haunts her too. As their attraction grows, Seth contemplates taking the greatest leap of all—the fall from being an angel. The ending is a sobfest disaster, but you almost don’t regret it because their love was so beautiful. Well, almost.