Having amused myself (and hopefully at least one other person) coming up with my top ten romantic books, I thought I’d give my top ten romantic films a whirl. I wish I could think of more, as there’s nothing I love more than a proper love story. I’m dying to hear what other people’s favourites are.
When Harry met Sally (1989 - Rob Reiner)
If you need me to describe this film, you’re from Mars, and there’s more information you need to gather before concerning yourself with romantic comedy. The project grew out of a real argument between screenwriter Ephron and newly divorced director Reiner about whether men and women could ever truly be friends. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are perfection, and Harry’s final realization - that all the things that first irritated him about Sally have become the things he most loves her for - makes for one of the most romantic speeches in cinematic history.
The Philadelphia Story (1940 - George Cukor)
Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn co-star as a sparring divorced couple, forced together just before her society wedding to her woefully unsuitable rebound man. James Stewart - playing a wedding crasher photographer - provides a fabulous romantic red herring, but no-one could ever truly believe that Cary and Katherine will not find their way back to each other. Hepburn was the driving force behind the production, optioning the rights to the play it came from to give herself a hit after a string of flops (shortly before she’d been described as “box office poison”).
Moonstruck (1987 - Norman Jewison)
Cher’s a buttoned up Brooklyn accountant, all ready to settle for her terminally dull fiance, when his hook handed baker brother, Nicolas Cage, explodes into her life and teaches her what real passion’s about. My favourite sequence is Cage taking Loretta to her first opera, La Boheme at the Met: has history ever recorded a more glorious first date? The film was nominated for 6 Oscars, and won 3, including best actress for Cher.
Terms of Endearment (1983 - James. L. Brooks)
Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine play a sparring mother and daughter, whose relationship ends with Winger’s tragic early death from cancer. There are love stories for both characters - Winger with her philandering husband, MacLaine via a wickedly entertaining performance from Jack Nicholson as her carnivorous neighbour - but the beating heart of the story is the mother/daughter relationship. Winger and MacLaine reportedly loathed each other, with method queen Winger insisting on being called by her character name throughout production. Tragic, but also surprisingly witty too. A worthy multiple Oscar winner.
Lost in Translation - (2003 - Sofia Coppola)
I’m a sucker for a laconic older man, and they don’t come more laconic than Bill Murray. He’s a washed up actor, stuck on a Tokyo whisky shoot, whilst Scarlett Johannson is at the other end of life, a young wife with a niggling sense of discontent. They come together, then part, the whole relationship taking place in a brief bubble of time and place. Slight and profound, all at the same time.
The Way We Were (1973 - Sydney Pollack)
Political firebrand Katie (Barbra Streisand) falls hard for preppy fellow student Hubbell (Robert Redford). Their doomed love spans the twenty or so years following the Second World War, producing one daughter and a hell of a lot of arguments. It’s a deeply flawed film, but Babs gives it her all, Redford is gorgeous, and it has the most wonderful shots of Californian beaches.
Tootsie (1982 - Sydney Pollack)
If you haven’t seen Tootsie, I’m afraid you haven’t lived. Dustin Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, an actor so difficult that he gets fired from a job playing a tomato. A dry spell ends when Michael dresses up in drag in desperation and auditions for the part of Dorothy in a daytime soap. Soon his feisty interpretation of the role has won him legions of fans, but how can he tell his beautiful, lovelorn co-star Julie (Jessica Lange) that he’s really a man, despite the skirt? I once saw the late Pollack talking about Tootsie at BAFTA. He rejected version after version of the script for being cute but pointless (at one point Michael was going to be a tennis player). He only came on board once it found its central message: “To become a man, Michael needs to become a woman.”
Heartburn (1986 - Mike Nichols)
For once, the film is as good as the book. As this list has worryingly revealed, I have something of a thing for Jack Nicholson. He’s the charming journalist who seduces and marries divorcee Rachel, then cheats on her with someone inside their tight knit circle of Washington politicos (it’s based on Nora Ephron’s real life marriage to no-good hound dog Carl Bernstein). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cheer when Nicholson gets a pie in his face.
The Holiday (2006 - Nancy Meyers)
It’s cheesy as hell, but who can resist it? Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz run away from festive gloom by swapping homes - a swanky LA pad and a cosy rural English cottage. Father Christmas delivers some seasonal loving for both of them (not literally).
You Can Count On Me (2000 - Kenneth Lonergan)
A perfect little Indie film, about a brother and sister, both scarred by the death of their parents in a car crash, finding their way back to each other in adulthood. Mark Ruffalo plays drifter Terry who turns up on the doorstep of the home he and his single mother sister Sammy grew up in. Her life needs shaking up, his needs some calming down. Sibling love, with all it’s frustrations and rewards.