Rick suggested we put together a list of our favorite romantic comedies in time for Valentine’s Day. We’ve expanded the list to include love stories in general, whether romantic, comedic or dramatic. Here’s his listed in alphabetical order:
The Apartment – won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1961 along with four other Oscars; ten nominations total. It also won three Golden Globes. Absolutely terrific movie directed by the incomparable Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. Hilarious at times and very serious at others. Memorable scene: Jack Lemmon straining spaghetti with his tennis racquet. Jack Lemmon’s job looked so terribly boring, monotonous, and repetitive.
The Best Years of Our Lives – a hopeful story about three returning World War II veterans and their re-adjustment to civilian and family life. May be the first movie ever made with a disabled primary actor (Harold Russell) who used two artificial hands after an explosives injury while making and Army film. The movie won seven Oscars in 1947 including Best Picture and Harold Russell for Best Supporting Actor.
Dr. Zhivago – sweeping, grand, momentous, grand, tragic, and did I say grand? These and many more superlatives can be used to describe the power and impact of Dr. Zhivago. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning five, as well as five Golden Globe Awards. Omar Sharif, Sir Alec Guinness, and Julie Christie are magnificent in this love story set in Russia during the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. Wow – this is what ‘grand’ movie making is all about.
Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969 version) – a beautiful, yet sad tale about a lonely school master falling in love with an actress during the roaring ’20s. The story follows their lives through World Wart II. Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark are terrific together, though it is clear that he is not a trained singer. Great scene at the boarding school when the students and staff first meet Mrs. Chipping. The movie was nominated for two Oscars and three Golden Globes, winning two of the later.
Notting Hill – starred Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant and was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards. A wonderful and heartwarming romantic comedy about the most popular female movie star in the world falling in love with a travel bookstore owner from the Notting Hill section of London. My favorite movie by each of these powerhouse co-stars. Memorable quote: “After all…I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
Roman Holiday – Audrey Hepburn won the Oscar for Best Actress in her first motion picture. The film won two other Academy Awards and was nominated for seven others. Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert were also terrific. Humorous and emotional movie about a princess who falls in love with a reporter and has to make a difficult choice between her responsibilities to her nation and the feelings in her heart. The final 15 minutes of this movie are among the most powerful and emotional moments you will ever see on film.
The Sound of Music – one of the all-time great musicals starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The visual beauty of Austria is simply eye-popping. Fun and catchy songs too. “Edelweiss” is my favorite song from the film. The movie won five Oscars (out of 10 nominations) in 1966, including Best Picture.
I enjoy a good romcom as much as the next person, but they are very formulaic: beautiful (usually white) straight person A meets beautiful (usually white) straight person B, there’s some mixup and drama, but they fall in love and live happily ever after. So I tried to pick movies that pass the Bechdel test
and offer at least a little something different. I also picked a few movies that show different kinds of love, not just romantic.
Calendar Girls: This is about romantic love after the fact. After her husband, John, dies of cancer, Annie (Julie Walters) is determined to raise money for the ward where her husband was treated. Her friend Chris (played by the brilliant Helen Mirren), who is something of a flake, is also determined to follow through to show Annie how much she loves her and John. They and the rest of their middle-age friends decide to pose for a nude calendar to raise the money. This is one of my favorite movies, and I never get tired of watching it. “Bun-toucher.” It’s based on a true story, which makes it that much more entertaining.
Definitely, Maybe: This is the rare romantic comedy that is told from the male point of view. It has a great cast, including Ryan Reynolds, of whom I’ve been a fan since the late ’90s, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz and Elizabeth Banks. Breslin’s character demands to know how her parents met, and Reynolds teases it out by touching on all of the important women in his life.
Finding Nemo: Do I really need to justify this? The heartwarming tale of Marlin the clownfish’s search for his son Nemo is my favorite Disney/Pixar movie. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”
Fried Green Tomatoes: I recently read this book, and I was surprised to learn it’s the love story of two women. Maybe I was young and naive when I watched the movie, but I didn’t remember Hollywood playing up the lesbian love angle. Either way, it’s a lovely tale of young women growing up in the South.
Little Women: The film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic coming of age. This has a bit of everything: sisters’ love for each other, a mother’s love for her daughters, daughters’ love for their father, three different romances…
Lorenzo’s Oil: This may be the ultimate movie about the love of parents for their son. It’s a heavy drama, so don’t watch it if you’re looking for something light. It’s about the devastating struggle of a couple fighting to save their son from a disease that had always been fatal — adrenoleukodystrophy. They turned themselves into experts in chemistry, biology, medicine, spent thousands of dollars and moved heaven and earth to create a cure that ultimately did help their son and others afflicted with ALD. Another one based on a true story.
Love, Actually: This is more of a Christmas movie than a Valentine’s Day one, but it may be the best romantic comedy of the last 10 years. In one movie, it covers the love of: a man for his dead wife; a woman for her brother at the expense of her own happiness; a man for his best friend’s wife, whom he will never approach; a 10-year-old for the coolest girl in his class; and more.
Mrs. Doubtfire: There are a lot of things to like about “Mrs. Doubtfire.” It explores how families cope with divorce, and shows a gay relative in a long-term relationship. The best thing about it is what lengths a father will go to to spend time with his children. As Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) tells a judge:
In regards to my behaviour, I can only plead insanity. Because, ever since my children were born, the moment I looked at them, I was crazy about them. Once I held them, I was hooked. I’m addicted to my children, sir. I love them with all my heart. And the idea of someone telling me I can’t be with them, I can`t see them every day… It’s like someone saying I can’t have air. I can’t live without air, and I can’t live without them.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: This indie movie snuck out of nowhere to become a huge hit. Nia Vardalos and John Corbett are great as a couple from different cultures (Greek and American) trying to find their way. Every time my family makes a bundt cake, we still think of this movie and the “bonk” joke.
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