OK it's almost Valentines Day and we need to think about romance, not pistol-whipping. The AV Club compiled a list of movies where the love doesn't seem totally contrived:
1. Trouble In Paradise
The meet-cute is one of the many standard and stale features of romantic comedies, but there’s never been a better one than the charming encounter between two professional thieves in Ernst Lubitsch’s screwball classic. Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins, both extraordinary pickpockets, rob each other blind over dinner and fall in love in the process, each dazzled by the other’s sly artistry. (When Hopkins admits she lifted Marshall’s wallet, he replies, “I know, you tickled me, but your embrace was so sweet.”) Their efforts to fleece a perfume-company heiress who’s wilier than she seems run into complications, but the outlaw chemistry between them never diminishes.
2. Say Anything… (1989)
Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut Say Anything… is the gold standard for high-school romance movies. Lloyd Dobler—played by John Cusack, who still gets laid daily because of this movie—is a lot less cocksure than the typical male teen protagonist, who’s generally less interested in love than in having a last crazy summer before shipping off to college. Dobler is just a kind, decent kid, not an obnoxious hormone factory. He’s perfectly complemented by Diane Court (Ione Skye), a sensible, seemingly perfect honors student whose beauty belies the kind of profound loneliness that hits people between the ages of 16 and 22. People who had tons of mind-blowing, soft-focus sex in high school probably won’t relate to Say Anything…; everyone else will remember the awkwardness and confusion that goes hand in hand with the exhilaration of falling in love for the first time.
3. Romeo & Juliet (1968)
Aside from the gorgeous language and the classic story, what makes William Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers so enduring is its believability. No, not the magic potions and other dramatic trappings: the behavior of the lead characters, who are so completely taken with each other that they defy their families, their friends, and every scrap of common sense they possess just to be with each other. That’s the narrative that’s believable only to the teenage mind, and that’s why it’s endured for 400 years. Every generation of high-school kids forced to read Romeo & Juliet gets to gasp in recognition as they think, “That could be me and my tweaked-out boyfriend!” The play has been filmed roughly a million times, but the quintessential version is Franco Zeffirelli’s; he had the inspired idea of casting actual teenagers in the role (Leonard Whiting and the breathtaking/naked Olivia Hussey), and ramping up the heated sexual element to make the movie vibrate like a bell with the sort of overwhelming, end-of-the-world importance that teenagers assign to their first crushes.
4. West Side Story (1961)
It would be criminal to mention Romeo & Juliet without giving props to West Side Story, its legendary musical adaptation by playwright/screenwriter Arthur Laurents, composer Leonard Bernstein, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. It’s a perfect illustration of why musicals, at their best, are so magical, and why of all the art forms, music speaks so purely to love; numbers like “I Feel Pretty” capture better than words alone how knowing someone loves you can make you feel beautiful, strong, and powerful. While West Side Story retains the tragic qualities and bloody ending of Shakespeare’s play, it allows for moments of lightness along the way; where Zeffirelli allowed the brutal, undeniable passion of teenage romance to burn up the screen, directors Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise let the playfulness and gentle teasing of the social milieu creep in and leaven the dark moments to come. When it takes itself seriously, West Side Story is just as effective a portrayal of the fiery nature of teen passion, but when it lets a little light in, it also recalls why it’s so much damn fun to be in love at that age.
5. Before Sunrise (1995)
Falling in love requires a leap of faith, a moment of saying, “Yes, let’s see where this goes.” Such moments are rarely so sharply timed as the one in Before Sunrise, which requires Parisian Julie Delpy to decide whether to get off a train in Vienna to spend the day with charming new acquaintance Ethan Hawke before he flies back to America. She does, and the two spend the rest of the movie talking honestly and openly as they walk around the town. With nothing to lose, since they’ll never see each other again—well, maybe—they hold no thoughts back, and their connection goes deeper than superficial attraction. They’re two people about to enter the scary world of adulthood, but for at least one night, they belong alone together.
6. Roman Holiday (1953)
Far too many modern romances have a couple tumbling into a relationship (or just into the sack, which then becomes a weird movie shorthand for an eternally perfect connection) after a gimmicky meet-up and a minor adventure that redefines their lives. But few of those films hold a candle to Roman Holiday, which does the genre right. Audrey Hepburn plays the princess of an unspecified country; Gregory Peck is a reporter who tries to take advantage of her when she ditches her escorts and spends a day exploring Rome. Over the course of the day, as they get to know each other, he softens his journalistic zeal and is so taken by her love of life and experience that he learns to just enjoy her company, while she in turn sees him as representative of a whole world she’s been locked away from. It’s profoundly charming, and it also indelibly captures those first moments when two strangers move past cordial distance and start seeing each other as real, then as special, then as essential.
7. It Happened One Night (1934)
The romances in some classic movies are distractingly old-fashioned, but something about the burgeoning attraction between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in Frank Capra’s 1934 It Happened One Night still seems fresh, flirty, and believable 75 years after the film was released. She’s a spoiled rich girl on the run from her father and fiancé. He’s a jug-eared, washed-up journalist tailing her for a story. But instead of making Gable the hero and Colbert the brat in need of a lesson, the two leads are equally, charmingly flawed, and they fall into a teasing, sarcastic relationship with a witty give-and-take on Seinfeld-esque topics such as the best way to dunk a donut, or what constitutes a piggyback ride. Banter! There’s no grand moment where they fall in love: They simply become more of a team, pretending to be a married couple to escape detection, and teaching each other the vagaries of hitchhiking. Rarely do script and actors come together to create a believable, casual rapport where the performers genuinely seem to be entertaining each other. The healthy dose of (subtle, tasteful) sex doesn’t hurt—from the sharp slap on the ass Gable gives Colbert as he carries her across a stream to the legendary “walls of Jericho” scene to the end of the movie, where the reunited couple returns to their roadhouse trailer to do it. Kinky.
8. A Perfect Couple (1979)
Robert Altman wasn’t exactly known for his sentimental streak, but his movies have featured a romantic couple or two. The fast-burning, doomed love of Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall in the revisionist gangster picture Thieves Like Us comes to mind, as does the far happier connection between Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin in the L.A.-centric musical-comedy A Perfect Couple. In the latter, Dooley is a middle-aged square under the boot of his domineering Greek father, while Heflin is a vocalist in a sprawling rock ensemble. They meet via a computer dating service, have a disastrous first encounter, but then begin to find in each other a way out of their respective family dramas. This perfect couple leaves their fathers and mothers and cleaves to each other—just like it says to do in the Bible.
9. Holiday (1938)
The writing-directing-acting team behind the 1940 romantic comedy classic The Philadelphia Story struck a couple of years earlier with the lesser-known but equally wonderful Holiday, which could almost be the giddy prequel to the more acerbic Philadelphia. Cary Grant plays a successful up-by-his-bootstraps businessman who’s ready to leave the rat race behind and pursue a life of poetry and philanthropy. The problem? He’s engaged to be married to an heiress whose family expects him to suppress his free spirit and keep earning. The possible saving grace? His fiancée’s sister, Katharine Hepburn, is completely enthralled by his idealism, even though he worries that she’s just a dilettante looking to rebel against her family. Though they don’t entirely trust each other, they’re obviously soulmates, and as they inch closer together, their kinship becomes almost like a dare.
10. Barcelona (1994)
The Spanish girls that Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols date in Whit Stillman’s culture-clash comedy Barcelona don’t care for the Americans’ limited sense of culture or their inadvertent imperialism, but they’re still open-minded enough to sleep with them. Yet the rigidly ethical Nichols—a firm believer in the healing power of American business—is looking for something more than just a fling, and finds it only after Eigeman gets shot, and Nichols is joined in his bedside vigil by a woman as faithful as he is. Discovering true love in the revelation of shared ideals: That’s a happy ending in Stillman-world
Get them all (along with video) at the source. What would you add that's not on here, ONTD?