What’s the difference between spending a fancy night out with your man and having a cozy night at home with your loved one? Aside from the obvious fact that you’d rather be with your lover than your family, there’s a whole other layer of intimacy that comes with a real-life partnership. While watching movies isn’t necessarily a bad idea, spending your night in front of a screen isn’t the same as being with the person you love most in this world.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, we took a stroll down memory lane to revisit some of the most memorable love stories from movie and TV history. We narrowed it down to 12 tales of romance that left indelible images on our minds, ranging from William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers to Ridley Scott’s classic, Alien.
1. Romeo And Juliet (1962)
Romantic movies are a dime a dozen these days, but it’s hard to deny that one of the best love stories ever told came from the pen of William Shakespeare. It’s about time the caped crusader was brought back from the dead, isn’t it?
Even if you’re unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s work, you’ve likely heard of this legendary writer. His plays are some of the most popular works in existence and have been translated into almost every major language. MuchAdo About Nothing, Romeo And Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Taming of the Shrew are just a few of his incredible plays that remain popular to this day.
Whether you’ve seen the films or read the plays, you know exactly what Shakespeare was going for with Romeo And Juliet: two star-crossed lovers from feuding families who are doomed to suffer because of their fates.
2. Casablanca (1943)
Speaking of movies based on Shakespearean plays, one of the most popular films from the 1940s was also based on a tragedy. Although the historical setting of Casablanca (which is based on the play, A Tale Of Two Cities) is more recent, it isn’t hard to see why this film has maintained such a large audience over the years.
It’s the combination of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman that makes Casablanca so memorable. Bogart, who is known for his hard-boiled persona and gravelly voice, perfectly captures the hard-boiled detective attitude that runs through the entire film. And Bergman, in the role of Ilsa Lund, portrays the complexity of a woman forced to choose between love and country with great eloquence.
One of the things that makes Casablanca so special is that it’s not just about the romance; it’s also a story of survival. Bogart’s character, Rick, is a lawyer and a single parent struggling to raise his young son on his own. Bergman’s Ilsa is also a widow, and they have to find a way to make it in a strange country without the protection of their loved ones.
3. The Graduate (1967)
The Graduate is often credited with ushering in the era of the independent woman. It’s the story of a young man (played by the legendary Dustin Hoffman) who decides to leave academia and enter the real world. He wants to be more than just another academic, and he’s certainly smart enough—his bachelor’s degree is in economics—but he’s completely unaware of how society works in the real world. The film wasn’t exactly a watershed moment in cinematic history: it was only the third highest-grossing film of the year when it was released, and it didn’t earn back its budget until the twentieth anniversary edition in 2017.
But there are two things that make The Graduate so memorable. The first is Hoffman’s magnificent performance, which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. He plays the role completely against type, as the typically cool and collected Mr. Hoffman gives a passionate performance as a raging bull in heat. The second is the great ensemble cast, which includes Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, and a pre-fame Mike Nichols. It’s hard to imagine anyone but these actors making this story work, and the chemistry between them is practically electric.
4. Annie Hall (1977)
Annie Hall, which was adapted from the Harold Robbins novel, The Lonely Heart, isn’t just one of Woody Allen’s most beloved films, it’s one of the greatest love stories ever told on the big screen. In fact, many of Allen’s other films, such as Sleeper and Bananas, can be seen as parables about love and marriage.
In the novel, Annie Hall, the main character (played by Diane Keaton) is a self-confident, independent woman who chooses love and marriage over her friends. If nothing else, this movie proves that men can be just as assertive and independent as women.
Annie Hall is unique among Woody Allen’s works because it’s a love story that starts almost as soon as we meet the characters. Keaton’s Annie enters the film as a confident, if slightly shy, young woman who immediately captivates the attention of the audience with her beauty. She proceeds to seduce the men in her life (played by Allen himself and jazz great Herb Alpert) with her wit and determination. After impressing them with her cooking, she invites them to move in with her. Little does she know that this is not the reaction she’s looking for.
To be fair, Allen’s previous film, Love And Death, also starred Keaton. But aside from the beauty of the actress and the brilliant script, there’s another reason behind Annie Hall’s appeal. Keaton’s character, Annie, is the result of a very modernist viewpoint. She rejects the idea of women being defined by their relationships and sees love as a choice, not as something that happens to you.
5. North By Northwest (1959)
North By Northwest is one of the great movies about identity theft, with several sequences that are as suspenseful as they are funny.
The film follows Gene Kelly, who plays an advertising executive who is mistaken for a spy by a woman (Eva Marie Saint) he meets in a bar. To save his life, he has to go on the run from the law and work with a disguise crew to alter his identity.
North By Northwest is part of the big budget studio era in Hollywood. It was the first of a wave of films that focused on the espionage genre, which became very popular in the 1950s. Along with Kelly, the film stars James Mason, who plays one of the greatest villains in cinematic history, Lionel Verney, a British agent who is pursuing Kelly.
The identity theft sequences, in which Kelly has to don a disguise and assume a new identity, are among the movie’s most memorable scenes. The actor took home a Best Actor Academy Award for his role in the film. While we’re on the subject of Academy Awards, Kelly is also the only person to have won both an Academy Award and a Grammy Award. So it’s fair to say that he has an impressive résumé.
6. Pretty Woman (1990)
1990 was a big year for Julia Roberts, whose breakout role was that of a prostitute who helps a divorced man (Richard Gere) win back his wife. This is the tale of a woman, not a man, who changes her ways and becomes the perfect wife and mother. It’s also the story of how a one-night stand (Gere) ends up falling in love with a woman he doesn’t even know.
This is one of the few romantic comedies in which the female protagonist doesn’t have to go it alone. Pretty Woman is one of the greatest rom-coms of all time and a staple of modern cinema. The film also launched several successful franchises, including the Bridget Jones films (whose protagonist is named after the character in Pretty Woman).
In the years since its release, Pretty Woman has maintained its prestige, becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time. It was also added to the United States National Film Registry in 2010 and 2018.
7. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1992)
Speaking of rom-coms, My Best Friend’s Wedding is one of the biggest and most profitable romantic comedies of all time. It was based on the British television show, Just Friends, and the story of two friends who get together, only to have their relationship tested by the complications of modern-day romance. It also marks the feature film debut of Hugh Grant, who went on to become England’s most eligible bachelor. (He was eventually married to Julia Roberts.)