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Categories: Features

It’s intriguing to look at the many lists you can find of the “greatest love stories” in films.


What is marked about the top 10 or 20 great love stories is that there’s very little happy ever after.


However, for a culture weaned on fairy tale romances, cinema audiences still like a love story whether the ending is happy or sad. For some movie goers, a “weepie” is a great excuse for a good cathartic cry.


In the unhappy ever after narrative, great love is tempered by loss or separation through circumstances or death, or because it is forbidden by third parties, cultural morés or personal morals. The stories are usually between a man and a woman sometimes even in threesomes, with Brokeback Mountain the only exception amongst the top choices.


The Guardian lists these great films:


  1. Brief Encounter (1945)
  2. Casablanca (1942)
  3. Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight Trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013)
  4. Breathless (1960)
  5. In the Mood for Love (2000)
  6. The Apartment (1960)
  7. Hannah and her sisters (1986)
  8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  9. A Room with a View (1985)
  10. Jules et Jim (1962)


Meanwhile Vanity Fair chose The Age of Innocence (1993), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight Trilogy (1995,2004,2013), Brief Encounter (1945), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Carmen Jones (1954), Casablanca (1942), The English Patient (1996), Ghost (1990), Holiday (1938), I know where I’m going (1945), It happened one night (1934), The Long Hot Summer (1958), Love Affair (1939), An Affair to Remember (1957), Love Story (1970), Notorious (1946), Now Voyager (1942), and An Officer and a gentleman (1982).


Many of these grand amours end in desperate gut-wrenching separation, and the films are measured by some on a rating indicated by the number of hankies required for the last scenes.


Time Out took another stance with this top 10 chosen by 101 experts including Richard Curtis, Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) and Miss Piggy:


  1. Brief Encounter (1945)
  2. Casablanca (1942)
  3. In the Mood for Love (2000)
  4. Annie Hall (1977)
  5. Harold and Maud (1971)
  6. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  7. The Apartment (1960)
  8. A Matter of Life & Death (1946)
  9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  10. Punch Drunk Love (2002)


How about some romance in the future?


Whilst there are duplications between these lists, it’s worth noting that very few of the films were released in the 21st Century. Only After Midnight can be classed as recent. While the French lesbian romance Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) won the Palme D’Or, it didn’t garner sufficient appeal to make it into a top 10.


So has the audience lost interest in great love stories irrespective of the sad or happy ending issue? A straw poll suggests absolutely not.


Can it be that the investors fallen out of love with the genre?

Let’s hope it’s just a passing tiff, because everyone knows that if you look behind a cynic, you’ll find a bruised romantic.


A D Cooper is a director, producer, writer and multi-media copywriter. She’s won awards for advertising writing, for screenplays long and short, written 80+ scripts for Ninja Warrior (Challenge TV) and published articles, short stories and joke books. Weary of waiting for someone to film her scripts, she started directing in 2010 creating a slate of short films including two corporates, a documentary and a museum installation. All of her fiction shorts for Hurcheon Films have been selected for international festivals, with Ace (2013) garnering five awards. Her most recent projects are an award-winning historical docushort Writing the Peace, a stage version of her World War 1 short film A Small Dot On The Western Front which she wrote, produced and directed, an experimental short film Spring on the Strand (selected for 3 festivals in the USA), The Penny Dropped (Award of Merit in a US shorts competition), and Home to the Hangers newly completed for the Directors UK Alexa Challenge 2017.

Posted on Feb 18, 2014

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