My Top 10 Romantic Films

by Julia Smith

Most of my favorite love stories are really tragedies. I just love having my heart shredded by doomed love. In fiction, at any rate.

But I love Happily Ever After, too. Would I belong to Romance Writers of America if I didn't?

Here is a list of my favorite romantic films that promise a sigh of contentment at the end (although the road to these happy endings is as tough as it can get):

1 - A Town Like Alice

English Jean Paget meets Australian Joe Harmon when both are prisoners of the Japanese in WWII Malaya. After the war, both travel across the globe to find each other again, only to discover the hardest part of making their relationship work is replacing romanticized longing with day-to-day reality.

This is a clip from the miniseries.

2 - Amelie

A Montmartre waitress devotes herself to bringing happiness to others as the self-appointed godmother of the rejected. When Amelie finds a lost scrapbook filled with discarded photo booth pictures, she tracks down the owner and promptly falls for him. But it's far easier to make problems disappear for strangers than to fight past her own shyness.

3 - Kate & Leopold

An impoverished English duke is about to choose a wealthy American bride in 1876 when he follows a time-travelling man from present-day New York through a time portal, thinking the stranger was about to commit suicide. Leopold discovers a century was not enough to keep him from meeting the independent woman of his dreams, while the time-traveller's ex-girlfriend Kate is shocked to find a fairy tale unfolding in her own big city apartment.

4 - North & South

Margaret Hale leaves the genteel south of England for the industrial north when her father leaves the clergy and relocates. John Thornton runs a cotton mill with a strong hand, but yearns to gain the education he could never afford to pursue. When John becomes a private student of her father's, Margaret refuses to give into her attraction for such a ruthless man. John and Margaret struggle to see past their own prejudices, their feelings for each other demanding a truce between regional cultural divides.

This is a fanvid made by a You Tube user.

5 - Persuasion

Anne Elliot at 27 is a Regency spinster with a heartbroken past, having unwillingly rejected the offer for her hand by a social nobody, a mere naval officer. Captain Frederick Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic wars with his situation greatly improved. Now considered a catch, Wentworth shows little interest in anyone but the woman he still loves. Anne and Frederick must forgive the wounds of the past, pursuading themselves that their love is greater than the misguided intentions of those fighting to preserve a vanishing social order.

This is a fanvid made by a You Tube user. *SPOILER* by the 3:00 mark.

6 - The Irony of Fate

Moscovite Zhenya Lukashin meets with his friends at a bath house on New Year's Eve, intending to later propose to his girlfriend at the stroke of midnight, a romantic Russian custom. Many toasts to his future happiness later, Zhenya is mistakenly loaded onto a plane bound for Leningrad. Because the Soviet era resulted in identical cities with identical addresses, Zhenya takes a cab to what he assumes is his own apartment, but winds up drunkenly disturbing the romantic proposal of the true tenant, Nadya. As she faces the truth about her unfulfilling relationship with Ippolit, it becomes harder for Nadya to let Zhenya leave her apartment - and her life.

This clip is in Russian with English subtitles.

7 - The Irony of Fate 2

A continuation of The Irony of Fate, here we discover a parable for the New Russia: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Kostya Lukashin finds himself in a drunken state in the very Leningrad-now-Saint-Petersburg apartment where his father Zhenya once ruined Nadya's New Year's Eve engagement. Nadya's daughter - also named Nadya - sets the table in anticipation of her boyfriend's proposal, but now has a physical intruder joining the countless business phone calls stealing her boyfriend's attention. Two generations of mismatched lovers and destined sweethearts careen through the bittersweet farce as Kostya and Nadya discover that some traditions are worth treasuring.

This trailer is in Russian without subtitles.

8 - The Scarlet Pimpernel

Sir Percy Blakeney disguises his adventurous persona - The Scarlet Pimpernel - with the innocuous mannerisms of a harmless fop. Celebrated actress Marguerite St. Just sees beneath his artifice and falls in love with the man he hides from all others, though she is unaware of his secret missions to save aristocrats from the guillotine. When Marguerite is implicated in the death of a nobleman, Percy cannot rest until he uncovers the truth behind his wife's suspected revenge.

9 - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

Marina is a heroin-addicted Spanish ex-porn star who once enjoyed a fling with unbalanced Ricky. Now released from a mental hospital, Ricky's obsession culminates in kidnapping Marina so she can fall in love with him. Though Marina initially reacts with revulsion, Ricky's naive no-holds-barred belief in their love chips away at her heart. Gradually Marina's kidnapping reveals itself to be merely the chains of love that enslave us all.

This trailer is in Spanish without subtitles.

10 - Wings of Desire

Lyrical and haunting, this tale drifts toward love as angels keep watch in the skies over Berlin. Damiel has watched over humans with his angelic friend Cassiel since the beginning of time. His attachment to a trapeze artist pulls at Damiel's heart until it becomes love. Determined to see, hear, feel as humans do, Damiel leaves his angelic existence behind. As erik150x writes at IMDB, 'The climaxing scene at the bar is like seeing the world in a grain of sand.'

This trailer was made by a student as an assignment. I liked it better than the official trailers.


  1. Julia, what a fabulous list! You kinda got me at North and South but I loved them - especially as you ventured past the usual suspects. Those Russian films sound really interesting.

    Hmm, off the top of my head, my top ten romantic films in no particular order are:

    The Last of the Mohicans
    An Affair to Remember
    Ten Things I Hate About You
    The Taming of the Shrew (Zeffirelli version)
    Young Bess
    Les Enfants du Paradis
    The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
    North and South (yum!)
    Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau Version)
    How to Steal a Million

    Jojo, thanks for putting this on Facebook!

  2. Anna, I love your list - Zeffirelli is a huge fave of mine. Last of the Mohicans is a wonderful gut-wrencher. I'm going to have to watch The Ghost and Mrs. Muir soon. I keep bumping into it on blogger lists, and it sounds like I'd love it.

  3. Actually it's another bittersweet tale. Gorgeous soundtrack! I looked at my list and thought mine, like yours, wasn't completely HEA. Or at least uncomplicated HEA.

  4. Anna, how can we love our tortured heroes if they're not tortured?

  5. I can't resist commenting when I see a picture from North and South with wonderful Richard Armitage and, of course, it is top of my list! Then Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel among the six but I love all of them and all their recent adaptations. I found BBC Emma 2009 so lovely! My whole list would be endless. I love romances and romantic period drama!
    Thanks for this interesting discussion. BTW, The Scarlet Pimpernel 1999 is one of the latest addition to my DVD collection! Yet to be seen, though.Cheers!

  6. I've only seen one of the movies mentioned here and that's Kate & leopold. I loved that movie. I am going to try and hunt down a copy of North and South that also looks good.

  7. What a great list, Julia. I've only watched one of those movies, Kate and Leopold. Lots of movies to look forward to.

  8. Wonderful list of movies, Julia! I've taken down some of the titles and will go searching for them - they sound intriguing. I've seen North and South, Kate and Leopold, and A Town Like Alice - all wonderful.

    I don't know if I have a favorite romantic movie - but I do love The Shop Around the Corner (the original You've Got Mail with Jimmy Stewart), An Affair to Remember (Cary Grant - always cry at the end), and The Princess Bride (for comedy, heroines needing rescued, and a dread pirate).

    BTW - The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is wonderful - you really need to see it :)

  9. Julia,

    I love your list - haven't seen a lot of them, so it gives me something to look forward to this winter!

    I have to say my all time number one favourite is Pride & Prejudice (BBC Version). I also loved Cinema Paradiso.


  10. Maria Grazia - I had to limit myself to one Jane Austin adaptation or she would have dominated the list. Persuasion is by far my favorite Austen love story, and Ciaran Hinds is perfection as Wentworth. Every glance at Anne just makes me melt.

    Leeann - Once you see North & South, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

    Anne - I can watch Kate & Leopold over and over and over. I love it when the duke tells off Kate's boss when he doesn't know French or who the main character from La Boheme is.

    Janet - The Princess Bride almost made the list ('')

    Pam - Cinema Paradiso is on my Must Be Watched This Year list. And the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth is second on my list of favorite Austen love stories.

  11. I'm pretty much obsessed with North and South :o) I have the whole thing memorized. Whenever I'm bored in class, I just zone out and watch the movie in my head. I love Richard Armitage!

  12. oh you romantic girl you! I've seen and LOVE all of those movies - except the Russian ones. I know! my bad :( What a great list! Amelie! Oh, what a bon bon of a movie. That is. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. And North and South. You just had to find a spot for our Richard didn't you!

    BTW - Is the new season of Spooks on yet? Please tell me I haven't missed it! ;)

  13. That is a great list - and I know this may be hard to understand, but I haven't seen any of the movies on the list, and some I've never even heard of :-) Now, I am not known to be the biggest movie buff in the business, but I do watch one now and then. But these I've never seen.

  14. Julia,

    I love the list! Of course I haven't seen any of those movies except Kate & Leopold, but you make the others sound so appealing that I might have to go searching. After all, you did get me going with that crazy Robin Hood adaptation by BBC. So I know I should listen to you and find these movies. ;)

    On the other hand, you've left out some that I adore, and I know others hate. Do you think it's sad that I love Mr. & Mrs. Smith? The action, the fighting - hate vs love. In lots of ways it was a terrible movie. But I love it, to the point where I bought a copy. Of course I also have a copy of The Princess Bride, and Stardust. LOL


  15. Some of these are new to me, Julia -- I'll have to check them out because I totally agree with the ones I am familiar with! Here are some of my favourites:

    The Girl in the Cafe
    North and South
    While You Were Sleeping
    Tuly, Madly, Deeply
    The Painted Veil
    Return to Me
    Pride and Prejudice

  16. Julia, I must confess there is only of these films that I have seen too and that was Kate & Leopold. I would have to add to the list - P.S. I Love You. My heart was won over by the portrayal of the fun Scots man! Any other films I would add would be black and white. I am a fan of the oldies where love comes with one kiss, particularly if it involves Bette Davis. Am blank on titles right now but ... Anyway, what fun now I have some new films to check out. Thanks. Donna

  17. Julia - great list, you've introduced me to a few. My list isn't nearly as eclectic as yours, but here they are:

    Pride and Prejudice
    Sense and Sensibility
    You've got mail
    The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain
    The Holiday
    Love Actually
    ...and I can't think of #10. I could easily stick Emma there, however. (I am a Janeite, can't be helped) ;)

  18. VA Bookworm 87 - I also zone out and watch Richard Armitage in my head. How cool is that?

    Joanna - *high five* When you've had a chance to catch The Irony of Fate, and I've watched Cinema Paradiso, we'll be Best Film Friends Forever. I would have liked to have Gerry Butler on my list as well as Richard, but Gerry's love stories tend toward the tragic. Which of course I adore, but without the HEA, alas he had to stay in the wings.

    Louise - I tend to watch a lot of non-Hollywood films, and a lot of BBC historical miniseries. I'd be interested in some of your favorite films.

    Lilly - In my world, there are no guilty pleasures. If you love Mr. and Mrs. Smith, revel in it. I also love The Princess Bride, and really enjoyed Stardust, Neil Gaiman being a favorite.

    Deborah - Ladyhawke! *slaps forehead* I LOVE that one. And Truly, Madly, Deeply. A couple of yours have reminded me that I want to see them.

    Donna - Hey! Thanks for finding me over here! PS I Love You of course features my lovely Gerry Butler...sigh...I actually considered putting Dear Frankie (also with Gerry) on my list, but the story really belongs to the little boy. But it has such a romantic storyline in it, too.

    Michelle - Yes, I could have loaded my list with Austen films, but I kept it to just Persuasion. I love The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain! And Ladyhawke. And Love Actually.

  19. Hi Julia, sorry to be late...that's quite a list. I love Persuasion, though Emma just might be my favorite Austen. And North and South...sigh! Last of the Mohicans is a favorite of mine, too.

  20. oooh I was just nodding and agreeing with everything here.
    Kate & Leopold was so underrated. The only one I could add to the list is Cold Mountain. The rest have been said or I can't remember them!

  21. hiya,
    best heartbreaker of all ....
    Somewhere In Time, Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

  22. Linda - I'm enjoying the newest Emma on Masterpiece Classics, but the 1996 film version with Gwyneth Paltrow is a big favorite of mine. Doesn't hurt that Ewan McGregor plays Frank Churchill in that one.

    Cheeky Wench - Cold Mountain is one I haven't seen yet. I'll have to remedy that.

    Darren - I LOVE Somewhere in Time! And the music is so haunting.

    Kelly - Thanks, Kelly! Did you notice that Cheeky Wench recommended one of your favorites?

  23. Wow, these all sound like fantastic movies, Julia! I've only seen Kate & Leopold which is a classic. Love the time travel theme too. Somewhere in Time is brilliant but heartbreaking. *sniff*

    Last night I just rewatched A Room With a View for the first time in many, many years and loved it! Too much time has passed since being swept away by such a sumptuous film. And with the gorgeous Julian Sands.

    My favorite romances tend more towards movies like The Philadelphia Story which makes me laugh and go "Awwwwww!" at the same time.

    So Princess Bride is right up there!! Some of my favorites have been listed by others including Truly, Madly, Deeply , The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Love Actually.

    Great article, as always!! Thanks for more movies to add to the list. ;-D


  24. You always come up with the best movies, Julia! I loved Kate & Leopold too. Wings of Desire sounds amazing. I found Persuasion to be a letdown, though. Would love to see North & South, too - but any Richard Armitage movie will do!

  25. Chiron - It's been awhile for A Room With a View for me, too. I should have a look at it.

    Cate - I'm married to The Man Who Watches Every Movie Ever Made, so my exposure to all kinds is greater than most people's!


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