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From Casablanca to La La Land, the greatest romantic movies of all time

There are countless movies about love, but which ones have lasted? We gather some of the best

There are countless movies about love, but which ones have lasted? We gather some of the best

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 film Casablanca, widely considered among the greatest love movies of all time. (Warner Bros./REX/Shutterstock)

Ever since the earliest days of film, there have been movies about love — love won, love lost, love regained, unrequited love, forbidden love, unlikely love, puppy love, obsessive love, you name it.

But which of those romantic films really tugged at our heartstrings and stood the test of time?

In honour of Valentine's Day we've compiled a list of some of the greatest. Make sure to share your favourites in the comments, too.

[Warning, some videos contain suggestive scenes]

Casablanca, 1942

"We'll always have Paris." "Here's looking at you, kid." "Play it, Sam." There are so many enduring lines from this Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman classic that it's easy to forget they're all from Casablanca — a film that centres around a nightclub owner who protects his old flame from Nazis in Morocco, and one that regularly tops lists of the most romantic movies of all time.


Harold and Maude, 1971

Definitely in the running for unlikeliest couple, a 20-year-old obsessed with staging his suicide and an eccentric 79-year-old Holocaust survivor meet at a funeral and develop a decidedly unique relationship in this cult classic. But it's not only a charming love story; it's also a meditation on the gift of life itself.


Her, 2013

Speaking of unconventional relationships, a man who earns a living by writing personal letters for other people falls in love with his smart phone's Siri-like virtual assistant in Her. On the surface it sounds ridiculous, but the Spike Jonze film won widespread critical acclaim for its exploration of our relationships with technology, but ultimately, with each other. The film won five Oscar nominations, and took the prize for best screenplay.


Brokeback Mountain, 2005

Forbidden love always makes for a powerful story, and Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, a powerful film about two cowboys who develop a deep emotional and physical bond, is no exception. Starring the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, the film won dozens of awards, among them Oscars and Golden Globes, for its honest and nuanced portrayal of a same-sex relationship.


When Harry Met Sally, 1989

"Can men and women ever just be friends?" That's the question at the heart of Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally, which starred Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as a man and woman who become friends and confidantes, sharing the travails of their love lives. The film spurred all kinds of running jokes and modern romantic notions — among them the idea of "high maintenance" relationships and the between-relationship "transitional person" — and offers a diner scene that few can forget.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004

Finding a cure for a broken heart is a perennial human pursuit, and an obsession for Joel (Jim Carrey) who undergoes a medical procedure to erase all memories of his ex, Clementine (Kate Winslet). But things don't go quite as smoothly as planned, and this brain-bending, time-warping film takes plenty of twists and turns as it explores love, memory and the inherent imperfection of romantic relationships.


The Best Man, 1999

Spike Lee's cousin Malcolm D. Lee wrote and directed this 1999 comedy about an author who is getting set to release a semi-autobiographical debut novel, and it's been selected for Oprah's Book Club. Only problem is, it contains all kinds of romantic secrets about him and his circle of friends — including his old flame — which could spell trouble for his current romantic relationship, and for his relationship with his best friend. The film also features music by artists such as The Roots, Beyoncé and Maxwell.


Amélie, 2001

If there were a movie Cute-o-Meter that ranged from 1-10, Amélie would hit 100. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children), the highly whimsical film tells the story of a shy waitress (the ultra-adorable Audrey Tautou) who devotes herself to bringing happiness to others through secret schemes — even as she struggles with loneliness. But through a string of very quirky — and very French — twists and turns, Amélie eventually finds her match. To this day, the film is one of the top-grossing French films released in North America.


The Princess Bride, 1987

There are an endless number of romantic stories about princes and princesses, but none at all like the beloved film The Princess Bride, about a farm boy who must fight through an array of seemingly impossible challenges to rescue his true love. Written by William Goldman and directed by Rob Reiner, the star-studded film is one of the sweetest, funniest and most sharply written of all time.


Dirty Dancing, 1987

A wealthy teen travels to a summer resort with her family, but gets much more than lakeside fun: she ends up joining the staff's steamy dancing subculture and falling for the lead instructor, Johnny Castle. Starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, the film is part dance movie and part classic other-side-of-the-tracks tale, and still regularly appears on best love movie lists two decades after its release.


La La Land, 2016

Even people who typically hate musicals admitted they had a soft spot for La La Land, which stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as an aspiring jazz pianist and actress who fall head over heels while trying to reach the big time. The film won a record-breaking seven Golden Globes (every one it was nominated for) and landed 14 Oscar nominations — which tied the record with 1950's All About Eve and 1997's Titanic.


Titanic, 1997

Written by Canadian James Cameron, this unsinkable blockbuster stole hearts around the globe with its tale of forbidden love between a wealthy young woman and a poor artist. The film catapulted Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to fame and rekindled interest in the 1912 sinking; it also sent Canadian singer Celine Dion's career to new heights with the theme song My Heart Will Go On.


Say Anything, 1989

Even if you haven't seen this romantic classic about an average high school kid who falls for the valedictorian, you have probably seen the legendary scene: Lloyd, played by John Cusack, standing below Diane's bedroom window playing Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes through a boombox he holds over his head. When it was released Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of the year, and later wrote, "Say Anything exists entirely in a real world, is not a fantasy or a pious parable, has characters who we sort of recognize, and is directed with care for the human feelings involved." It's also regularly named among the best romantic films of all time.


Wings of Desire, 1987

Angels listen into people's everyday lives, comforting the troubled and the broken-hearted — but one angel falls for a beautiful and lonesome trapeze artist, and is forced to choose between loveless immortality or mortal love, and with it, life's innumerable small pleasures. When it was released, the visually stunning film landed Win Wenders best director at Cannes, and to this day appears on lists of the best films of all time.


The Philadelphia Story, 1940

Things get very complicated for a socialite who is about to get married when her ex-husband and a tabloid journalist suddenly appear in this classic film starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. The Philadelphia Story was a hit in its day, earning a whopping $2.4 million in North America alone, and also won multiple Oscars. It also has a rare 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


So which romantic movies really make your heart sing? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Jennifer Van Evra is a Vancouver-based journalist and digital producer for q. She can be found on Twitter @jvanevra or email jennifer.vanevra@cbc.ca.

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