Sep 15, 2010

Greatest Romance Movies of the 20th Century

READING: The Young Romantics; Shelley, Keats & Byron.
WATCHING: Tonight? Bounty Hunter.
LISTENING TO: Joan Armatrading - retro phase
MAKING ME SMILE: Dh making my favourite dinner.

For over ten years now, my husband and brother-in-law have been arguing over which is the best movie of the 20th Century. My brother-in-law believes it to be Doctor Zhivago, one of the greatest stories of all time. The acting is incomparable, the cinematography stunning and Lara’s Theme is haunting and beautiful. It’s set against a backdrop of some of the most significant historical events of the century.

My husband declares Star Wars to be the most significant film of the 20th century. It tackles the great themes of good vs. evil, plus has amazing fx. Everyone knows the film so well that it has been parodied in The Simpsons and Friends. It has been played in theatres in every country on the planet (my dh says it’s still running in corners of northern China).

He’s cooking my dinner as I write this but he says “Star Wars singlehandedly turned Sci Fi from a B grade genre into mainstream box office success. All villains before and since are now measured against the standard of Darth Vadar – he’s the ultimate baddie.” Luke Skywalker, Princess Leila and Hans Solo are all names tattooed into our subconscious.

(Unfortunately, my brother-in-law is not available for comment at this time....)

Which brings me to the point of today’s blog: which is the most significant romance movie of the 20th Century?

Now, you may have noticed, my brother-in-law and my husband have been using different criteria so, in the interests of scientific and impartial assessment, I’ll state them now:

· It has to be a film we all (or most of us at any rate) have heard of. Little known art house specials – however wonderful - don’t count

· It has to have love

· It has to have something “extra” – setting, other themes etc.

· Everyone can name the actors

· The name of the hero and heroine should be known

· It doesn’t have to have a happy ending

· It has to be widely quoted and/or imitated

Hmm. I’ll give latitude on the last point. I’m going to put a few into the arena, see what you think.

1. Gone with the Wind. Of course. “Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn”. The costumes. The sweeping historical backdrop. Clarke and Vivian. Rhett and Scarlett. And Tara! As for a happy ending - what do you think? Could Scarlett win him back?

2. Titanic. Can you hum the melody? Name the characters, not just the actors? Yup, Rose and Jack. Looking good. Famous historical setting. You can mention this film in any international group and everyone knows it.

3. Pretty Woman. Okay, well-known Pigmalion spin-off. Names of characters? Hmm. However, Julia and Richard will do for one point. Fabulous setting? Eh, no. Quotable? “Big mistake!” (when she’s bailing the shop assistant up for blowing her off the previous day.). Has most of the world seen it? You betcha.

4. Ghost. Actors: check. Characters? Ah, well I’ve drawn a blank. Memorable scene – the potting wheel with one of the all time great love themes playing in the background. Sigh factor? (a new criterion I’ve just made up). 10/10

5. Casablanca. Characters? Rick and....Elsa? Significant historical backdrop, famous song. Famous line. “Play it, Sam” (not “Play it again, Sam”). Sigh factor? 11/10.

At this stage, I’m going to step aside from impartiality and just say that French Kiss has a special place in my heart. I can’t remember the names of the characters but Meg and Kevin do a splendid job. The setting is France – need I say more? It’s funny. It’s light. It’s touching. When I have flu I settle down to watch it and it always makes me feel better. Now that, for me, is the mark of a really good movie!

So come on, give me ammo for the next family discussion. Which film do you rate most significant romance of the 20th Century and why?


  1. Zana, I'm going to make a plug for The Sound of Music! I love, love, love this movie! It has a fantastic backdrop (Salzburg and the nunnery and the nazis), it has fabulous songs (yes, I sing along when I watch), it has a great heroine and hero (free-spirited Maria and the strict Captain von Trapp), and it's funny and romantic and plain delightful!

  2. I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Indy and Marian, "Indiana Jones, I always knew that someday, somehow you'd walk back through my door." Gotta love a fiesty woman.
    (Then there's always "Snakes. Why does it have to be snakes?" but that's not really in the LOVE theme!)

  3. I'm not sure that this movie has world-wide acclaim - but it should! - and that's Meet Joe Black. I think it's an amazing film. Susan, a doctor, meets a lovely man in a coffee shop but he's killed and his body taken over by death, Joe Black. Susan and Joe have a gorgeous romance, as Joe tries to prepare her father for his death. Makes my spine tingle watching Joe Black eat "peanut butter" for the first time. It's my favourite movie and should be known by all!! LOL.

  4. How about Breakfast at Tiffany's, Zana? Audrey Hepburn is to die for as Holly Golightly (and George Peppard is no slouch as Paul either). Then there are loads of quotes: "I'm just CRAZY about Tiffany's!" and "You know those days when you get the mean reds?" and then there's the one about Cat and... well, I better stop or this post will get too long.

    One of my all-time fave rom coms is When Harry Met Sally with it's oh-so-memorable restaurant scene :-) Such fun!

  5. Emily, I'm a fan of Sound of Music too. My friend is in Austria right this minute, doing the S.of M tour. So jealous!

    And Susan, I agree, Indy movies are great but the first one was the only one which got the heroine right. Marion is a fantastic heroine.

  6. Ah, now two movies I don't know so well. I have seen Joe Black and really enjoyed it at the time - must dig it out again, Catherine.

    Michelle, I ought to know Breakfast! I adore many of the old classics and of course, I can recognise any poster of Audrey out of that film - Holly is a fabulous character.

    I need to watch it again. Can see a happy line-up of movies here for when I've met my deadline :)

  7. Hi Zana --
    Don't think I can name one. I have to agree with Susan that I love the Indy movies. And I loved Sound of Music too.

    The romance movie I pull out an rewatch most often is Pride and Prejudice -- both the BBC miniseries and the Keira Knightly remake. I just love that story!!

  8. P & P is always a joy to watch, isn't it. I'm also very partial to Persuasion - book and film. It's less sparkling perhaps, but it's still emotionally rich.

  9. Well, blushing here. I haven't seen most of the movies mentioned so far - just S of M, Pretty Woman and the Indies. Guess I have some watching to do.

    The best I can do is The Mummy. I can fill in the points, just not sure if others can, lol:

    to be a film we all (or most of us at any rate) have heard of. Little known art house specials – however wonderful - don’t count

    · It has the love between the Mummy and the pharoah's wife, and between Evelyn and Rick

    · The extra... the setting, time period and the ancient curse

    · Rachel Weiss, Brendan Fraser (an dhave to mention John Hannah)

    · Evelyn and Rick. The Mummy (Imhotep) and Anck Su Namun

    · Not for the Mummy but it does for Rick and Evelyn

    · I do, but maybe that is just saying somehting about me, lol...

    "What is a place like me doing in a girl like this?"

    "Rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, save the world"

  10. I haven't seen the modern version, so can't comment on its merits but I know ROMEO & JULIET have been done to death by the movie industry. It's a classic! So name your version, its cast & quotes galore from it!

    And how about AUSTRALIA - Hugh baby & Nicole as the Drover & Lady Sarah Ashley, romance, war, drama & action. HEA & I'm sure there's some working on being able to quote famous bits from scenes!

    Or maybe ROBIN HOOD:PRINCE OF THIEVES with Kevin Costner & Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio - Alan Rickman steals many of the scenes he's in, how many of us can quote some of his lines??? It has a HEA and covers romance, action & drama, too.

    And we can't forget HAPPY FEET! Environmental quest as well as a romance! Elijah Wood & Brittany Murphy (OK she's probably not as well remembered as some cast members) as Mumble & Gloria overcome prejudice to find their Heartsong and again who can't quote some lines from Robin Williams or the penguin character???

  11. I love it, Anita! You ticked all the boxes very nicely. Have your read Elizabeth Peters? She does splendid Egyptian mysteries too.

  12. I haven't seen French Kiss so I'll have to put it on my to-watch list, Zana! Sound of Music is such a classic, isn't it? And I loved the first Indiana Jones movies and P&P. I think my fav of all time romance movie is Notting Hill.

    Julia and Hugh as Anna and William... and Rhys Ifans as Spike the nightmare flatmate and William's group of friends are all priceless. It's my curl-up-and-feel-better movie.


    Lots of great lines,

  13. er, apologies for that hanging sentence... I thought about the lines and then changed my mind.... but since I've left the "hanger"... a couple of lines that leap to mind are the one near the end when they're driving to Anna's press conference and I think it's Max who says "James Bond never had to put up with this s**t."
    And then when Honey's talking about life's defining moments and how she's going to f&^% it up 100%. I really identify with this! LOL
    And then...

  14. I've been thinking about this all day, but I don't think my favourite romance movies are the most significant. I love While You Were Sleeping - gorgeous movie, but prolly not significant. And, like Anna, I love P&P, plus all the adaptations of Jane Austen's other books.

    So, after much thought, my vote will go to When Harry Met Sally (which Michelle also suggested).

    It has love. It has something extra - that exploration of whether men and women can be friends. Also the jumping time line.

    Everyone can name Harry and Sally and Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.

    And "I'll have what she's having" is not only widely quoted, but it's become part of pop culture.

  15. Actually, I have to agree - I think that line from When Harry Met Sally is right up there with "I'll be back" (so hard to transcribe an Austrian accent) and "Luke, I am your father" for world-wide recognition.

    Sharon, I don't know Notting Hill well but my favourite "when the girl doesn't get the guy" movie is "My Best Friend's Wedding."

  16. Two popular movies I think of are Bridget Jones' Diary and Themla & Louise, not sure the latter is a romance but it's worth it just to check out Brad Pitt in tight Jeans and a stestson LOL!!
    I'd also mention Titanic and Pretty Woman =)

  17. How did I forget Bridget Jones' Diary? Yes, indeed. Who can forget the Rushdie scene!

    Thelma and Louise - now Mel, that is quirky for the romance category though I admit, Brad left a memorable impresssion and I did say it didn't have to have a happy ending.....