The List: Best Valentine’s Day movies

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh star in “Gone With the Wind.” (Courtesy of Warner Home Video)
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Don’t have the cash to buy roses and visit that five-star restaurant on Valentine’s Day? No fear; get some Chinese takeout and rent a nice romantic movie. There are plenty out there. Here is the List’s top 30 romantic films:

  • 30. Lady and the Tramp (1955) — All of us can take lessons in civility and romance from an upper-middle-class pedigree spaniel and a male stray mongrel in this delightful Disney animated movie.
  • 29. Ghost (1990) — Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore show that love survives beyond death. The song “Unchained Melody” never sounded so good.
  • 28. The Last of the Mohicans (1992) — The chemistry between Mohican Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Cora (Madeleine Stowe) is alluring in this thrilling frontier epic. Who can forget the electrifying cliff scene?
  • 27. Brief Encounter (1945) — Doctor Trevor Howard and housewife Celia Johnson, married to other people, meet at a train station and fall in love in this haunting David Lean masterpiece.
  • 26. Groundhog Day (1993) — Bill Murray learns through an interminable process how to woo a woman — by getting to know her and caring for her. Charming.
  • 25. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) — Strange, sentimental love story between a captain’s ghost (Rex Harrison) and an impoverished widow (Gene Tierney) who inhabits his house.
  • 24. Out of Africa (1985) — Yes, Meryl Streep employs yet another accent, and Robert Redford doesn’t (even though he’s supposed to be a Brit) but this sweeping epic still pushes all the right buttons in recounting the travails of Miss Streep’s Dane Karen Blixen.
  • 23. Carousel (1956) — Tormented Billy Bigelow asks to be sent down “from above” for one day to try to make amends for mistakes he made in life. It’s a love story, the thornier kind between two stubborn, damaged souls who find each other.
  • 22. Dark Victory (1939) — A Bette Davis tear-jerker about a bratty heiress who suffers a brain tumor, only to fall in love with doctor George Brent. Interesting support from Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan.
  • 21. Heaven Can Wait (1978) — This sweet and funny film banks on the chemistry between Warren Beatty and Julie Christie and on James Mason’s calm benevolence. (Remade from the charming 1941 classic “Here Comes Mr. Jordan.”)
  • 20. French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) — The opening shot from behind as Meryl Streep turns around before the sea is glorious. Miss Streep and Jeremy Irons are a pair of doomed lovers — in the Victorian era and on a movie set.
  • 19. A Place in the Sun (1951) — Elizabeth Taylor’s first “adult” role has her in an undeniably romantic but tragic relationship with up-and-comer Montgomery Clift, who also is involved with Shelley Winters.
  • 18. A Star Is Born (1954) — The best version of this saga; Judy Garland just loves alcoholic James Mason too much.
  • 17. Pride and Prejudice (2005) — A charming Jane Austen film about a family of five daughters whose mother wants them courted for monetary purposes. Matthew Macfadyen woes the brilliant Keira Knightley.
  • 16. South Pacific (1958) — Bubbly Mitzi Gaynor falls for a middle-aged Frenchman (Rozanno Brazzi) amid unbelievably romantic songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening,”“This Nearly Was Mine” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.”
  • 15. Porgy and Bess (1959) — Gershwin’s classic folk opera gets the sumptuous Sidney Poitier-Dorothy Dandridge treatment with a fine supporting cast.
  • 14. The Shop Around the Corner (1940) — It’s often forgotten that James Stewart, the romantic family man in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” also was in this Christmas classic. Ernst Lubitsch’s tender romantic comedy sees James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan resolve an antagonistic romantic attraction on Christmas Eve.
  • 13. Remains of the Day (1993) — English butler Anthony Hopkins looks back and ponders the true nature of his relationship with his former colleague Emma Thompson when they worked together in a large house during the years leading up to World War II.
  • 12. Beauty and the Beast (1991) — True love is an inner thing. This Disney animated musical fantasy has become many a young girl’s favorite. It made $422.7 million at the box office and won the Golden Globe for best motion picture — musical or comedy.
  • 11. Notorious (1946) — The Cary Grant-Ingrid Bergman mix and the Alfred Hitchcock touch make this romantic thriller a delight as an American falls in love with a woman pressed into spying against the Nazis.
  • 10. Dr. Zhivago (1965) — Lush cinematography, gorgeous music and the chemistry between Omar Sharif and Julie Christie have turned this romantic epic of a doctor-poet trapped by the Russian Revolution into a film classic.
  • 9. An Affair to Remember (1957) — Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr star in this emotional remake of Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne’s 1939 “Love Affair,” about a playboy aboard ship. The silly 1993 offshoot, “Sleepless in Seattle,” is not as good.
  • 8. I Know Where I’m Going (1945) — Wendy Hiller heads to an island off Scotland to meet her wealthy intended in this wartime romance, but on the way she meets dashing navel officer Robert Livesey. Scotland has never looked more romantic.
  • 7. From Here to Eternity (1953) — It would be hard not to include this just for the romantic scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the Hawaiian beach. The surf pounds, the music peaks, the screen burns.
  • 6. Romeo and Juliet (1968) — Shakespeare purists scoffed at Franco Zeffirelli’s take on what became a celebrated film, with the lovely Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting playing the tragic couple from feuding families. It’s a little creepy to think that Miss Hussy was just 15 years old.
  • 5. West Side Story (1961) — This grandly passionate and innovative musical version of Romeo and Juliet was No. 3 in the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 U.S. screen romances in 2002.
  • 4. Sense and Sensibility (1995) — Whether you are a Jane Austen fan or not, she does know romantic intrigue and the pound-pound of a young person’s heart. These both bring on tears of joy upon successful union, if you let yourself be taken along. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet are amazing.
  • 3. Gone With the Wind (1939) — Scarlett O’Hara realizes that the man of her dreams has always been in her hands. Rhett Butler realizes that living a life of charm and grace is more important than a woman who wants someone else.
  • 2. Casablanca (1942) — Bogey gives up the only woman he will ever love to beat the Nazis and hang out with a good buddy, Claude Rains.
  • 1. The African Queen (1951) — Crusty Humphrey Bogart gives “skinny old maid” Katharine Hepburn a ride down a dangerous African river. By the time they encounter a German destroyer, these two people who can’t stand each other are in love.

Compiled by John Haydon

Sources: Twenty of these choices were put together by the late Pat Butters and staffers at The Washington Times in 1997.

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