Eight great romantic movies to get the mood going

Eight great romantic movies to get the mood going

February 10th, 2012 by Holly Leber in Life Entertainment

Plot a romantic evening with one of these suggested films. Graphic by Laura McNutt

Photo by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

Romance, like beauty, can be in the eye of the beholder.

The American Film Institute listed "Casablanca" as the top romantic movie of all time, followed closely by "Gone With the Wind" and "West Side Story."

But those movies aren't for everyone.

"I don't get into the romantic mood like normal people do, but there are just love stories that touch my heart," said Karen Henderson, professor of theater at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

We asked readers to tell us about some of their favorite romantic movies. As Valentine's Day approaches, consider any of these films to help get the mood going.


This 1927 expressionist silent film by German director F.W. Murnau is about a married man who begins an affair with a woman visiting the lakeside town where he lives with his wife. The mistress wants the husband to kill his wife and make it look like an accident, but he cannot bring himself to do it. After a nearly violent encounter, the couple slowly begin to reconcile, in a series of moving and emotional scenes.

"There's an incredible art design to this movie. There are amazing dream-world sets and this very kind of elated mood," said Ernie Paik, president of the Shaking Ray Levi Society. "It's a really simple plot, but it's a really moving film."


French is the language of love and so anything French is immediately romantic, isn't it? Laurel Eldridge, program director for the Arts & Education Council of Chattanooga, certainly thinks so. "I was a French major, and so anything French," she said.

Eldridge selected as one of her top romantic movies "Chocolat," the story of an aimless woman with a gypsy spirit (Juliette Binoche) who comes to a little French village with her young daughter and shakes up the town when she opens a chocolate shop.

In addition to the storyline, she said the movie had two elements of great appeal: "Anything about chocolate is going to be good," she said. "And Johnny Depp."

'Best Years of Our Lives'

Directed by William Wyler, this 1946 film about three men reconnecting with their lives and loved ones after returning home from World War II offers "three wonderful love stories," said Henderson.

She said she particularly warms to the plot of Homer Parrish, who lost his arms in the war. Not wanting to burden his fiancee with a disabled husband, he tries to push her away.

"He can't believe that she really does love him and (that) she sees him as the same guy that he always was," Henderson said.

Harold Russell, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role of Homer, was an Army veteran whose hands were amputated.

Certain scenes between Russell and actress Cathy O'Donnell, who plays Homer's fiancee, Wilma, bring Henderson to tears, she said. "She loves him. She loves the person. And the person's still there. He's still the boy he grew up next to and loves and wants to take care of."

'The Princess Bride'

"The Princess Bride" is every fairy tale you've ever seen in a way you've never seen it. A princess falls for a pirate who is actually the smitten farm boy she'd dismissed. There are wizards, giants, enormous rats, eels and princesses. What's not to love?

"It's such a great love story," said Eldridge, "how they reconnect, even though she doesn't know who he is."

She said she especially warms to the character played by Fred Savage, a boy listening to the story. "He hates the kissy parts, and he ends up wanting to know more and more about the book. I think it's a great message about our imagination."

A recent viewing of the movie with her children demonstrated the appeal of the film to all ages and genders, Eldridge said. Her son cottoned to the pirate element of the tale, while her daughter, age 4, "was like 'oh, the princess,' " she recalled.

'Days of Heaven'

Paik selected this 1978 romantic drama by Terrence Malick for its aesthetic beauty.

"It's an incredible visual treat," he said. "It's possibly one of the most beautiful films ever."

In the film, set in the early 20th century, a poor couple travel to the Texas Panhandle and pretend to be siblings so the woman might marry the terminally ill, wealthy farmer with whom they find work. A love triangle emerges among Bill (Richard Gere), Abby (Brooke Adams) and the farmer (Sam Shepard).

The movie is narrated by Bill's sister, Linda, and the emotions are seen through her eyes, from a distance.

"Hope and cheer have been beaten down in [Linda's] heart," wrote Roger Ebert in a 1997 review. "We do not feel the full passion of the adults because it is not her passion: It is seen at a distance, as a phenomenon, like the weather, or the plague of grasshoppers that signals the beginning of the end."

"Days of Heaven" won an Academy Award for cinematography.

"Everything is heightened because every shot in this movie is gorgeous, like a piece of art," Paik said.

'Cinema Paradiso'

There are two versions of this film. Henderson insists the extended cut is the must-watch. It's a story of love and loss, set in Sicily and flashing between the 1950s and 1980s. A film director recalls his youth and the woman he loved -- the one that got away.

Many people can relate to the plot, she said, "when you had a love when you were young, but it didn't work out and you have regrets. I just cried buckets."

The true-to-life story, she said, is the kind of love story that doesn't quite work out the way one might want it to. "Not everybody you fall in love with in your life is the one you end up marrying, and had you married that person, your path would have gone a different way."

'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

The image of Audrey Hepburn in a long black dress, eating a Danish while staring in the window of Tiffany's is an iconic image in American cinema.

"I remember watching in high school," Eldridge said. "It's timeless."

She cited an adoration for Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and Hepburn's timeless look as being part of the appeal as well.

Hepburn made a career playing different versions of Cinderella, and while Holly Golightly is no exception to that rule, Eldridge said the vulnerability that her character is able to show makes the film among her top romantic choices.

"I think part of it for me is the message that falling in love is a risk, but your reward is the freedom to let down the walls you've built up around yourself in order to find true happiness."

'Twin Falls, Idaho'

Written, directed by and starring twin brothers Michael and Mark Polish, this is the story of conjoined twins (the Polish brothers are not conjoined), Blake and Francis Falls. They meet a prostitute named Penny, who forms a connection with one of the brothers.

"It just blew me away, the unusual nature of it," Henderson said. "She's in love with one of the brothers, but the other brother's right there."

Despite the unusual circumstances, she said, "Twin Falls, Idaho" is a "very sweet love story in an unusual situation."

"I'm not attracted to the pretty-people kind of movies. I can't relate to that. I relate to the movies that are more the normal people and the lonely people who find love."