The Best & Worst Romantic Films

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but here at KHACHILIFE, we believe in spreading the love year-round. So, keeping that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best (and worst!) romantic films for lovers to enjoy (or avoid), any time of the year.

BEST

Dr. Zhivago (1965)

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This sweeping Russian epic, based on the novel by Boris Pasternak, tells the story of a Russian doctor (Omar Sharif) and his love affair with Larissa (“Lara”) Antipova (Julie Christie), a WWI nurse and the wife of an infamous Bolshevik commander named Strelnikov.

Set against the political backdrop of the war and the revolution that followed, this heart-wrenching romance explores the human side of this historical period. Separated repeatedly by space and time, the two lovers are continually reunited—sometimes against great odds, and sometimes by complete chance—and discover the toll that the changing world has taken on them both.

The wild beauty of the Russian landscape portrayed here is vast, poetic (Dr. Zhivago is, after all, a doctor and a poet), and as broad in scope as the workings of the human heart. And of course, who could forget “Lara’s Theme” (or, as it appears on the album, “Somewhere, My Love.”) The grand balalaika arrangement that plays throughout the film is perhaps one of the most romantic pieces of all time.

Lara: Wouldn’t it have been lovely if we’d met before?

Zhivago: Before we did? Yes.

Lara: We’d have got married, had a house and children. If we’d had children, Yuri, would you like a boy or girl?

Zhivago: I think we may go mad if we think about all that.

Lara: I shall always think about it.


Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
(2004)

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Directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman, this script is signature Kaufman; a nonlinear plot, a world that’s our-own-but-not-quite, flexible logic, and a quirky cast of characters. But the plot’s structure cleverly echoes the nature of love itself: an ever-shifting, beautiful, painful, funny emotion that is constantly reinvented and rediscovered by those who share it.

Joel (Jim Carey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) meet on a train from Montauk and are immediately drawn to one another. What they don’t yet realize is that they are former lovers who, once the relationship ended, paid to have their memories of one another erased. The story is cyclical as it explores the idea of memory; can we ever really let go of the ones we love? As Joel and Clementine continue to accidentally end up in one another’s lives after their memories are erased, they must question whether their love is circumstantial or inevitable.

Funny and bittersweet, this film never gets old.

I could die right now, I’m just … happy. I’ve never felt that before. I’m just exactly where I want to be.

— Joel


Breakfast At Tiffany’s
 (1961)

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Based on Truman Capote’s novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most iconic films of its time and probably one of Audrey Hepburn’s most notable. It’s an unusual love story, fashionably chic with more than a touch of quirkiness. Its plot is complicated in so many ways; it is almost difficult to decipher whether it’s a romantic comedy or a sad, unusual drama.

We are never quite sure who Holly Golightly is. Is she the flighty girl next door who seems to never know where her telephone is and keeps her slippers in the fridge? Or is she an unhappy socialite, a woman of questionable virtue (ahem…. A call girl)?

But along comes Paul, the innocent, straight laced writer and new neighbor. He is a man of sincerity, modesty, and ethics, yet is struggling with his own love / life complications. He sees beyond this girl who fears “real” intimacy and falls madly in love with her but does not condone her radical behavior.

As the movie comes to a sweeping end, Paul tells Holly to “examine her life.” In that moment of truth and in a grand leap of faith, Holly runs to his open arms (albeit with her soggy cat), and the two soaking wet lovers share one of the most memorable kisses in big screen history.

Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.

– Paul Varjack


Brokeback Mountain 
(2005)

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This rich and passionate film was brought to fruition by director Ang Lee, an adaptation of a 1997 short story by Annie Proulx that was published in the New Yorker magazine.

The film tells the tale of two itinerant ranch hands in the early 1960s, Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), who get a summer’s work shepherding on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming. Lonely and frustrated in the remote location, Ennis and Jack discover that their relationship has grown deeper and fiercer than a friendship. They struggle with deep feelings but eventually succumb to their true emotions and have intercourse. It is a wonderful, revelatory experience, yet there is confusion and denial that follows.

They part and life goes on. Shrouded by society’s disapproval of gay love, they both live, unhappily married with children, meeting every few years with a yearning to recapture that brief, shining moment of happiness and truth on the mountain.

Despite the controversy that surrounded this movie, it was pivotal to how Hollywood addressed topics of this nature. And rightfully so, the film went on to win many critically acclaimed awards.

I don’t care if you’re movin’ slow or fast, as long as it’s my direction.

– Jack Twist

Worst

There’s Something About Mary (1961)

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Ah, this pinnacle of 90s Hollywood misogyny. The makers of Dumb & Dumber have a particular brand of bawdy, over-the-top humor, and this film in no exception.

There’s Something About Mary follows the story of Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) as he pursues his unrequited love for teenage would-be prom date Mary (Cameron Diaz). In his adult years, he hires a private detective to track her down. The problem? Mary is every man’s unrequited love, it seems. Her host of wishful suitors includes everyone from the detective to Mary’s pal (who fakes a disability to be close to her) to Ted’s friend (who turns out to be Mary’s former stalker) to NFL quarterback Brett Favre (who’s…yeah, he’s ok). The entire male population of America is seemingly obsessed with her.

Mary, you’re an orthopedic surgeon. You are smart. You are important. You do not need these men.

Mary: I want a guy who can play 36 holes of golf, and still have enough energy to take Warren and me to a baseball game, and eat sausages, and beer, not lite beer, but beer. That’s my ad, print it up.

Brenda: “Fatty who likes golf, beer, and baseball.” Gee, Mary, where are you gonna find a gem like that?

The Room (2003)

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We know, we know — it almost seems unfair to include The Room on any list of horrible films as it’s already been widely established as one of the worst (if not the worst) films of all time. But given the recent need for a global protest to draw attention to women’s basic human rights, it bears repeating that this terrible film is rampant with misogyny.

Never mind that the production values are terrible. Never mind the sloppy green screen, the nonsensical script, the offhand cancer reference. Never mind the seemingly endless cast of characters who come and go without any apparent driving force to the story itself. Let’s focus on the love story: Johnny (played by writer and director Tommy Wiseau) is deeply devoted to his fiancée, Lisa. Lisa is also deeply in love with him. The next day, however, she inexplicably decides that she hates Johnny and is truly in love with his best friend, Mark. The two begin a sordid affair, and when angelic do-good Johnny discovers this, he (spoiler alert) kills himself. It’s a classic example of casting the woman as a satanic, seductive siren, and the man as her hapless victim.

And it’s bad. It’s really, really bad. It’s so bad it’s funny — so hey, maybe if you and your partner feel like celebrating Valentine’s Day with a touch of irony, this movie might make you laugh until you cry.

Everybody betrayed me! I’m fed up with this world. 

— Johnny

50 Shades Of Grey (2011)

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This movie (and book, for that matter) insult intelligence beyond words. The screen adaptation is nothing but pedestrian and makes us question how sexually deprived a large part of the population must be to cash in on such trash.

The acting is so appalling that, save for the sequels (god forbid) that will follow, we’re guessing that’s the end of Ms. Johnson and Mr. Dornan’s careers. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if the actors who turned down the role of either main characters are secretly relieved that they had the sense to reject them! The script was pitiful, performed with no chemistry between the two leads. And as for the ‘eroticism’…..it was entirely laughable.

Sorry, but this was 50 shades of rotting bologna.

Her eyes are brown, like bourbon, but flat.

– Christian Grey (What??)

Crash (1996)

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This film is our Editorial Director’s pick, and she found this movie so incredibly disturbing, on so many levels, that it’s the only movie she has ever walked out on.

Here’s a quick synopsis: James and Catherine Ballard (played by James Spader and Deobrah Kara Unger) are a messed up married couple whose sex life has been reduced to recounting tales of mutual infidelity in the lame attempt to bring back the excitement in their marriage. (Who gets off on that?)

When he causes a head-on collision, James, who is travelling with Dr. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), kills her husband and severely injures both himself and Remington. He then realizes that he is freakishly sexually aroused by the danger of car accidents, and even potential accidents.

Soon after, he happens to fall into a cult of car-crash fetishists and asks his wife to join him. The leader of the cult is also a victim of disfigurement and, as a result, welcomes the new members into experiencing his strange world of sex in the back seats of cars, re-enactments of car crashes, and even looking at pictures of accident victims as a form of pornography.

As our Editorial Director never made it through to the end, she had to read about its climax. (Excuse the pun!) As the couple embrace after a bloody and choreographed crash together, they suggest that death would be the ultimate orgasmic ending.

We would like to just think of this massive waste of film as a bizarre, sexually charged nightmare. Don’t bother watching!

They bury the dead so quickly. They should leave them lying around for months. 

– James Ballard