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May 08, 2012


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Well worth the 100 clicks it takes to read.

Some omitted favorites: Lady and the Tramp, Chunking Express, Breaking the Waves, Lovers of the Arctic Circle, Amélie.


No Borzage??? Kinda unfathomable.




I'm with weather spoon. no borzage?!?!?!


Went all the way to #1 expecting BRIEF ENCOUNTER to pop up momentarily.
I'm missing most three from 1939-40: SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, LOVE AFFAIR and REMEMBER THE NIGHT. Charles Boyer and Barbara Stanwyck hold the place in my pantheon that Hugh Grant and Audrey Hepburn occupy in yours.


The good - putting Roman Holiday as high as you did, just a brilliant film, it sometimes doesn't seem to get the credit it deserves, that Wyler guy knew what he was doing. The bad - what the heck is The Apartment doing that far down the list? I thought that one had achieved classic status, maybe that's only in my own view of things though....

Thought I might see Groundhog Day pop up somewhere, maybe it doesn't qualify.


By including so many crappy/mediocre/pandering movies (Pretty Woman, Doctor Zhivago, Now Voyager, Gone with the Wind, etc, etc?)in this list, it almost seems like a backhanded slap at the whole genre of romantic films.

When you get around to making another such list 20 years from now or so may I suggest:

- The World of Apu
- Charulata
- Crucified Lovers (Mizoguchi)
- Children of Paradise
- Pride and Prejudice (Olivier, Garson)
- Sunrise
- Lonesome
- The Scarlet Letter (Lillian Gish)
- The Idiot (Kurosawa)
- Some version of Romeo & Juliet for its symbolic value
- The Gold Rush (best screen kiss ever - at the end of the film)
- Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau)
- Bright Star
- The Cranes are Flying
- Show People
- Once
- The Merry Widow (Lubitsh)
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
- Death Takes a Holiday (putting aside the ridiculous dialogue)
- 7th Heaven
- L'eclisse
- Compilation of Astaire/Rogers dance numbers
- Topaze (Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast)
- Pennies From Heaven
- There's a lot of backlash against it but I do think "The Artist" works well as a classic romance.

- I don't know if 500 Days of Summer is a great film but I think it's a lot better than many mentioned in your list.

I second mentions above of Shop Around the Corner, Tropical Malady and Lady and The Tramp.

Not to say there are not some good movies on the list - especially nice to see a mention of Make Way for Tomorrow, which I don't think I would have thought of.

Owain Wilson

I'd have thrown Doc Brown and Clara Clayton's utterly charming romance in Back To The Future Part III into the list.

Glenn Kenny

While the exclusion of any films by Borzage is indeed lamentable, and perhaps in an important sense inexcusable, it can be rationalized. As can the inclusion of so many mediocre, or even downright poor, films, including some I actively dislike, even. (And I even got to say so in many cases.) Romance is a popular, not to say populist, genre. To compile a list of the "greatest" romance films and leave out the most popular/arguably culturally significant examples of the genre would be willfully perverse, to say the least. (The more personal reason that I felt okay in leaving off Borzage, not to mention Murnau's "Sunrise," Murnau's "City Girl" and Malick's "Days of Heaven," among others, is that they don't really register for me as genre pictures AS SUCH but as, if you'll excuse the term, cosmic poetical works, a list of which I'm still trying to talk MSN Movies into running.)

In any event, 50 is a finite number, which is why these lists always start arguments, which can be fun. In another event, I not only stand by my choices but insist that not one of them (or any of the omissions, for that matter) is egregious as any movie poll in which the first "Back To The Future" winds up cited as one of the ten greatest films of all time. (See: http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/the-10-best-movies-of-all-time-according-to-the-internet.php) So there.

Owain Wilson

Back To The Future IS one of the greatest films of all time!


Glenn, with respect (and speaking as a fan of your work), the argument that bad romantic movies are validated simply by their popularity might also be extended to movies as a whole- movies are a "populist" art form and "culturally significant" movies are more important and noteworthy as a topic for conversation than those movies which are great or even good.

It might be another story, of course, if MSN did not let you include within the list TROUBLE IN PARADISE, THE LADY EVE, LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, ON DANGEROUS GROUND, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, SUNRISE, THE GENERAL, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, ZANGIKU MONOGATARI, LOVE AFFAIR (the McCarey original), BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN and MOONRISE to name just some famous and truly remarkable romantic movies you did not mention. But that does not make any further discussion (however brief) of NOTTING HILL any more interesting. And if it is bad, why talk about it?


Holy shit.

No Leos Carax.
No Leos Carax.
No "Audition".
No Leos Carax.
Julia Roberts' grating mug twice.

I love you, Glenn, but... screw MSN. BE willfully perverse, for Krust's sake.

Glenn Kenny

Shamus, this is a complicated issue, but before I address it I wanna make clear that, joking or anything else aside, the people I work with at MSN are uniformly great and well-informed and smart and respectful and NEVER hand down dictates as to what I may or may not include in a given list. That said, when we're collaborating on a list, we do keep in mind the fact that we're addressing a mass audience. Do we want to coddle that audience? No. but we don't want to patronize that audience either. You know that bullshit argument advanced by "film-snob" mockers like David Kamp and Dan Kois, that a bunch of smarty pants are oppressing them by shoving this boring "ART" stuff down their throats? I don't want to play into that, not one bit.

While there's nothing I can do about whether or not you find my further discussion of "Notting Hill" compelling, I'd still defend its inclusion on such a list, just as I'd defend the likes of "Ghost" or any of the others we don't much care for, on the grounds that, yes, they made an impact on the larger culture, they had an effect on the iconography and use of imagery and tropes in romantic films, and so on. Also, "Notting Hill" is not, precisely, "bad" (although in a way it's kind of, well, awful); it's a very skillful piece of entertainment engineering. Admittedly, my blurb on that picture doesn't necessarily reflect or illuminate that.

If the list had been 100 instead of 50, I can guarantee you that at the very least nine out of the twelve pictures you cite would have been included.

Owain Wilson

If Glenn hadn't included the popular hits, he'd have to contend with millions of MSN's outraged mass audience screaming "I can't believe he didn't include NOTTING HILL, GHOST or TITANIC!!!"

So what difference does it make?

Glenn Kenny

No Carax, no Beinex, either. No Lynch! Maybe next year I can pitch "50 Most Messed-Up Romantic Movies." As to the idea of "Screw MSN," perhaps I.B. has forgotten the mantra "PAYZ THA DOCTAS BOI."

Peter Labuza

Awesome list as always, Glenn. I've added "Two for the Road," "Barefoot in the Park," "A Man and a Woman," and "An Affair to Remember" to my list.

Will of course throw out more love as many have to "Chungking Express," which makes me first believe that love can truly exist every time I watch it.

I'll also throw out some love for the Joe Mankiewicz-directed "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," which is oddly adorable and wonderfully performed by Rex Harrison and Gene Tiennery.


Glenn, I was not impugning MSN- after all, they do have a business to run. Also, I DID find what you had to say about NOTTING HILL very amusing (apologies if I did not make that clear) precisely because you found it so emetic. I was only questioning your somewhat tenuous reasoning for including them over something by Borzage and Lubitsch and Murnau.

And so far as that goes, it might be argued that few films have had the same impact on filmmaking and popular iconography as SUNRISE especially in terms of creating the standard tropes of film noir and the femme fatale, or IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT for setting out the definitive narrative for the romantic comedy etc. etc. But I agree with Owain Wilson that these kinds of lists can't satisfy everybody so I'll drop it.


I'm a hip-hop illiterate. And I use Linux!


beautiful, love the theme song to TWWW,

David Ehrenstein

Happy Together
Tropical Malady

That Fuzzy Bastard

Man, y'all is cranky! I'm just impressed GK managed to work in so many passing references to great anti-romances, and great romances made in a style that would just drive too many people away from the whole list. Plus that New Yorker cartoon about Love Story made its inclusion totally worth it, and this list has inspired me to add That Hamilton Woman and Barefoot in the Park to my queue, so the Fuzzwife will be very pleased indeed.

As I've made clear before, I'm deep in the anti-Eastwood camp, but Bridges deserves to be here because the Eastwood/Streep romance is so powerful that it turns that soppy Mary-Sue-bait of a book into a genuinely decent flick. In a weird way, it reminds me of Bryan Singer's X-Men movie, demonstrating that solid emotional commitment can turn the silliest premise into a piece of cinema. And Brokeback, geez, yeah---the aforementioned Fuzzwife and I spent the first twenty minutes thinking it was the worst thing we'd ever seen, but were rapt by minute 50 and devastated by the end. Ledger reminds me of Brando in The Godfather---it's a performance so stylized it dares you to think it merely weird, then totally convinces you (or convinced me, at any rate) that this was the only way to make this private person subject himself to the camera.

While I appreciate some of the perverse suggestions on this board, some of 'em, man, I dunno. The Cranes Are Flying is one of the best damn movies ever, but I dunno that I'd call the central love story a great romance---it's sort of deliberately generic. The john and hooker in I Am Cuba, now there's a great antidote to Pretty Woman. The one nit I really would pick it choosing In the Mood For Love over Happy Together---both are great movies, but Happy Together is the one that's got a great romance at its heart, even if the ending deliberately undercuts some of the assumptions of a great romance. Boys may come and boys may go, but your favorite city is forever!


Had a great time reading the first half of these 50 selections on my lunch time here at the office. Your brief comments about each film are entertaining and informative. It's a shame MSN makes the navigation so clunky. I'll have to do a lot of clicking (and page loading) to get back to where I was when I return to this tonight!


Glenn, I would like to add "The Clock" (I was very surprised you did not include this), "Swing Time" and/or "Top Hat", the already mentioned "Letter from an Unknown Woman" and one of the all-time Maggie Cheung greats "Comrades - Almost a Love Story" (which, sadly, is not available on DVD...)
Ohh, and what about "Pillow Talk"???

David Ehrenstein



I'll admit, I scanned the comments before actually reading the list, and I was looking for exactly one name: Leos Carax. Really, all of his movies easily merit inclusion (except maybe MERDE), although Lovers on the Bridge probably comes closest to fitting the "popular genre" criterion that you chose.

Tom Russell

Very nice list, and I'm kinda half-embarrassed to admit, softie that I am, that I've gone all wobbly for several of the films that aren't really that great, as you go into on some of your notes. (To save myself some embarrassment, I won't say which ones... Okay, so, Love Story. But that's the only one I'll... oh, and Ghost. But, seriously, the others are secrets I'll take to my grave!)

Nice to see Moonstruck on the list; I had just seen it for the first time a few weeks back, and quite adored it. And, of course, City Lights.

A personal favorite of the genre for me is Room with a View-- I guess I should also admit that I'm something of a nut for well-mounted and attractively-photographed if artistically quite "ordinary" period romances of a certain genteel disposition, when I know isn't the most popular, or perhaps even aesthetically-justifiable, of stances. For the same reason, I'm quite taken with Enchanted April. The Young Victoria is a film of more recent vintage that tackles the (sub)genre with quite a bit more oomph and a style/wit/felicity with the camera; I was not surprised to see Scorsese produced it, and Scorsese himself directed Age of Innocence, which is period romance with quite a bit more personality.

warren oates

Not exactly "romances" but from a list on my hard drive called "honest love stories":

possession (1981)
scenes from a marriage

annie hall
before sunset
boy meets girl
all the real girls
happy together
lovers on the bridge
in the mood for love
minnie & moskowitz
ali: fear eats the soul
four nights of a dreamer

David Ehrenstein

I first met Leos Carax when Juliette Binoche was doing press for "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." He was trailing after he like a small whipped puppy. I was the only member of the press in l.A. who knew who he was and wanted to talk to him. "les Amants du pont-Neuf" and incredibly expensive "passion project" that saw three productio companies die from it was still being shot at the time. I asked him about it as I'd loved "Boy Meets Girl" and "Mauvais Sang." He aid he didn't know if ti would ever be finished. But it was. And with the completion of the film came the end of his affair with Binoche.

Hey, she broke her leg water skiing on the Seine for him, ya know.

"Les Amanta du Pont-Neuf" remains the greatest celluloid monument a film director has ever constructed to the glory of his girlfriend.

Tony Dayoub

A great list is one in which you keep saying to yourself, "There can't be a film that will top that one," and yet the next one does. While I'm sure there will be the inevitable grousing by those who didn't see one of their favorites listed, you sure come close with this comprehensive set of recommendations.


Fine list, though I still think Brief Encounter deserved a place in there, considering both its mainstream popularity (at least in the UK) and critical pizazz during its time.

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