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Top Romantic Movies

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There's no guarantee of finding romance in real life, but you can usually find romantic movies at least. Here are some of my favorite romantic films. It's a completely idiosyncratic selection, and it could be argued that not every one is a truly great movie. However, each movie I've listed hits the kind of emotional chords that touch the heart.

'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (1961)

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Struggling writer and gigolo Paul Varjak (George Peppard) moves into a Manhattan apartment and befriends neighbor Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), a woman who lives off her looks and charm. As Paul learns more about Holly, the friendship between the two hustlers turns romantic. Audrey Hepburn's performance as Holly Golightly helps to create a character I'll never forget.

'Casablanca' (1942)

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"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine," says Rick (Humphrey Bogart) when his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) shows up in his nightclub. But World War II is raging, and Rick and Ilsa must make painful choices. I always get a lump in my throat during the scene when the band plays the "Marseillaise” and most of the non-German patrons sing along.

'Doctor Zhivago' (1965)

The cataclysmic events surrounding the Russian Revolution bring suffering and grief to physician and poet Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), but he is still able to find some happiness through his romantic relationship with the beautiful Lara (Julie Christie). This sweeping epic always makes me forget my own relatively insignificant problems for a while.

'Elvira Madigan' (1967)

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In late 19th century Sweden, a beautiful teenage circus performer falls in love with a married army officer, and they run away together. This is one of the most lyrical films ever made. Among other reasons, I love this movie because it introduced me to Mozart's "Piano Concerto Number 21."

'Moonstruck' (1987)

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A widow (Cher) is engaged to a man she doesn't love. When her fiancé leaves town to attend to his terminally ill mother, she visits his younger brother (Nicolas Cage) and is astonished by the strong mutual attraction between them. This film creates a warm portrait of an Italian-American family, and it gave me a better understanding of the word "amore."

'Summertime' (1955)

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Katherine Hepburn shows her vulnerable side more than usual as the perky Ohio secretary who vacations in Venice, where she has a love affair with a handsome Italian man. The location shots around Piazza San Marco and along the canals capture the romance of that "improbable city" better than any film I know.

'The Bridges of Madison County' (1995)

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A homemaker (Meryl Streep) in rural Iowa has a torrid romantic involvement with a National Geographic photographer (Clint Eastwood) while her husband and children are away. Told in flashback, the story is lent poignancy as the now adult children learn of the affair after their mother’s death. In this film, I enjoyed seeing Eastwood’s sensitive side as an actor and director.

'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' (1964)

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Every word is sung in French in this bittersweet Gallic gem. Catherine Deneuve is radiant as the young woman who discovers she is carrying her boyfriend’s child after he leaves to fight in the Algerian War. While he lies wounded, she marries a wealthy man who will raise the child as his own. The film moves on to an emotional ending that leaves me in tears every time.

'The Way We Were' (1973)

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This film chronicles the romantic relationship between Jewish political activist Katie (Barbra Streisand) and WASP-ish writer Hubbell (Robert Redford) from 1930s New York to 1950s Hollywood. After Katie seduces Hubbell, they marry and have some good years before their marriage crumbles. But what I enjoy most about this movie is its feeling of nostalgia.

'When Harry Met Sally...' (1989)

Early on Harry (Billy Crystal) tells Sally (Meg Ryan), "Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way," and the film goes on to explore this notion. My favorite scene is where Sally sits with Harry in a restaurant and demonstrates how a woman fakes an orgasm, after which a woman at another table tells her server, "I’ll have what she’s having."
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