The course of true love never did run smooth, particularly in the movies where star-crossed lovers seem doomed to vexation. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Empire Cinemas brings you the crème de la crème of true love on the silver screen.
20. Anthony (Richard Burton) and Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) – Cleopatra / Romeo (Leo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) – Romeo + Juliet
Trust Shakespeare to set the bar high. Real life lovers Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton set the screen alight with their sumptuous version of Cleopatra, while their trysts around Italy set the paparazzi on fire. Meanwhile, in the ‘nineties, Baz Luhrmann’s post-modern lovers set teenage hearts a flame with a young Leo Dicaprio wooing Claire Danes. Lots of fire all round.
19. Bella (Kristen Stewart) & Edward (Robert Pattinson) – Twilight
There’s clearly no sun in Washington State, since everyone’s uber-pale in the modern take on the vampire legend. If you like you’re vampires mopey and sparkly, Twilight is for you. Robert Pattinson nearly lost the vampire role to Ben Barnes of Prince Caspian fame, but the already cast Kristen Stewart insisted on him after their first audition together.
18. Rose (Kate Winslet) & Jack (Leo DiCaprio) – Titanic
“I’ll never let go, Jack” says Kate Winslet as Rose. And then she lets go, effectively murdering him, rather than lifting him onto the makeshift lifeboat, which scientists with too much time on their hands, have since proved would probably have saved poor old Jack’s life… Winslet, you murderous cow!
The megabucks rolled in for Cameron’s indulgent historical epic as it prostrated itself on Oscar’s lap, but it was that steamy scene in the car between DiCaprio (him again) and Winslet that set the pulse racing. You all went to see it though, didn’t you.
17. Elisabeth (Keira Knightley) & Will (Orlando Bloom) – Pirates of the Caribbean
Keira with her mega pout and habit of trailing her arms behind her and Orlando with his habit of playing elves and staring moodily at the sea. They were bound to walk into each other eventually, and they did in the pirate film that revitalised the genre where it had sunk previously. Remember Cutthroat Island in 1995? Who knew Geena Davis was ahead of the curve…
16. Vivian (Julia Roberts) and Edward (Richard Gere) – Pretty Woman
You can’t blame Touchstone (owned by Disney) for being reluctant about a romance about an escort. Originally called $3,000, this Pygmalion-esque flick resurrected the rom-com’s of the ‘eighties and started Julia Robert’s ascendance.
15. Allie (Rachel McAdams) & Noah (Ryan Gosling) – The Notebook
The film that set teenage hearts a-fluttering and a-paying attention to Ryan Gosling (Noah). Don’t forget Maverick / Rockford Files heartthrob James Garner as ‘old’ Noah – something for your mum right there.
14. Jane (Angelina Jolie) & John (Brad Pitt) – Mr and Mrs Smith
It’s probably less about the guns and ludicrous glamour of the film and more about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s smouldering chemistry. While both reassure us that their relationship started after Pitt had separated from Jennifer Aniston, this is the film that led to one of the most A-list of love triangles.
13. Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) & Rhett (Clark Gable) – Gone with the Wind
“[Scarlett] Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?…. [Rhett] Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” The most preposterously overblown flick of the studio system of the ‘thirties, Gone With the Wind was a cultural phenomenon, and still one of the biggest films ever in terms of inflation and seats sold. Epic in scale and length, it caused a nationwide search for Scarlett with 1,400 actresses auditioning, but the burning of Atlanta was filmed before Scarlett was cast (doubles were used). Such a huge fire burnt every set the studio had to hand, including the island wall set from King Kong. It also produced the first African-American Oscar nomination and win for Hattie McDaniel.
12. Laura (Celia Johnson) and Alec (Trevor Howard) – Brief Encounter
Leslie Howard’s back, but more suitably cast this time as he (Alec) meets Celia Johnson (Laura) as strangers at Milford train station. Both are married, and in a classic what-if plot, they meet at the railway café every Thursday despite the impossibility of being together. It’s all so very British.
11. Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) – Casablanca
Some films have been pastiched so much they seem hackneyed when seen with modern eyes, but Casablanca still holds so much charm through the claustrophobia of a wartime city that holds both promise and imprisonment. The luminous intelligence of Ingrid Bergman against Bogart’s war-torn visage a perfect representation of the hope and reality of war, as the lovers are torn apart for the greater good.
10. James Bond (George Lazenby) and Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
It gets us every time. Bond (George Lazenby) drives off with his new bride Teresa (Diana Rigg) across the mountains at the end of the film, only to have a wounded Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt speed around the corner and kill her in a hail of bullets. With Louis Armstrong’s All the Time in the World playing the film out, it’s all we can do not to grab the Kleenex.
9. Westley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright) – The Princess Bride
Westley’s (Cary Elwes) dedication to his love Buttercup (Robin Wright) and his promise in the oft-repeated “As You Wish” lights even the hardest heart. This modern fairy-tale sees hero Westley travel the seas for years hoping to come back to his first love only to find her betrothed to a smarmy little prince. It’s ok though, because, they’re all comedy geniuses.
8. Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) & Danny (John Travolta) – Grease
If you go together with anyone like “rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong” then it’s probably best to date them, since it’s no mean feat. Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into her mega tight black trousers in the final transformation scene.
7. Satine (Nicole Kidman) and Christian (Ewan MacGregor) – Moulin Rouge
Retrospectively this Parisian musical seems a bit mad – all stops and starts and a few flat notes – but you can’t deny its passion and inventiveness shines through. Like all good historic heroines Satine (Kidman) starts coughing up blood 30 seconds in, so we fear Christian (MacGregor) may be up for some disappointment in the next 90 minutes….
6. Lara (Julie Christie) and Yuri (Omar Sharif) – Dr Zhivago
The music. The snow. Julie Christie’s ‘sixties beauty in revolutionary Russia. Director David Lean combined the scope of his Lawrence of Arabia and the human connection of Brief Encounter to make his romantic epic. Since the book was banned in Russia, the film was filmed in Spain, often in 25°C.
5. Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) & Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) – Sleepless In Seattle
Meg Ryan’s back again, and again with co-writer/director Nora Ephron. There’s lots of staring wistfully at the Empire State Building thinking of Tom Hanks. We’ve never done that. It’s schmaltzy, but you did clock that The Notebook is on this list, right?
4. Sally (Meg Ryan) & Harry (Billy Crystal)– When Harry Met Sally
Can a man and a woman be friends? Rob Reiner (director) and Nora Ephron’s (writer) definitive romcom follows a friendship over 12 years as Harry and Sally bump into each other over the years. Yet it’s the scene in Katz’s Deli in New York that is best remembered – we’ll have what she’s having.
3. Baby (Jennifer Grey) & Johnny (Patrick Swayze) – Dirty Dancing
It’s the ‘fifties; your parents won’t let you do anything, you’re not a girl, not yet a woman, and you’re thinking of having a nose job so no one recognises you when you play Rachel’s sister in Friends years later (nice one Jennifer Grey). So why not chat to the local Butlin’s dancer and his arms of steel?
2. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) & Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) – Brokeback Mountain
Cowboys (technically, they were shepherds not cowboys) traditionally embrace manliness and Marlboro ads, so the love of two hardened men brought up struggling with their conservative values is painful to watch as they come to terms with expressing themselves… The result is a sensitive flick which brought a touching all-male romance to the mainstream.
1. Paula (Debra Winger) & Zack (Richard Gere) – An Officer and a Gentleman
Is a man in uniform ever a bad thing? The final scene of this navy drama sees Zack (Gere) pick up Paula (Winger) and walk out of her factory to the applause of her co-workers. Forever spoofed but never bettered.