THE MOST ROMANTIC FILM OF EACH DECADE: From the 1930s to the 2010s
We’re all about romance at Rose Training Australia.
Marriage celebrancy is a career that sits in the thick of it right? With that in mind we thought it would be fun to set up the argument over what film could be considered the most romantic of each decade from the 1930s to the 2010s (the 2020s is still too new to state a case for any one film yet but maybe we’ll consider one anyway as a bonus).
Romantic films have been a staple in cinema since its inception. Check out our blog about the first romantic movie (which was highly controversial for its 1890s time period).
Many would argue and many would agree that while romance has been a staple in film since the beginning, it was from the 1930s that it really became established as a powerful genre that would capture the imagination of yearning hearts worldwide.
From big, sweeping, adventurous stories to more contemporary themes that touch on the warts and all reality of relationships, to quirky, humorous flirtations, the romance genre has seen a lot of change to the point where, while there are many tropes that remain staple, almost anything goes.
1930s: It Happened One Night (1934)
Written by Robert Riskin, directed by Frank Capra, starring Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly and Clark Gable.
In this acclaimed romantic comedy, spoiled heiress Ellie impulsively marries a schemester, leading her wealthy tycoon father to remove her from the situation by carrying her away on his yacht. The strong-willed Ellie jumps ship and in the ensuing adventure finds herself teaming up with a cynical reporter who offers to help find her new husband in exchange for their exclusive story.
Over the course of the adventure the reporter finds himself falling in love with the tenacious and effervescent heiress.
It Happened One Night remains a benchmark for all other films in the genre, and even all films to be honest. If any film deserved to be labelled with the praise “Movie Magic” it would be this one.
It is the first film of only three (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs) to win all five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
1940s: Casablanca (1942)
Written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
Casablanca is a romantic drama that tells the story of an American expatriate and a former lover who are reunited in Casablanca during World War II. The movie is known for its memorable quotes, its rousing commentary on the times, its memorable music, its iconic performances by all of the actors most notably its leads Humphrey Bogart, Paul Heinreid and Ingrid Bergman, and its unforgettable ending.
While it has its critics, it is undesputiably a masterpiece that is still watchable, even in its black and white glory, a lifetime later. It is acted to perfection, the direction is sharp and smart and the story contains all the right elements to keep a viewer engaged.
Casablanca was nominated for 8 Academy awards and it won 3 including “Best Picture” “Best Director” and “Best Screenplay”.
1950s: Roman Holiday (1953)
Written by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, directed by William Wyler and starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck
Roman Holiday is a romantic comedy that tells the story of a princess who sneaks away from her royal duties to spend a fun and carefree day out in Rome. There she meets a journalist who shows her around the city. As expected, considering it is a romance, they fall in love.
This film is a timeless classic and features two of the biggest stars of the time, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck though Hepburn was lesser known at the time and this was the film that first allowed her to be seen as a powerhouse performer. In fact, Peck’s contract gave him sole billing but during the filming he was so impressed by Hepburn’s performance that he requested her name be elevated. At the time this was unheard of.
It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and it won 3 for “Best Actress” “Best Costume Design” and “Best Story”.
1960s: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Written by George Axelrod, directed by Blake Edwards and starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard
Another iconic movie starring Audrey Hepburn. Breakfast at Tiffany’s tells the story of Holly Golightly, a socialite who falls in love with her neighbour, a writer.
While the premise is simple and on the surface it is light and at times ditzy, the movie digs a little deeper than that – past the surface level of new love and explores other human themes including loneliness and identity. Hepburn’s acting is magical and effortless and as a viewer you can feel like you are floating alongside her in her journey.
The one sour spot in the film is the undeniably offensive depiction of a Chinese neighbour (which strayed from the character in the book from which this film was adapted) which still leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths – including the director who stated, “Looking back, I wish I had never done it … and I would give anything to be able to recast it, but it’s there, and onward and upward.”
Still, that blight isn’t enough to knock this film off the mantle held for the greatest romance films of all time.
1970s: Love Story (1970)
Written by Erich Segal, directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal
Love Story is a tragic romantic drama about love, hardships, struggle and redemption. It tells the story of an upper-class sportsman who falls in love with a working-class musician. Marrying against the will of the groom’s father (who cuts him off financially in retaliation,) the husband and wife are eventually torn apart mortally, by cancer.
While some may argue that it had too many “eye-rolling” moments to rank as number 1 on the “best of 70s films” it is hard to argue against it’s tearjerking power and it’s historical position as a film that introduced tragic melodrama to American audiences. It is also cited as the film that was first given the label of “chick flick”.
The film is known for its endearing line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
The film is listed at number 9 on the American Film Institute’s “Most Romantic Films”.
Adjusted for inflation it is also one of the highest grossing films of all time.
It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and won for best score.
1980s: The Princess Bride (1987)
Written by William Goldman, directed by Rob Reiner, starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright
The Princess Bride is a romantic comedy-fantasy movie that tells the story of a young woman named Buttercup who falls in love with her farmhand, Westley. After Westley leaves on a ship to seek his fortune so that he can marry Buttercup, the news soon returns that his ship had been attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is notorious for leaving no prisoners. Buttercup presumes her love to be dead.
Five years later, Buttercup is forcibly betrothed to the despicable Prince Humperdinck. What follows is an adventure with an awkwardly fun ensemble of “bad guys” and Dread Pirate Roberts himself, who seems intent on tracking down Buttercup.
Film critic Brian Eggert said it well when he said, “Few films have ever walked the thin line between earnestness and irony so flawlessly.” Romantic adventures were big in the 80s (Romancing the Stone, The Big Blue, Ladyhawke…) and in our opinion, none did it better than The Princess Bride.
While only achieving moderate box office success at the time of its release, The Princess Bride has gone on to become a cult classic and sits at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer”.
1990s: Before Sunrise (1995)
Written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan, directed by Linklater, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
We could have gone for the massive budget, box-office smashing Titanic but that would be too obvious. Instead we’ll share a film on the other end of the budget spectrum, the gorgeously simple, dialogue based “Before Sunrise.”
On his way to Vienna, Jesse meets Celine on a train travelling through Europe. They both feel an instant connection when their eyes meet. The problem is that he has a flight the next morning back to the USA and she is on her way to Paris, where she is about to start her university classes. That set-up allows for a “living in the moment” theme that proves that the most cherished moments in life can be created with little more than good company.
It is the naturalness of Before Sunrise that elevates it. As a viewer you find yourself feeling like a voyeur of 2 people’s intimate moments rather than a film’s audience member. The dialogue is fresh in that it’s honest and doesn’t shy away from what could be considered unimportant words that don’t move a story forward.
Before Sunrise takes little things like speech nuance, “filler” words and body language and magnifies them in a way that creates a magical experience.
2000s: In the Mood for Love (2000)
Written, produced and directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung
This romantic drama co-production between Hong Kong and France portrays a man and a woman who find solace in each other when their spouses have an affair together. The most engaging element of the story is the tension that this creates as the two victims of adultery struggle to keep the growing chemistry between them from drawing them into a full-bloodied affair.
The care that the director has taken in creating drab, cramped settings juxtaposed with vibrant, coloured images is a feast for the eyes.
The unconventional resolution is something that is rarely found in “Hollywood” films and the absence of an overused formula is something that truly sets this film apart.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 20 May 2000 to critical acclaim and a nomination for the Palme d’Or. Leung became the first actor from Hong Kong to win “Best Actor” at the prestigious event.
Since its release it is often listed as one of the greatest films of all time and is pointed to as one of the major works of Asian cinema. In a 2016 BBC survey of 177 film critics from around the world, it was voted the second greatest film of the 21st century.
2010s: Brooklyn (2015)
Written by Nick Hornby, directed by Jack Crowley and starring Saoirse Ronan Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen
Set in the 1950s, young Irish immigrant Eilis Lace discovers herself as she explores new territory by navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn, USA. Initial homesickness and yearning for the comfort of her mother’s home gives way to the intoxication of romance. Her new found vigour for life is disrupted though when her past confronts her and she is forced to choose between her two countries and all that lives within.
For the lover of romance, Brooklyn is a deeply satisfying film that paces perfectly. It could have easily fallen into melodrama but the director refused to let it get bogged down in any one spot. It pulls gently at the heartstrings and never lets go. While using tropes related to immigrant romance stories it does it in a way that feels like you’re watching something fresh.
It was met with high critical acclaim which, for an adult PG13 movie is easier said than done. It sits at 97% on the film critique aggregator “Rotten Tomatoes”.
It was nominated for 3 Academy Awards.
What are your thoughts? If you are reading this on social media, please leave a comment with your agreements, disagreements or what you would add as the most romantic film of each decade.
This blog was brought to you by Rose Training Australia, the school that is all about the romance. Why? Rose is Australia’s number 1 provider of marriage celebrancy qualifications.
Talk to one of their friendly staff now to discuss whether a career, or even just a “side-hustle” in celebrancy is right for you.
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