Movie encounters of the romantic kind

Opt-out of Christmas television with our selection of the best movies to woo to in our top 10 romantic films guide...

Is Casablanca more romantic than Titanic? Do you think Affair to Remember is more romantic than Pretty Woman? No-one ever agrees on what are the most romantic films, but I’ve made a list here of films that certainly qualify for consideration.

These Top 10 Romantic Films were agreed by myself and half a dozen friends after much discussion and bowls of popcorn. All of us are film fans. Some of us can remember seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s when it came out; others can just remember the first showing of Pretty Woman; others recalled crying their eyes out at the premiere of Titanic.

My only excuse for claiming that it is anywhere near representative is that is was chosen by a group whose ages ranged from 25 to 55, so no decade was missed out. Anyhow, today with satellite film coverage, DVDs and videos galore, the films of all generations are available for all us to see.

Of course, no one is going to completely agree with this list. To start with, there’s no clear definition of what is a romantic film. Is it just boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy re-finds girl, close up on blissfully content faces?

Does it have to have a tragic element? Is it about feeling better when you come out of the cinema? Who cares! We each know what is romantic to us, so here’s looking at you, kid.

After much heated discussion, we finally came up with our Top 10. Nobody agreed with the whole list or the order, but these were the films that received the most votes...

1. AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER

Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant are unforgettable as the nightclub singer who falls for a famous playboy aboard a cruise ship. They make a pact to end their romantic involvements with others, and arrange to meet in six months time, at the top of the Empire State Building in New York.

Alas, Kerr gets hit by a car on the way to meet Grant. First great sob. Grant’s there. Waits and waits in the pouring rain, then leaves, heartbroken, thinking she’s jilted him. Second great sob.

Kerr, now paralysed, refuses to contact him, until she can walk again. She encounters him, when taken to the theatre by her former lover. Grant sees her, does not know she cannot walk, and they nod to each other. Third great sob.

Grant goes to her apartment, to give her a Christmas present. He finally realised what happened, and rushes to her side. ‘I was looking up,’ Kerr tells him, smiling through her tears. ‘It was the closest thing to heaven.’ Fourth, fifth and sixth great sobs!

2. TITANIC

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are the doomed young lovers in James Cameron’s smash hit about the legendary disaster voyage. Forget about the silly screenplay, and let yourself be swept away by the passion and courage of the young lovers, and Cameron’s incredible special effects. DiCaprio scrubs up well for his invitation to the first-class dinner, descending the ship’s magnificent staircase looking like a drop-dead gorgeous Ralph Lauren ad come to life.

3. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

Even though lovers Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan only come face to face in the final scene, this shamelessly sentimental romantic comedy compensates beautifully, featuring delightful old pop songs, and great solo camera turns by the stars.

Extremely moved by hearing Hanks’ young son over the radio, asking for a new mom, and for his widower father, Ryan is determined to track him down. All together now: Aahh, how sweet it is!

4. BRIEF ENCOUNTER

The great paradox about Brief Encounter is that it is largely forgot10 by the older generation, but has become a cult romantic film among undergraduates. Noel Coward’s simple story of two English middle-class people falling in love, but agreeing not to see each other again, because it would break up their families, is acted with such control by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson that it has become a classic romantic tearjerker.

In true 1940s style, the starkness of the railway station is contrasted with the lushness of Rachmaninov, in David Lean’s early epic.

5. GHOST

A terrific combination of romance, comedy, the supernatural and thrills, starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, as the lovers whose lives are suddenly turned upside down, when Swayze is murdered. He lingers on in a spirit form, and uses Whoopi Goldberg, a fake medium, to give Moore warning that she now is in danger. That famous pottery session scene, the haunting tune Unchained Melody, and the great special effects, are rounded-off by a wonderful tearjerker finale.

6. LOVE STORY

For gushing romance, you can’t beat this 10 out of 10 on the Richter Scale of weepies, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. They play the impossibly beautiful college lovers, who marry, live happily in Technicolor poverty, as his wealthy, snobbish papa disapproves of their union, but whose lives are shattered when MacGraw is diagnosed with cancer. Hankies at the ready, please.

7. DR ZHIVAGO

David Lean’s stunning film of romance, on a grand scale in revolutionary Russia, is a classic love story, starring Omar Sharif as the handsome Russian doctor and poet; Julie Christie as Lara the girl he loves; and Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya his wife. Freddie Young’s dramatic winter landscapes are breathtaking; Maurice Jarre’s balalaika music is unforgettable.

The ending, with Zhivago suddenly seeing his beloved Lara walking in the street, while he’s sitting on the bus, then dashing off and running after her, but dying before he reaches her, is heartbreaking stuff.

8. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

Not a classic love story, but in the end love conquers all, thanks to the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn, handsome George Peppard, the haunting song Moon River and a wet cat. Blake Edwards managed to turn Truman Capote’s novella about Holly Golightly, a Manhattan party girl who earned her money from hoods, and the artist hunk, who lived in the apartment below thanks to the generosity of his sexually-demanding patroness, Patricia Neal, into an absolutely charming, romantic film.

Givenchy’s clothes made Audrey look too beautiful to be really naughty; Henry Mancini’s music wrapped each scene in strings; and the film ends with our stars soaking wet, finding Hepburn’s lost cat among the rubbish bins, which, of course, symbolised their love, which had blossomed out of the debris of their lives. Tissues please.

9. PRETTY WOMAN

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere are magic, in this modern fairy tale romance of the hooker who meets the millionaire, who then makes her an offer she can’t refuse, for one week’s work. Thanks to Roberts’ beauty and Gere’s money, she’s transformed into a sophisticated Cinderella, with some delicious scenes in the snooty boutiques in Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive, and other classy hotspots.

Naturally, Roberts and Gere fall in love. She refuses to be set-up as just another mistress. She wants the whole dream: white knight, on a white horse, carrying flowers, and climbing up the castle walls to rescue her. Gere says no. They part.

He reconsiders. Driving to her apartment building in a white stretch limo, CD playing opera at full blast, holding a bouquet of flowers, he calls out her name, jumps out of the limo, overcomes his fear of heights, and climbs up the fire escape to propose.

The chemistry between these two beautiful people, the sassy humour between them, all add up to a delicious modern, romantic concoction.

10. CASABLANCA

Casablanca is a love story for grown-ups. Humphrey Bogart is the cynical nightclub owner; Ingrid Bergman the girl who left him in Paris. She suddenly walks one night into his nightclub, with her Resistance hero/husband Paul Henreid; and Dooley Wilson plays As Time Goes By. Will the two lovers get back together at the end of the film? Bogart and Bergman weren’t told the answer. Not even director, Michael Curtiz knew, so he had the Epstein brothers write two endings.