Harold and Maude
A film that begins in death and ends with an affirmation of life, Harold and Maude is the quintessential odd couple romance. Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort play the eponymous duo in Hal Ashby's romantic masterpiece. This is a touchstone in the genre and a one of kind film about living life to the fullest and learning to embrace our eccentricities, as they are what define us.
Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer lead this star crossed lovers ultra 80's bonanza. A sword and (light) sorcery flick with an uncanny amount of heart, Ladyhawke finds Matthew Broderick thrown into the fray of ancient curses, shape-changing, and unexpected heroism. An essential guilty pleasure and a film that wears its complexity on its sleeve, this is great choice if you're looking for a fantastical story about love conquering all.
Punch Drunk Love
Adam Sandler gives the performance of his career in Paul Thomas Anderson's intimately funny story about an awkward loner who takes a chance on love. A simple, disarming experience that reminds the viewer that imperfections are what makes us special and the unpredictable, sometimes violent, and sometimes serendipitous occurrences that fill our memories have an undeniable influence on who we eventually become. Love is not a fickle thing in Punch Drunk Love, but a potent remedy that requires courage and acceptance to work its ameliorating melodies on the heart.
Spike Jonze's wonderfully unique romantic sci-fi feature is not to be missed. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlet Johannsen, Her is a film that explores the definition of a relationship and the boundaries of the soul. Running the gambit from emotional distress to intoxicating obsession, the magic of this film, aside from Johannsen's unbelievable voice performance is how the mood constantly evolves throughout, ebbing from hilarity to the horror of heartbreak in an instant.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Auteur legend Jim Jarmusch's glacial vampire epic is meditation on the rhythmic beats of life long companionship. Using Jarmusch's patented offbeat humor and an unrivaled amount of narrative restraint, this is one of the most unique vampire films ever made. Horror films are elastic, being used for various purposes: to convey guilt, paranoia, lust, and even comedy. Only Lovers Left Alive uses horror as a delivery method for one of the life's greatest truths: Love is worth waking up every day (or night) for.
Iconoclast Shane Carruth's Upstream Color is an artistic triumph; a one of kind exploration of the human condition. What begins as a hypnotic mystery slowly blends into a symbolic deconstruction of intimacy. Using philosophical concepts and poetic visuals to impart a story about breaking the chains that physical and emotional confine us, Upstream Color is a dreamy odyssey about embracing the basic connections that define humanity.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufman's Oscar winning screenplay guides Micheal Gondry's intricate directing to produce a genuinely different type of story about the dangerous habits of companionship and the otherworldly feeling of being in love. On the surface this is a hilarious satire about the lengths one goes to excise their former lovers from their personal realities, but deeper examination reveals an uncompromising dissertation on the merits of relationships and the casual risks we undertake in pursuit of love.
Neo-romantic Wong Kar-Wai’s modern fairy tale is a pixie dust wunderkind. Featuring two loosely connected stories involving police officers in the midst of breakups, Chungking Express is a sugary treat among the bland rom-com offerings that dominate the market. A scrappy piece of cinema whose mantra is that things will always get better; given time and acceptance, the movie's undeniable charm is in how it doesn't feel the need to explain itself or give a resolution, echoing the truths of everyday life. Things go on, canned pineapple expires, and love is most certainly everywhere. You just have to look for it.
One of the sexiest films ever made, Steven Shainberg's Secretary is both a respectful treatment of BDSM relationships and a touching story about two broken souls who find healing and self-realization through one another. While it is easy to dismiss the subject matter as linking bondage with mental illness, the wonder of this film is that it purports the opposite. Maggie Gyllenhaal's quiet self-injurer finds confidence and ultimately karmic peace through the Sub/Dom relationship with a wonderful James Spader, where the kink is a metaphor for the medicine we so often seek in others, but ultimately lies within.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a romantic classic. Devoid of dialogue, Jacques Demy’s masterwork is essentially one continuous song that focuses on the breaths in between, rather than the kiss. The spiritual predecessor of La La Land, Demy chose to focus on a love story between two working class people and turn it into an operatic epic, defiantly declaring that it is the small, underappreciated things that we encounter every day that are indeed, the most important. Featuring unparalleled visuals and screen legend Katherine Denueve, this is an essential musical and romantic experience.
The Crying Game
Renowned for its twist, The Crying Game is a cinematic puzzle box. Outsiders seek it for the alleged risqué underpinnings. Film lovers revere it for Neil Jordan's outstanding direction and the haunting ensemble performance. However, beyond these conventions, the heart of The Crying Game is about the deceptions and idealistic expectations each member of a relationship brings to the table and how those preconceived notions are slowly, inevitably stripped away as we fall helplessly in love. Using an innocuous, politically charged set up to create an illusion of safety, the film wonderfully changes directions midway through, becoming a brutally honest examination of how the basest form of love is a connection that transcends traditional notions of preference and gender.