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Reel love

How Hollywood’s romantic films manage to tug on our heart strings 

Words: Joanna Cummings 

 

Do you adore a good weepy, or are you more likely to give the latest love story a body swerve? Moviemakers have been shamelessly toying with our emotions since the dawn of the silver screen, from the early screwball capers of the influential It Happened One Night, to the unforgettable – and heartbreaking – ending to Titanic. But how do they do it? Here we look at some of the most romantic movies in film history, and explore some of the reasons we ‘fall for’ these stories… 

You can’t talk about love stories without mentioning Love Story – the ultimate tear-jerker. Starring a young Ali McGraw, this 1970s’ film, which centres around a young couple who fall in love over the class divide, is considered one of the top 10 greatest romance films. At the heart of it though, is tragedy and unashamed sentimentality; apparently, while filming some of the final scenes, even the film crew were crying. And if you want to condense the whole gamut of emotion to under 10 minutes, try the Disney-Pixar film Up. The now-famous opening sequence uses a wordless montage to convey the ups and down of a couple’s entire married life – and though short, it will make you sob like a baby.  

Directors also know that we are absolute suckers for a love that can never be. In David Lean’s Brief Encounter, two married strangers meet at a railway station and fall in love, but the social constraints of the pre-World War Two era mean it is barely acceptable for them to even be seen in public together. The train-station setting of this restrained, yet deeply romantic film only seems to underscore the idea of missed chances and paths never taken. 

The static nature of Brief Encounter also shows that on-screen chemistry is essential for a successful love story, and this is especially true of a comedy – something perfectly exemplified by Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally. Yes, it’s romantic, yes, the idea of friends becoming lovers is relatable…but it is the witty repartee, rapid-fire dialogue and downright silly behaviour that makes this truly heartwarming.  

This same approach to silliness was used to good effect in Hitch, which stars Will Smith as a modern-day matchmaker and Eva Mendes as his own unexpected love match. From slapstick scenes featuring jet skis to shellfish allergies (trust me, it’s funny), the film buoys you along towards the classic boy-gets-girl ending, with a few belly laughs along the way. 

Film scores play a huge part in how we respond to a story on screen, and few films manage it as poignantly as Truly, Madly, Deeply. Juliet Stevenson plays a woman who has recently lost her partner, Jamie, only for him to reappear as a ghost to help her move on with her life. As well as conveying their relationship dynamic beautifully, making Alan Rickman’s Jamie a cellist was a masterstroke; after watching the two leads play a Bach cello and harpsichord sonata together, you’ll never be able to listen to it again without getting a tear in your eye. 

Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge uses music to tug on your heartstrings in a completely different way. Depicting the love affair between a cabaret actress and an impoverished writer, this romantic drama might be set in 1900, but its cabaret tunes are all based on popular music from the late 20th century. The Elephant Love Medley duet, in particular, manages to capture the intoxication of new love, by layering a dizzying array of 20 different pop songs – and if the doomed love story doesn’t give you chills then the tango version of Roxanne will. 

So all that remains for us to say is: what’s your favourite romantic movie? Get the popcorn in! 

Just can’t get enough? 

Need more inspiration for a love story weep-athon? Check these out.  

The most romantic movies of all time

The best romance movies to make your heart sing

Ali MacGraw on the Making of Love Story

 

Why do we love to lap up rom-coms?  

Psychology Today digs into why we find the genre so appealing 

Reel love

How Hollywood’s romantic films manage to tug on our heart strings 

Words: Joanna Cummings 

 

Do you adore a good weepy, or are you more likely to give the latest love story a body swerve? Moviemakers have been shamelessly toying with our emotions since the dawn of the silver screen, from the early screwball capers of the influential It Happened One Night, to the unforgettable – and heartbreaking – ending to Titanic. But how do they do it? Here we look at some of the most romantic movies in film history, and explore some of the reasons we ‘fall for’ these stories… 

You can’t talk about love stories without mentioning Love Story – the ultimate tear-jerker. Starring a young Ali McGraw, this 1970s’ film, which centres around a young couple who fall in love over the class divide, is considered one of the top 10 greatest romance films. At the heart of it though, is tragedy and unashamed sentimentality; apparently, while filming some of the final scenes, even the film crew were crying. And if you want to condense the whole gamut of emotion to under 10 minutes, try the Disney-Pixar film Up. The now-famous opening sequence uses a wordless montage to convey the ups and down of a couple’s entire married life – and though short, it will make you sob like a baby.  

Directors also know that we are absolute suckers for a love that can never be. In David Lean’s Brief Encounter, two married strangers meet at a railway station and fall in love, but the social constraints of the pre-World War Two era mean it is barely acceptable for them to even be seen in public together. The train-station setting of this restrained, yet deeply romantic film only seems to underscore the idea of missed chances and paths never taken. 

The static nature of Brief Encounter also shows that on-screen chemistry is essential for a successful love story, and this is especially true of a comedy – something perfectly exemplified by Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally. Yes, it’s romantic, yes, the idea of friends becoming lovers is relatable…but it is the witty repartee, rapid-fire dialogue and downright silly behaviour that makes this truly heartwarming.  

This same approach to silliness was used to good effect in Hitch, which stars Will Smith as a modern-day matchmaker and Eva Mendes as his own unexpected love match. From slapstick scenes featuring jet skis to shellfish allergies (trust me, it’s funny), the film buoys you along towards the classic boy-gets-girl ending, with a few belly laughs along the way. 

Film scores play a huge part in how we respond to a story on screen, and few films manage it as poignantly as Truly, Madly, Deeply. Juliet Stevenson plays a woman who has recently lost her partner, Jamie, only for him to reappear as a ghost to help her move on with her life. As well as conveying their relationship dynamic beautifully, making Alan Rickman’s Jamie a cellist was a masterstroke; after watching the two leads play a Bach cello and harpsichord sonata together, you’ll never be able to listen to it again without getting a tear in your eye. 

Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge uses music to tug on your heartstrings in a completely different way. Depicting the love affair between a cabaret actress and an impoverished writer, this romantic drama might be set in 1900, but its cabaret tunes are all based on popular music from the late 20th century. The Elephant Love Medley duet, in particular, manages to capture the intoxication of new love, by layering a dizzying array of 20 different pop songs – and if the doomed love story doesn’t give you chills then the tango version of Roxanne will. 

So all that remains for us to say is: what’s your favourite romantic movie? Get the popcorn in! 

Just can’t get enough? 

Need more inspiration for a love story weep-athon? Check these out.  

The most romantic movies of all time

The best romance movies to make your heart sing

Ali MacGraw on the Making of Love Story

 

Why do we love to lap up rom-coms?  

Psychology Today digs into why we find the genre so appealing 

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