James Cameron’s Oscar-winning epic has a (mostly) negative stigma attached to it thanks to overly-simplified characters and a weak screenplay (it became the first Best Picture winner since 1966 to not have its writing nominated), but with a box office total of over $600 million and a record 11 Oscars to its name, there’s no denying that the film managed to appeal to multiple demographics when it was released.
If nothing else, cinephiles should be able to look past the Jack and Rose romance and appreciate the amazing craftsmanship viewers got to witness. A history buff and lover of the ocean, Cameron painstakingly made sure every last detail was right, building a life size replica of the ship and giving the large cast period-appropriate costumes. Digital and practical effects are seamlessly blended, making Titanic a (visual) wonder to behold. It’s easy to criticize hammy performances, but it’s clear that Cameron truly cared about his passion project as he once again pushed the boundaries of filmmaking.
While the love triangle takes up the better part of the film’s first two acts, it’s the suspenseful finale that earns Titanic a spot on our list. Cameron went back into action director mode and he was most comfortable helming the horrifying depiction of the ship’s fateful encounter with the iceberg. Combining elements of horror and action thrills, the third act is gripping cinema at its finest.
Films don’t win Best Picture without having multi-gender appeal, and the classic Casablanca certainly has it in droves. Widely considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, Michael Curtiz’s romantic drama scored eight Oscar nominations (including three wins) and found itself on several of the American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100…” lists, which praised everything from the characters to the quotes to the music.
A big factor for the film’s overwhelming success is the presence of screen legend Humphrey Bogart. The actor had made a name for himself starring in film noir projects including High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, which made him a favorite amongst male moviegoers. While female Casablanca viewers were attracted to Rick’s handsomeness and charm, the character had a cynical edge that helped raise the hero above the trappings of the stereotypical romantic male lead. A well-written character (instead of a one-note caricature) is also more fascinating to watch.
Using World War II as a backdrop, Casablanca also has higher stakes than your typical romance film, as the question of “life or death” overcomes “will they or won’t they.” Victor Laszlo’s quest for safety in America provides much of the dramatic tension. Like so many other films on our list, the fact that the love story is only part of what makes this film great is the main reason for its appeal. The main plot is about a man trying to do the right thing and its themes of morality and sacrifice give it a number of layers.
When Harry Met Sally
The film that dared to ask the question “can men and women be friends?” is an easy pick for our list. Rob Reiner’s hit romantic-comedy isn’t just one of the best in its genre, it’s widely considered to be a great film all-around. Nominated for five Golden Globes (including Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Director), this influential film set a new standard and raised the bar for the many imitators that followed. Feeling both old-fashioned and contemporary, it’s earned a reputation as a timeless classic that will be viewed for many years to come.
A lion’s share of the credit must go to Nora Ephron’s exceptional screenplay, which received several accolades (including an Oscar nomination). Diving into the male and female psyche, viewers of both genders had a perception they could relate to. Ephron crafted two strong protagonists to carry us through the film, making it easy for men to see Harry as the main character and women view Sally as the lead.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan had phenomenal chemistry. From the film’s hilarious opening minutes to its heartfelt, emotional conclusion, it’s obvious that these two were perfect for each other. Creating a likeable pair worth rooting for, Sally’s mix of beauty and brains made her an ideal romantic partner while Harry’s neuroses provided several big laughs.
Romantic movies that strive to appeal to both genders will continue to be prevalent in Hollywood until the end of time. Similar to how an animated film should have something for kids and adults, studio executives should keep in mind that the target audience for the ideal “date night” movie should be both halves of the couple and become more than just a “chick flick.”
Here are a few honorable mentions that just missed the cut:
- About Time: An interesting sci-fi spin adds a thought-provoking element to a story about learning the value of enjoying your life as it is.
- Garden State: A coming-of-age tale for 20-somethings that also offers a Grammy-winning soundtrack.
- Risky Business: A star-making turn for Tom Cruise in an entertaining, wild satire of suburban youth (pictured above).
Of course, these are just our picks for movie love stories men and women can enjoy. Be sure to list some of your selections in the comments below and let us know what you’ll be watching with your significant other this Valentine’s Day.
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