Great Love Stories for Valentine’s Day
By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director
Why not try something a little different from the candies and the flowers this Valentine’s Day? Treat that special person or persons in your life to a night at the movies. The American Film Institute (AFI) has identified the 100 greatest love stories on the silver screen. Encompassing multiple genres, these films all feature a romantic bond between 2 or more characters. As stated on the AFI website these movies “possess a ‘passion’ which has enriched America’s film and cultural heritage while continuing to inspire contemporary artists and audiences.”
Instead of listing the top few romantic movies, we’re going to sample the entire list. That should provide a little something for everyone.
Number 1 on the AFI list is “Casablanca,” from 1942 and directed by Michael Curtiz. Everyone knows this movie. It’s Bogart and Bergman. In World War II Morocco, a weary and bitter nightclub owner helps his former lover and her Resistance hero husband escape from the Nazis.
At number 12 is “My Fair Lady,” from 1964 and directed by George Cukor. At one time “My Fair Lady” was the longest-running musical on Broadway. Adapted from the play, “Pygmalion,” by George Bernard Shaw, an arrogant professor attempts to transform a working-class London street vendor into a sophisticated lady.
“King Kong,” from 1933 and directed by Merian Cooper weighs in at number 24. Captured during a moviemaking expedition, giant gorilla King Kong, falls in love with the movie’s blonde star (Faye Wray). Taken to the Big Apple, King Kong goes on a rampage, taking the woman he loves to the top of the Empire State Building.
At number 38 is “It Happened One Night,” from 1934 and directed by Frank Capra. A screwball comedy starring Claudette Colbert as the spoiled heiress, and Clark Gable as the recently fired newspaper reporter who helps her get to New York. As they travel through a series of misadventures, the gruff reporter, and the spoiled rich girl fall in love.
“Sleepless in Seattle,” from 1993 and directed by Nora Ephron is number 45 on the list. Inspired by the 1957 film “An Affair to Remember” (number 5 on the list), a woman falls in love with a man sight unseen after she hears him on a radio call-in show. Deciding it must be fate, she races across the country to meet him.
Number 58 is “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” from 1967 and directed by Stanley Kramer. Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Sidney Poitier star in this film about a young white woman who brings home her black fiancé. Both families of the young lovers are forced to examine each other’s level of intolerance and open-mindedness.
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” from 1961 and directed by Blake Edwards makes the list at number 61. Audrey Hepburn is Holly Golightly, an eccentric playgirl who befriends her next door neighbor, a writer new to the city. Watch the romance between Holly and Paul (or Fred, as she calls him) blossom to the strains of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.”
From 1942, it’s “Woman of the Year,” directed by George Stevens at number 74. Hepburn and Tracy again in a hilarious excursion into the battle of the sexes. Newspaper columnists both, they fall in love and marry with disastrous results. But despite their divergent personalities, they are truly made for each other, as they realize by the movie’s end.
Number 88 is “The Princess Bride,” from 1987 and directed by Rob Reiner. A tongue-in-cheek fairy tale about stable boy-turned-pirate Westley’s journey to rescue his true love, Buttercup, away from the evil prince.
“Grease,” from 1978 and directed by Randal Kleiser dances in at number 97. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John star in this musical revolving around the romance between a teen-age gang-leader and his naive girlfriend, set in the 1950’s. Grease was the highest-grossing film of 1978, and the highest-grossing movie musical ever at the time (now fallen to number 11).
All of the films highlighted here, as well as dozens of other romantic films, are available at the library in DVD and/or Blu-ray format.