Viewpoint: The 15 best romance movies

Tired of terrible love flicks? Does the prospect of watching another Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation (e.g., “The Notebook,” “Safe Haven,” “The Lucky One” or any other number of movies with two young, attractive folks on the poster staring into each other’s eyes) make you scream with cheesy-blasted terror?

That’s because a good romance is hard to come by. It either has to be sappy (“Love Happens”), sexist (anything with Katherine Heigl), emotionally manipulative (see the aforementioned Nicholas Sparks list) or a good old-fashioned celebrity mashup like “Valentine’s Day.”

But just because most “date movies” are not great doesn’t mean you should stop trying to find one. Here’s a list of 15 of the greatest romance movies ever made — not chick flicks, not date movies, but real, red-blooded romances — and why you should be inspired to find a copy of at least one of them this Feb. 14:

  1. “Casablanca” (1942). It’s the best romance ever made. It’s just not even close. However, it is in black and white, and it’s a bit of a bummer (although true romance-movie experts know that the perfect bummer movie is almost always more emotionally cathartic than the happy ending), so folks who aren’t fans of old movies may not be thrilled.
  2. “West Side Story” (1961). How could a movie that combines Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and the street-gang scene of 1960s New York City not work? Yes, it’s a musical. Yes, the gang members engage in dance-fighting. But the romance in the center of this movie shines.
  3. “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952). Don’t worry; this is the last musical on the list. Just try to watch this old Gene Kelly/Debbie Reynolds/Donald O’Connor vehicle without smiling. It’s impossible.
  4. “On Golden Pond” (1981). Do you like crying? Touching family film portraits? Some viewers may find it difficult watching a romantic film where the romantic subjects are both in their 80s, but this movie hits the deepest part of the heart.
  5. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989). Every time a romantic comedy is written and pitched to studios, they say it’s going to be the next “When Harry Met Sally.” It still hasn’t happened.
  6. “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993). This is the first of three Tom Hanks films on the list, and even though the two leads don’t really see each other for much of the movie, it’s still romantically poignant and funny.
  7. “Dan in Real Life” (2007). Steve Carell stars as a widowed father of three girls who finally starts thinking about jumping back on the dating wagon. Lovably neurotic and wonderfully subdued (unlike his “Office” role that made him famous), Carell carries this movie.
  8. “Ghost Town” (2008). There are two types of people in this world: people who think Ricky Gervais can pull off being the likable grumpy and pudgy lead character in a quirky romantic comedy where he talks to ghosts, and those who do not. Anyone in the first group should see this film.
  9. “Sense and Sensibility” (1995). Kate Winslet shines in one of her first movie roles, and Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman are surprisingly heartbreaking in this romantic Ang Lee masterpiece.
  10. “The Princess Bride” (1987). Everyone has seen this movie. That doesn’t matter. See it again.
  11. “You’ve Got Mail” (1998). Tom Hanks Film No. 2 is so cute, it almost isn’t fair. This is probably the best-written true romantic comedy since “When Harry Met Sally.”
  12. “Once” (2006). This may not technically be a rom-com, but the small, endearing Irish independent movie about two musicians is worth watching.
  13. “Forrest Gump” (1994). Tom Hanks Movie No. 3 is also not technically a romance, but the romantic element that is there serves as the undercurrent for the entire movie. And he’s so smart, Jenny.
  14. “Jane Eyre” (2011). Romance-movie purists would probably rank every other production of Charlotte Bronte’s novel above this one, but that’s only because they haven’t seen it. The quiet Mia Wasikowska shines opposite of Michael Fassbender’s smoldering portrayal of Mr. Rochester.
  15. “Tootsie” (1982). Who knew that an odd romance between a cross-dressing soap opera star (Dustin Hoffman) and the girl he’s duping (Jessica Lange) would actually work?