Love stories at the movies are sometimes hard to define, simply because most classics in the genre feature love as an element wrapped within another major theme. In the more modern sense, think of 1997's "Titanic," for example. The film is known for its epic romance between Jack Dawson (Leonard DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), yet it's a fictional story set amid one of the biggest, real-life ship disasters of all time.
Here's a look at three love stories that helped shape the genre, even though there may be more at work in the movies that surround them.
1. "Gone With the Wind" (1931)
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Featuring the No. 1 movie quote of all time
– "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" – as voted on by members of the American Film Institute, "Gone With the Wind" is often mentioned near the top on romantic movie lists. Set during the Civil War, the film chronicles the affair between Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the "black sheep" of a wealthy Charleston, South Carolina, family. "Gone with the Wind" landed at No. 6 on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes' list of 100 greatest romance movies
with a 95 percent "fresh" rating, and No. 4 on AFI's first top 100 list, called "100 Years … 100 Movies."
The legendary film, nearly four hours long, also captured eight Academy Awards
, including Best Picture, Best Director for Victor Fleming and Best Actress for Leigh, according to the Internet Movie Database
2. "Casablanca" (1942)
No. 2 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the 100 greatest romance movies
, the film tells the story of the love affair between Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), set in the early days of World War II in Casablanca, Morocco – and it all boils down to a heartbreaking choice by Rick. Time Out London also ranked the film the second-greatest romance film of all time
, saying Bogart's "choice between the woman he loves and doing the honorable thing is one of the most wrenching you'll see on screen."
The movie is also known for its iconic quotes, not the least of which, "Here's looking at you, kid," delivered by Bogart. At No. 5, it's one of six quotes on AFI's list of 100 greatest movie quotes
, which also includes "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'" – which is often misquoted as "Play it again, Sam." The film was also honored with three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Michael Curtiz.
3. "Annie Hall" (1977)
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Of course, romantic movies don't always have to be serious, and one of the films that helped defined the romantic comedy genre is writer-director Woody Allen's classic "Annie Hall" – the story of a romance between a neurotic comic named Alvy Singer (Allen) and the flighty title character (Diane Keaton). The romance between Alvy and Annie was clearly more compelling than a groundbreaking space opera the same year, as "Annie Hall" topped "Star Wars" at the Academy Awards for Best Picture. The film also nabbed a Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Oscars for Allen, and a Best Actress Oscar for Keaton.
The film was also a hit with critics, and the current consensus with film critics on Rotten Tomatoes gives it a "fresh" rating of 98 percent
and a No. 10 ranking on its all time list of greatest romance movies. It also placed No. 2 on AFI's top 10 list of greatest romantic comedies
(behind Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights"), and No. 31 on AFI's list of "100 Years … 100 Movies."
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