It may be a fruitless endeavor to attempt to compile a short list of the best love stories in history. After all, a romance subplot can be found in nearly every film. Whatever the genre, Hollywood can’t manage to tell a story that doesn’t have some sort of love in it, whether it’s a horror film, an action flick, or an old-fashioned romantic comedy.
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Because of this, there is a lot of rivalry for the best romantic films of the 21st century. Cutting the list to ten was very difficult; it felt like putting together a puzzle that had far too many pieces to begin with. Whatever method we used, something important was left out.
The Notebook, Crazy Stupid Love, and La La Land just missed the cut, so we’d like to apologize to the Gosling Trio before we get started. Enchanted, WALL-E, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man 2, as well as Oscar winners like The Shape of Water and Lost in Translation, all fall into this category of heartwarming family entertainment. I think there were a few flaws in The Fault in Our Stars that were overkill. We truly hope we haven’t insulted too many vampires by excluding Only Lovers Left Alive or The Twilight Saga from our list of the best vampire novels.
What is left, however, we believe, is a diverse collection of romances from a number of views. In all likelihood, you’ll feel some mix of these emotions when watching any one of these flicks. Yes, if you ask us, these are some of the best romantic films of the 21st century, in our opinion (so far).
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
A love tale isn’t the only thing you’ll find in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. An action film wrapped in a love narrative. This is a great love story as well as a great action movie. It’s a story about a couple of karate masters who fall in love but can’t allow themselves to be together because of a twist of fate. Swordfights galore ensue when they come into a young martial artist, played by Zhang Ziyi, who refuses to comply by the restrictions that had kept them apart.
With the exception of a few young individuals who, by following their hearts, unintentionally cause turmoil, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon plays like a Merchant Ivory picture. That Yuen Wo Ping’s incredible combat choreography unleashes such feelings only enhances Lee’s film. It’s a beautiful love and war dance.
2. In the Mood for Love (2000)
There is no other way to characterize Wong Kar-masterwork wai’s except to use the word “aching” when discussing a forbidden romance. As Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung star in In the Mood for Love, their characters realize that their husbands are cheating on them. As their feelings for one another deepen, they must decide whether or not to allow themselves to fall in love with one other as well.
Every relationship our heroes have will be scrutinized and even condemned in the period depicted in In the Mood for Love. Their bliss would be ruined if they were together. Having to live apart would be just as depressing as being together all the time. As a result, they are tormented in a landscape that has been exquisitely captured in order to highlight the strength of their bond and the chasms that separate them. Astounding as Cheung and Leung are, few other romances have evoked such a deep sense of longing.
3. Love & Basketball (2000)
For the last two decades, no other romantic comedy has come close to the brilliance of Gina Prince-directorial Bythewood’s debut, which is as assured as those of many industry veterans. The film stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps as childhood friends Quincy and Monica, both of whom have aspired to be professional basketball players. Throughout their lives, they fall in and out of love, but they always find their way back to each other.
Love & Basketball never comes off as a romantic comedy full of cliches or fabricated melodrama. Every character in this novel is well-drawn and richly textured, attracting and repelling one other in a way that never feels artificial. Lathan and Epps have a great chemistry on and off the court, and it’s evident in their performances on and off the court. Never does Gina Prince-film Bythewood’s hit a low point.
4. Amélie (2001)
In many romantic comedies, the goal is to be “quirky,” yet the end result is “cloying” by mistake. With Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Toutou, the waitress who appears to be shy but has a crazy imagination, things are quite the opposite. She has a strong desire to enhance the lives of everyone she comes into contact with, and she goes to great lengths to do so, such as sending her friends’ garden gnomes on vacation without them, or fooling them into romantic relationships.
It’s simple to see why she ends up finding true love along the way. In a cinematic universe where the bizarre can flourish, Jeunet’s picture is a passionate homage to eccentricity. Toutou’s impish fascination with the people around her draws our attention, and it is through her eyes that we see the beauties of the world.
5. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
In the early 2000s, there were several excellent adaptations of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” but this lovely modern remake sticks out the most. Actress Renée Zellweger portrays Bridget Jones, a woman caught in a love triangle between Hugh Grant’s sexy Daniel and Colin Firth’s aloof Mr. Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary (who, in a bit of stunt casting, famously played Mr. Darcy in a straightforward Pride and Prejudice adaptation six years prior).
However, director Sharon Maguire has done a superb job furnishing the film for her star, Renee Zellweger. This modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic finds the story as timely as ever, with contemporary love expectations ripe for scathing commentary as were those of the 19th century, thanks to the inclusion of Bridget Jones’s Diary.
6. Secretary (2002)
Few romantic movies are truly interested in exploring a lifestyle of sexual kink, and yet not everyone loves each other in the same manner. At least we have the secretary of Steven Shainberg. An unexpected BDSM connection with her new boss reveals that Maggie Gyllenhaal plays as a young woman who longs for precisely the right dominance. She has a new lover (James Spader), but he doesn’t appear to know exactly what he wants yet either.
With a focus on two individuals with extremely specialized requirements, Secretary is a unique picture. In the end, they’re seeking for someone who loves them for who they are, can meet their needs, and creates a good relationship with them. That’s a fantasy that shouldn’t just be saved for the mild-mannered. Secrecy is one of the few love stories to acknowledge and celebrate the fact that everyone has their own set of needs and desires, and that there is someone out there for everyone.
7. Love Actually (2003)
Love Actually, directed by Richard Curtis, has been a holiday tradition for decades. Seeing as how Love Actually didn’t catch on immediately, it’s simple to see why. There are many reasons why this movie became a beloved holiday tradition: it’s utterly cheesy.
A collection of brief romantic tales, if only geographically linked, are featured in Love Actually. In love, in love, out of love, there’s a lot going on in the world of Christmas music. Because Curtis’s picture intercuts between the stories in such a brutal manner, the film effectively transforms into a deadly weapon. If you can’t stand the first story, you’ll be enchanted by the next. As a collective, they take on a truly majestic grandeur if you just like them all. When it comes to these stories, you may be a Grinch if you don’t like any of them.
8. Before Sunset (2004)
Richard Linklater has returned with film stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke nine years after his captivating love story Before Sunrise made waves. This is the first time that they’ve seen each other since the night they first met and fell in love. When we weren’t looking, did their love story continue? Are there any chances of rekindling their romance, or will they write off all that wonderful first film as a fling that never really happened?
Before Sunset is a film that manages to be both fast-paced and serious at once. On-screen chemistry like Delpy and Hawke’s is rare among performers, but their time together is limited and they have to deal with nearly a decade of questioning from the other. There are many reasons why we liked Linklater’s picture, but the solution to what happens next is saved until the very end, and it may be the best climax to a romance narrative this century. Even in the past century, perhaps.
9. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Oscar-winning romance Brokeback Mountain is one of the most powerful modern westerns ever made by Ang Lee. Hedger and Gyllenhaal star as two cowboys in the mid-20th century, falling in love on the job and then splitting up to settle for heterosexual marriages that provide them with social security but no joy. They reunite and reignite their affection, but they must be careful not to be discovered during their secret rendezvouses.
All of the characters in Brokeback Mountain are given the opportunity to shine via their performances, which adds an extra layer of meaning to a love story in which very little is stated. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway steal critical moments as the ladies who realize they married men who always desired more. Ledger’s quiet dignity and Gyllenhaal’s energy capture lightning.
10. The Holiday (2006)
When it comes to Nancy Meyers’s films, the lives of the bourgeoisie are often depicted as if they were from a fairy tale. After a string of failed romances, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet take on the roles of women looking for a fresh start by moving to a new city. As she settles into her new life in Los Angeles, Winslet begins to develop feelings for Jack Black’s character, a film composter, who plays a charming Golden Age of Hollywood scriptwriter. Meanwhile, Diaz moves into Winslet’s snug, expensive house and falls for Jude Law, Winslet’s handsome brother.
The title of The Holiday aptly encapsulates the film’s perfection: this is an excellent holiday from regular life. The characters have the luxury to worry about their flaws without having to worry about anything more important than finances, for example, to divert them. You can’t help but feel happy for the cast because they are all so endearing. You can only enjoy it for a short while, maybe even fall in love with it, and then reluctantly return to reality. Just like those ridiculous bills.