The Spectacular Now, James Ponsoldt’s beautifully rendered coming-of-age teen story, will be released this Friday, the follow-up to “Smashed.” Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley star in the picture, which we deemed “useful and honest” when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The story of their first love serves as a familiar channel for evoking the growing pains of the key duo. This was the perfect occasion for us to curl up on the couch and watch romantic comedies for a week, with a bucket of ice cream and tissues nearby. Since there are so many films about first love, we’ve tried to narrow our focus to them, although it should be noted that it appears in so many as a side plot.
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This week, we’ll be focusing on First Love stories, which are a great compliment to the First Time movies we saw last week after the publication of “The To Do List.” Despite the fact that we largely avoided any instances of crossover, it’s interesting to observe how rare it is to see a film go for the heart rather than the groin, even if conditions are comparable. A first love tale lends itself to more dramatic films, even when they’re comedies, and even the ones we’ve listed here tend to fall into that category. Aside from the awkwardness and “no one’s ever felt this way ever!” of a first infatuation, it’s a near-universal situation: blush and embarrassment and “no one’s ever felt this way ever!” of the first infatuations. The term “first love” indicates that there will be a second, and perhaps a third…
1. “Like Crazy” (2011)
When it comes to love stories, “Like Crazy” is a must-see for anybody who has ever experienced the joys (and difficulties) of falling in love. Even though young Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) seem destined to be together for the rest of time, Anna’s (Felicity Jones) visa finally expires and she is unable to return. In the beginning, the connection is agonizing because of everything that stands in the way of them reuniting. Despite the fact that Drake Doremus based “Like Crazy” on his relationship with his now-ex-wife (an Austrian), the film has an underlying relatability enhanced by the verite style of shooting in which Doremus steals shots and edits them in the style of their central relationship, in which days blur together before suddenly becoming painfully protracted. While we won’t spoil the movie’s closing shot, it packs as much emotional punch as anything in Richard Linklater’s “Before” films. There are no happy endings to most first loves, and “Like Crazy” is no different. Like a first love, it lingers long after the relationship has ended.
2. “Antoine & Colette“
François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series is one of the great cinematic portraits of growing up and the passage of time, along with the “7 Up” series and more recently Richard Linklater’s “Before” series. Five films, over twenty years, track Jean-Pierre Leaud’s title character from 12-year-old juvenile delinquent in “The 400 Blows” to thirty-something divorcé in “Love On The Run.” In spite of the fact that “Antoine & Collette” is the shortest and least significant film in the series, it serves as the beginning of Antoine’s love life and is therefore a must-see for everyone who wants to get to know him. Doinel, the film’s protagonist, is a recluse who survives solely on the sale of his vinyl records (Marie-France Pisier). His affections for her are never reciprocated, and he is left by the film’s finale seeing her leave in the arms of her older boyfriend as they become friends and are accepted into their family. With a lighter tone than “Blows,” which was inspired by Truffaut’s own 17-year-old infatuation, this film sets the tone for Doinel’s subsequent films by allowing for a certain amount of levity. As with many first loves, Colette reappears in the final Doinel film, “Love On The Run,” played by Pisier.
3. “Goodbye First Love” (2011)
Mia Hansen-“Goodbye Lve’s First Love,” an incredibly personal film from one of France’s brightest young talents, is properly titled. It’s a gorgeous-looking, sensual film that, despite its lead actors’ largely emotionless performance, yet has a deep vein of emotions running through it. The story opens in 1999, when Camille (Lola Creton, who went on to have a major breakout career as a result of this film) is head over heels in love with Sullivan (Jamie Foxx) (Sebastian Urzendowsky). A romantic getaway in the Loire Valley becomes tragic when he disappears for an extended period of time. Camille becomes depressed and suicidal in a way that only a breakup can. When she re-meets Sullivan, her world is thrown upside down. It’s been ten years since they last saw each other, and she’s in a relationship with her professor. As Hansen-Lve points out, you never get over the first person you fall for, and the characters’ blank-slate nature helps you identify with them, but it also makes it difficult to become invested in the pair—Sullivan and Camille don’t share a great deal of chemistry and it’s difficult to see what Camille sees in Sullivan in particular. Even yet, Hansen-Lve directs superbly, and only a statue wouldn’t feel a sting of recognition at some point in this film.
4. “My Girl” (1991)
In primary school, friendships between males and girls were usually viewed with disdain. You can’t have a buddy without having a partner, and vice versa (literally one of the most mortifying insults that could be hurled). “My Girl” demonstrated to young women that being friends with guys is not only acceptable, but it can also lead to the creation of lifelong friendships. There are few things more idyllic than growing up in the 1960s as the only child of two funeral directors, one of whom is named Anna Chlumsky, who will go down in film history as the actress with the coolest name ever. There is only one person in Vada’s life that she can rely on, Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin). Vada is a hypochondriac who visits the doctor on a daily basis, and Thomas J feels sympathetic to her plight throughout the film. They’re not in love, and they never mention it save for a brief experimental kiss. It’s not her puppy, but her elementary school teacher (played adorable by Griffin Dunne, who gave this writer erroneous notions about males over the course of decades). Thomas J’s deeds and the knowledge that he would do anything for Vada make the movie’s climax even more tragic (I won’t spoil it for you here, but it’s rather traumatizing), which is why the movie’s narrative is delivered via Vada’s perspective. Young girls can learn from the movie “My Girl” that love can take many forms, from romance to platonic friendship, and that the strongest of all bonds is the one formed between a best friend and herself.
5. “Summer Of 42” (1971)
It’s easy to see from this list that summertime activities and adolescent romance go hand in hand. Most people’s first experiences with love and heartbreak occur over the long summer months when school is out and the world is our oyster. (She was Irish and her name was Daisy, in case you were wondering…). In the 1970s, “Summer Of 42” was a big hit and one of the best-selling books of the decade, but it has since faded from the public’s consciousness. In 1942, 15-year-old Hermie (Gary Grimes) is spending the summer on Nantucket, based on the real-life experiences of “The Great Santini” scriptwriter Herman Mauch. Dorothy (Jennifer O’Neill) is a lovely young bride whose husband has recently gone to war, and he gets smitten with her as his companions play around with the local girls. Tragedy has a way of pulling people together, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first. Robert Mulligan (“To Kill a Mockingbird”), an underappreciated humanist director of the day, directs this delightfully low-key affair with a deep vein of honesty and restraint. Since both Truffaut and Kubrick were fans (Kubrick even used a scene from the film in his picture “The Shining”), if you haven’t seen it, now is a good time to do so.
6. “Raising Victor Vargas” (2003)
“Raising Victor Vargas,” which premiered at Sundance a decade ago, is one of the few first-love/coming-of-age pictures that the festival has seen since then. At first glance, “Five Feet High and Rising,” the NYU grad film of director Peter Sollett, isn’t precisely about first love, at least for the titular character, a Lower East Side teen who lives in a tiny flat with his grandmother, brother, and sister. He is, however, a junior lothario. After reports spread that Victor had an affair with the unflatteringly dubbed Fat Donna, Victor decides to redeem his reputation by wooing the most attractive girl in his area, Judy (Judy Marte). However, as time passes, he begins to have feelings for her in a deeper way. In a way that is as unforgettable as anything we’ve seen in the last few years, Victor and Judy’s clumsy approach to one other, revealing their own adolescent weaknesses, is as genuine, low-key, and sensual as it gets.
7. “Dirty Dancing” (1987)
When it comes to first loves, first kisses, first sexual encounters, and first dancing moves (“She can’t even do a basic!”), the film “Dirty Dancing” is a cultural landmark that has crossed the line from guilty pleasure to respectable entertainment. The fact that it hasn’t aged like other films with stonewashed jeans and backcombed hair and a 1950s environment of pre-lib, women’s nuclear family ideals, suggests that the film’s endurance is due in part to its historical setting. Regardless of its gimmicks, we’re willing to defend it since it contains everything an adolescent movie should have: a love story, a dance movie, and a coming-of-age story all rolled into one, and it managed to persuade an entire generation of females that Patrick Swayze was The World’s Sexiest Man. Vacationing at Kellerman’s Resort, Baby’s (Jennifer Grey) family is full of innocents who are fast to learn. Johnny Castle, a disturbed, bike-riding, leather-clad, self-hating lothario dance instructor, falls for Baby (Swayze). Despite the efforts of fate and fatherly intervention, the two may easily run, jump, and fly over every obstacle that stands in their way. Dirty Dancing may not be popular with the younger generation, but it will never be put in a corner by anyone of the male variety or those of us in our late teens and early 20s.
8. “My Summer Of Love” (2004)
At its best, “My Summer Of Love” captures the euphoria that accompanies first love so well that you can almost smell your own hormones. It’s one of the best British films of recent years, and one of the best romantic comedies ever made.
A working-class girl (Natalie Press) whose only surviving family member is her brother Phil (Paddy Considine), an ex-con who’s now converted to Christianity, is the focus of Pawel Pawlikowsi’s film. Over an unusually warm and sunny Yorkshire summer, she meets Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a local rich girl, and they become good friends before falling in love, despite their differing backgrounds. Both Blunt and the lesser-known but no less gifted Press are wonderful in their relationship, which is never sensationalized. It’s the kind of impossible-to-understand friendship that can only exist between young girls, and it can occasionally tilt into something more (as is Considine, though that should probably go without saying at this point). Pawlikoski doesn’t shy away from emotional or physical violence in this poetic film, which was beautifully photographed by DoP Ryszard Lenczewski. The result is a film that is both vital and memorable.
9. “Say Anything” (1989)
For all its focus on Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court, Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything is actually about Dobler (John Cusack). We’re reminded over and over again that Diane is a genius and an enigma, but it’s Dobler with whom we fall in love, subtly hinted at when Lloyd’s female pals, including Lili Taylor, all grudgingly admit that certainly, they would. Even if he lacks the kind of focus that an aspirational parent may desire in a boyfriend, this guy is everything a woman might hope for in a romantic partner—romantic and unafraid of it, and completely dedicated without being saccharine. What is Lloyd’s long-term goal? Because he’s “very excellent at it,” he wants to be with Diane. Simply one of the finest romantic comedies of all time, yet sweet and winning enough to get us over our bitterness that nobody has ever taken the goddamn hint and stood on our lawn with a boom box to declare their everlasting love for us. Not a single one.
10. “Harold and Maude” (1971)
Harold (Bud Cort), a young guy obsessed with death (he fakes his own death in a series of funny faked suicides), and Maude (a woman near death), Harold’s first love story (Ruth Gordon).
“Harold and Maude,” directed by Hal Ashby and praised by Roger Ebert as “a movie of attitudes,” has a unique tone and style that many filmmakers have tried to imitate, but none have been able to match. There are also tracks from the Cat Stevens soundtrack that Wes Anderson utilized as a model.) There is something cheerful and positive about the romance in “Harold and Maude,” despite the film’s morbid subject matter, such as Harold peeking at the death camp number tattooed on Maude’s arm. In spite of how bleak things appear at first, a relationship may be fulfilling, strong, and hilarious. It’s Harold’s first and Maude’s last love. There are so many powerful notes to identify and attach yourself to in “Harold and Maude” (as well as so many constantly quotable phrases; one of our favorites is Harold’s mother, Vivian Pickles, declaring, “This is all getting to be too much”). Wes Anderson is the only director who could have made a film like Harold and Maude, which is as eccentric, political, and odd as it is, today.
11. “The Notebook” (2004)
That humiliating girlie flick Ryan Gosling made before becoming the worldly cool, toothpick-chewing vigilante was known as “The Notebook” by some while others saw it as OMG the incredibly fantastic story of first love that overcomes everything even senile dementia. Gena Rowlands and James Garner bring some seriousness to the film, while Rachel McAdams and the outrageously youthful-looking Gosling are bursting with so much dewy beauty that it’s hard to stay mad with the film, no matter how cynical one’s heart. Allie and Noah (also referred to as Duke for Big Reveal purposes) are prewar youngsters who fall in love but are kept apart by Allie’s aristocratic parents’ machinations and letter-suppressing measures. Eventually she goes for a nice affluent guy (perennial fifth wheel James Marsden), but when Noah re-enters her life she has to pick between him and him *Warning: Spoiler* Even though it’s a narrative about an older man’s relationship with an elderly woman in a nursing home, the last dance between Duke and Allie, and the evocative depiction of old-age memory loss, was the point at which this film sank its teeth into us. As a romantic film, “The Notebook” has become famous for its portrayal of swoon-worthy romance between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.
12. “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012)
Style over substance is a common criticism leveled at any new Wes Anderson film because of the filmmaker’s highly stylized and fetishized approach. Nonetheless, “Moonrise Kingdom” is a wonderful response to that criticism—its look and setting (the never-ending world of New Penzance) are as uniquely Andersonian as anything he’s done, but the heart that beats beneath is universal and strangely insightful, especially for a film about a lisping boy Scout who falls in love with a girl dressed as a bird. In fact, Anderson’s ever-playful sensibility is perfectly suited to the journey of discovery and wonder that is falling in love for the first time, even as children, which moors his more whimsical flights of fancy to an emotional core that, while never so indulged as to become sickly, does give his style what it sometimes lacks—a certain, sweet purpose. When we finished the picture, we were left with a lingering impression of the warmth that Anderson and his two meticulously deadpan juvenile stars (Jared Gilman and Suzy Hayward) conjured up. “Moonrise Kingdom” has a singularity that comes from the lovingly crafted images, but the caring for the people and their absolutely batshit yet profoundly felt circumstances gives it permanency.
13. “Heavenly Creatures” (1994
It was “Heavenly Creatures,” based on the true-life story of two young girls who plotted to murder one of their moms, that broke Peter Jackson out of the gore-strewn New Zealand genre ghetto. Rather than merely dramatizing the connection, Jackson takes you into the minds of the females, who have created a vibrant fantasy world of their own. Using the skills he developed working with cutting-edge visual effects and Jackson’s command of whimsical fantasy aspects, he brings to life the feeling that we all experience when we’re completely immersed in a new relationship. The performances of Winslet and Lynskey are flawless, blurring the boundary between heterosexual friendliness and genuine romantic love in a flawless manner. The movie’s macabre ending makes you almost root for the girls to get away with it, not because they’re innocent, but because you want their relationship to continue forth. Among Jackson’s finest works, it served as a prelude to his career as a multiplex-loving director, which he would go on to enjoy for the rest of his days in Hollywood. “Heavenly Creatures” beautifully (and savagely) depicts how confusing and transportive first loves can be.
14. “Wuthering Heights” (1970)
Most people know Robert Fuest from his 1970s horror films, but they may be surprised to learn that he also directed an adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic novel “Wuthering Heights,” starring Bond-to-be Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff and English television actress Anna Calder-Marshall as Cathy, years before Andrea Arnold did her version and years before Ralph Fiennes/Juliette Binoche. When Patrick Tilley’s rendition of Fuest’s narrative (written by British science fiction author Patrick Tilley) came out, it brought out all of the sorrow and heartbreak of the tortured love story. In order to avoid employing Cathy’s ghost, Fuest scrapped the novel’s original story framework and began the film with Cathy’s funeral and a passionate Heathcliff diving into her grave. Fuest’s portrayal of Cathy and Heathcliff’s tragedy from their bleak upbringing to their tumultuous lifelong love affair, a cruel blend of emotional masochism and sadism, is among the greatest to handle the weight of their melodrama. No wonder there have been so many film versions of this classic first love story, and this forgotten one by Fuest rates right up there.
15. “Love Story” (1970)
Love Story’s cultural significance can only be described by picturing Edward and Bella’s eyes meeting across a library in a Nicholas Sparks novel. When Arthur Hiller adapted the best-selling novel into a movie, it became a sensation and the most successful picture of all time, becoming the sixth most grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation, it made the equivalent of half a billion dollars in the U.S.). A simple love tale between a privileged Ivy Leaguer (Ryan O’Neal) and a working-class Italian immigrant (Jennifer Cavalleri) is what makes this exceptional (Ali MacGraw). To the dismay of Oliver’s family, the couple wed soon after graduating from college. When they begin trying for a baby, they learn that Jennifer is critically ill. “Love Story” isn’t even close to a good movie; it’s syrupy, artificial, and often cheap, and the innately unlikable O’Neal definitely wasn’t the perfect choice for Oliver in the role. Even so, MacGraw is positively beaming, and very charming with it, and goddamn, the picture works—Hiller proves to be just tasteful enough to stop it from sliding into utter treacle, and the finale is undoubtedly affecting.
16. “Endless Love” (1981)
‘Endless Love,’ the teen melodrama by Franco Zeffirelli, is a ridiculous, deliriously mawkish love story that handed Brooke Shields her first part since the softcore children’s hit “Blue Lagoon.” After an intensive search, the film stars Martin Hewitt (who was likely driven back and dropped off shortly after) as a 15- and 17-year old sexually active couple who are simply smitten. It’s so bad that when nooky gets banned from school owing to parental interference, he decides to impress his way back into her bed by rescuing the family home from the fire he himself started. An arsonist is sentenced to prison after this perfect plot fails. In the end, he causes the death of Shields’ father and is thrown back down. Despite the title, this is not a comedy. Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde were said to be in the running to play Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde in a remake version of the film, but it seems to have faded into the background.
17. “An Education” (2009)
At first glance, you may believe you’ve found the perfect match in “An Education,” but it turns out to be quite the opposite. So it is when Jenny (Carey Mulligan) falls in love with David (David Strathairn), an older businessman (Peter Sarsgaard). As Jenny discovers that David isn’t who he appears to be, the movie shows how these disclosures impact the color of the relationship…. People who had warned Jenny about dating an older man and about the dangers of rushing into something so serious were vindicated in retrospect, much to Jenny’s dismay, while the good times when she was smitten with love were tarnished. This adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir, “An Education,” written by novelist Nick Hornby and starring Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour, captures the awkwardness of first love in a way that’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Scenes like this may resonate because they portray the subtle, delicate speed bumps on the way to your first love that are rarely depicted. Jenny, like any good first love, grows stronger and more dynamic as a result of her experience. But she’s not going to be able to say that this was her last or best love.
18. “Jack and Diane” (2011)
When it comes to the first love, it’s often messy and difficult to explain. This makes “Jack and Diane,” a muddled mess of a movie, seem much more powerful than it actually is. At one point in the film, Diane (Juno Temple) becomes the target of Jack (Riley Keough), a young girl who is more comfortable with her sexuality, and they begin a relationship. Because the girls are constantly morphing into some kind of monster (originally the movie was referred to as a werewolf thing, but the effects by stop motion pioneers the Quay Brothers are confined to scenes that may or may not be dream sequences), they fumble through things even more painfully. Monsters don’t really fit in with the rest of the story because they’re depicted in such murky detail. Although it doesn’t really matter for a major portion of the movie, the sense of metamorphosis that occurs when you’re in a relationship with another person, especially for the first time, is nicely portrayed. A large part of the success of “Jack and Diane” can be attributed to the young actors, who do an excellent job of portraying such a unique experience and making it accessible to everyone.
19. “Grease” (1978)
First love portrayed in music is the only thing better than a first love! As a bonus, the song “Summer Nights” serves as a succinct retelling of how Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy met and fell in love during the summer of their high school years, and it’s a joy to watch. The rest of “Grease” concentrates on Danny and Sandy’s high school relationship after they find they’ll both be attending the same school the next year. It’s at this point that all the high school dynamics come into play: meeting each other’s friends, attending school dances, and attempting to maintain a long-term relationship after you’ve met the other person in the sunny bubble of summer vacation. “Grease” may be a fiction, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be accurate. So we get to see how perfect that initial love was, and how quickly it devolved into madness. Also, the music is fantastic.
20. “Submarine” (2010)
“Submarine” marked a watershed event in the careers of everyone involved, since it was a stylish adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s debut novel and the directorial debut of gifted comic and actor Richard Ayoade. As Oliver Tate and Jordana Bevan navigate the choppy waters of romance in drizzly 1980s Wales, teen actors Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige play a pair of classmates who must deal with a slew of issues, both familial and existential, as they face the challenges of love. Despite the film’s many allusions to the French New Wave (check out Richard Brody’s takedown in the New Yorker), Oliver Tate is more like a young Woody Allen (another comic turned director) than anything from Truffaut or Godard. As a result, the film has been compared favorably to Wes Anderson’s work. Tate, like Isaac Davis and Alvy Singer, is a self-proclaimed Nietzsche-reading intellectual who is convinced of his own genius and can switch between the sublime and the ridiculous in a heartbeat. In “Submarine” (thanks to a stellar performance from Roberts), the ambiguous nature of young love is perfectly captured; Oliver is suicidal one minute and daydreaming the next. We should pity any man who thinks his first romance was less ridiculous, less anguished, or less po-faced than the star-crossed lovers at the heart of this assured and big hearted debut. Of course.
21. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008)
What if we had a second chance at love with the person we first fell in love with? Who knows what may have happened had we been able to travel back in time and repair things? Is there still that spark, that compatibility, that uniqueness? When Brad Pitt portrays a man who ages backwards, Cate Blanchett plays the lady who falls in love with him, while witnessing him literally disintegrate to a young age, in David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” these are some of the questions the film addresses. “Middle” is a powerful part of the movie, when the two protagonists are around the same age and have at least some hope of a normal life. On the surface, their connection is a metaphor for human evolution and proof that while first love is transient, the bonds that it develops are everlasting like a thick wire running just below the surface of your existence. With no time for nonsense, Fincher brings the supernatural components to terrifying life and the emotional elements to vivid life, as well.
22. “The Graduate” (1967)
The Vietnam War was in full swing, the Summer of Love swept through San Francisco, and the Beatles made “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Charlie Chaplin’s final picture, “The Great Dictator,” was released in 1967. Few films can better represent the end of the conservative 1950s and the beginning of the modern period than “The Graduate” if cinema may serve as a symbol for an era. Robert Redford and Warren Beatty were originally considered for the role of college graduate Benjamin Braddock, but Mike Nichols rejected them both because neither had ever “hit out” with an attractive woman. When Dustin Hoffman finally got the part because of his “underdog” qualities, he gave an incredible performance that has earned the film a place in the National Film Registry of the United States of America. This performance has inspired countless sexually inexperienced college boys around the world (they must be out there somewhere, right?) to fantasize about having their own liaisons with seductive older women. The genuine finding of “first love,” however, is between Benjamin and Elaine Robinson, the daughter of Mrs. Robinson. To comprehend the dangers of mature relationships, the two young lovers embark on a confusing affair and realize they must break free from the hypocritical limitations of their parents’ generation. To this day, the picture (and its Simon & Garfunkel music) remain cultural touchstones for generations of film-watchers, thanks to a successful stage version and the film’s ongoing popularity.
23. “Let the Right One In” (2008)
“Let the Right One In,” although being set in a cold Soviet-era Sweden and starring a blood-sucking vampire, is weirdly sympathetic. At school, Oskar, a 12-year-old boy from a Stockholm ghetto, is frequently bullied and ignored by both of his divorced parents. A strange young girl, Eli, moves into Oskar’s concrete slab of a building in the middle of a snow-covered city. While Oskar is smitten with Eli, it’s worth noting that she may or may not be a girl at all, and that the movie’s most intriguing twist (which was left out of the wonderful American remake, “Let Me In”) suggests that she may be a serial killer who is in her thrall. This is a position that Oskar could very well find himself in one day. First love is a beautiful ode to first love, the way we form bonds with people instantly and irrevocably, and the fact that when you fall in love, you’re able to overlook a whole lot of awful shit about the other person, including vampirism. When you first fall in love with someone, it can be painful. “Let the Right One In” depicts that pain in a way that is both jarring and poignant.
24. “Show Me Love” (1998)
After a string of high-quality and frequently confrontational films, Lukas Moodysson became one of the darlings of European filmmaking with this spiky paean to adolescent romance. When it comes to young love films, the claustrophobic atmosphere of small-town life, in this case a Swedish town (hence the film’s original title “Fucking ammel”), is used to highlight the liberating and deadly implications of romantic love. Although the film’s great virtue is that it never makes too much of a meal out of this and instead merely gives as realistic a representation of the modern teenager as you are likely to find anyplace. A lot of mopey and hysterical behavior is there, but this does not detract from the honest and empathetic handling of adolescent relationships in this film. An outcast at school and an outgoing and popular wild child are polar opposites in the love of Agnes (the reclusive and introverted one) and Elin (the extroverted and popular one). In addition to the anthem-like theme single by Robyn, the music of “Show Me Love” was beaten only by “Titanic” at the Swedish box office for 1998-99 and won numerous awards. Teenage life has never been shown with more energy and clarity than here, and Moodysson, an artist who is both provocative and mercurial, came onto the European stage with this.
25. “Romeo and Juliet” (1968)
Well, that was obvious. No list of this kind would be complete without “Romeo and Juliet,” William Shakespeare’s best-known narrative of (tragic) young love. Julian Fellowes, the author of “Downton Abbey,” has penned numerous film adaptations, including George Cukor’s 1936 version and Baz Luhrmann’s current rendition, which has been entertaining English students since 1996. Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 picture, on the other hand, is possibly the most relevant for our needs because it casts 16-year-old Olivia Hussey and 17-year-old Leonard Whiting as the two protagonists. (Romeo is never explicitly given an age in the play, although Juliet has, according to her father in the play, “Not seen the change of fourteen years.””) That first flush of love is brought out in a way that many of the previous attempts have failed to capture. Even more so than in Luhrmann’s MTV version. In addition to being Zeffirelli’s best film, it’s sensual, honest, and romantic. That is an astonishing success for a 45-year-old picture based on a 400-year-old play. Even today, in the shadows of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, it still feels new.