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12 Best Marriage Movies of All Time

August 3, 2018
9 min read

As a cinephile, I’ve grown to be fascinated more by films that depict the frailties of human nature and the intricacies of relationships which is why filmmakers like Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Asghar Farhadi and Richard Linklater have awed me with their astonishing observations of human lives and ability to seamlessly craft and interweave the emotional entanglements encircling relationships. And my prerequisites for watching films have changed gradually over time with my experiences in life and by exploring the works of great directors like the aforementioned ones whose films stretch the limitations and possibilities of what cinema could be. This article takes a look at the list of top marriage movies ever that observe, examine and study the complex dynamics of human relationships. You can watch some of these best movies about marriage on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

12. Revolutionary Road (2008)

Sam Mendes’ 2008 drama of a couple getting exposed to the brutalities of their relationship and getting to confront the realities they’ve been evading throughout their lives is as painful and disturbing as Mendes’ 1999 classic ‘American Beauty’ which explores similar themes. Beautifully acted by the iconic Kate-Leo duo, the film is relentless in its startling exploration of marriage and the intricacies of everyday life and how even the slightest of glances or a tiny bit of laugh could change the dynamics of a relationship in ways you haven’t imagined before. ‘Revolutionary Road’ won immense critical acclaim during its release but sadly has not caught up to its viewers with time and we hope that it gets the respect and admiration it truly deserves.

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11. The Painted Veil (2007)

A criminally underrated classic, ‘The Painted Veil’ is a beautifully haunting and heart-wrenching tale of a couple struggling to cope up with the harsh realities of marriage. Emotionally rich and visually gorgeous, ‘The Painted Veil’ explores the intrinsic qualities of human nature and the tragic incompatibility between people who love each other despite their seemingly obvious differences and flaws. The couple embark on a poignant journey of self-discovery amidst their marital turbulence as they rediscover the withering beauty of marriage. Moments of fleeting joy and happiness blossom in their lives as their relationship evolves with time and moments that bring them closer to each other.

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10. American Beauty (1999)

‘American Beauty’ is a film that I watched years back as a newbie cinephile and remember wondering what the film was all about and if it’s really worth all the hype and acclaim it had received. Nevertheless, it’s a film I’ve grown to appreciate and love over the years and is undoubtedly one of the finest relationship dramas in American cinema. ‘American Beauty’ tells the story of Lester Burnham, having a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend. The deceptive simplicity of the plot only adds to the fascinating mood and tone of the narrative as it lays its focus on dissecting the nuanced layers in its characters and beautifully sketches the complex dynamics of relationships between people whose futile endeavors to attain true happiness and fathom the purpose of their existence have made them confront the dark, tragic realization of their own selves and the vanity of their existence to the people around them.

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9. Blue Valentine (2010)

Of the many great romantic dramas that we’seen this decade, ‘Blue Valentine’ stands tall in its brutally honest depiction of a couple losing the clutches of their marriage. A tough sit through and at times, disturbingly relatable, the film dissects the brutalities of a relationship that gets increasingly complex as time plays a sadistic game in their lives, that tests their willingness to survive each other and challenges to break the deadlock hampering the faith in their relationship which, at one point of time, seemed infrangible. Very few films provide spaces for you to think and reflect upon your actions and the choices you make in life. ‘Blue Valentine’ is one of them and that is exactly what makes it a truly brilliant film.

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8. Cache (2005)

This might raise a few eyebrows out there considering how ‘Cache’ is generally regarded as a psychological mystery film. But that’s missing the point of the film. Michael Haneke’s nerve-wracking masterpiece is a disturbing look into the sheltered zones of the bourgeouis life. Haneke tears apart the secrets and morality of his characters as the haunting remains of past seep into their lives, wrecking the comforts of their existence and the vulnerabilities inherent in relationships. ‘Cache’ depicts the paranoia of a wealthy French family whose lives are shattered with the intrusion of a series of anonymous surveillance tapes capturing their daily life activities. What follows is a harrowing examination of the contortions of the truth that blind our perceptions of realities around us and how it ruins the comforting spaces of relationships.

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7. Certified Copy (2010)

Arguably Abbas Kiarostami’s boldest and most ambiguous film, ‘Certified Copy’ follows a British writer and a French antiques dealer, whose relationship undergoes a strange transformation over the course of a day. With the quintessential European setting, Kiarostami explores the philosophical themes of art and questions the significance of originality in art while drawing parallels of it with human relationships. The thematic shift in the film plays out to the changing dynamics of the relationship between its protagonists. Kiarostami questions the human mind’s perceptions of reality and the facades masking our existence that tears us between who we are and who we want to be, using the universal themes of marriage and examines the intricacies and nuances of human relationships.

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6. The Master (2012)

Is it a love story? A mirror image of their longing selves? Or a master-disciple relationship? We never know. There are no concrete answers explanations provided in the movie for the ambiguous relationship shared between Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Paul Thomas Anderson’s searing masterpiece is a cinematically daring and thematically layered tale of self-discovery, rejuvenation and freedom. ‘The Master’ tells the story of Freddie Quell, an emotionally unstable World-War II veteran struggling to adjust to a civilized society and finds solace by becoming a member of a religious movement known as “The Cause”. The film centers around the complex relationship dynamics of Freddie and his master, Dodd. Anderson crafts his characters and interweaves their emotional entanglements with impeccable finesse and seductive aplomb.

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5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

The weird, eccentric genius of Charlie Kaufman translates on-screen with a narrative that anatomizes the human psyche into fragments of distorted emotions and memories. ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ portrays the tumultuous relationship between Joel and Clementine as they try to erase memories of their past through a scientific process. Neatly directed by Michel Gondry from a staggeringly original script by Charlie Kaufman, the film brilliantly paints the ever changing dynamics of human feelings and the perennial desires to be loved and cared. The story of Joel and Clementine’s is our own; the swinging ambivalence towards people who’ve long become fragmented memories with time and we could only cling on to the fading images of the good times we’ve shared with them while wiping out the regrets and mistakes of our past in search of a new beginning.

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 4. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

There was a time when Woody Allen was a master of his craft; an auteur fearlessly exploring the absurd facets of human nature, the futility of existence and the tragedy encircling relationships. And ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ was one of the many cinematic gems he produced when he was at the absolute zenith of his creative prowess. The film chronicles the complex, intertwined stories of a family separated between two Thanksgivings two years apart. A beautifully tragic and funny tale of love, marriage and infidelity, the film depicts the frailties of human relationships fluttering around the corridors of despair and dilemma with Allen infusing his trademark dry sense of humor.

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3. Before Midnight (2013)

The final installment in Richard Linklater’s iconic romantic saga of the ‘Before’ films happens to be the most matured one of the three. ‘Before Midnight’ shows a Jesse and Celine, well beyond the playfulness and exuberance of youth and are now parents to twin girls as they look back the years flashed by, reminiscing about their lives and old selves. Linklater examines the beauty and flaws of marriage as Jesse and Celine’s relationship has complexly evolved with time as the realities of everyday existence along with the parental responsibilities and their clash of perspectives are forcing them to confront the rationality of the choices they made in their lives.

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2. Winter Sleep (2014)

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s magnum opus is a masterful portrait of withering human relationships and a profound study of regrets, isolation and hypocrisy ingrained in modern lives. ‘Winter Sleep’ is a powerful examination of human authority, the naïve worldview of the rich and the infrangible moral strength of the poor. Ceylan abstains from being preachy and humanizes his characters and leaves for us to decide what is right and wrong and that human lives are beyond mere judgments. The film centers around Aydin, a highly influential and wealthy man, his wife and his recently divorced sister who spend the winter in their hotel as their shell-like existence in their own secluded spaces and swaying emotions have increasingly made it difficult for them to get along with each other.

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1. A Separation (2011)

Emotionally bloody and morally harrowing, Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A Separation’ is perhaps the most realistic portrayal of family relationships in cinema. The film tells the story of a married couple with conflicting interests, planning to separate but are torn apart by their teenage daughter whose uncertain future is forcing them to make a decision that would forever change their lives. In a brilliant act of filmmaking, Farhadi initially presents his characters as who they appear to be but gradually peels off the complex layers of his characters, bringing in a sense of moral ambiguity to the story that leaves the audience with virtually no one to root for towards the end. The film refrains from the slightest bit of emotional manipulation as the dynamics of the relationships between the characters unfold with hard-hitting revelations of the darker truths concealed by people in their everyday lives.

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