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15 Best Romantic Drama Movies of All Time

June 9, 2017
23 min read
brokenhearted

“Broken Hearted”. The two-worded term is charming because of the way it signifies something that requires mending. It really does, too. Coping with your problems and looking forward to what the future holds is ultimately what keeps us going. This is where movies come into play. There are pictures out there that feel as though they were made specifically to help someone who was going through a tough time. The way I see it, these films are of two basic genres – the ‘comedies’ and the ‘dramas’. Diving deeper, when I say comedies, I am referring to the light-hearted ones usually surrounding but not exclusively inclined to some kind of romance; and the dramas I’m referring to are the extremely personal ones, at an almost intimate level, that provide a bit of hope through their stories.

One of the many reasons these movies act as a remedy to our pain is because of how close they feel to us. With them, it is a one-to-one relationship, and no one steps in between. They allow us to think for ourselves, and they give us satisfaction and comfort. It’s a strange sort of chemistry that I find myself having with these movies. If they can make you laugh and make you cry, then surely they can fix your problems, at least to an extent and for a period of time. It’s funny how movies hold such a great power over our feelings. That’s probably the reason why we love ‘em so much. Here’s the list of top romantic drama films you must watch. You can watch some of these really good romantic movies on Hulu or Amazon Prime.

15. City Lights (1931)

Charlie Chaplin’s earliest films all have one thing in common: despite the very sad background and situations that the characters find themselves in, they are able to enjoy the blissful moments in life and stay hopeful for the future. It’s no different in ‘City Lights’, a film often referred to as the master’s best, where a tramp (Chaplin) falls for a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) who sells by the street corner. Imagining him to be a rich and wealthy man, the blind girl falls for the tramp’s incredibly soft and kind nature. He is attracted to her as well, but doesn’t reveal the truth about his poor living conditions. The two form a beautiful friendship despite all this and the tramp agrees to help her out when he learns of her difficult lifestyle.

‘City Lights’ shows a time and a place that was very hard to cope with, but in spite of all that, happiness was found and life was celebrated. Whenever we go through a tough period, as much as we may dislike it, in the end we will yearn for other people to come closer and provide us comfort. That’s how they get through all the miserable events in this film, and they always figure out a way to find something to laugh about. The ending of this film provides a great message to all those brokenhearted lovers out there. It is by mending our hearts that we give others something to love us for. Forget looks, wealth, and success… it all comes down to the heart, where all that matters lies.

 

14. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

A superb film with a stellar cast, ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ works both as a comedy and a hard hitting drama. The film is about a family, the mother of which leaves her son and husband and goes away from home. We then see how the father and the son learn to live without their wife and mother (respectively), all the while forming a much stronger bond with each other than they ever had before. The film went on to win Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards. The dramatic elements begin to take shape when the father and the mother go into a custody battle to see who gets to keep their son.

For those out of a relationship, this film may feel extremely relatable, as all the household responsibilities fall upon just one person soon after, and life just generally gets harder to live; but as the son and his father figure out for themselves, as time goes on, life takes upon different streams and gets refreshed once again. The process of this happening is captured very well in the film, and is definitely one of the highlights of it. The film is very sad nearing the end, and it is sure to leave one feeling uneasy and emotional. ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ is a powerful film that gives its reasons as to why it thinks married couples fall apart and how their differences take over the love that they might have had for each other earlier on in an extremely touching manner.

 

13. Fantasia (1940)

This is probably the most different film on the list. All it is is a movie with virtually no plot. The best way to describe ‘Fantasia’ would be as a series of animated images with an orchestra conducting the background score, and within all of this lies the cure to all your pain. Some films work because of how they act as a means of escape – anything that may be troubling you can be brushed out of your mind by it. ‘Fantasia’ is this type of movie. It is a series of different pieces of classical music with animation set to the mood and tone of each piece. The animation is initially a bunch of lines swiftly moving across the sky, and as the film progresses, the stories change and there exist fairies, dinosaurs, hippopotamuses, and of course, people.

Everything about this film can be summed up by a few words, but the one that stands out and holds true for each piece of music and each slide of animation is this: hypnotic. ‘Fantasia’ takes you to a place where none of your troubles matter anymore. For two hours, there exist no worries in your life – no pain and no suffering. All you hear is beauty and all you see is magic. The animated visuals almost feel like interpretations of the musical piece playing in the background, and calling it a calming experience would be an understatement. Few films capture the essence of the basic elements of cinema like ‘Fantasia’ does, and it is a masterpiece that shall live on for years to come.

 

12. The Party (1968)

Blake Edwards’ 1968 comedy is the film I shelter in whenever I feel bad, and so it definitely wins its own place on this list. ‘The Party’ is like that friend you have with whom you can share all your miseries and it will give you happiness in return. You can trust ‘The Party’ to be a heck of a good time and a film that will make you forget all that was cluttering your head. It tells both a ‘fish-out-of-water’ and a romance tale, about two people from completely different backgrounds who find each other in the midst of a party attended by celebrities and corporate giants. One is an Indian actor who was unintentionally invited, and the other is a budding French actress and singer.

Peter Sellers plays the Indian, and he does his part almost too perfectly, getting every joke to strike exactly when they are supposed to, and acting just as awkward as his character is supposed to be. The film acts as a vehicle for him to just be him, and it works. There isn’t a single unpleasant moment in ‘The Party’, and that’s probably why it’s one of the best films for someone who’s down and out. It presents a world that is just happy all around, and gets crazier as it reaches its finish and finally just whips out everything from its bag to give you a house filled with water, soap, bubbles, drunks, dancers, singers, and an elephant. ‘The Party’ is an essential watch for those who wish to forget, at least for a while.

 

11. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

‘When Harry Met Sally…’ is a film that questions the existence of a fine line between friendship and romance. It’s a comedy about two people who put their relationship on hold for twelve years because of confusions, misjudgments, other lovers, and a lack of understanding between the duo. The film works very well, and is very heartwarming. It is energetic and never runs out of ways to impress the audience. One thing I love very much is the chemistry between the lovers of the film, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan). The soundtrack is great as well, and it is one of the few romantic comedies that had me completely floored due to most of it hitting the mark.

The movie claims that soul mates do exist, and eventually everyone will find theirs. While that may be taking it a little too far, it might be just the kind of motivation someone needs to break off the period of loneliness brought on by heartbreak. This film is like a warm blanket, because of how sweet it is, and it carries this cozy feeling throughout its runtime. It’s one of those movies that you can only truly appreciate if you are completely alone, since the situations that take place feel all the more familiar. Rob Reiner is an incredible director, and it really shows here. One of the greatest films to be made in its genre, ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ will definitely make you laugh and leave an everlasting impression.

 

10. Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948)

I think the biggest message this film gives is a warning. The story has to do with the life of a successful pianist from the early stages of his career to a significant point in his life when he has to flee from a duel, and upon reaching home comes across a letter. Now, throughout many points in this man’s life, there had been a woman who followed close. An admirer, if you will. The letter is from her, and it accounts the several brief moments throughout both their lives when they accidentally or intentionally came across each other. The problem that stays prominent now is this: the pianist cannot remember who this woman is. Not her name, not her face, nothing.

The warning I wrote about earlier is something that becomes clearer to the pianist as his eyes trod down the letter, and it is never mentioned in words during the course of the film’s runtime. In short, it tells the audience to never be late. All this time one spends worrying over something is time wasted that could’ve been used for something else. This exceptionally sweet film also highlights the importance of studying people and understanding the ones who do actually care about you. When time runs out, it will naturally be too late, and even though we are aware of this, sometimes we need something like a film to remind us again of the need to not waste time with things that wouldn’t be as important as our own happiness.

 

9. Manchester By The Sea (2016)

I’ve seen this film a couple of times following its release, and I think it’s a film about reactions, or rather, what one should feel when something happens and how long the feeling must last for. In ‘Manchester By The Sea’, a man and his nephew cope with the man’s brother’s death. It’s a time of confusion, where both of them are unsure of how to show their emotions. The film inter-cuts scenes taking place in the present with flashbacks where we see the bond between all three men. The both of them really care for the departed man, but his brother and his son find themselves in a tough spot as they are given many other things to take care of that they keep their emotions within, almost afraid of what might happen if they were to be let it all out.

A film that speaks directly to those going through similar times, the beautifully realistic portrayal of events in this picture makes everything feel very authentic, like it all could in fact, actually happen. The characters are very relatable and the actors play them exceptionally. The brief period of grief brought on by bereavement is very tough for those close to the one no more, and that is one of the major themes that this film depicts. Casey Affeck’s character, who leads the film, has been beaten down so far with everything that life has offered him, and the film shows us how he goes through it all, although struggling. ‘Manchester By The Sea’ is a very personal film, one that many will find different reasons to connect to, and it portrays the aftermath of a death with such astounding realism and pain.

 

8. Chungking Express (1994)

People are everywhere, and we come across them everyday. Who knows what could happen with the next person you meet? ‘Chungking Express’ is a simple light-hearted film about two romances that take  place one after the other. In a way, it’s a movie about lonely people finding love, and in another, it’s a story about forgetting past relationships and moving on. The movie is beautifully shot, giving off an almost nostalgic feel through its visuals, and it has a wonderful soundtrack. (I mean, it is impossible to go wrong with The Mamas and The Papas) Wong Kai Wai, the director, understands the tiny moments that bring about an eternal love, and through his movie he examines these moments under a magnifying glass.

‘Chungking Express’ is a film for all those people who feel like they’ve reached a dead end and have absolutely no motivation to carry on forward. The characters are sad people who sport a smile on their faces to show others that everything is alright. Affection can be found in the simplest of things. A postcard, a note, or even a flower sometimes. These are messengers that get the feeling across, and many a times that’s all we need. It’s a sort of trustworthy bond that is created with such tangible objects. The beauty of this picture lies in how differently it sees the concept of love and what causes it. It doesn’t think of romance as a serious subject but rather something that people just come by, and that in itself is a wonderful thing to express through a movie.

 

7. Amelie (2001)

‘Amelie’ is a film that I have seen multiple times, and when I look back and think of it, the first few words that pop into my mind are ‘sweet’, ‘hopeful’, ‘cute’, and ‘green’. I do think that with these four, the movie can be described as a whole. It talks about a lonely life that aches to find comfort in others. The film is led by Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) and it details the process of her finding out what she was looking for, which is in fact something she isn’t sure about for the majority of the runtime. Without spoiling the film, I can tell you that her searches are all for someone to confide in. She goes around and helps the many people in her life, hoping to win their acquaintance, but in doing so she finds that there is a lack of that same sense of dependability on them.

I think the importance of having someone who can provide a shoulder to cry on and the understanding of the fact that loads of people depend on our presence are two important lessons one can learn from this film. The atmosphere of this movie is quite chirpy and very calming. Its characters and their quirky yet realistic habits can surely change one’s mood into something much brighter. The colors are light and pleasant, and the film has a very innocent approach towards its subjects and situations. On the whole, it provides the viewer with happiness, makes them believe in destiny, and tells them that they are not alone. It is at its core a love story, and a marvelous one at that.

 

6. Un Homme Et Une Femme (1966)

There’s so much about ‘Un Homme Et Une Femme’ that someone who’s lost someone dear as well as someone who’s gone through a break up can take for themselves. It’s style reminds one of the many New Wave films that came out prior to the release of this picture, in that the dialogue, acting, and the cuts seem very different and fresh. The film has one of the greatest soundtracks in movie history by one of the greatest composers of all time, Francis Lai. It follows a man and a woman who have both lost their significant others and it chronicles their time together as they fall for one another but at the same time accept the loss of the departed souls.

‘Un Homme Et Une Femme’ isn’t a perfect film, as it suffers from many flaws relating to the pacing and structure, but it does convey both feelings and a message. The characters are very relatable and the way their relationship slowly picks up is both believable and realistically depicted. The movie went on to win the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay awards at the Oscars the following year. It uses colors in a very fascinating way, to show differences in the time period and to highlight the emotions of the particular scene. I find this film very sweet and charming, and fall for it all over again with every additional watch.

 

5. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

‘(500) Days of Summer’ tells the tale of a doomed relationship, by studying bits and pieces of it in a non linear fashion in order to show the problems that happened and how they affected the couple in focus. It’s a very original concept, and has been handled beautifully by director Marc Webb. The main points discussed within the film are the lack of effectiveness in a one-sided love, and what makes love work in general. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel play the central couple who go through happy and sad times during their period together. What they have for each other is something that’s at the budding stage of romance, but unfortunately they are unable to take it any further from there, which brings on their eventual break-up.

This film is for anyone looking for a person to relate to and find a sense of optimism in, because as far as its thoughts go, ‘(500) Days of Summer’ argues that one broken relationship is nothing to worry about when there is so much fish in the sea. Life is all about experimenting with chance anyways, so why not do the same with your love life? Our expectations and anticipations often get the better of us and we don’t give life the chance to bring on its surprises. This is the happy note on which ‘(500) Days of Summer’ ends, which I feel is enough to help anyone regain that lost sense of enthusiasm. If it were summer all year long, the grass wouldn’t grow.

 

4. The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)

Love is a complicated thing. It is near impossible to love a person as a whole. Most of the time, we prefer a couple characteristics, because it is only human to be imperfect. In Woody Allen’s ‘The Purple Rose Of Cairo’, a poor woman falls in love with a character she watches in a movie. After she sees the film a couple more times in the theater, the character – a hunter by profession – literally jumps out of the screen and takes her on a ride around town. Trouble ensues as this creates a hilarious complexity of events at the cinema hall from which the character escaped, the production company, and even the actors involved, one of whom now has a double walking around! Since the character on screen is written as strong, mighty, and confident, he sports little connections to real people, and so the woman sees in him someone who is perfect – the man of her dreams.

‘The Purple Rose Of Cairo’ leaves its audience with the powerful message of letting go. In the end, if everything else fails, that’s pretty much all we can do. The film gets much sadder as it concludes, but it ends at a point of hope, and I feel that’s enough to get someone to go out there and meet new people. It’s easier to get something close to perfect than something that is absolute perfection. The movie says that what we really look for and take interest in may be the little imperfections that come along with what we are attracted to. It reaffirms the fact that at the end of the day, we always have movies to turn to, as they take us to a world that is quite different from ours, and helps to forget our problems, our miseries, and our sadness.

 

3. Mary & Max (2009)

What do we miss about people when they cease to exist? What about them do we cherish? What, ultimately, do they mean to us? ‘Mary & Max’ is an animated film about two very different people. One is a little girl from Australia named Mary Daisy Dinkle (Bethany Whitmore) and the other is a middle aged obese man named Max Horowitz, (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and they find each other in the year 1976 when Mary decides to make a pen pal out of someone she has no other contact with. They soon communicate all their inner feelings and begin to slowly form a picture of each other in their heads. Max is a very lonely man, suffering from a long list of mental and health issues. Mary is misunderstood, friendless, and has parents who give her very little attention. The two get stuck in their own world, and they long to receive a mail from the other party. Sometimes they quarrel, and sometimes they don’t write for long, but they keep this friendship strong for several years.

‘Mary & Max’ is a film like no other, because it expresses emotions in ways I never thought was possible of cinema. The two never meet each other in person until the very end, and it really feels like all they have in this world is each other. This film gets very emotional as it reaches a close, and all its comedic elements are quite dark if you really begin to think about it. This film could really help out someone brokenhearted over the loss of a close friend or relative, because it asks all the questions that I started this with. The film says that what we ultimately miss about a person is their personality or their character. That is what defines them and it is glimpses of this that we see in all of their actions. Sad as it is, the film ends on a slightly happy note as the characters discover for themselves how it feels to finally see each other for real.

 

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

most rewatchable films

Michel Gondry, the director of this film, has a style that is both distinctive and defining. He approaches his subject in a very indie-surrealist fashion. He likes to play around with how we think and feel. In ‘The Science Of Sleep (2006)’ the mind is pictured as this strange contraption made out of cardboard and egg cartons. ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is a film that uses the memories in our heads as its base upon which the major conflicts of the film take place. Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is a man willing to go through a procedure to remove the memories of his ex-girlfriend from his brain as revenge because she had the same thing done to him, but during the procedure he begins to realize how precious his time with her was.

Writers Charlie Kaufman, Pierre Bismuth and Gondry show through their film the importance of the events that happen in our life. They are what make us who we are by shaping our ideology, practices and actions. Removing them would mean throwing out moments of our life. Everything that happens to us is something that we will ultimately look back on and cherish, simply because that’s part of how we got here. ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is one of the greatest films ever made, and it allows one to examine as well as find some value in each one of their own memories and experiences, even the somber ones.

 

1. Three Colors: Blue (1993)

Krzysztof Kieslowski is a filmmaker who understand people and the reasons due to which they do what they do perfectly well. Most of his films involve a central character and the story is usually about how they respond to sudden changes in the stimuli of their atmosphere. This may include the people they meet, the things they see, or events that happen to them. In ‘Three Colors: Blue’, the first film in the Three Colors Trilogy, the event is a car accident and the character associated with as well as leading the picture is Julie (Juliette Binoche), the only surviving member of the family of three that was in the car. She chooses to react to the situation by slowly removing all sorts of human contacts and connections that she had in her past, for the pain and confusion following the event has left her unsure of what to do next.

One of the sadder films on this list, ‘Blue’ is all about understanding the various emotions that our main character goes through and why she goes through them, which in turn has a lot to do with us. The period following the onset of something sad is one that is quick and abrupt, and this is why it is very hard to deal with. In short, ‘Blue’ covers this period that Julie goes through in which time she decides to abandon everything from her life that had some sort of connection with the dear departed, all the while coming across pieces of information about them that she finds hard to express anything for, all the way to a point of time… where she can once again.

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