Valentine’s Day 2008 Top 10

In honor of a holiday I don’t even like, I bring you the Top Ten Movie Romances that Aren’t in Romance Movies. Because Romance Movies are lame. Of course.

10. Paprika

You won’t know that you’re watching a romance develop until you’re almost at the end, but somehow the sweetness of the thing will overwhelm you if you let it. After a movie’s worth of slightly too much anger over her coworker Tokita’s lack of care for himself, we suddenly realize that Chiba really does care for her overweight friend. And Chiba’s really hot.

After a million Beauty’s-on-the-inside-but-can’t-be-seen-unless-you-get-a-makeover stories pouring out of Hollywood, seeing a romance blossom between a hot girl and an obese man simply because he’s a really good guy will make you heart melt. Unless you’re a hot guy who’s angry because the cool fat dude stole your girlfriend. In which case: Nyah-nyah!

9. Heavenly Creatures

Ok, so it’s a bit twisted. I mean, these two 16 year old girls become completely obsessed with each other, and end up killing one of their parents out of fear of being separated. But before all of that madness, there’s just a brief moment of the two of them showing the kind of maddening love that only two teenagers can feel for each other. Anyway, Valentine’s Day is way more twisted than simple matricide.

8. Magnolia

Somewhere in the middle of pt anderson’s sprawling, 3 hour opus about crisscrossing lives in Los Angeles, an incredibly touching relationship between a cocaine addict and a loser policeman begins. You keep waiting for the thing to end in some kind of train wreck, because the girl is just so screwed up and the guy is almost anti-social. But it doesn’t.

Even if you ignore the hopeful feeling this guy’s pure (if slightly pathetic) love for this damaged woman gives you, you can’t help but swoon when the two share one of the awesomest movie kisses ever.

7. The Empire Strike Back

Do I really need to go into this? Ok, ok, I’ll give you something:

Leia: I love you

Han: I know.

See?

6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

What’s better than a movie romance where the couple in question never kiss, let alone consummate anything? One where they also do lots of flying kung fu and have goofy hairdos. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon manages to portray an unrequited romance that never comes off as melodramatic or contrived, even though one of them dies in the other’s arms by the end. I can only attribute this to Ang Lee’s superior kung fu magic.

Ok, in all seriousness, this film’s romance between Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien is both delicate and subtle, portraying a couple in love but separated out of the kind of honor and duty that you only see in martial arts films. Because Shu Lien is the widow of Li Mu Bai’s brother, they can never be together. That doesn’t stop Li Mu Bai from refusing to center himself at the moment of his death, though, thereby forsaking an eternity of enlightenment for one more moment with his love. Makes me to cry.

5. Batman Returns

Another twisted mess of a relationship, only this one has the added fun of latex bodysuits. Terminal headcases Batman and Catwoman fight in costume while their headcase alter-egos Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle fall in love and make out. The scene where they fool around on the couch, trying to avoid the other touching their battle wounds is wonderful. The scene where they repeat lines last said to each other in costume, and realize who the other is, is even better. It’s the only Batman romance that ever worked, but it worked like a charm.

4. Jackie Brown

Just like Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien, Jackie and her partner in crime Max Cherry never seal the deal. That doesn’t stop them from making your heart thump just a little bit harder when they get to flirting, though. While Crouching Tiger‘s protagonists stayed celibate out of duty, Jackie and Max stay apart out of necessity. There’s just too much to worry about with all that money at stake, and once the crime is committed, there’s just that little bit of worry that maybe Jackie was using Max to pull off her scam.

Maybe if Max had taken a bigger share of the money, Jackie could have felt less guilty and stayed. And maybe if there had been no money, Max would have asked her. But as it was, all we get is a single kiss before Jackie drives off into the sunset. It’s all we need.

3. 12 Monkeys

Insanity! Time travel! Weird dreams! It’s a Terry Gilliam movie, for sure. Only this time, apart from all of his surreal madness, Gilliam throws us genre-loving closet romantics a bone.

It may start in kidnapping, but by the time Cole and Kathryn, the film’s stars, find themselves in a theater watching Vertigo and finding the eerie parallels in their own lives, you should be hooked. Or you should watch The Notebook.

And speaking of Vertigo…

2. Vertigo

Hitchcock had a lot of great romances stuffed into his thrillers, but none of them were as screwed up and passionate as the obsessive affair at the heart of Vertigo. I’m sure it has something to do with Hitchcock’s own personality flickering before our eyes, but Vertigo has a romantic tension unequaled in thrillers. The fact that it ends in a nun scaring the confused heroine off of the roof and to her death is besides the point. This love affair has some teeth, that’s all.

1. Terminator

“Come with me if you want to live.”

All great romances start with a great one liner, right? And what’s more romantic than saving someone’s life and impregnating them with the future savior of humanity?

I can’t really defend putting this one at the top of the list, except to say that the order of this list is arbitrary as it is. Still, Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese’s love affair has the kind of burning, desperate passion that’s born of life or death struggles, minus any attempt to translate it into a long term relationship. Cameron’s script keeps our lovers in the fire from start to finish, so when Kyle Reese finally buys the farm at the hands of the endo-skeletal terminator, you can only wish the two had more time to experience the kind of bitterness and disappointment the rest of us feel in our real love lives.

Wait, is my wife going to read this? Crap…um…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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