Hollywood’s greatest romantic movies don’t feature all cooing and kissing, if you think about it. Before Love Can Conquer All, there must be struggle, redemption, confusing mishaps, mayhem and sometimes a sinking boat.
But in many surprising cases, love doesn’t win out. Remember, Doctor Yuri Zhivago dies of a heart attack just moments after he finally rediscovers Lara after three hours of frozen, bloody Russian hell on screen. Sebastian and Mia end up married to other people at the end of “La La Land” and, as everybody by now has heard, Rhett Butler didn’t give a damn about Scarlett O’Hara as soon as the wind was gone.
But the unhappy ending is sometimes what makes a romantic masterpiece so thrilling. Consider the denouement of our #1 choice for Most Romantic Movie Ever: “Casablanca.” Rick doesn’t escape with Isla on the plane in the fog at the end. He pulls out a gun and even kills a man while trying to force her to escape with her husband without him, telling her that she’ll later regret her decision if she stays behind: “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” In “Casablanca,” Rick expresses his grand love by making the greatest sacrifice of all.
Tour our photo gallery above of the 25 most romantic films ever, ranked worst to best. Our list includes “Titanic,” “Gone with the Wind,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “La La Land,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Brokeback Mountain” and more.