In Depth

Valentine's Day films: most romantic movies to watch

From black and white classics to Oscar winners, these love stories capture all aspects of amore

Whether you're celebrating or consoling yourself this Valentine's Day, check out seven romantic classics that will make your heart soar (or sink).

The Notebook

Elderly Duke reads his notebook to a fellow nursing home resident, telling her the story of a star-crossed young couple (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) who fall madly in love before the outbreak of the Second World War. While the film received mixed reviews when it was first released in 2004, "fans of the young southern love story have given it an almost cult following", said Time magazine.

Dirty Dancing

"Nobody puts Baby in the corner!" This 1987 romantic classic, starring the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey as Johnny Castle and Frances "Baby" Houseman, is guaranteed to have you longing for some summer love. The film, about a privileged holiday camper and a poor dance instructor, became the first to sell more than a million copies on home video and its theme song, (I've Had) the Time of My Life, won an Oscar and Golden Globe.

Casablanca

Yes it may have Nazis in it, but this timeless classic, which celebrated its 75th birthday last month, still ranks as one of the most romantic films ever made. Telling the story of a cynical American expat who encounters the love of his life, and with a cast that includes Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre, the film probably has more quotable lines than any other in history (and a soundtrack to match). Yet despite its place in film legend, it is at heart a love story and remains “the original and still the best romantic film of all time”, said Cosmopolitan.

La La Land

Damien Chazelle's smash hit stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as musician Sebastian and actress Mia, who fall for each other as they both struggle to make it big. It's been hailed as a new age musical classic and has 14 Oscar nominations (tying with Titanic and All About Eve). "It sends you from the cinema with tears in your eyes, a song in your heart, and a clear six inches of thin air between the soles of your shoes and the pavement," said the Daily Telegraph.

Brokeback Mountain

Released in 2006, Ang Lee's Oscar-winning love story tells the tale of a secret relationship between two young cowboys, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, in 1960s Wyoming. The real revelation of the film is Ledger as the "bruised and sometimes brutal" Ennis, said Empire. "His tortured secret is the tragedy and the ecstasy of this powerful and moving film, a smart study of relationships that could but can't and never will be."

Ghost

Banker Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) and artist Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) are young and madly in love, but their romance is cut short when Sam is murdered. He stays on earth as a ghost to help Molly through her grief and find his killer. He's aided by psychic Oda Mae Brown, played by Whoopi Goldberg, who picked up a Bafta, Golden Globe and Academy Award for her performance in the 1990 classic.

Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight

Richard Linklater’s romantic trilogy which spanned nearly two decades, begins with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as they first meet on a train, get off in Vienna, and pass the hours before a flight walking, talking, and falling in love. The following two movies, at nine-year intervals, catch up with the pair in Paris and then in Greece as they marry, grow apart and find each other again. With each film representing a snap-shot of their life and relationship over the course of a single day “the trilogy dispenses with the usual climb toward happy endings, a story tied up with a bow, and instead finds romance in immediacy — the blue dart in the eternal flame”, said Vanity Fair.

Blue Valentine

Billed as a "love story for anyone that's ever been in love", 2010's Blue Valentine depicts the trying marriage of Dean (Ryan Gosling – yes, it's him again) and Cindy  (Michelle Williams). If you're sick of Valentine's Day schmaltz, this might be the perfect film for you, but Dana Stevens at Slate warns that "in the interest of perpetuating the human race, I'd counsel dewy young couples embarking on life's journey to check into a sex motel instead".

Pretty Woman

The film that shot Julia Roberts to stardom, Pretty Woman explores the complexities of love when suave millionaire Edward (Richard Gere) falls for prostitute Vivian. Featuring sex on a grand piano and Vivian putting obnoxious sales assistants back in their place, the 1990 box-office banker is "arguably the most commercially successful romcom of all time", said the Daily Telegraph

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