Well, it’s that time of year again, that time when to quote Wet Wet Wet’s ‘Love Is All Around’. You can’t move around the shops at the moment without having an excessive variety of flowers, chocolates and cuddly toys rammed down your throat. It’s tradition on Valentine’s Day to spend time with your beloved either out in a restaurant that’s ramped it’s prices up because of the special day, or out at the cinema watching the latest in the long line of paint-by-numbers romantic comedies.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the (very) occasional romantic weepy, like The Notebook. However, as I look back at the films that have tugged on the old heart strings over the years I have found that none of them are what you’d necessarily term textbook ‘romantic’.
With that in mind I thought I’d share with all you lovely readers my list of the best on-screen couples from films that are filled (in my opinion) with love and romance, but without all the fluffy trappings of the stereotypical rom-com.
TRUE ROMANCE (1993) dir. Tony Scott – Clarence & Alabama Worley
To start off with I thought I’d ease you all into the list with the entry that most resembles your traditional love story – heck, it’s called True Romance. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married – Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and Clarence (Christian Slater) don’t need a whole film to do all this though; in fact by the end of the first fifteen minutes they’ve already been pronounced Mr and Mrs Worley. It’s a classic tail of new call girl and comic geek meeting and connecting over a love of kung-fu movies and pie. Alabama and Clarence are just ‘so cool’, and their love survives what is arguably the most violent and chaotic honeymoon ever.
Key Scene: The entire opening segment is so beautifully made, and it perfectly encapsulates those first flutters of butterflies when you meet that special someone. It also showcases the perfect first date; a movie marathon at an old school movie theatre, followed by late night coffee and pie, followed-up with an after hours browse at the local comic book store.
STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) dir. Paul Verhoeven – Dizzy ‘Diz’ Flores & Johnny Rico
I know that when viewing Starship Troopers the last thing on most minds is love, however I love the relationship between Johnny Rico and Diz. Class mates at school, it is clear from the start that Diz (Dina Meyer) is in love with our hero Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien). Rico, though, is madly in love with high-school sweetheart Carmen (Denise Richards) – who, if we’re totally honest, doesn’t seem all that bothered about him. Upon leaving school all three enlist into the Federation. Whilst Carmen is whisked away to fleet academy, Rico is left to battle his way through mobile infantry where he is joined by Diz. Carmen inevitably breaks-up with Rico which sees the road finally free for Diz to make her move. This is the relationship that will strike a chord with anyone who has felt the pangs of unrequited love/lust. [SPOILER] Their union is extremely short-lived as the team are ambushed by bugs, leaving Diz mortally injured.
Key Scene: As she dies in the arms of her lover it leaves fuzzy feelings inside when she says that she’s happy to die, as at least she ‘got to have’ Rico.
LONDON (2005), dir. Hunter Richards – London & Syd
This is the film to watch this Valentine’s Day if you’ve been unfortunate enough to find yourself broken-up with recently. You probably haven’t heard of it as it was a relatively small film, however I highly recommend it, especially if you’re in the aforementioned situation. The film deals with Syd (Chris Evans) who, months on from his break-up with girlfriend London (Jessica Biel), is still raw, throwing himself into the world of drugs and alcohol. It all comes to a head when he crashes his ex-girlfriend’s leaving party, setting up camp in the bathroom with his new drug dealer, Bateman (played by Jason Statham in a rare with-hair role). As the two get high they debate the battlefield that is relationships and are given glimpses into both the getting together, and falling apart, of the couple.
Key Scene: The couple finally sit down for a heart-to-heart which leads to some really touching goodbye scenes. The film also features the mesmerising song by band The Perishers, ‘There’s Nothing Like You And I’.
Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) dir. Brian Yuzna – Julie Walker & Curt Reynolds
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a format that has been repurposed for countless couples over the history of cinema. Audiences love a good take on the tale of forbidden lovers and it’s hard to get better than Return of the Living Dead 3′s Julie (Melinda Clarke) and Curt (J. Trevor Edmond). Following a tragic motorcycle accident, Curt reanimates the love of his life with the help of a experimental substance acquired from the military base where his father works. The resurrection comes with the tricky side effect of craving human flesh and the film explores the couples desires to remain together, even though one of them is technically a zombie. Even before Julie’s changes the pair channel Shakespeare’s iconic duo, with Curt’s father disapproving of Julie and her social standings. This is the aspect of the relationship that many can relate too, the later zombie issues posing the question of how far would you go to keep our love alive. It really is true love here though as Curt forgives Julie, even when she devours the loveable River Man.
Key Scene: Julie and Curt fulfilling the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by walking into a fiery inferno together.
THE CROW (1994), dir. Alex Proyas – Shelly Webster & Eric Draven
Based on the haunting graphic novel by James O’Barr, The Crow is better remembered as the film that claimed the life of Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee. This is a shame as the film itself is remarkable and a firm entry into cult film lists everywhere. The film follows Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) as he is brought back to life a year after the brutal murders of himself and fiancé Shelly (Sofia Shinas), on the eve of their wedding. He has been brought back by a mythically magic Crow which grants him special powers in order to ‘put the wrong things right’.
Key Scene: The segments where Eric remembers his life with Shelly are beautifully tragic.
THE TERMINATOR (1984), dir. James Cameron – Sarah Connor & Kyle Reese
Ask most girls what their favourite ‘romantic movie’ is and they’ll say films like The Notebook, Pretty Woman or Ghost; for me it has to be The Terminator. The film that catapulted both James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger into the big leagues, The Terminator is seen as one of the greatest sci-fi films ever. Well known for it’s time-travel plot, the romance element is often overlooked, which, for me, features one of – if not the greatest – love stories ever told. Don’t believe me? Michael Biehn plays the love-lorn soldier Kyle Reese, a man who volunteers to be sent back in time to protect the mother of the future saviour, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). He doesn’t volunteer for duty, but instead purely for a chance to meet the woman with whom he has been in love with for years, all thanks to a torn and faded Polaroid photograph.
Key Scene: You can’t top the scene where Kyle proclaims his love for Sarah.