pop culture

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Love Stories (of All Time)

The next installment of Random Ramblings Top Ten Picks asks for us to list our top 10 favorite love stories of all time.  Instead of sticking to books (which I could d0), I decided to open the list to movies and television as well.  Just to mix things up.  You know.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel like I should tell you, Gentle Readers, something about myself.  Although the main facets of my personality are snarky, sarcastic, and pessimistic, I am a romantic at heart.  Since I was a little girl, I have been obsessed with romance.  I was boy-crazy from the age of four on, and I’ve never stopped developing crushes on boys, girls, and fictional characters.  Romance is my preferred topic when it comes to movies, TV, books, and music.  I don’t read the romance genre per se, but I like my stories to have a little romance in them.  Are you following?

With that in mind, I expect you to both understand and appreciate how very hard this list was for me.  Okay?  Good.

Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson, Titanic (1996)

Rose, you’re no picnic, all right? You’re a spoiled little brat, even, but under that, you’re the most amazingly, astounding, wonderful girl, woman that I’ve ever known…I’m not an idiot, I know how the world works. I’ve got ten bucks in my pocket, I have no-nothing to offer you and I know that. I understand. But I’m too involved now. You jump, I jump remember? I can’t turn away without knowing you’ll be all right… That’s all I want.
–Jack Dawson

Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is an upper-class American girl engaged to a business tycoon.  Jack Dawson is a poor, tortured artist.  They meet-cute, have a whirlwind romance, and fall in love.  It’s a classic story of star-crossed lovers from opposite backgrounds, and a critical viewer might question the probability of a relationship like that lasting once they were on solid land.  Luckily, we don’t have to worry about that!

Or whatever.  I was twelve when Titanic came out, and I saw it in the theater seven times.  Obviously this was excessive, but my little 12-year-old fangirl heart couldn’t get enough of the doomed couple on the doomed boat.  It remains the only film that I’ve ever seen that many times in the theater, and I hope that’s a record that never gets touched.  I re-watch the movie every few years, and while I still think it’s a great love story, I don’t have the passion for it that I once did.  However, it still makes the list.

Buffy Summers and Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)

A vampire in love with the slayer.  It’s rather poetic… in a maudlin sort of way.
–Giles, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”

Buffy Summers is a typical Californian teen until she isn’t.  She gets called to be the Chosen One, and suddenly she’s facing down against vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness (sorry couldn’t resist).  When she moves to Sunnydale with her mom, she meets a mysterious man named Angel.  The two are attracted to one another, but there’s a problem: Buffy is sixteen and the slayer, and Angel is 240-something and a vampire.  The two begin a doomed romance, fraught with conflict and lust and secret gypsy curses.

Another case of forbidden love.  I’m sensing a theme here, people.  This show entered my life when I was in middle school, and it remains one of my favorite shows of all time.  The relationship between Buffy and Angel was best when they were all angsty about not being able to be together, and it was less endearing when they would sulk about it in later seasons.  Although I loved the ridiculous darkness that Buffy had with Spike in season 6, the only vampire she was truly meant to be with was Angel, and everyone knows it.

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, The Office (2005)

Hey, can I talk to you about something?I was just…I’m in love with you.  I’m really sorry if that’s weird for you to hear, but I needed you to hear it. Probably not good timing, I know that. I just…I just needed you to know. Once.
–Jim Halpert, “Casino Games”

Jim Halpert was a paper salesman, Pam Beelsy the office receptionist.  Jim pined for Pam while she remained engaged to a doofus who wasn’t right for her.  Even after Jim laid it all on the line, it took a long time for their romance to unfold.  Best office romance ever?  I think so.  The relationship between Jim and Pam was the reason I found The Office so compelling.  There’s something about unrequited love that makes me mushy inside, and watching Jim pine for Pam and Pam ignore her feelings for Jim was compelling.  The show has gone downhill over the years, and the resolution of the Jim and Pam relationship was part of reason.  However, the episodes where they get to make moon eyes at each other are some of my favorites, and I still think their love story is worth talking about.

Henry DeTamble and Claire Abshire, The Time-Traveler’s Wife (2003)

We laugh and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost, or dead, or far away: right now we are here, and nothing can mar our perfection, or steal the joy of this perfect moment.
–Audrey Niffenegger, The Time-Traveler’s Wife

Clare Abshire has known Henry DeTamble since she was a little girl.  He met her when he was in his forties, and also when he was 28.  Henry time-travels, often to a meadow near Clare’s childhood home, and the two begin a friendship that blossoms into a love affair.  Niffenegger’s novel is complicated and flawed and gorgeous, and it affected me on a deep level the first time I read it.  As I’ve grown older, my view on the novel has changed, but it still remains a moving novel with one of the greatest love stories that I’ve ever experienced.

(I can’t talk about the movie adaptation because as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t exist.  If you knew how much I love Rachel McAdams, you’d understand why that’s so hard for me to say.)

Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
–Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennett is a beautiful girl with a sharp wit and limited means.  Mr. Darcy is a handsome man with an abundance of pride and a ton of money.  The two clash immediately upon meeting and then find themselves falling in love with each other despite their differences or better judgment.  The story is a classic love-hate-love relationship, and Jane Austen’s wit, wisdom, and sharp commentary on society makes this one of the most pleasurable reading experiences one can have.  The BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle isn’t too shabby, either.

Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Bottom line is…we’re around each other an’…this thing, it grabs hold of us again…at the wrong place…at the wrong time…and we’re dead.
–Ennis Del Mar

Hired as ranch hands to herd sheep up on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) find themselves falling in love with each other and struggling with what that means for them in a world where they won’t be accepted.  The story is beautiful, hard to watch, and absolutely compelling.  The pitch-perfect performances in this movie (from the entire cast) help to bring this love story to life.  It isn’t one that I’ll ever forget.

Jesse & Celine, Before Sunrise (1995)/Before Sunset (2004)

Celine: Baby, you are gonna miss that plane.
Jesse: I know.

Jesse (Ethan Hawk) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train in Europe and spend one night together, talking and laughing and falling in love.  They go their separate ways and meet again nearly ten years later, when both of them have completely different lives and have become different people.  That spark is still there, though, and they spend an afternoon reconnecting and discovering that sometimes, there’s no expiration date on falling in love.  Both of these movies are quiet characters studies, and the actors are so magnetic that the viewer can’t help but be drawn into their world.  It’s fascinating, heart-breaking, and a rare cinematic experience that I encourage you to have.

Maria and Tony, West Side Story (1961)

How many bullets are left, Chino? Enough for you, and you? All of you. You all killed him! And my brother, and Riff. Not with bullets and guns. With hate! Well, I can kill too because now I have hate! How many can I kill, Chino? How many?! And still have one bullet left for me?

A more modern take on Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story is a musical that focuses on warring gangs in New York City.  Tony falls in love with Maria, the sister of one of his enemies.  The two begin a doomed love affair that ends in tragedy.  There’s a reason why it’s considered one of the best musicals of all time: it’s awesome.  The music, the dancing, and the story are timeless.  Maria and Tony don’t have very long together, but the time they do have is powerful enough to leave a mark on viewer’s hearts.

Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie, Sloppy Firsts (and Sequels) (2001)

“It just makes me wonder what subject you blame for talking to me every night.”
I’m still settling on an answer for that one. Probably Chemistry.
Jesus Christ. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

–Jessica Darling

Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie are total opposites.  Marcus stands for everything that Jessica hates, and yet she finds herself drawn to him after he becomes a “reformed bad boy.”  The two embark on an unlikely friendship that ends up blossoming into a romance, despite Jessica’s attempts to deny her feelings.  Over the course of five novels, Megan McCafferty explores the concept of first loves, first heartbreak, and the idea that while you never forget your first love, sometimes it isn’t meant to be (or maybe it is).  The story of Jessica and Marcus came to me at a time when I needed a heroine who was as pessimistic and snarky as I was, and the fact that I yearn for Marcus Flutie to be a real person is no secret.

Malcolm Reynolds and Inara Serra, Firefly (2002)

Mal: But you fog things up! You always have. You spin me about. I wish like hell you were elsewhere.
Inara: [sighs] I was.

Mal and Inara meet when she rents a shuttle on Mal’s spacehip Serenity.  The two have an attraction to one another, but Mal struggles with Inara’s occupation, and Inara’s mysterious past keeps her from really opening up to him.  They engage in banter, fight, and sigh over each other, but it’s clear to observers that there’s more going on underneath the surface.  Is there anything better than unrequited love?  I don’t think so, you guys, which is why this non-couple makes my list.  A kiss between these two is almost more than my little fangirl heart can take.


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