This Was the Blockbuster Romantic Movie the Year You Were Born
There may be big differences between generations, but we can all agree on one thing: A good love story never gets boring. Here were the biggest romance movies of each year, from sweeping epics to heartwarming musicals and everything in between.
From: Good Housekeeping
The glamorous Greta Garbo plays an Italian opera star who falls in love with a handsome aristocrat. The catch? His family doesn't approve of her for status reasons, and besides, she just might be a mistress to an older man.
Joan Crawford stars as a young factory worker who dreams of a ritzier life — particularly, with a wealthy attorney played by Clark Gable. She gets a makeover and crafts a new identity to fit in with his posh circle, but eventually, the truth must come out.
There's action, adventure, and the best Tarzan ever (the handsome Johnny Weissmuller). You know the plot: Tarzan kidnaps Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan), who later falls for him.
1933: I'm No Angel
The endlessly quotable Mae West shines as a circus performer with no shortage of admirers, and no desire to be tied to any one man. That is until Cary Grant comes along.
1934: It Happened One Night
One of the top screwball comedies of all time, this frothy plot revolves around a romantic storyline involving an heiress (Claudette Colbert) who flees her father and fortune-hunting husband, only to end up falling for the gruff ex-newspaper reporter (Clark Gable).
1935: Top Hat
Ginger Rogers is the wealthy heiress on holiday, Fred Astaire is the entertainer she mistakes for her friend's husband. He falls for her, she's shocked by his advances, but after expert dancing, the truth is revealed.
1936: Romeo and Juliet
The story may be hundreds of years old, but the tragic tale of the star-crossed teenaged lovers never fails to bring a tear to our eye.
1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
She was the first Disney princess to capture our hearts, from the moment she danced with the Seven Dwarfs, to the moment where she was brought back to life with love's true kiss.
1938: Bringing Up Baby
Katharine Hepburn plays the elegant yet flighty heiress who mistakes a paleontologist (Cary Grant) for a zookeeper responsible for her delivering her pet Baby (a leopard). She falls for him, learns of his engagement and becomes determined to keep him at her lovely estate and away from his fiancee. Will he return her affections?
1939: Gone With the Wind
Scarlett's a spoiled yet surprisingly strong Southern belle who doesn't really know what she has until it's gone. Rhett's the worldly gambler with a temper that you're not quite sure you can trust. As the epic story set against the backdrop of the Civil War unfolds, the passion between Scarlett and Rhett still sizzles no matter how often you see this film.
1940: The Philadelphia Story
Another delightful romance with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant at the center, with Hepburn again playing the heiress. This time, she's struggling to choose between old love (her ex, played by Grant), new love (newspaper reporter played by the handsome Jimmy Stewart), and, oh yes, the guy she's supposed to marry that seems right on paper but an absolute dud.
1941: The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck is the witty con artist who ends up falling for her mark, a rich, naive heir (Peter Fonda) while on an ocean liner in this screwball comedy.
It's the gold standard of love stories, with the trench
1943: Jane Eyre
This romance is perhaps the best reminder that even if a relationship doesn't work out, it's nothing compared to falling in love with a man who, though wealthy, keeps his mentally unwell wife hidden in the attic. But, it's the acting by the magnetic Orson Welles (as Mr. Rochester) that has us somehow rooting for him and the kind-hearted Governess, Jane Eyre, to somehow work out.
1944: To Have And Have Not
Another wartime romance with Humphrey Bogart, though the object of his affection this time is the entrancing Lauren Bacall. She's a pickpocket who ends up drawing Bogart's character into helping members of the Resistance escape Martinique, which is controlled by pro-German Vichy France.
1945: Christmas in Connecticut
Barbara Stanwyck is a magazine columnist who seems to have it all together — a fabulous family, expert cooking abilities and an estate in Connecticut. The problem? She doesn't have any of those things. Yet when her publisher insists she host a handsome war hero (Dennis Morgan) for Christmas, she tries to fake it all with the help of her friends ... only to fall for said hero.
Yet again, Cary Grant is irresistible in one of Alfred Hitchcock's most significant movies. He plays a government agent who recruits the daughter of a Nazi spy (Ingrid Bergman) to help infiltrate a group of Nazis who moved to Brazil. They unsurprisingly fall in love, but he's not so sure of her based on her very romantically active past.
1947: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
We can't always choose who we end up loving. Sometimes it's Cary Grant, other times, it's a handsome ghost that haunts your adorable seaside cottage. The latter happens in this supernatural-tinged love story when a young widow (Gene Tierney) starts getting visited by the spirit of the cottage's former owner (Rex Harrison).
1948: Easter Parade
In this delightful musical, Fred Astaire plays an entertainer whose dance partner left him for a better gig. To get back at her, he hires a young chorus girl (Judy Garland) and vows to train her to be a star by next Easter. Yes, he ends up falling in love with her.
1949: On The Town
Three sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin) try to make the most of their 24-hour leave in New York City, only to find love with three young women who know how to have a fun time.
If the shoe fits, it's true love in this classic Disney
1951: The African Queen
Set during the start of WWI, Humphrey Bogart is the gin-swilling riverboat captain and Katharine Hepburn is the no-nonsense missionary who convinces him to torpedo a German gunboat. Sparks fly, but especially between Bogart and Hepburn.
1952: Singin' In The Rain
While a silent film cast struggles to make the transition to sound when their leading lady (Jean Hagen) doesn't have the voice for the talkies, their leading man (Gene Kelly) finds her a new voice in the form of a budding actress (Debbie Reynolds). Of course, they fall in love, because of Debbie Reynolds.
1953: Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn is the princess who yearns to leave her tightly-scheduled life but settles on running off to Rome, where she soon meets a handsome American reporter (Gregory Peck). Though he doesn't recognize the missing princess at first, he soon realizes her true identity and accepts a bet to get a much-coveted interview with the royal. But instead of following through, the two have a lovely, romantic day together.
Again, it's Audrey Hepburn. But this time, she's Sabrina, the lowly daughter of a wealthy family's chauffeur who becomes a sophisticated woman after a stint at a cooking school in Paris. Upon her return to the family, Sabrina catches the eye of the two brothers (William Holden and Humphrey Bogart), who fight for her affections.
1955: All That Heaven Allows
It's a tale of love across class divisions: Jane Wyman is well-to-do widow Cary Scott who falls for her gardener, Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). Somehow, her snobby friends and even snootier kids don't approve of this union, and they break off their engagement. After her children move out, she's free to pursue Ron — who has had a life-threatening accident.
1956: Never Say Goodbye
Rock Hudson is a single father and doctor who believes his wife died but then runs into the "late" wife while at a conference. (She's part of the entertainment.) She agrees to comes back with Hudson, mainly to see her daughter again. Such was life before Facebook.
1957: An Affair To Remember
Nicky Ferrante (Cary Grant), a dashing playboy, is on his way to marry his rich heiress fiancee when nightclub singer Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) catches his fancy. Not entirely trusting Nick's motives but still falling in love with him anyway, she challenges Nick to prove he's for real and asks to meet at the Empire State Building in six months. He makes it there, but she gets into an accident on the way. Will they still connect?
1958: South Pacific
A young nurse (Mitzi Gaynor) and a Frenchman (Rossano Brazzi) fall in love during WWII. There's singing, dancing, and a secret motive.
1959: Pillow Talk
Doris Day is a decorator who shares a party line with Rock Hudson, a playboy whose constant calls make it hard for her to do business. When he happens to meet her, he decides to seduce her by pretending to be a wide-eyed tourist from Texas to win her over. Happens to all of us, right? You can dream about dozens of things in this movie, from Day's fabulous New York City
1960: The Apartment
A stark contrast to the more light-hearted and traditional romances of the '50s, The Apartment has a pretty dark plot: The apartment in the title belongs to a low-level employee (Jack Lemmon) at a company, who is coerced by execs to use it for their trysts. But when one of their mistresses finds out (Shirley MacLaine, as the elevator girl Fran Kubelik), she almost commits suicide. Luckily, she finds a true connection with Lemmon.
1961: West Side Story
We can still sing a few bars from the catchy songs in this musical take on the classic Romeo and Juliet plot. Instead of rival families, there were the rival gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, and Tony and Maria as our star-crossed lovers. And we still mourn with Maria.
1962: The Music Man
What do you do when a stranger (Robert Preston) struts into town and convinces everyone to start a band? Well, you fall in love with him, even though you're the only smart person in town (Marian the Librarian, played by Shirley Jones) and are onto his
In this epic, every sight is spectacular. However, it's the smoldering passion between Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) and Mark Antony (Richard Burton) that really steals the show. Not to mention the real-life love affair that simmered between the two.
1964: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Every word is sung in this bittersweet romance, which follows the life of a young girl (Catherine Deneuve) who must make a life-altering decision while separated from her lover. It's
1965: Doctor Zhivago
The epic WWI-era romance recounts the life of a married Russian doctor (Yuri Zhivago, played by Omar Sharif) who falls in love with Lara Guishar (Julie Christie), the breathtaking wife of a political activist. As with such circumstances, it can't possibly last.
1966: How To Steal a Million
A heist comedy with a romance at its core, this breezy romp brings together the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn (playing the daughter of an art forger) with a would-be thief (Peter O'Toole).
1967: Far From the Madding Crowd
Julie Christie takes another stunning turn in an epic. This time, she's the young woman who unexpectedly inherits a farm and is quickly pursued by three men. Of course, she falls for the dashing yet entirely awful guy, but she does find a happy ending at least.
1968: Romeo and Juliet
Same story, new faces: Teenagers Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey play Romeo and Juliet in this version, which became one of the most critically-acclaimed adaptations of Shakespeare's work.
1969: Sweet Charity
Charity (Shirley MacLaine) might have a disappointing life as a taxi dancer in the sleaziest dance hall, but it doesn't stop her from having faith in finding true love. When she meets a handsome insurance actuary, Charity decides to lie about her job in order to win him over. Will the truth scare him off?
1970: Love Story
Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal had incredible chemistry as college students who fall hard in love and marry despite social differences (and family disapproval). But their happiness won't be for long. We wonder if anyone can make it through the movie without crying.
1971: Harold and Maude
Harold's a suicidal young man, and Maude's a 79-year-old with an unmistakable joie de vivre. She teaches him to live and love. It's a quirky (and dark) love story, but it's one with a good message.
1972: Play It Again, Sam
The apparition of Humphrey Bogart dishes out advice, both good and bad, to the recently-divorced Allan Felix (Woody Allen), who kinda-sorta does end up getting the girl in the end ... if you call "Being able to quote the end of Casablanca to a woman you're infatuated with" as "getting the girl."
1973: The Way We Were
Opposites attract over the course of two decades between the idealistic, Marxist Katie (Barbra Streisand) and the All-American WASP Hubbell (Robert Redford). Their love life takes a sad and surprising turn, but everything works out in the end, in its own way.
1974: The Great Gatsby
Robert Redford is the tragic figure Jay Gatsby, and Mia Farrow is Daisy Buchanan in that doomed story of class, lost love,
George Roundy (Warren Beatty) precariously juggles women as he attempts to become a star hairdresser. As his actions get in the way of his dreams, he has to do some serious reflection (and rely on his friends) to achieve what he wants.
1976: A Star Is Born
A remake of two earlier versions of this story, this musical drama tells the story of an up-and-coming star (Barbra Streisand) who falls in love with a star (Kris Kristofferson), but then sees her career hit new heights while his goes into decline.
1977: Annie Hall
It was the movie that inspired women to wear tailored vests and ties, and perhaps inspired the phrase "Manic Pixie Dream Girl." However, the relationship of the loopy-but-lovely Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) and Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) is a delight to watch, particularly in how the characters evolve — and eventually grow apart.
We've all watched it countless times and know many of the songs by heart. Sandy and Danny's summer fling, falling out, and eventual reunion may bear no resemblance to any sort of reality, and we're just fine with that.
We'll say it: This is one movie that didn't really age well, thanks to the relationship between Isaac (Woody Allen) and his teenage girlfriend Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). But the shots of Manhattan and the more age-appropriate love interest almost redeems it.
1980: Somewhere In Time
It's a love story for the ages ... and one that crossed different ages. When playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) hypnotizes himself to meet the woman in the painting at the hotel he's staying at (the always-elegant Jane Seymour), manages to go back in time to 1912, and falls in love with her. Time-travel wasn't the only issue, when her manager doesn't approve of the union.
1981: On Golden Pond
It's a story of family relationships, but at the core of this classic is the relationship between the cranky Norman (Henry Fonda) and his wife Ethel (Katharine Hepburn), as he struggles with declining health.
1982: An Officer And a Gentleman
We know the scene: Richard Gere is the dashing Naval officer who sweeps his girlfriend (Debra Winger) off her feet ... and out the door. Bet you have "Up Where We Belong" in your head right now.
1983: Terms of Endearment
It's the tear-jerker to end all tear-jerkers, and the love affair between Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) and Garrett (Jack Nicholson) is one for the ages.
1984: Sixteen Candles
Sam Baker (Molly Ringwald) gets through the many trials and tribulations of her 16th birthday, including pining for her crush, Jake Ryan.
1985: Out of Africa
Aristocratic Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) doesn't let her marriage of convenience get in the way of a passionate affair with a big-game hunter (Robert Redford).
1986: Pretty in Pink
Andie (Molly Ringwald) is caught between her childhood friend Duckie, and rich kid Blane, and still wins out in the end. But we have to say it: She never should have remade her mother's prom dress.
1987: Dirty Dancing
We had the time of our life, and we still do, when we watch this movie. Full-time heartbreaker/dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) helps Baby (Jennifer Grey) grow up when they fall in love ... and do the best dance scene of all time.
1988: Working Girl
Never underestimate your assistant. Melanie Griffith was the Staten Island-bred beauty who basically assumes the life of her boss (Sigourney Weaver) after a ski injury leaves her unable to work. Yes, she gets her guy (Harrison Ford), which was also the boss's guy.
1989: When Harry Met Sally
It's hard to say what was the bigger romance flick this year: "Say Anything," or "When Harry Met Sally"? We went with the latter, just because of that infamous deli scene, and the chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as friends whose relationship is put to the test after sleeping together.
Another movie that guarantees a night spent clutching a box of tissues, sobbing your heart out. Patrick Swayze is the banker who gets murdered but has to warn his fiancee (Demi Moore) about impending danger, through a medium. That scene with the pottery wheel continues to — no pun intended — haunt us.
1991: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
It was really an action movie, but one of the most romantic songs ever came out of it: "Everything I Do, I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams. Plus, there was the romance between Robin Hood (Kevin Costner) and Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio).
1992: The Last of the Mohicans
During the French-Indian war, one of the last members of the Mohican tribe makes the decision to save the daughter of a British officer. Love follows.
1993: Sleepless in Seattle
Radio seemed like a great way to meet thanks to this Nora Ephron-directed film, where the son of widower Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) calls a talk show to find him a new relationship. When Annie (Meg Ryan) secretly responds, it sets off a romantic plotline that ends at the Empire State Building — a reference to "An Affair to Remember."
1994: Legends Of the Fall
Brad Pitt is in his long-haired glory as Tristan Ludlow, the middle brother of three who finds himself in a passionate affair with his younger brother's fiancee. And, um, so does his older brother. Rivalry ensues.
1995: The Bridges of Madison County
Housewife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) is unexpectedly swept off her feet when photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) wanders into her life for a bittersweet few days.
1996: The English Patient
1996 was a great year for romantic movies: There was "Romeo + Juliet," "Jerry Maguire," and "Emma." But the biggest was "The English Patient," which followed the flashbacks of
Was there any question about this movie being the top romance of 1997? Everyone saw it at least twice this year, despite knowing full well that the boat sinks. We just couldn't get enough of the wealthy Rose (Kate Winslet) falling for the steerage-class Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio). Especially the iconic "I'm flying!" scene.
1998: Shakespeare in Love
Young Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is broke and coping with writer's block until he meets his perfect woman (Gwyneth Paltrow), who inspires him to write one of his most famous masterpieces.
1999: Never Been Kissed
In a plot we can't imagine working today, a newspaper reporter (Drew Barrymore) enrolls in
Juliette Binoche shines as the chocolatier and single mother who breezes into town, then unexpectedly falls in love with the man everyone keeps an eye on (Johnny Depp).
Amelie (Audrey Tatou) is the shy, quirky Parisian waitress who longs for love but settles for doing good deeds for the good people around her. When Amelie gets her eye on a similarly quirky guy, she comes out of her shell in a way only she can.
2002: A Walk To Remember
Two teens (Mandy Moore and Shane West) unexpectedly fall in love during after-school activities, then have to say goodbye in the face of terminal illness.
2003: Under The Tuscan Sun
We still dream about the Tuscan villa that writer Frances (Diane Lane) buys — and the Italian hunk Marcello that briefly changes her life.
2004: The Notebook
It's the movie that made everyone fall in love with Ryan Gosling, as poor Noah who years and loves rich girl Allie (Rachel McAdams). The story of passionate love and social differences still breaks our hearts every time.
2005: Pride & Prejudice
Though it's hard to top the 1995 miniseries made famous by Colin Firth's turn as Mr. Darcy, this version with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet was a hit with Jane Austen fans.
2006: The Holiday
Two women (Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz) decide to leave it all behind and swap homes, only to each fall in love with one of the locals. It's another movie we love
The touching love story of a busker who meets an immigrant in Dublin, filled with songs we just couldn't get out of our head. No wonder the story made it to Broadway!
Girl meets boy. Girl discovers that boy is really a vampire. You know, normal problems. But still, the passion between the mortal Bella (Kristen Stewart) and the immortal Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) sizzles.
The movie might have been geared towards kids, but the first 10 minutes of "Up" tell one of the most moving love stories. You see an entire relationship play out from happy start where Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) meets his wife all through her last heartbreaking moments. We can still cry thinking about it.
2010: Eat Pray Love
Following a painful divorce, a woman (Julia Roberts) goes around the world to get her groove back, finding herself ... and a few flings ... along the way.
2011: The Artist
Jean Dujardin is George Valentin, the magnetic silent movie star who develops a relationship with a young dancer, but the transition to talking pictures pulls them in different directions.
2012: Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson's ode to young love was a masterpiece: Two misunderstood pre-teens decide to run away from home, sending the adults in a
2013: The Great Gatsby
Though reviews were mixed, this grand version of the classic story proves that F. Scott Fitzgerald's work still holds up. Leonardo DiCaprio was the doomed Jay Gatsby, with Carey Mulligan as the love of his life, Daisy.
2014: The Fault In Our Stars
It's a teen love story for the ages when two young cancer patients (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) find the meaning of life while on a journey to meet an author.
In the repressive 1950s, two women (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) unexpectedly fall in love. Gorgeously filmed, it's an unforgettable movie.
2016: La La Land
Ryan Gosling wins us over again, this time in a romantic musical. He's a jazz pianist who falls hard for an aspiring actress (Emma Stone), while both trying to pursue their dreams.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.