10 Most Romantic Movies of the 90s

Sep 13, 2000 (Updated Sep 19, 2000)

The raging passion between lovers William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and his fictional muse, Lady Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), carries this charming story on the origins of perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous play, "Romeo and Juliet." Viola first meets Will dressed as a man to win a part in his new play, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter," but soon finds herself swooning over the man with the ink-stained fingers and witty, romantic flare. Director John Madden’s deft juxtaposition of Viola and Will’s affair with scenes from the play it inspires truly allow this acclaimed film to shine as one of the 1990's best romances. And while Fiennes is utterly amusing as the Bard, it is Paltrow’s luminous presence as the woman in love with both the married Shakespeare and the stage itself that may move viewers to tears in this very unconventional romantic comedy.

2. TITANIC (1997)
The undying, bittersweet tale of idealistic young lovers Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) propelled this amazing, heart-wrenching tragedy to unimaginable heights. DiCaprio and Winslet give their most memorable performances to date, adding an open-minded innocence to this gentle love affair amidst the disastrous fall from grace of a once deemed unsinkable ship. James Cameron’s moving, Academy Award-winning direction is unstoppable, and the always wonderful James Horner provides the soundtrack with a score that is both moving and hypnotic. And when Rose finally reunites with Jack at the end of the film’s three-hour run, viewers will sigh and dab their eyes at a love so grand not even time or death could destroy it.

"Am I 'K' in your book?" Katherine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas) quietly asks the brooding Count Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) as they both stare into the darkness of the Sahara desert. He says nothing, but slowly turns to look at her with such fire flickering in his eyes that Katherine knows the emptiness haunting her soul will finally cease. The Count, a burn victim who narrowly escapes death when his plane crashes in the desert, tells his tragic story through several revealing flashbacks, and as the romance between Katharine and the Count unfolds, viewers understand why this mysterious man would rather die than endure life without his beloved 'K.' Easily winning the Best Picture Oscar in 1996, "The English Patient" depicts this incredible relationship with such detail and passion that viewers are not likely to forget it anytime soon.

4. GHOST (1990)
The magical ambiance of this sweet ghost story propels romance into a spiritual dimension, as Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) returns to earth to avenge his death and save the life of his still-living girlfriend, Molly (Demi Moore). Procuring help from supposedly phony psychic Oda Mae Brown (Academy Award-winner Whoopi Goldberg), Sam and Molly discover that their Earth-bound love is much more powerful than they ever dreamed. This romantic, humorous, horrific film will rekindle viewers’ beliefs in life after death, and after stealing Americans’ hearts in the early '90s, nabbed a Best Picture nomination soon after its release. It is a classic romance not only by today’s standards, but certainly has a place as one of the greatest all-time romantic films as well.

5. PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
This unconventional Cinderella story is one of the most open-hearted romantic fairy tales of its generation, surprisingly showcasing a sweet-natured innocence and endearing charm amidst its dreamy-eyed storyline. Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts, in the role that made her a star) is a street-smart hooker who falls for rich businessman Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), and although it’s as realistic as that oh-so-famous glass slipper story, it protects its glittery romance even amidst a world of pessimism and compromise. The chemistry between Gere and Roberts is utterly palpable, and when Edward climbs a fire escape to rescue his princess at the film’s end, you'll wonder why you ever started doubting romance in the first place.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays a Mohican-born foundling in Michael Mann’s sweeping "The Last of the Mohicans," based on the classic James Fenimore Cooper novel of the same name. When his sexy, savage Indian meets a traveling Englishwoman (Madeline Stowe), he soon finds himself abandoning his instincts to embrace this other-worldly creature. Amidst the bloodied background of the French and Indian War, Stowe and Day-Lewis find a love that transcends reason.

American sweethearts Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan epitomize the traditional "love at first" mentality in Nora Ephron’s sigh-inducing "Sleepless in Seattle." When Ryan’s Annie hears Hanks’ Sam talk about his deceased wife over her car radio on Christmas Eve, she is immediately smitten with the emotional, heart-wrenching overtones so apparent in this sad man’s voice. As Ephron’s deft direction establishes the fact that these two soulmates belong together, viewers will wonder why the film must end with their final meeting on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. As Ryan and Hanks stare into each other’s eyes as if they’ve known each other their whole lives, it’s no wonder they reunited later on "You’ve Got Mail"; their chemistry is not only sweet, but utterly undeniable.

Director Baz Luhrmann’s modern-day retelling of this classic Shakespeare tale places hot actors Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in the title roles. Danes dazzles as the angelic Juliet, and when DiCaprio’s brazen Romeo climbs her terrace in that utterly familiar scene, viewers remember this is one of fiction’s greatest romances. DiCaprio, though, truly makes this film worth watching, as he digs to the emotional core of every scene and emerges with one of Hollywood’s most memorable Romeos. A surprise twist in the end scene also depicts Juliet awakening just as Romeo finishes drinking the poison, and the anguish of these two star-crossed lovers is made even more emotional.

Sweeping soliloquies, tragic losses and passionate love fuel the plot of this melodramatic epic that explores one woman’s love for three brothers against the backdrop of the first World War. Starring Brad Pitt as the tormented, brooding Tristan, "Legends of the Fall" incorporates profound narration with classical plot ironies to prove Hollywood does not need a happy ending to show humanity’s complex emotions when it comes to a thing called love.

10. CHASING AMY (1997)
As Generation X movies go, this surprisingly endearing film surpasses them all. An original, humorous, captivating story from writer-director Kevin Smith, "Chasing Amy" tugs at the heart strings with its unusual romance between Holden (Ben Affleck) and Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams)-- unusual because Alyssa happens to be a lesbian. Affleck is perfect as sweet comic book artist Holden, Adams is a feisty ball of fire as the confused and over-emotional Alyssa, and the chemistry between them is undeniable. Holden’s awe-inspiring car monologue (males take note) also proves that some of the best romantic storylines often come in the most unconventional packages.

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