Roman Holiday (1953): While strolling the streets of Rome at night, reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) finds a young woman (Audrey Hepburn) asleep on a bench. Worried about her safety, Joe brings the woman back to his apartment to sleep safely. In the morning, Joe discovers that the young woman, who goes by Anya, is actually a Princess (Princess Ann) and has escaped her country’s embassy. In hopes of getting a fat paycheck for a picture of the princess, Joe pretends that he doesn’t know Anya’s royal status and takes her on a grand tour of the city, but in the process of trying to get the photo, he finds himself being charmed by the princess. In the movie that made her a star, Audrey Hepburn dazzles in the performance that won her the Academy Award for Best Actress, and she and Peck have lovely chemistry in this William Wyler classic. (Stream on Pluto and Paramount+)
Romeo + Juliet (1996): While Shakespeare’s play about two star-crossed teenagers who meet a tragic end due to their feuding families has been adapted numerous times, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation proves that “R+J” is a timeless love story. Luhrmann’s version, starring a pre “Titanic” Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes as the title characters, keeps Shakespeare’s original dialogue while transporting the setting to modern-day Verona Beach, Florida. Like most of Luhrmann’s movies, “Romeo + Juliet” is visually over-the-top, and the fast-paced cinematography may not be for everyone. Still, the film manages to give a fresh spin to this timeless tale. (Stream of HBO Max)
Brokeback Mountain (2005): In 1963 Wyoming, cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are hired to herd sheep through grazing pastures on Brokeback Mountain. The two men form a romantic bond over the summer, but knowing that their relationship will not be accepted return home to continue their lives, get married, and start families. Over the course of twenty years, Jack and Ennis struggle to mask their relationship from their wives, and the fact that they can only see each other sporadically puts an emotional toll on their lives and relationship. Ledger and Gyllenhaal give outstanding performances full of depth and maturity, which is also impressive, considering both actors were in their early 20s while filming.
While Ang Lee won Best Director, the film losing the Best Picture award to the preachy and overrated “Crash” is considered one of the Academy Awards’ biggest mistakes. “Brokeback Mountain” serves as a landmark LGBTQ film, and upon rewatching it a few months ago, this romance still holds up and has aged extremely well. The same thing cannot be said about the unmemorable “Crash.” (Stream on Netflix)
Never Let Me Go (2010): Make sure you have tissues close by for this tragic dystopian love story based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Narrated by 27-year-old Kathy H, she recalls her childhood starting at a 1978 boarding school called Hailsham and her teenage years living in secluded cottages in rural England. At a young age, Kathy and her friends Ruth (Keira Knightly), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and the other parentless children at Hailsham learn that they were put on the planet to benefit society and that they’ve been lied to about their doomed futures. While Ruth and Tommy eventually begin a relationship, it is apparent that Tommy’s heart really belongs to Kathy. As two trapped people fighting to hold on to any remaining time they have left, Mulligan and Garfield have some of the most authentic and heartbreaking onscreen chemistry I’ve ever seen. “Never Let Me Go” is a unique love story that reminds us of the limited time we have with the people we love. (Stream on Starz or Rent on Amazon)