A little love never hurt anyone. From childhood crushes to adolescent love to deeper, more mature relationships, it is the universality of romance that makes for a relatable experience. And, like me, if you’re a sucker for romance, The Notebook (2004) is your perfect go-to film. Based on Nicolas Sparks’ eponymous novel, the iconic film derives its power from taking up a familiar story and making it intriguing and immersive. It will make you cry and feel pure joy at the same time, and is essential viewing for the romantics. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’ memorable performances makes it a timeless classic. So here’s my list of movies like The Notebook that will pull at your heartstrings:
1. La La Land (2016)
La La Land is musical, miraculous and magical, all at the same time. A romantic film which isn’t just about romance, it merges genres, styles and themes to serve a potpourri of emotions. Revolving around dreams and aspirations, the film hinges upon the crucial nature of the choice made by the characters in the film’s narrative. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the film follows the love story of a pianist and an actress who are trying to pave a path for themselves professionally too.
The film is unabashedly melancholic, so much so, that it immerses you in the melancholia enough to make you forget the romance. Well, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that melancholy is nothing but a phase in the romantic journey, and La La Land proves it. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in lead roles, the film proves to be an intricate choreography of emotions that go above and beyond binaries.
2. Titanic (1997)
Titanic struck a chord with an audience across ages. Directed by James Cameron, the film is a part-real, part-fictionalised tale. Besides, the film holds the record for being one of the highest grossing films of all time. Starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in lead roles, the film relies on the performances of its cast heavily. But, what is unique to Titanic from all other films on the list is how it fuses the disaster genre with romantic. Winning a whopping 11 Academy Awards across categories, it still remains a timeless classic. Be wary, for it will smash your heart into smithereens, with its narrative centering around loss, separation and tragedy.
Watch Titanic on Amazon
3. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
The Nora Ephron film Sleepless in Seattle is based on the modern possibilities of love via modern communication mediums. While they serve as pathways for people residing miles away to come together, the heartwarming love story unfolds. With hope, it explores the possibilities inherent in people meeting through the medium. It revolves around two people who fall in love over a radio show, despite being situated miles apart. The characters in the film hold their measuring scale to films like An Affair to Remember, rewatching it in attempt to live their romances much like the film’s characters. Although the protagonists don’t meet for a major chunk of the film, much like director’s earlier film When Harry Met Sally, the film stays true to its inherent romance.
Where to Watch: Netflix
4. The Fault in our Stars (2014)
This film is an adaptation of John Green’s best-selling book of the same name. It follows the journey of two teens who suffer from cancer, but still choose to fall in love, knowing very-well how it’s going to end for them. Knowing the limitations of one’s time, the bravehearts still let their hearts be, and fall in love with sheer awareness of the entire affair seething into oblivion. The poignancy of the film lies in the solace both provide each other, far removed from the painful world of cancer and its many treatments. Much like Titanic, this film confronts its inevitable tragedy upfront, which is what embeds it with honesty. Staying true to the book, it paints its complexities with ease.
Where to Watch: Hotstar
5. A Star is Born (2018)
Another film about the inevitable link between romance and dreams, this film is about a successful musician coming to the rescue of a talented singer who is too distraught with life to invest in her dream. While he is fighting his personal demons, she could use some extra help on the professional front. Having been remade twice earlier, and once in Bollywood (Aashiqui 2), the film’s premise has been twisted and distorted into many other films. It is heavily palatable as the story’s underdog elements combined with its treatment of psychological battles despite having it all figured out on the surface – all work out as strong plot points. The film was screened at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. Starring Bradley Cooper (who also directed the film) and Lady Gaga in lead roles, the film boasts some of the most exceptional performances.
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.” – Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard
Drawing its title from the above quote by Alexander Pope, this film merges sci-fi into romantic drama. The film essentially questions the frivolous nature of memory through a non-linear narrative. Centering around a couple, who get themselves erased from each other’s memory when their relationship turns sour, the film also taps into our emotionality. We want to forget so much, but what would we essentially be without our memories of forgotten love. That’s what the film seeks to question. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
7. Casablanca (1942)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid in lead roles, the film is adapted from Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’s. Directed by Michael Curtiz, the film’s plot follows the love story of a man and a woman, who sacrifice their emotions for a larger concern. Although the makers of the film did not anticipate its classic status and the success it had garnered, the film did have it all there in its story and characterisation. It went on to win the Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Released at an iconic time in history, the film has outlived itself due to its apt representations as well. It essentially blends the personal and the political again, and has layered undertones. Without remaining limited to romance, it expands its themes and genres beyond its ambit.
Watch Casablanca on Amazon
8. Before Sunrise (1995)
Roger Ebert calls this film Love Affair for Generation X, and we can’t disagree. With a plot similar to An Affair to Remember, the film relies on conversation instead of action for its entirety. Adopting a documentary style, it involves a fly-on-the-wall approach. The narrative unfolds organically at an unhurried pace; there’s nothing contrived or pretentious about this love story. It effortlessly absorbs you, moving you deeply in the process. With a minimalistic plot, the film deals with the time factor in a romance by embracing the limited nature of its own time alongwith that of the characters. Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in lead roles, it relies as much as on brilliant performances as the writing.
Buy Before Sunrise & Before Sunset: Two Screenplays (Vintage) Paperback by Richard Linklater
9. An Affair to Remember (1957)
Starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, this one is a sure-shot tearjerker. It offers a perfectly cathartic experience. The plot centres around a promise between two people who meet on a cruise ship, to see each other again. With romance portrayed in a subtle, yet effective fashion, the film tells its story cinematically. The film shows more without showing every bit of the romance, which is what embellishes its narrative with power. Director Leo McCarey adapted his own film Love Affair (1939) to An Affair to Remember.
Thematically, the film deals with the inevitable quality of love, the uncontrollable nature of it and puts a question mark on human agency. Can we really choose who we fall in love with? It is sprinkled with deep emotion throughout, and will melt even the stone-hearted. With a premise that could have easily failed if it wasn’t for the storytellers involved in the film, its success lies in its directness and honesty.
Where to Watch: YouTube, Google Play
10. Roman Holiday (1953)
The plot of this film revolves around a princess, who, when bored out of her wits, undertakes an adventure by escaping from her guardians. The romantic-comedy is a tale of her falling in love with an American newsman in the city of Rome. The film explodes into its hilarious moments with candour, and does not shy away from a little bit of silliness. Essentially, a comedic adaptation of the fairy tale – the princess and the commoner – this film succeeds in fusing the romantic with the comedic. It went on to win three Academy Awards, for Costume Design, Screenplay (by Dalton Trumbo) and Acting (for lead actress Audrey Hepburn). Audrey and Gregory Peck’s dazzling performances truly bring the story alive. The film has come to transcend the borders of time, which is what the mark of an exceptional film is.
Watch Roman Holiday on Amazon
11. Notting Hill (1999)
If movies like The Notebook are your thing, this classic fairytale romance is not be missed. This Robert Mitchell directorial revolves around the love story of a simple bookshop owner, who, upon meeting a famous film star undergoes a life-altering transformation. It stars Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, who play people from two completely different backgrounds and social status. Intelligent and compelling in equal measure, the film suffuses the lead characters with subtle vulnerabilities. Besides being a love story, the film also brings out the drawbacks surrounding a life full of success and fame, and the constant media prowling that comes with it.