There are few emotions that film watchers find more irresistible on the silver screen than love. Each year, hundreds of films are released that are either about or feature a love story.
Classic love stories such as “The Notebook” and “Pretty Woman” have charmed audiences the world over. Others, such as “50 Shades of Grey” and “Love Actually,” have drawn groans from some audiences, as well as devoted followers.
Demonstrating the near-universal appeal of romance in film, love stories often act as plot devices in films that don’t fall neatly into the pure romance genre. With popular romance films ranging from the comedic, as in “Groundhog Day,” to the frightening, as in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” it seems no movie character is safe from the perils of falling in love.
But which romance films get the most attention from American moviegoers? 24/7 Wall St. has determined the most popular hollywood romance films of all time by creating an index measuring audience ratings from the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes. These films span generations, yet all have one thing in common – a story of love at the heart.
At its most pure, a romance film is a movie that focuses on the emotional journey of two main characters as they become romantically involved. A number of the most popular romance films fit this definition quite well.
Director Nick Cassavetes’ 2004 film “The Notebook” details the evolution of a young couple’s relationship as they fall in love. While it adds a bit more comedy to the mix, Rob Reiner’s “When Harry Met Sally…” is similar at its core. The film portrays the developing relationship of its titular characters, culminating in a ending designed to satisfy an audience that has gotten to know the two so well.
Romantic storylines also work as effective foundations for movies that are not solely about the protagonists’ passions toward one another. “Forrest Gump,” for instance, is largely a biographical film about the fictional life of its protagonist, Forrest. Yet at the heart of the film is Forrest’s undying love for Jenny, a love that drives both Forrest and the movie’s plot. “Groundhog Day” is similar in that while one may not categorize it as a romance movie above all else, its plot is driven by Bill Murray’s character’s pursuit of his love interest, played by Andie MacDowell.
The list of most popular romance movies includes films from across the cinematic map, reflecting the varying tastes of movie watchers. Yet it also illustrates the one common thread that unites nearly all audiences – appreciation for a good love story.
To determine the 50 most popular romance movies of all time, 24/7 Wall St. indexed for each movie in the romance category on Internet Movie Database the number of votes on Rotten Tomatoes and number of votes on IMDb. To be considered, movies needed at least 10,000 user ratings on IMDb. Box office data comes from IMDb and is not adjusted for inflation. Movies that did not fall primarily into the genre of “romance” were handpicked and removed. “Shrek 2” was removed, for example. Because older films are considerably less likely to have been rated by IMDb users, we assigned greater weighting to older movies by scaling the number of ratings a given movie received to the total number of user ratings received by all films released the same year.