For literature fans and movie buffs alike, the chance to learn about love from a favorite movie or book is an experience that can be profoundly moving and profoundly life-changing.
Here are just a few great books and movies to add to your collection this year and why now is a great time to experience some of the greatest romantic tales ever put to the page or to the screen.
1. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Essentially it’s the love story by which all others are measured. The cultural impact of William Shakespeare’s great play “Romeo and Juliet” quite simply cannot be measured. Indeed, many of the films and books on this list are in some way based on the tragic story of Shakespeare’s two doomed lovers.
There are plenty of great film adaptations of the play to choose from. Shakespeare’s gorgeous use of poetic language will speak to people from all walks of life. So, movie buffs will have their pick of the litter when it comes to great versions of this sterling work of drama to enjoy.
What exactly can we learn from Shakespeare’s depiction of this star-crossed couple? The truth is that there are many lessons to be taken from “Romeo and Juliet.” For one, our hearts will not always be in tune with the wants of our social circle.
Moreover, just because two people are right for each other does not mean that their families will get along. To understand the truth of this concept, simply run it by anyone who has had a difficult time forging a conversation with their mother-in-law.
2. The Notebook (2004)
Adapted from Nicholas Sparks’s highly successful book of the same name, the film version is one of the most popular cinematic paeans to young love ever made. The film details the fates of a would-be couple torn apart by class divisions in 1940s-era South Carolina. Like “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Notebook” is about the affairs of the heart set against the affairs of society: The film presents how our circumstances sometimes work against us when it comes to falling in love.
Filled with surprising plot twists, “The Notebook” teaches its audience that true love isn’t always easy. Sometimes, the right person comes along at the wrong time. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go with our hearts and chart our own courses through the journey of life.
3. Dirty Dancing (1987)
Sure, “Dirty Dancing” has all the cheesiness and bathos that you might expect from a full-blown 1980s pop artifact. At its heart, however, “Dirty Dancing” is a deeply-felt film. Despite its corniness, the film taps into something universal about love: That is, sometimes falling in love requires courage and assertiveness in the face of disapproval. To wit, sometimes love must transcend class boundaries. Shakespeare couldn’t have put it more succinctly.
4. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
By the time “Sleepless in Seattle” hit the big screen in 1993, audiences were already clamoring for tickets. The film seemed destined to become a classic from the time of its release. There’s something about the love story of widower Sam Baldwin, and journalist Annie Reed just seemed to resonate with people across the social spectrum, and the film still holds up today.
What exactly do we learn from “Sleepless in Seattle?” Many things: Firstly, it’s never too late to fall in love. Secondly, moving on from tragedy is a part of life, and we mustn’t let a traumatic event keep us from moving forward in life. Lastly, love can and will often surprise us when we least expect it.
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
One of the truly great and outstanding works of English literature, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” has been adapted for film and television many times over. But reading the novel itself is a must for fans of great books. The story of the often difficult relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and the dashing Fitzwilliam Darcy, “Pride and Prejudice” is a comedy of manners that is astonishing in its depth and breadth of characterization. There’s a good reason why so many book-lovers count this as being their favorite novel.
6. As Good as it Gets (1997)
In Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the self-absorbed author Melvin Udall, many audiences were introduced for the first time to a protagonist who is both relatable and infuriating at the same time. A successful writer of romance novels, Udall is very much accustomed to living life on his own terms. He has a gift for describing love at a distance, it is true, but in-person communication with other people leaves him baffled.
When a tragic accident leaves his neighbor unable to care for his pet dog, however, Udall must begin to relate to the people around him in a big way. He was surprised at the tenderness that he begins to feel for the people around him. As the struggling waitress Carol Connelly (played to perfection by Helen Hunt) becomes the object of his affections, Udall must begin to transcend his own selfishness to win the day and Connelly’s heart.
To wit, “As Good as it Gets” teaches us that turning outward towards others is often the first step towards finding love. And that is a lesson that many of us would do well to contemplate.
7. Forrest Gump (1994)
While Tom Hanks’s portrayal of the hapless but strong-willed Forrest Gump earned kudos for its comic sensibilities when “Gump” hit theaters back in the mid-1990s. The film (and the book upon which it is based) is at heart a tender love story. Gump’s affection for the tragic and flawed heroine Jenny Curran appears doomed from the beginning. But our hero’s selflessness shows us that loving someone else isn’t always easy.
8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Like “Pride and Prejudice,” Emily Brontë’s masterwork novel is a bonafide classic of world literature. Do you love tales featuring gloomy Victorian settings and star-crossed lovers? The story of the love between Byronic antihero Heathcliff and Cathy Helen Hobson might just be for you. The novel is a veritable meditation on how love can transcend both time and death.
While there are innumerable great books and films about love, the list above features some important starting points for people who enjoy stories about romance. Adding a few of these titles to your reading list or movie queue can be a life-changing experience. You’ll never regret the chance to see these deeply-moving human dramas play out before your eyes. And that is reading and movie-watching at its best!