best time: At the climactic New Year’s Eve party, Sally wails: “Harry, you say things that make it impossible for me to hate you, and I hate you, Harry, I really hate you!”
James Cameron’s $200 million account of the world’s worst shipping disaster is also a classic tale of doomed love across the social divide. On an ocean liner bound for the States, a bored young English aristocrat (Rose, played by a ravishing Kate Winslet) discovers her soulmate de ella in Jack, a penniless Irish charmer (Leonardo DiCaprio). But it’s not just the class system that’s against them – a 500,000-ton iceberg strikes a hole in the ship, and their passionate affair is sunk.
best time: “Promise me you’ll survive,” stammers the near-dead Jack as they float in the freezing North Atlantic. Rose clutches his hand: “I’ll never let go, Jack, I’ll never let go.”
30. Lost in Translation (2003)
Sofia Coppola’s postmodern Brief Encounter is full of unspoken, low-key longing and tentative open spaces, proving that in romance, less is often more. It brings Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson together by chance as guests in a Tokyo hotel; cut adrift from their normal lives and partners, they slowly and shyly come to recognize each other as kindred spirits. Darting through neon streets, holding hands, singing karaoke – nothing happens, but everything does.
best time: They’re falling asleep after talking all night; he tenderly holds her foot from her.
With this pulse-quickening Irish immigrant tale, adapted from Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel, director John Crowley pulled off something special. Adrift in Fifties New York, young Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) meets sweet Italian-American Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), and the two are lost in each other’s eyes. But rural Ireland is a small, intense world that nobody truly escapes, and a tragic secret in Eilis’s family is about to call her home de ella. With an utterly heartbreaking performance from Ronan at its centre, Brooklyn is an emotional masterpiece.
best time: Eilis finally finds the courage to open up to Tony: “The next time you tell me you love me – if there is a next time – I’ll… I’ll say I love you too.”
32. Party of the Campagne (1936)
In Jean Renoir’s miniature masterpiece (only 39 minutes long), Henriette, a fresh and lovely Parisienne, takes a day trip to the country on a summer’s day with her maman, papa, and idiot husband-to-be Anatole. She’s utterly intoxicated by the gorgeousness of nature and, separated from her family de ella, she falls into the arms of young Henri, a handsome, poetic-looking sort. After a brief moment of passion in the long grass, the clouds burst; she heads back to humdrum domesticity with Anatole, but she never forgets.
best time: As Henriette’s resistance to Henri crumbles, her eyes fill with tears when she hears a nightingale warbling in the tree above them.
33. I Know Where I’m Going (1945)
This black-and-white gem from Powell and Pressburger is as much an ode to the Western Isles as it is a tale of romance. Joan Webster (Wendy Hillier) is all set to marry a wealthy man, but bad weather prevents her from getting to the wedding. While she’s stranded, she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a naval officer and the laird of Kiloran. She’s sucked into the otherworldliness of the Scottish islands, replete with superstitions, curses, ceilidhs and whirlpools.
best time: She’s leaving to marry her rich man. “Will you do something for me before I go away?” she asks. “I want you to kiss me.”
34. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Purists maintain that the cinematic version of Truman Capote’s novel is a bowdlerised travesty; well, we still keep watching it. Director Blake Edwards transformed a slight, amoral tale into a poignant love story where two lost souls, Audrey Hepburn’s high-class call-girl Holly Golightly, and George Peppard’s failed writer, find each other in high-chic bohemian New York. Forty years later, every girl still wants to walk down Fifth Avenue in a Givenchy dress.