Romance has been a leading genre in cinema, giving us countless memorable stories that warm our hearts. With that said, any story of romance certainly comes with some drama. Love is always complicated and there are always going to be ups and downs. Luckily, these types of drama and conflict usually make for good cinema. A romantic film can be comedic, inspiring, and sometimes even traumatic. In many stories about love, there comes a story about loss. Death, break-ups, and drifting away from one another can easily result in a romance crumbling in pieces. Love and loss are a part of life, and there have been several great films depicting that subject matter.
In recent years, there have been many films depicting very realistic portrayals of relationships. Derek Cianfrance, for instance, gave us a story showing the bright beginning and the tragic end of a relationship with Blue Valentine. Although we wish that the characters in some of our favorite romantic films stay together, real life can take its toll on any relationship. Death plays a major factor in several of these films. It is something that no one can escape, and it has been the tragic ending to many of our favorite love stories. With that said, Alfred Lord Tennyson once stated, “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. Grab a box of tissues, and let’s dive into the saddest romantic films of all time.
9 A Star Is Born (2018)
Bradley Cooper took this classic story into the modern age with his rendition of A Star is Born. The film follows Ally (Lady Gaga in her feature film debut), an aspiring singer who rises to fame while falling in love with successful musician, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper). Although their love blossoms into something beautiful, Jackson’s alcoholism and drug addiction causes chaos and slowly destroys their relationship. In the tragic ending, Jackson is unable to cope with his problems, so he commits suicide, leaving Ally behind.
8 P.S. I Love You
P.S. I Love You follows Holly (Hilary Swank) dealing with intense grief after her beloved husband, Gerry (Gerard Butler), passes away. On her 30th birthday, Holly begins to receive letters from Gerry that he had written before his death. The letters send Holly on a series of adventures to help her find a new lease on life. She discovers the importance of friendship, family, and moving on. It is a touching and heartbreaking story that teaches you the importance of living your life to the fullest, even after loss.
An adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan, Atonement is a love story that takes place over the course of decades. It follows two lovers, Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley), who are separated due to Cecilia’s sister (Saoirse Ronan) accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Through years of war and separation, the two are only able to see each other for brief periods of time, preventing their relationship from ever reaching its full potential. In the end, the two die separated from each other, and we are left with only a false imagining of a happy ending.
Ghost is a classic movie following Sam (Patrick Swayze) and Molly (Demi Moore), whose relationship is cut short after Sam is murdered. Soon after, Sam finds that he is actually a ghost, and he uses his time to communicate with Molly and warn her of potential danger. After the task is complete, we are left with a heartbreaking ending where Sam says his final goodbyes before going to the afterlife.
5 Revolutionary Road
Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road tells a tragic tale of a couple unable to bear the weight of the mundane routine of suburbia. Although their relationship began with love and passion, after having children, moving to a suburban home, and living the life that they swore would never happen, the two turn against each other. It is a story of broken dreams and fading love, with several intense conflicts along the way.
4 Brokeback Mountain
In Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play two cowboys who fall in love in the 1960s. We watch them, over the course of decades, living separate lives, but always coming back to each other for short moments of bliss. They are unable to be with each other due to society’s standards, and their pain and heartbreak are shown throughout the film. Unfortunately, in the end, Jack (Gyllenhaal) is beaten to death, and Ennis (Ledger) must live the rest of his life in quiet desperation.
3 Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine looks at two pivotal points of a relationship: the beginning and the end. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are two young, yet complicated, individuals who fall in love. The film cuts back and forth from this time to many years later when there is barely any love between the two. It is a tragic story showing how people change and how love can sometimes fade away. The film is an extremely realistic, yet heartbreaking, tale of a modern relationship over the course of many years.
2 Love Story
Love Story is a classic romance telling the story of Oliver (Ryan O’Neal), a wealthy Harvard student who falls in love with a working-class woman named Jenny (Ali MacGraw). Despite their differences, the two have a beautiful relationship, but unfortunately it is cut short. Jenny becomes terminally ill, and we watch as the two try to carry on. Unfortunately, Jenny dies in the end, leaving behind a broken Oliver. It is a heartbreaking tale of love and loss and one of the greatest romantic films of all time.
1 The Notebook
The Notebook is unquestionably one of the most iconic love stories of all time. The film follows Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) who fall in love one summer, but unfortunately the two are separated due to war and Allie’s parents’ disapproval. Years later, they find their way back to each other, giving us a great story of love. The film cuts back and forth to an elderly Noah and Ally, and unfortunately, Ally has Alzheimer’s and is unable to remember anything. In the end, Ally remembers their love and the two die in each other’s arms, giving us one of the saddest endings in romance history.