Great love stories do more than make us hope for a happy ending. Perhaps more importantly, they inspire our own hearts to be stronger, and affirm our belief that, ultimately, love do triumph over all. In our selection of the greatest love stories in books and films, we hope to inspire you and make your own real-life romance richer by showing you what two people can do when they have found true love.
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Favorite quote: “Then I defy you, stars!”
Shakespeare did not just write a classic tale of star-crossed lovers, he wrote the ultimate tale of romance. With their families locked in war, Romeo and Juliet devices a plot to form a peace between their clans so that they could be free to love each other. Alas, the plan goes awry, and the story ends with the beautiful lovers making fatal sacrifices to prove their love and, in death, finally became together.
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Favorite quote: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Romantic stories are about sacrifices and the risks we take for the people we love. Casablanca, set during the Second World War, tells the story of Rick Blaine, a well-off yet cynical nightclub owner who risks the ire of the authorities in order to help a woman and her wanted husband escape—the same woman, it’s later revealed, that years earlier broke Rick’s heart by suddenly leaving him, causing his lifelong bitterness.
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Favorite quote: “I always loved you, and if one loves anyone, one loves the whole person, just as they are and not as one would like them to be”
Voted by Time magazine as the greatest book ever written, the novel runs to about a thousand pages, exploring themes of family, marriage and passion, among much else. One of the amazing things about the book is that while it’s set in a very specific context (19th-century feudal Russia), it’s all too easy to relate to situations and sentiments of its characters.
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Favorite quote: “You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details.”
The love story of Céline and Jesse spans over two decades, marked by three momentous walks in different parts of Europe. The couple’s story is the most seemingly ordinary in this list (really, they’re just walking and talking for the entire three movies), yet because of the way the characters discuss all their hopes and fears about love and their relationship—just as normal people would—theirs, I think, is also the most remarkable entry.
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Favorite quote: “I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. … You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
Romantic films about teens are a dime a dozen, but The Fault in Our Stars (based on a novel by John Green) is priceless. The story is about two young lovers who both have cancer making the most of the time they have left together. It’s terribly depressing, but it presents, in a genuinely new way, the idea of our love enduring past our lives, and for that, it is also impressively uplifting.
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Favorite quote: “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”
Pride and Prejudice is the classic tale of a boy and a girl who at the start despise each other, but eventually end up falling in love. It has sold over 20 million copies, has had various adaptations, inspired countless works, and has sent readers swooning since its first publication over two centuries ago.
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Favorite quote: “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”
Nicholas Sparks is the master of the modern romantic tearjerker (sorry, John Green). Among his most works are A Walk to Remember, Dear John, and Message in a Bottle. His most popular and arguably best work, however, is The Notebook, a story about what we’re willing to go through for the people who hold our heart.
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Favorite quote: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Sometimes, we enjoy a romantic tale not for the intensity of the character’s love for each other, but because of the excitement of their love-hate relationship (which, perhaps, reflects our own tumultuous relationships in real life). And in the history of cinema, no love-and-hate affair has captured the attention of viewers more than that of ladies’ man Rhett Butler and spoiled Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara. Their story shows that there’s more to love than passion and desire.
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Favorite quote: “You’ll be alright. We’re together now. Everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.” —Belle, as she holds the dying Beast
It’s a tale as old as time: a beautiful lass discovers that a man who has been behaving so beastly towards her (in this case, literally) has a golden heart after all—and they fall in love with each other. Too many books and films have used this premise, but none captures the transformative power of love quite as beautifully as this Disney classic.
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Wait, you say, isn’t this a children’s movie? And, if we’re going to put a Pixar film in this list, shouldn’t it be the first 20 minutes of Up? Well, I was actually close to doing that. But what got WALL-E as the final entry on this list is because, at its core, it’s really about someone who has been alone for so long, whose dreary existence is suddenly disrupted by the arrival of an angel, and who then does everything to be with her. And isn’t that exactly what it’s like to fall in love?
So that’s our list of the greatest stories of love in films and literature (if we missed your favorite, feel free to comment at our Facebook page). We hope that remembering these stories has made your heart beat a little faster, made your love a little bit deeper, and make you miss your sweetheart a little bit more.
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