Let me introduce you to my favourite romantic films of all time

best romance movies before midnight 2013
I have a problem with commitment. 

I also have a problem with choosing favourites. I’ve never been able to choose a favourite dish, book, band … name it and I will probably freeze up in trying to come up with an answer.

Take books. Look at my Goodreads bookshelf and you’ll find a somewhat jumbled collection of five star rated titles. The Book Thief (had me in rivers of tears, is the film any good?!), We Need To Talk About Kevin, Mystic River, the Jessica Darling books, almost anything by Isaac Asimov and basically anything ever written by Caitlin Moran.

(Speaking of books, I am kind of emotionally drained after recently finishing A Pale View of Hills … an incredibly affecting and creepy but ultimately ambiguous book that really needed a stronger editor. Anyone else up to discussing it?)

But over the Christmas break, I found what is undoubtedly my favourite movie of all time: Before Sunset. In fact, I gorged on the entire Before series – Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight –  not just the most romantic movies ever, but the best movie trilogy ever made.

Before Sunrise is romantic in a smart way – intelligent and articulate, the sort of love story that someone who adores Gilmore Girls (me!) would be enthralled by. But it’s decidedly un-Hollywood. There’s pauses, slightly awkward glances, silences, as we wind our way through the streets of Vienna alongside Celine and Jesse, almost in real time.

I loved Before Sunset even more, tinged as it is with the passage of time, ageing, regrets … there is not a single superfluous moment in the sequel. Utter perfection.

I wasn’t sure Before Midnight could top that, but I was wrong. WRONG. While I prefer Before Sunset as a film, purely on artistic merit, I love Midnight even more for its unflinching willingness to dive into the heart of a relationship. When you give that much of yourself to another person, you also open yourself up to a world of hurt – and even people who love each other claw and scratch and take blows at one another from time to time.

I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.

I am giving you my whole life, okay? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Okay? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.

You are the fucking mayor of Crazytown, do you know that?

Somehow, Before Midnight also manages to be the funniest of the three films.

Who wants to be Joan of Arc? Forget France, she was burnt at the stake and a virgin, okay. Nothing I aspired to. What a great achievement.

One of the perks of being over 35 is that you don’t get raped as much.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke swear they have no spark in real life, though it’s a pleasure to watch them bounce off each other in interviews. Yet onscreen they have such incredible chemistry (I even found him somewhat sexy and I normally can’t stand the sight of him) and the dialogue is just so fucking real. I am in love with how they swear, talk about sex, fight and make up. It scared me how much of my own relationship I saw in there. Before Midnight seriously screwed me up, but not in a bad way. Not at all.


Ultimately, I find Before Midnight even more romantic because they’ve chosen each other, and I mean REALLY chosen each other, flaws and all, knowing each other as much as any two people can – at least this time around.


Director Richard Linklater says they break all the rules of screenwriting, and how magnificently so. I could watch all these films over and over and over again.

What is your favourite fictional romance?

16 thoughts on “Let me introduce you to my favourite romantic films of all time

  1. Agreed! I love the series and watch them often. They’re smart, witty and raw. There’s none of the fluff, but enough of the romance to keep you coming back for more.

    Happy Valentine’s Day! Cheers!


  2. These are three of the best movies about relationships and love that I’ve ever seen. The best part is that they used the same actors AND Julia Delphy and Ethan Hawk also produced and directed the last one.

  3. I’ve seen the first two films in this trilogy, but haven’t yet watched the final one—Tony hasn’t seen any of them (if you can believe it!), so before we watch that one, we’re planning to sit down and (re)visit the first two. I actually don’t remember anything about Before Sunset and all I can remember about Before Sunrise is that I was obsessed with it as a teen and watched it a lot (obviously I have a cheese grater memory), so a rewatch is clearly in order.

    I think if I had to pick an all-time favourite romantic movie, I would default to When Harry Met Sally. It’s an oldie but a goodie and it never fails to make me laugh (and I quote from it way more than is probably healthy).

  4. I am obsessed with Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight! I LOVE them so much and watched all three in a row when the last one came out. I love the characters, realness, the writing, acting, everything! I love that it was filmed in real time, meaning the films took place in as many years apart as the films came out. The story is romantic and complex. When you love someone that deeply, you do run the risk of being vulnerable — that person knows you better than anyone, thus has the power to hurt you the most. They know your ticking points. I want to have a viewing part with you!

  5. Love love love all the movies. At the ending of Before Sunset… I so hoped they would stay together. And then Before Midnight, and you see what happens after your dream comes true. I cried when I saw Before Midnight. It’s unflinching and yet still hopeful.

  6. I would also argue that the ending of Before Midnight is very ambiguous, in the sense that any long-lived relationship can be ambiguous. Did Celine and Jesse REALLY choose each other? And for how long?

    You see Celine agreeing to stay in the relationship – you know that that night will not be the night the relationship is broken up. But you see the fault lines in the relationship and no resolution of their problems that Celine and Jesse is offered.

    I would say whether or not their relationship survives, and whether they have a fulfilling relationship, is very much up in the air.

    1. Just googled that trilogy – had never heard of it! Sounds intriguing, will try to get to them one day when I’m in the mood (they sound like films you need to be in the right mindset for)

  7. I’m going to go outside the box here and say the “Back to the Future” trilogy. There’s love everywhere in those, from Marty saving his parent’s marriage after inadvertently becoming the object of his mother’s affection, to him saving his future marriage, then finally to him saving Doc. That is most certainly a special kind of bond.

  8. OK! So, in the past 2 days we have sat down and watched these three movies! As I said in my first comment, when I was 13, I was absolutely OBSESSED with Before Sunrise. I know I watched it a gajillion times. This time… not so much. I found it painful to watch and a little bit dull. I cannot see myself wanting to watch it again.

    But, we pushed on and watched Before Sunset, and that I really liked. I know I had seen it before, but couldn’t remember anything about it. Loved the ending (it’s PERFECT), and just found it very satisfying. It has a hint of bitter to counteract the sweet and I think that ultimately is what makes it so enjoyable and meaty. To me, it was much more romantic than Before Sunrise.

    And then Before Midnight. What a killer! It was both depressing and not, and Tony & I both remarked that it was so remarkable how this one (and Before Sunset) really feel like you’re watching a documentary or have been plopped into the midst of this couple’s actual life on what could be any random day. I know I have had fights like they fight, and I think it was a really honest look at how relationships evolve and change. It made me sad because you see how the fairytale is over, but there is honesty in that. You don’t doubt that these people love each other (to me, it’s so clear how much Jesse loves Celine and that makes me melt a bit, even though Ethan Hawke’s face gives me the creeps!), but I’ve always found I’m more—not less—likely to draw blood from the people I’ve given the most of myself too. I can’t even say that I enjoyed Before Midnight, certainly not in the way I did Before Sunset, but I really respected it and thought it was a very good movie because it didn’t feel like a movie at all. I’m not sure I could bear to watch it again, but I agree the funny bits were definitely the funniest of all three films.

    In summary: Before Sunset is also my favorite, but I was really moved by what they did with Before Midnight. I think I have moved past the youthful days when Before Sunrise speaks to me, but I’m glad I revisited it and rediscovered these movies.

    1. I was 25 and married when I watched Sunrise, so while I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t say I loved it (in fact I was a bit bored by a few sequences) – more that it intrigued me to watch the others and boy am I glad I did. Perhaps the only first film in a movie trilogy that I enjoyed the least? Although I quite liked the first LOTR film…

      I guess what you’re saying is for a film Sunset strikes the perfect balance between romantic and realistic and I couldn’t agree more. Also, T hates Ethan Hawke and I’m not a fan, but these movies completely let me overlook that. Ha.

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