The Weinstein Company/Annapurna
Tragic romance is everywhere in fiction. Some of the most successful movies ever made have been about two people who fall in love but don't end up together. The tragedy that befalls them may be external or internal, but the result is always the same. We watch the movie, and then we go home and weep. Sometimes, the water works start before we even leave the theater. No shame.
Now, we have Five Feet Apart, the latest in a long cinematic tradition of movies that make us sob. It's a swoony teenage romance between two people with cystic fibrosis who can't come within five feet of each other. It's bound to make audiences of all ages bemoan the tragedy of young love. The Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson flick is far from the first great tragic romance, though. It's one in a long line of weepy movies about two people trying their best to live happily ever after.
20th Century Fox
The Fault in Our Stars is the movie on this list that has the most in common with Five Feet Apart. It's the story of two young people in various stages of cancer treatment who fall madly in love with one another. Because of their illness, the question of their mortality is much more present than it would be in most teen romances.
The movie is effective because, like many tragic romances, it argues that living with death over your head is the only way to live. If you know you're going to die, why waste a second? The thing is, that's true whether you're a teenager with cancer or not.
Nicholas Sparks is the king of tragic romance, and A Walk to Remember is no exception. The film tells the story of an aimless teenager who falls in love with a girl from a different rung on the high school social strata. Their romance takes off, but is cut short before it can fully bloom.
Like so many tragic romances, their love is brief but bright. It's a reminder that loving someone and losing them is always better than closing yourself off completely. Even if it's only for a short time, loving someone is never a mistake. The pain is always worth it.
Me Before You feels like it was designed in a lab to make you weep. The movie follows Lou, a directionless but upbeat young woman who finds herself hired as the caretaker of a wealthy, formerly adventurous quadriplegic. From there, we see the two of them slowly fall in love before a kind of self-made tragedy cuts their relationship short.
Me Before You is about learning to seize the adventures that life puts before you. It's about reaching for the extraordinary every day. As cliche as those things may sound, they're also deep truths that the movie manages to get across without ever feeling corny.
The tragedy of Brokeback Mountain comes not from the romance at its center. That romance, between two cowboys who discover their feelings for each other, is tender and loving and entirely impossible in the rural countryside where this story is set. The tragic elements of gay love can feel overplayed these days, but in 2005, Brokeback Mountain felt like a breath of fresh air.
Its story is tragic in its outcome, but the love between these two men was real. Whatever the complications in their lives, for a few pure moments herding sheep on a mountain, they got to feel real love. That counts for something.
The Weinstein Company
Blue Valentine is a hard movie to sit through. It's the kind of tragedy that comes from watching what it's actually like for a relationship to fall apart. The film doesn't feature any kind of cataclysmic event or dramatic illness. Instead, we learn how two people fell in love in flashbacks, even as we see their relationship fall apart in the present.
Although there's no illness or external force to combat, Blue Valentine gets at the difficulty of love. The performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are electric. You can see how these people might love each other and fall apart anyway.
On its surface, Atonement looks like any romantic period piece about two tragic lovers. That's what it is, but it also manages to tell a story that reflects on why stories are told at all. It's a film about a single decision that doomed two people forever, and a story about how their lives were defined by a single moment.
Atonement's tragedy comes as something of a shot, but that doesn't make it any less of a gut punch. It's a movie about guilt and loss, but it's also a love story. It's about two people who can never be together, which is basically the definition of tragic romance.
There's tragedy to spare in Remember Me, but the movie works because of the fizzy chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Emile de Ravin in the film's lead roles. At its core, Remember Me is a film about what it means to love someone and lose them.
Of course, the movie seems to know that those two things are inevitably connected. Whether it's a breakup or a tragic death, loving someone means understanding that you may not always have them in your life.
Unlike most of the movies on this list, Never Let Me Go tells you it's a tragedy at its outset. The film mixes science fiction with straightforward romance, and the results are predictably heartbreaking. It tells the story of three young people who grow up together before discovering the reasons they were born.
That discovery forces them to confront their feelings for one another, and allows them to grapple with their own mortality. It's heavy stuff, but its lovingly rendered inside a story that's honest about what it means to love someone, whether you're on the verge of death or not.
Like Crazy is a fairly typical indie movie. It's the story of a British college student who meets an American in Los Angeles. The two quickly fall in love, but she has to return to London. The two keep being pulled toward each other, even as they try to live separate lives.
Ostensibly, Like Crazy ends well. After all of the movie's drama, these two end up together. In the film's last moments, though, there's something missing. Some of the passion has gone, and it becomes slightly less clear whether the love they have can sustain itself, even once they've given into it.
The reunion between Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet doesn't go particularly well in Revolutionary Road. The two play a married couple who struggle against the bonds they feel from their lives in suburban America. Although their relationship seems idyllic, there's rot underneath that threatens to consume their marriage whole.
Revolutionary Road works as a tragedy because it tells the story of two people whose perceptions of themselves don't align with reality. When those two things come into tension with each other, it becomes almost possible to find a resolution. These two let other people define their relationship, and the results speak for themselves.
The tragedy at the heart of A Star is Born is still pretty fresh. Although the 2018 version of the story is a remake, the pain at the heart of the story feels brand new all over again. The film follows an aging rock star as he meets a young, fresh-faced talent, and takes her under his wing.
From there, the movie is defined by her rise to stardom and his struggles with addiction. The love story at the film's center is beautiful, but it feels marked by tragedy from the minute it begins. A Star is Born is a big, powerful, emotional movie. It works because it's totally sincere and because the tragedy at its center is so deeply felt.
Les Films du Losange
If you thought relationships that are cut short by untimely deaths were hard to watch, you've clearly never seen Amour. This French film tells the story of an aging couple after one of them has a debilitating stroke. The film is moving because of the devotion these two show for each other.
It's a reminder that, while bodies may age, love remains the same. These two love each other just as fiercely as they always have, and the man in this relationship goes to incredible lengths to make sure that his wife never has to go to the hospital again. It's a beautiful, deeply upsetting movie.
Jesse McCartney didn't make many movies, but he did star in Keith, a tragic romance about a young girl who falls for a troubled teen played by the singer. Keith is yet another example of movies in which young people die, but those that live on capture their spirit.
There's something powerful about the idea that, when we're gone, we live on through the people we knew. One life reaches out and touches others. Keith shows the way that people can have an impact on those around them, even after they're gone. That's why it'll never fail to make you cry.
Sony Pictures Classics
Call Me By Your Name isn't a tragedy in the way most of the movies on this list are. Nothing particularly bad happens between the young man and the slightly older grad student he falls in love with. The relationship between them is beautiful, and all of the tragedy comes from the fact that it doesn't last.
Still, as the scene's final moments remind us, we only get chances to fall in love once. Our life only happens to us one time. Far from being perverse or unnatural, we should embrace our desires as long as they aren't hurting anyone else.
The story of a man who ages backward, The Curious Case of Benjamin is probably better known as a meme than as a movie today. When it was first released, though, Benjamin Button had interesting things to say about how we live. Because the film's central character ages the opposite way of his peers, his love life is a little unusual.
Even so, he manages to sustain a relationship with a dancer, and although his life takes him many places, he hopes that the two of them can meet up at exactly the right moment. It's the fleeting nature of their love story that makes the film tragic, and the way their relationship has to change as their lives and ages head in opposing directions.
In If Beale Street Could Talk, society is the only thing in the way of this love story. The film follows two young black people in the 1970s who fall into loving, swooning love with one another. Their romance feels almost perfect, but it's constantly interrupted by a world that prejudges and attacks them.
Although their love persists through their strife, their freedom doesn't. As much as this movie is designed to enrage those who watch it, it remains a tribute to love's conquering power. These two shouldn't have to deal with these societal problems, but because of love, they can get through them.
The Theory of Everything wears its heart on its sleeve, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The movie tells the story of Stephen Hawking, a brilliant physicist, and the wife who loved him even as he suffered through a degenerative disease.
The best thing about The Theory of Everything, other than the wonderful performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, is the way it treats the relationship between its central figures. These two may love each other, but their relationship falls apart. It's not because of his disease, though. It's a result of genuine issues in their relationship that predated it.
Love and time travel rarely mix well. About Time isn't the first movie Rachel McAdams has made that mix those two things, but it's almost certainly the best. The film follows a young man who finds out that he can time travel, and decides to use that ability to help him fall in love.
Introducing time travel makes questions about free will and destiny much more complicated, and About Time is great for the ways it explores those complications. Can a person be your soul mate if you keep time traveling to ensure that every step in your relationship goes as planned? Watch About Time and find out.