Top Ten Love Stories

Sometimes I’ll post “Top Ten” stuff on here, instead of “Why” posts. This is one of those times. My power was out during a snowstorm this past week and I wanted to make up for the lack of posts with some extra ones now. So, again in honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a Top Ten Love Stories {in Movies, TV Shows, Books, etc.}. I’m not saying these are the ones that I’d call my absolute, end-all, be-all favorite love stories of all time, but I do think they have the most relatable feelings, stories, and characters around. I think that they best capture the feelings we’ve all had, and that you’ll find yourself emotionally invested in their outcome. I’m sure I missed some of your favorites, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that {but I did try to work in as many honorable mentions as I could}! I hope you enjoy!

10: Cosette and Marius {Les Miserables}: This is one of the only bright points in an otherwise heartbreaking musical {and book}.  It would take up the length of this entire post {and then three more} to tell even an abbreviated synopsis of the whole story, but the cut-down Marius/Cosette plotline is fairly simple. A poor girl with corrupt parents named Eponine is deeply in love with a student named Marius who is kind and liberal-minded in pre-Revolutionary France, and Marius falls in love with the pretty, girlish Cosette who was raised by Eponine’s parents before being adopted by a kind man and given a proper upbringing, leaving Eponine with her cruel parents to basically grow up in the streets. What great love doesn’t have some complicated other-woman plotline going on? Marius never strays from Cosette for a moment, not even really seeing that Eponine cared for him until she dies. Marius and Cosette sing of their love for each other and marry, but face tragedies and nearly lose each other along the way. It’s a beautiful story. Honorable mentions here include some other great musical loves: Melchior and Wendla from Spring Awakening, Christine and Raoul {and the Phantom too?!} in Phantom of the Opera {love triangles to the max}, and perhaps my favorite and the most beautiful love story in any musical: Kim and Chris {and Ellen} in Miss Saigon.

9: Ariel and Eric {The Little Mermaid}: Say whatever you want about me putting a couple from a Disney movie on this list: most of your first love experiences were in animation. There’s a simplicity to these loves, sure, but there’s also a purity that’s truly beautiful. Ariel longs to be a human and walk on two legs before she ever sees Eric, but once she sees a human guy and falls in love with him, being a mermaid is as unbearable for her as ever. A lot of people have looked at this movie negatively, as it displays a young girl leaving behind her family for a guy, and I completely get that. But if you look at the movie from a child’s perspective {this movie was a formative experience for me as a kid} you see the ultimate in romance. It’s sweet, it’s gentle, true love prevails. Honorable mentions from other Disney movies: Belle and Beast from Beauty and the Beast, because it taught me to look past appearances to see a person’s true self underneath; Anna and Kristoff from Frozen, because it shows a girl finding out that the first guy you date might turn out to be fundamentally bad {which is new territory for cartoons}, and Cinderella and Prince Charming because it’s just so freaking perfect.

8: Baby and Johnny {Dirty Dancing}: Because duh. It’s such a good movie, even my current-day boyfriend will stop what he’s doing and watch it with me when it comes on. It’s a classic. I like that it displays a happy, complicated, teenage relationship that has no definitive ending. You’re allowed to decide whether you think Johnny and Baby break up or stay together. They can’t stay on summer vacation forever, so it’s kind of a sad story in that way. I always kind of looked at it as a first-love, coming-of-age narrative that has no tearjerker moments. Honorable mentions: Sloane and Ferris from Ferris Bueller because they have a happy relationship that still isn’t sappy; and Claire and John in Breakfast Club, because I don’t think a single girl didn’t want to date a bad boy after seeing them share a kiss after their detention {also, their ragging on each other all day built up some serious sexual tension by the end of the movie}.

7: Anna and Vronsky {Anna Karenina}: Confession time: I never finished Anna Karenina. I tried and tried and tried, and I still have a copy of it that’s probably been started and then abandoned about 10 times over the course of my lifetime, but I just never completed the book. It’s very good, but it’s very long, and extremely heavy.  A lot of the themes revolve around Russian politics and culture, and my primary interest in the book had to do with Anna more than anything else.  But the Anna story is really incredible. She’s married to a prominent man in politics, and everything seems like it’s going well in their marriage until you really start to see her flirt with this other guy, named Vronsky, who’s depicted as a bit younger than her {certainly younger than her husband}. They have to conceal their romance because adultery was such a taboo during this era in Russia.  But as the spark between Vronsky and Anna grows, they become more careless about who sees them together, and eventually Anna grows to despise her husband so much that she tells him she is having an affair, after Vronsky nearly dies in a horse race accident. Her husband is understandably upset, but still tries to make their marriage work. Eventually Anna leaves him to be with Vronsky and they run away together. But while Anna is seen in their culture as a ruined woman, Vronsky is still a bachelor, and his mother is still trying to lure him away from Anna and into a marriage with a nice girl. He does not accept, but Anna still grows angry and hurt by this, and eventually throws herself under a train to commit suicide when she decides that she does not have Vronsky’s love any more {even though she still does}. It’s heartbreaking and melodramatic and totally captures the “he just doesn’t love me as much as I love him” feeling that every teenage girl has with her first true love. Honorable mention:  Countess Olenska and Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence, one of my favorite novels of all time {and a less heartbreaking story}.

6: Angel and Collins {Rent}: I loved Rent from the first time I ever saw it on stage in high school. The movie is good, too, but doesn’t capture the love between Tom Collins and his cross-dressing boyfriend, Angel. It sounded weird before I saw the show, but once you see the clear love between the two characters, nothing could be more natural. They fall into a relationship as quickly and easily as anyone could. Angel is kind and understanding about everything. When Angel dies, it is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in a musical ever. I don’t think there’s a dry eye in the theater! Angel brings all the people in the show together, because he’s so much better a person than the rest of them can be, and he makes them stay friends with one another when they fight {by saying that they’re family}. Honorable mention: Roger and Mimi from Rent, because they have a beautiful, complicated love that everyone else can see but them. It takes her dying in his arms and coming back to life for him to tell her he loves her, but once they’ve both admitted it, you just know they’re never going to be apart again. It’s a happy ending for a musical that could have ended so tragically.

5: Elizabeth and Darcy {Pride and Prejudice}: I guess you can’t make a list like this without including a Jane Austen couple. They’re the classic misunderstood love. They dislike each other from the start, and grow on one another from there. It keeps the rest of us hopeful that someone we barely notice might be in love with us secretly. It’s never been a personal favorite, but I liked the book a lot.  I preferred the characters in Austen’s Mansfield Park, and actually found myself rooting more for Jane and Bingley when I read P&P. Honorable Mention: Emma and Mr. Knightley {who gave rise to characters in one of my favorite 90s movies, Clueless}.

4: Tony and Maria {West Side Story}: What story captures young love better than Romeo and Juliet? I picked West Side Story just because I like the music so much, and always have. It’s romantic, it’s gooey, and it captures how you feel when you’re sixteen and meet the person who you first want to say “I love you” to so well it’s eerie.  The first time I saw it I cried like a baby. Tony and Maria come from completely different worlds, and are some of the only people on the planet who their families would ask them not to be with. It’s so romantic! They even have a secret wedding in the shop where Maria works so that they can be together forever. But the most heartbreaking part {“Somewhere”} is the fact that they are perfect for one another, but are simply not allowed to be, by their families, society, and the way New York City gangs worked. “There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us,” still brings tears to my eyes. When Tony dies and Maria decides to stay alive instead of going with him, you’re crying. End of story. I like that she chooses to live, though. I admire her strength over Juliet in the classic story.  Honorable Mentions: obviously Romeo and Juliet, and also Jack and Rose from Titanic, who also come from different worlds {the guy also dies in this one, while the girl goes on to live without him}.

3: Rick and Ilsa {Casablanca}: This is another love story that everyone just gets. The one that got away. The girl that would give up what she has for what she wants, but the guy loves her enough to make her do what’s ultimately going to make her happy. It’s so filled with classic quotes and memorable scenes that you’ve probably already gotten the gist of the story from popular culture. I’ll admit that I find the outcome of the whole thing highly unsatisfying, just because it’s so heartbreaking. You want to see people end up happily together, and this story just doesn’t end that way. But I guess that’s realistic, and that’s what great love stories are all about. Honorable mention: Paul and Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s because it’s the guy falling madly in love with a girl who just doesn’t care {or at least is good at pretending not to – this movie taught me how to get anything I wanted from a guy who liked me, as long as I pretended to like him less}.

2: Blair and Chuck {Gossip Girl}: I don’t care about people laughing at my putting two characters from Gossip Girl second on the best love stories of all time, because it’s just what it is. You can laugh, but you probably haven’t seen the show. It’s an instant classic. The guy starts out as a bad boy, always going from girl to girl, and ultimately falls in love with a girl he’s been friends with his whole life. And even when he has her, he freaks out over being committed and stands her up, losing her again and again. You always want them to stay together, but one of them is always screwing the other one over. It can be really heartbreaking, as superficial as it sounds. But, despite both doing really screwed up things, they’re truly perfect for one another, and you find yourself rooting for them in spite of themselves. They’re well-dressed, classy, rich, elegant, and yet raw and unpolished in many ways, too. The perfect contradictions. They’re the definition of a power-couple. Honorable mentions: Derek and Meredith from Grey’s Anatomy {because Dr. McDreamy is perfect and you just really want Meredith to find the right guy who makes her want to settle down, and when Addison shows up to mess up their perfect relationship you basically hate her even though she’s totally nice}, and Chandler and Monica from Friends, even though I love Ross and Rachel too, because Chandler and Monica are always there for one another, are funny and enjoy teasing each other, and never stray from their feelings. It doesn’t take fifty years for the two of them to get together, they just fall into bed one night and become inseparable and in love after that. It’s cute.

1: Scarlett and Rhett {Gone with the Wind}: What can I say about this couple? They’re my favorite book, my favorite movie, my favorite everything. The first love story I had a real connection to. Scarlett is undoubtedly one of the most disliked movie characters of all time, and yet you find yourself hoping that she’ll get over Ashley and appreciate Rhett all the same. You want her to wake up and see how much he loves her {because who treats a spoiled brat that good without loving them unconditionally}. And for those of us who grew up in the south and wanted to be a belle, it’s heavenly. The dresses, the dialogue, and the man who pines for you for years on end before finally convincing you to get married to him, it’s just too good to be true. I love it. Scarlett and Rhett are one-of-a-kind. They have a big love, in a way that no other love on this list can quite measure up to, just because it doesn’t span tragedies, heartbreaks, loves, affairs, and the backdrop that this movie has. It’s flawless.

More soon.

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