Politics, Technology, and Language

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Archive for November 4th, 2007

Romancing the stone

Posted by metaphorical on 4 November 2007

Does the public really like romance movies? Especially ones that aren’t romantic comedies?

The answer seems to, “not so much.” A friend of mine recently asked me to name my two favorite romance movies, generously allowing, when asked, that romantic comedies were indeed romance movies. I came up with my first choice very quickly: The Lady Eve.

The second one didn’t come so quickly, so I went to the IMDB list of top 250 movies ever, as determined by the ratings given by the hundreds of thousands of people registered at the site. (Note that people simply rate movies; they’re not voting specifically for either their favorites nor what they think are best-ever.)

Is It’s a Wonderful Life (#31) a romance movie? Not really. Forrest Gump (#68)? Both are feel-good movies, but not romances. Singin’ in the Rain (#71)? No, it’s about something else. Back to the Future (#115)? Too much adventure and male bonding. Manhattan (#231)? One user comment at IMDB was, “A love song to Manhattan disguised as romantic comedy,” which I think is pretty accurate.

So here’s what we’re left with. I’ve italicized the romantic comedies.

  • 9. Casablanca (1942)
    46. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
    78. Some Like It Hot (1959)
    94. The Apartment (1960)
    123. Annie Hall (1977)
    138. It Happened One Night (1934)
    147. The Graduate (1967)
    148. The Princess Bride (1987)
    162. The African Queen (1951)
    173. Gone with the Wind (1939)
    179. Groundhog Day (1993)
    207. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
    244. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
    245. To Have and Have Not (1944)

Without the comedies, here’s what remains, a single movie in the top 10 (barely), two in the top 100, and another three making it into the top 200. With eight in the top 250, pure romance makes for a mere 3.2% of the list.

  • 9. Casablanca (1942)

    46. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
    147. The Graduate (1967)
    162. The African Queen (1951)
    173. Gone with the Wind (1939)
    207. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
    244. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
    245. To Have and Have Not (1944)

Even with the six comedies, the broad category of romance-movie accounts for less than 6% of people’s best-liked movies. To me, that seems odd. While I’ve never worked out my own personal top-250, it might well include three movies from the highly specialized category John-Cusack-romantic-comedies, none of which makes the IMDB list, or even comes very close (#250 of the top-250 gets a 7.9):

  • High Fidelity (7.6)
    Grosse Pointe Blank (7.4)
    The Sure Thing (6.7)

Oddly, When Harry Met Sally, which I would guess is one of the most cited movies of all time, also get a mere 7.6. Soapdish, one of the few totally successful screwball comedies to be made after the 1940s, and one of the funniest movies of all time, in my opinion, gets an embarrassing 6.0. But this just confirms that romance movies, even romantic comedies, maybe be a staple of movie life, but it’s rarely what we feast upon.

Either the romance movie just isn’t most people’s cup of tea, or, perhaps, if the fault lies in the stars, and not ourselves, it just rarely rises to greatness. (Here’s a clue: The Lady Eve gets an 8.1 rating, but apparently not from enough voters, or enough of the right voters.)

Posted in language, pop culture, the arts, writing | 5 Comments »

 
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