Gentlemen Speak: 5 Surprising Films Guys Think of as ‘Romantic’

Choosing the next movie to watch together is about to get so much easier.
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Choosing the next movie to watch together is about to get so much easier.

One of the greatest tensions between men and woman, aside from the epic battle over the thermostat, is the question of what movie to watch together on Friday night.

While men and women certainly can't be generalized, it does seem to me that the majority of women enjoy a plot with at least some romance. At the same time, most men are less than enthused about a script that relies heavily on prolonged glances across a room. Chances are, we haven’t seen Pride & Prejudice three times (maybe even not at all), but that does not mean we are not interested in seeing sparks fly (I, for one, love You’ve Got Mail).

If arguments over the remote have left you wondering why guys can’t be more romantic, don't fear. It’s just that a man's version of a romantic reel may not match your idea of romantic.

Advice columnist Heather Havrilesky describes the allure of romance well in an essay for New York Magazine where she says, “. . . by ‘romance,’ I know they mean the traditional version, the one that depends on living inside a giant, suspenseful question mark,” she says. This is the romance of the rom-coms and chick flicks, she points out. This is the romance that depends constantly on the “will he, won’t he” kind of question. And there’s nothing wrong with this; it’s suspenseful and speaks to our desire to love and to be loved, but true romance goes deeper, Havrilesky says.

Havrilesky goes on to explain that, “after a decade of marriage, if things go well, you don’t need any more proof. What you have instead—and what I would argue is the most deeply romantic thing of all—is this palpable, reassuring sense that it’s OK to be a human being.” This, I think, is the kind of love guys prefer to see on screen.

So, if you want to know what kind of romantic movies your guy will get behind, and also gain a little insight into his romantic side, grab some popcorn, and let’s look at the top five (pretty surprising!) movies the guys told me they find to be “romantic.”

01. Up (2009)

Leave it to an animated movie to really pull at those heart strings. To get in touch with a little childhood whimsy and some real-life emotion, this Disney Pixar blockbuster does the trick.

My friend Jim notes, “I would choose Up. That movie says a lot about love in the first few silent minutes—it shows the joy of spending different stages of life with a loved one. It also shows pain. Then, throughout the course of the movie, the old man's heart is changed as he continues to a pursue a mission meaningful to his beloved. In the end he looks outward from the relationship, learning about bigger questions in life from the romance. To me, the romance is in the great adventure of life, like that in Up, and not simply in how people meet.”

A wounded heart and a changing heart—I couldn’t have said it better myself. One of the common responses I heard from guys was that they want a love that is worth suffering for. That might seem masochistic, but I think it gets at the heart of true love. True love is vulnerable. It means you love someone more than you love yourself. You are willing to sacrifice, and because of that sacrifice you are a better man. This is the kind of love that changes hearts. Men want women who will inspire them to love and to be changed by that love.

02. Meet Joe Black (1998)

“Meet Joe Black. It's been my favorite movie since I saw it on TV when I was 15. I never thought about it being ‘romantic’ though. Romantic is a tough word—it's not how I would describe the movie, but I know it is. I think it's more sentimental to me than it is romantic. Sure it has its cheesy moments, yet in the midst of death the unlikely guy does what's best for the girl he loves, even though it kills him to let go. And, well, I won't ruin it for you. But come on, it's got Brad Pitt!” Tom says.

True love means tough choices. Guys recognize this and aspire to this kind of love. As several guys told me this week, if you can’t make the tough choices in your relationship when it’s all new and exciting and young, how are you going to make the tough choices when you are married, or when you have kids, or when one of you gets sick? There is a reason why people make vows, promising "in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health."

I think this is partly why men struggle with the idea of a movie being “romantic.” They tend to see the more superficial aspects—the flowers, the cheesy moments, the inevitable guy-gets-the-girl moment. But what happens when those exciting early stages change into a long-term relationship? The true test of romance is accepting who the other person is and loving them with all their imperfections.

03. Gladiator (2000)

This was by far the most popular response I got from men this week. Men love Gladiator! I, of course, knew this beforehand, but I didn’t know how many of them found this movie to be a great example of love.

“I mean, think about it. This man nearly takes down an entire empire because he has lost the two people he loves most in his life. You watch him cry over his family and watch him suffer as he comes to grips with it, but in the end it is the love for his family that drives him to greatness. And everyone recognizes it in the end,” according to John.

Now, no man wants to lose his family the way Maximus did, but they certainly do dream of loving a family and a woman, to that degree. So the next time you think guys don’t want serious relationships and don’t want the same things you do, think again. Sometimes it just takes an epic movie to stir it up a little bit and help us vocalize it. And if your husband ever wants to name your firstborn son Maximus, maybe give it a little consideration.

04. Hook (1991)

The surprise of the lot! Hook, with Robin Williams as Peter Pan, is romantic? I mean, I loved this movie growing up and still watch it occasionally, but I think my eyes have been opened to an entirely new degree for this childhood classic.

“There will come a time for all of us in our marriage when we encounter struggles," my friend Michael says. "It might be a mid-life crisis or a fear of getting older, but sometimes we need a good reminder of where we come from and what we’ve been given. This is ultimately what happens to Peter in the movie—he returns to his wife, reinvigorated, full of life and love for his family, reminded of the great adventure that his marriage and life really are.”

The adventure of marriage and family life. Wow, I love that! And I guarantee that I will need to be reminded about this one day. I'm not married, but I can imagine how easy it can be to get bogged down in the dirty diapers, the repetitive work day, kids’ sporting events, and so on. We all need to be reminded that while the old romance might not be there the way it once was, there is a new kind of romance that is just as adventurous and just as exciting, if not more so.

05. Casablanca (1942)

Do I even need to explain this one? The classic of all classics. Bogart and Bergman. Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund. If you haven’t seen it, please stop reading this right now and go and buy it. Seriously, don’t read any further because I don’t want to ruin it for you. Last chance, here it goes . . .

“Every man wants to be Humphrey Bogart, and Casablanca shows you why," Jackson says. "‘Of all the gin joints, in all the world’ Rick Blaine’s long-lost love stumbles into his. Can you imagine being reunited with the woman you love and then having to let her go?? But this is exactly what he does. Love means always doing what is best for the other, even when memories of your romance tempt you the other direction. Love is not selfish, and that is why Casablanca is romantic.” 

Maybe you’ve seen Casablanca, or any of the other movies, and noticed the same echoes of love and romance that these men did. As you can see, men seem to be inspired by heroism and sacrifice, all essential ingredients for a deep and moving love story—something that will make a woman's heart beat a little quicker, too.

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Warner Bros.