It’s that time of year when there is nothing better than snuggling up, staying warm and watching a movie with your friends or family. Here are our nominations for the best relationship movies of all time. Our criteria combined artistic merit with the ability of the movie to shed light on the inner workings of relationships, and how to maximize their potential. In addition, all the movies we selected share that elusive quality known as heart.
This masterpiece has many things to recommend it, but if we were going to pick just one thing it would be the tour-de-force speech about victimhood and responsibility that Nicholas Cage gives in the basement of the bakery. It’s not only brilliant acting but also shows exactly how people can get trapped in a painful moment in the past that causes them to adopt a view of themselves as victims and reject love that’s being offered to them in the present.
2) The Holiday
What a treasure! It’s got a lot of useful wisdom in it about how to get unstuck from past relationships so you can be present in the moment to give and receive love. Pay particularly close attention to Kate Winslet’s tirade toward the end when she’s finally closing the door on her boyfriend, the quintessential handsome cad she’s been putting up with for way too long. If you’ve ever been lied to by someone who’s says they love you, you’ll laugh and wince and learn a lot at she gives him his come-uppance.
3) The January Man
This overlooked gem is a thriller that we recommend primarily because of one brilliant scene. Watch closely the scene at the beginning between Kevin Kline and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the restaurant at the ice-skating rink. It has one of the best examples ever of how to speak honestly in relationships.
4) Truly, Madly, Deeply
This heartful drama, directed by Anthony Minghella, is one of the most beautiful movies we’ve ever seen. It not only has magical performances from Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman, it also teaches powerful healing-lessons about how to come to terms with loss and grief. One high moment of the movie comes when the characters quote a poem from Pablo Neruda.
5) Monsoon Wedding
This comedy/drama, directed by Mira Nair, is a loving look at the complexities of an Indian culture in which arranged marriages often match partners whose hearts belong to others. But this wise movie speaks to a universal problem: when you withhold a truth from your partner, you pull back from the relationship and project your own fears and fantasies onto the other person. The film shows a beautiful example of how to resolve this problem through authentic emotional expression. When the truth is finally spoken, the betrothed partners find a depth in each other (and themselves) that had gone unseen before.
6) Love Actually
Oh, how do we count the joys of this multi-faceted heart-fest? First, you get to feast your eyes and ears on some of the greatest actors of our time: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Colin Firth. Second, there is a wildly funny turn by Bill Nighy, an aging rock star who makes an improbable promise he ultimately must make good on. Third, the movie touches on themes that everyone has confronted at one time or another: the challenges of communication, forgiveness after a betrayal, the healing power of love, even the transformation of a feisty secretary (nicknamed “Plumpy” by her father) into a Prime Minster’s consort.
In our opinion, the most perfect comic screenplay ever written. Then, when you add Dustin Hoffman’s performance, one of the greatest in the history of film, you have a movie for the ages. The primary relationship-wisdom explored in the movie is the search for authenticity. It captures brilliantly the struggle for authenticity that happens in every close relationship. Each of us is wrapped in layers of persona, the masks we wear to get through the rigors of childhood and adolescence. When love emerges and takes us on its eternal journey, the masks are revealed as what they are: covers for the inner conflicts we fear and the inner magnificence we deeply seek to express.
8) All Of Me
The Buddha taught a crucial piece of relationship wisdom that’s brought to life in this comedy classic: each of us must integrate the masculine and feminine elements within us to be fully enlightened. The story is that, due to bizarre circumstances, half of Steve Martin’s body is occupied by the spirit of a wealthy rage-aholic (played to mean-spirited perfection by Lily Tomlin.) The relationship wisdom you gain from the movie is important, even life-changing: until we become one with all parts of ourselves, we cannot be fully present for the one we love.
9) Jillian’s Vantage
One of the greatest short films ever made, this movie was in the first collection sent out by The Spiritual Cinema Circle. Made by a gifted filmmaker named Geno Andrews, Jillian’s Vantage brings together a man and a woman who are dealing with their life-challenges in very different ways. From a relationship perspective, “Jillian’s Vantage” touches on a crucial issue we all face in relationship, how to come to terms with the flaws we perceive in ourselves. The movie shows us, with great sensitivity and wisdom, how to shift our view of those flaws, and by doing so, heal them.
10) A Cool, Dry Place
This is one of the best movies ever made about the realities of commitment. The characters in this movie reveal complex layers and committed lives. We love it that the dad lives out the job loss and child-care issues that usually appear in the woman’s role. We love it that the characters are intelligent and that we can learn something about deep bonding from a film that is so entertaining. We also love seeing a soft, caring relationship between a father and son. Vince Vaughn gives a stunning performance here, the best work we’ve seen from him.
What are your favorite relationship movies of all time?