The top 10 doomed romances

The top 10 doomed romances. By Simon Miraudo.

The doomed romance: it’s a tale as old as time itself. Boy loves girl; girl loves boy; boy has his organs harvested; girl turns boy in to the police for his killing spree; boy dies mid-coitus; girl fakes own suicide, sending boy mad with grief, only to return in disguise and spark new relationship with boy built on mutual distrust and sexual pervasion. That, my friends, is true love. To celebrate the cinema debut of tragic love story Take This Waltzstarring the sub-genre’s patron saint Michelle Williams – and the upcoming release of A Royal Affair, we’re offering our picks for the top 10 doomed romances!

10. Leaving Las Vegas

It’s ironic that Nicolas Cage garners so many mentions on this blog that it could become a drinking game, as he won an Oscar for playing a depressed screenwriter who decides to drink himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas. He sparks up a friendship with local prostitute Sera (Elisabeth Shue), which eventually evolves into a deep love. But not even the discovery of a soul-mate can stop his mission in its tracks.

9. Never Let Me Go

Though it could never compare with Kazuo Ishiguro’s book of the same name, Mark Romanek‘s adaptation of Never Let Me Go was a deeply affecting work. We won’t spoil the secretly sci-fi surprises hidden within, but, needless to say, boarding school buddies Kathy (Carey Mulligan) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) have much in common, and sadly that truth will always keep them apart.

8. Atonement

Another literary adaptation, this time of a Ian McEwan novel. Many were dissatisfied by the seeming “cop-out” ending of Atonement; but the revelation – and the disappointment it wrought – is key to the life-long romance of upper class Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and servant’s son Robbie (James McAvoy), which was brutally divided by a single lie from the lips of 13-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan).

7. Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance asked Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling to bare all in Blue Valentine, and they did so with gusto. The film flits back and forth between the charmed early days of their romance to the eventual dissolution of their marriage years later. As they fall deeper in love in one timeline, they grow further apart in another. It never stops being devastating.

6. Badlands

Terrence Malick‘s debut feature was honoured in Oliver Stone‘s Natural Born Killers, but the original remains the best. Martin Sheen plays drop-kick garbage man Kit, who picks up teenager Holly (Sissy Spacek), shoots her father, and goes on a killing spree across the American Midwest. The most depressing part of this tragic tale? She doesn’t even really love him. But what else does one do in South Dakota?

5. Bonnie and Clyde

Not so different from the couple in Badlands, except this duo is crazy about each other. Charming renegade Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) rescues Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) from the doldrums of the Great Depression, and the two become the most notorious bank robbers in the country. Arthur Penn redefined cinema with this New Hollywood classic that dared to suggest its male lead could only become aroused after murdering some innocent civilians. L’amour! Their partnership comes to a bloody and brutal end, but man, did they have some fun times.

4. Brokeback Mountain


What stands in the way of ranchers Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) being together? Societal expectations? The fact that they’re cowboys, and their desire to uphold what that title means? Or their own shame? Ang Lee‘s Brokeback Mountain is tragic because, if it weren’t for the cruelty of all around them, and their own denial, these two could have been together forever. At least Ennis will always have Jack’s shirt.

3. Romeo and Juliet

Maybe you’ve heard of them?

2. Vertigo

In Alfred Hitchcock‘s best picture, ex-detective Scottie (James Stewart) is drawn into a bizarre case of a possessed woman (Kim Novak), with whom he falls for but ultimately commits suicide. Months later, having been temporarily committed on account of the grief, he thinks he sees her wandering around. For those who haven’t watched Vertigo before, we won’t give away what exactly transpires, nor the truly heart-breaking and terrifying ending. Though you might be screaming at the film “it doesn’t have to end this way,” as is the case with all of these selections, it really does.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Joel (Jim Carrey), suffering from severe malaise, is drawn to skip work and catch a train to Montauk, where he meets a blue-haired beauty named Clementine (Kate Winslet). It’s love at first site, and the two spend a day together that they’ll never forget. But in actuality, they already have. In Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman‘s peerless romantic drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel and Clementine have dated once before, broken up, and then signed up for an experimental process in which memories of a failed relationship and your ex-partner can be erased forever. But after each cleansing, they find themselves falling in love all over again. This takes the top spot not just because it’s a perfect movie, but because in this instance, the lovers are doomed to repeat their courtship and eventual dissolution over, and over, and over again.

Discuss: OK, what did we miss?

6 Responses to “The top 10 doomed romances”

  1. A great top 10, especially the number 1 spot. Of course, being a Woody Allen fan, I just have to say that Annie Hall could also fit in here. Doomed relationships can also be funny, right? See also Manhattan and Purple Rose of Cairo. Especially that last one; a relationship with a character direct from the screen never works.

  2. How about Luke and Leia from Star Wars: A New Hope? That was never going to work!
    Anakin and Padme from Star Wars episodes 1-3?
    Neo and Trinity from The Matrix trilogy?
    Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese from The Terminator?

  3. Scully & Mulder from the X-Files.

  4. 500 days of summer

    Batman begins with Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes

  5. Vertigo – Hitchock’s best film? Why do people keep saying that? It’s a joke, right?

  6. How about Buffy and Angel, Bella and Jacob from the Twilight Movies – hey, why not? I would like to think that Scully and Mulder ended up together!

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