Romance films or movies involve romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theatres or on television that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters. Typically their journey through dating, courtship or marriage is featured. These films make the search for romantic love the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family resistance. As in all quite strong, deep and close romantic relationships, the tensions of day-to-day life, temptations (of infidelity), and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.
Romantic films often explore the essential themes of love at first sight young and mature love, unrequited love, obsession, sentimental love, spiritual love, forbidden love, platonic love, sexual and passionate love, sacrificial love, explosive and destructive love, and tragic love. Romantic films serve as great escapes and fantasies for viewers, especially if the two leads finally overcome their difficulties, declare their love, and experience their "happily ever after", often implied by a reunion and final kiss. In romantic television series, the development of such romantic relationships may play out over many episodes or different characters may become intertwined in different romantic arcs.
Screenwriter and scholar Eric R. Williams identifies Romance Films as one of eleven super-genres in his screenwriters’ taxonomy, claiming that all feature length narrative films can be classified by these super-genres. The other ten super-genres are action, crime, fantasy, horror, science fiction, comedy, sports, thriller, war and western.
Also known as Epic romance, this is a romantic story with a historical period setting, normally with a turbulent backdrop of war, revolution or tragedy. This includes films such as Titanic, Gone with the Wind, Reds, Doctor Zhivago and Cold War (Zimna wojna).
Romantic dramas usually revolve around an obstacle which prevents deep and true love between two people. Music is often employed to indicate the emotional mood, creating an atmosphere of greater insulation for the couple. The conclusion of a romantic drama typically does not indicate whether a final romantic union between the two main characters will occur. Some examples of romantic drama films and shows are Casablanca, Before Midnight, The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire, The River of Love, Up in the Air, Gloria Bell, Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Wakeful Eyes, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Shakespeare in Love, Dearer than my Life, The Bridges of Madison County, The English Patient, María Candelaria, Featureless Men, Daughters of the Dust, Sommersby, Appointment with Happiness, Coming Home, Big Night, Memoirs of a Geisha, Last Tango in Paris, Paris and Love, Among the Ruins, Water for Elephants, On the Waterfront, Love Story, Man's Way with Women, Like Water for Chocolate and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Same-sex romantic dramas that tackle LGBT issues include Brokeback Mountain, Blue is the Warmest Colour and Call Me by Your Name.
‘Chick flick’ is a term associated with romance films mostly targeted to a female audience. Although many romance films may be targeted at women, it is not a defining characteristic of a romance film and a ´chick flick’ does not necessarily have a romance as a central theme, revolve around the romantic involvement of characters or even include a romantic relationship. As such, the terms cannot be used interchangeably. Films of this genre include Gilda, The Red Shoes, Sense and Sensibility, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Dirty Dancing, The Notebook, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, Thelma and Louise, Fifty Shades of Grey and Romeo and Juliette.
Romantic comedies are films with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles. Humour in such films tends to be of a verbal, low-key variety or situational, as opposed to slapstick. Films within this genre include City Lights, A Night at the Opera, It Happened One Night, My Wife's Goblin, The Philadelphia Story, Intolerable Cruelty, Roman Holiday, Good Morning, My Dear Wife, The Big Sick, Enough Said, Lost In Translation, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Dave, Say Anything..., Moonstruck, In Summer We Must Love, As Good as It Gets, Something's Gotta Give, When Harry Met Sally..., Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Apartment and Pablo and Carolina.
Romantic action is a film that blend romance and action. Examples include Foreign Correspondent, The Best Years of Our Lives , The Adventures of Robin Hood, From Here to Eternity, The Quiet Man, The Torch, The Town, Killers, Knight and Day, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, This Means War and The Bounty Hunter.
Romantic thriller is a genre of film which has a storyline combining elements of the romance film and the thriller genre. Some examples of romantic thriller films are To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, The Adjustment Bureau, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, The Tourist, The Crying Game, Unfaithful, The Bodyguard and Wicker Park.
Romantic fantasies describe fantasy stories using many of the elements and conventions of the romance genre. Some examples include The Lady Eve, Top Hat, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg), Singin' in the Rain, Groundhog Day, Enchanted, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Midnight in Paris and Her.
Paranormal romance is a popular genre of film which features romantic relationships between humans and supernatural creatures. Popular tropes include vampirism, time travel, ghosts and psychic or telekinetic abilities – i.e. things that cannot be explained by science. The genre originated in literature and moved on to the screen in the early 2000s, following the success of the Twilight Saga adaptations from Stephenie Meyer's books. By 2007–08, film studios were producing various paranormal romance films, many adapted from novels. Examples of paranormal romance films include The Shape of Water, Warm Bodies, The Twilight Saga, Emerald Green, Vampire Academy, I Am Dragon and The Exterminating Angel.
Musical romance is a genre of film which features romantic relationships and whose story is partially explained through song and/or dance numbers. This genre originated on Broadway and moved to the silver screen thanks in part to the popularity of the Rodgers and Hammerstein productions. Some examples include Sunshine on Leith, Grease, South Pacific, High School Musical, La La Land and the Mamma Mia! franchise.
Film types, macro genres and the filmmaker's voiceEdit
The screenwriters taxonomy creates additional categories beyond "subgenre" when discussing films, making the argument that all narrative Hollywood films can be delineated into comedies or dramas (identified as a "film type"). The taxonomy also identifies fifty "macro genres", which can be paired with the romance super genre. Using this approach, films like Gone with the Wind (noted above) would be classified as a dramatic (type) historical/family (macro genres) romance (genre) rather than simply a historical romance; while The Notebook would be identified at dramatic (type) disease (macro genre) romance (genre) rather than simply a romantic drama.
Similarly, musicals are categorized as one option for a filmmaker’s "voice" because the artistic choice to have the characters sing does not affect the story or the characters – it simply alters how the story and characters are conveyed. Therefore, a romance film like Grease would be categorized as a dramatic (type), romance (super genre), high school / coming of age (macro genres), musical (voice) – rather than simply as a "musical romance".
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- Williams, Eric R. (2019). "Episode #3: Comedy and Tragedy: Age Does Not Protect You." In Falling in Love with Romance Movies. Audible Original.
- Williams, Eric R. "Macro Genres and Micro Genres." In The Screenwriters Taxonomy: A Roadmap to Collaborative Storytelling. New York, NY: Routledge, 2018. p. 47–55.
- Williams, Eric R. (2019). "Episode #9: Other Genres: Where There is Love." In Falling in Love with Romance Movies. Audible Original.
- Williams, Eric R. (2018). "Episode #24: Filmmaker's Voice and Audience Choice". In How to View and Appreciate Great Movies. The Great Courses / Audible.
- Williams, Eric R. (2019). "Episode #6: Voices: Though the Stars Walk Backward." In Falling in Love with Romance Movies. Audible Original.