Think "Hollywood romance," and almost immediately movies like Wuthering Heights and Casablanca spring to mind.
But romance is a far broader category than Hollywood's classics would have us believe. Love and romance are not always filled with larger-than-life characters and soaring passions.
Love comes in all shape, all sizes and all styles. And so, of course, do Hollywood's movies about it.
Most of the movies on this list of romance movies never achieved the fame of Gone With the Wind. But each of them has its own inimitable take on what it is to be in love. All are available on home video, ready for Valentine's Day viewing.
CAROUSEL (unrated, nothing objectionable): A carnival barker (Gordon McRae) is enchanted by a young woman (Shirley Jones), who others think is above his social status. Arguably Rodgers and Hammerstein's most challenging score.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC (1990 version; French with subtitles; PG for mild violence): Gerard Depardieu gives the definitive performance as Rostand's soldier/poet in this luscious production. Physically, Cyrano is hideous. But in his soul, he is a lover beyond compare.
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (unrated, nothing objectionable): An ultimately tragic story of love that is as large as the Russian landscape on which it is played. Yuri (Omar Sharif) loves his wife (Geraldine Chaplin), but he is thoroughly smitten by Lara (Julie Christie). Physically, David Lean's movie is an epic _ nothing else would do to contain this love for the ages.
HAROLD AND MAUDE (PG for adult themes): Hilarious and touching May/September romance that has become a cult classic. Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon are the unlikely but utterly charming couple in this sweet and weird homage to the indomitable nature of love.
HEARTLAND (PG for adult themes): Earthiness is all around in this out-of-the-ordinary love story. Based on the diaries of the women settlers in the Dakotas, this is a well-made and gritty movie about the hardships of a mail-order bride (Conchata Ferrell) and the rough-hewn farmer (Rip Torn) she comes to love.
A LITTLE ROMANCE (PG for adult themes): Love has rarely been so pure. In search of adventure, an 11-year-old girl (Diane Lane) runs away with an equally young French boy and sets off for Venice. It's not romance, they're after, exactly. Just beauty and an indefinable something that is missing from their lives. Laurence Olivier is delightful as an elderly con man who befriends the pair.
LOVE LETTERS (R for sexual situations): Not your happiest romance, admittedly. After discovering love letters about her deceased mother's infidelity, a young woman (Jamie Lee Curtis) determines to pursue the married man for whom she seems to have a boundless passion. Not exploitative at all, this is a serious exploration of love, passion and fidelity.
McCABE AND MRS. MILLER (R for strong language, nudity and sexual situations): There's little in the way of traditional romance in this western about a minor league wheeler-dealer (Warren Beatty) and a opportunistic hooker (Julie Christie). But by the end of Robert Altman's movie, there is little doubt that it is love they feel for one another.
NINOTCHKA (unrated, nothing objectionable): "Garbo Laughs!" screamed the ads for this movie. And not only does she laugh, but she grins and even camps it up a bit as she makes a marvelous evolution from dour Soviet underling to a giggly woman smitten by Melvyn Douglas. This is love the way Hollywood used to see it.
PRIZZI'S HONOR (R for violence, strong language, sexual situations and nudity): A hitman (Jack Nicholson) and a hitwoman (Kathleen Turner) are hired to kill one another. Instead they fall in love. Improbable as all get-out, but delicious all the same.
ROMEO & JULIET (1968 version; PG for brief nudity and adult themes): It may end tragically, but without question this is the love story to beat all love stories. This version, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, is the most fully realized of the several film versions available.
ROXANNE (PG for strong language and sexual situations): Cyrano der Bergerac updated. Steve Martin is magnificent as the honey-tongued man with the too-large nose. In the title role, Daryl Hannah is an awkward angel, the perfect personification of Martin's dreams.
SAY ANYTHING (PG-13 for strong language and sexual situations): A funny, deliciously sweet, and thoroughly unpredictable movie about teen-age love. This is one of those delightful half-fantasy love stories that audiences love to love. Has a near-perfect ending.
SPLASH (PG for strong language and brief nudity): Man meets mermaid. Man falls for mermaid. Man loses mermaid, then finally hooks her. Silly and lovely, in its own way, with Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks.
THE TALL GUY (R for profanity, nudity and sexual situations): A frothy comedy about a bumbling expatriate actor (Jeff Goldblum) and his tribulations in wooing an eccentric nurse (Dead Again's Emma Thompson). Features one of the funniest-ever love scenes.
TENDER MERCIES (PG for adult themes): Robert Duvall won an Oscar for his extraordinary performance as a down-and-out country music star battling alcohol and depression with the help of a new love (Tess Harper). More inspiring than depressing.
David Lyman is the Cincinnati Post's movie critic.