With Valentine's Day fast approaching, entertainment retailer HMV recently invited visitors to its online store at hmv.com to nominate their all-time favourite love film.
This annual survey of top-fifty romantic movies, which brings together much-loved 'rom coms' with epic classics, attracted over 2500 entries during a two-week period ending 5th February 2010.
In previous years films such as Romeo + Juliet, which came top in 2008, and classic weepies including Casablanca and Brief Encounter have tended to dominate the poll, but last year and now again in 2010 the No.1 and No.2 positions have been occupied by Ghost and Dirty Dancing respectively – two iconic films featuring definitive performances by Patrick Swayze, who sadly passed away in September last year, but who is now, in death, perhaps fast-confirming the mantle of the ultimate romantic lead.
Significantly perhaps, the share of the vote claimed by Ghost in top spot has risen from 8.7% in 2009 to 10.4% this year – over one in ten, which, if combined with the 8.5% polled for Dirty Dancing means that nearly one in every five entries cast in the survey was for a film featuring Swayze in the title role.
That perennial favourite Pretty Woman came in at No.3, whilst a film more readily associated with Christmas, Love Actually, was the fourth most popular choice among the voting movie fans. The top 5 is made up by James Cameron's tragic love story Titanic, which has only just been overtaken by Cameron's Avatar as the biggest-grossing film of all time.
New entrants in the HMV annual Valentine's top 50 include cool 'indie' rom-com (500) Days of Summer at No.34 and The Time Traveller's Wife at No.37 – both released in 2009. While Baz Luhrmann's exotic Romeo + Juliet, which actually topped the annual poll as recently as 2008, has plunged to No.24 in the rankings. Likewise Atonement, which last year was at No.35 in the poll having reached No.18 in 2008 – the year of its release, has slipped out of the top 50 altogether, suggesting that it may not have established itself among the public's favourite love films.
The Top 10 – Position / Previous year's position in brackets/ Film title / Year of release / Share of vote
1. (1) Ghost (1990) share of vote 10.4% (2009 =8.7%)
Young stockbroker (Patrick Swayze) and girlfriend (Demi Moore) move into a Manhattan loft and look forward to a wonderful life together. But their dreams are cut short when Sam is killed in an apparently motiveless attack. The newly-bereft Molly goes into a deep depression… but Sam's a lot closer than she realizes. With the help of a 'psychic' (Whoopi Goldberg), Sam's ghost must convince a sceptical Molly that he was, in fact, murdered by a work colleague, and protect her from impending danger.
2. (2) Dirty Dancing (1987) 8.5% (2009 = 8.4%)
It's summer, 1963. Frances, seventeen and innocent, is on holiday with her parents in the Catskills. She meets Johnny, the hotel dance instructor, and is mesmerised by him and his dance style. She soon becomes his prize pupil, in dance and in love. The film that launched Patrick Swayze's acting career.
3. (5) Pretty Woman (1990) 8.1% (2009 = 6.3%)
In a 'Cinderella' story that made Julia Roberts a star, an LA corporate raider, played by Richard Gere, hires a hooker to pose as his girlfriend for a week… and unwittingly falls in love. Meanwhile, she wonders if the straight life – with him – might be her dream coming true.
4. (6) Love Actually (2003) 6.9% (2009 = 6.1%)
Christmas is approaching, and a group of people connected in some way, find themselves surrounded by love. The cast includes Hugh Grant as a prime minister who falls for a staff member, Liam Neeson as a widower counselling his son in the ways of love, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman as a couple faced with infidelity, and Colin Firth as a writer who can't resist the charms of his Portuguese maid.
5. (4) Titanic (1997) 5.1% (2009 = 6.8%)
A fortune hunter searching for a lost diamond near the wreck of the Titanic brings something else to the surface… a story from the past in which an unlikely romance between a beautiful English socialite and a streetwise Irish lad in steerage is fated to end before it has really begun… The Oscar-laden film that launched the careers of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
6. (8) An Officer And A Gentleman (1982) 3.8% (2009 = 3.3%)
Desperately hoping to earn a naval commission, an ambitious young man, played by Richard Gere, enters officer candidate school. The local factory girls dream of being rescued from their mundane lives by marrying the recruits once they become officers, but are always cruelly discarded after they've had their fun with them. Will Zack Mayo's relationship with Paula Pokrifki be any different?
7. (12) Notting Hill (1999) 3.2% (2009 = 2.5%)
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant forge memorable chemistry in this charmer about an unassuming bookstore owner in London's Notting Hill and a Hollywood actress who, against the odds, are able to fall in love. After Anna wanders into William's shop while filming in London, the two share an instant attraction and find themselves attempting to forge a relationship despite Anna's megawatt star power.
8. (11) Sleepless In Seattle (1993) 3.1% (2009 = 2.6%)
The definitive romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as soul-mates who find each other courtesy of a little boy, a radio phone-in show and the Empire State Building! If only love really could be like this. Inspired in part by the 1957 film An Affair To Remember.
9. (10) Amelie (2001) 3.0% (2009 = 3.0%)
Cinema magic from beginning to end, Amelie is an uplifting experience that will soften the hardest of hearts. Amelie works in a Parisian coffee shop, and inhabits a fantasy world. One day she realises how good it is to make people happy and sets out to change the lives of those around her, though it's Amelie who needs the most help as she's fallen in love with a man who collects discarded photo booth pictures, and the two become obsessed with a strange phantom man who keeps appearing in the photos.
10. (3) The Notebook (2004) 2.7% (2009 = 7.8%)
As teenagers, Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) begin a whirlwind courtship that soon blossoms into tender intimacy, but the couple are separated by Allie's upper-class parents, who insist that Noah isn't right for her. Several years pass, and when they meet again their passion is rekindled, forcing Allie to choose between her soul mate and class order. This tale has a special meaning to older gentleman (James Garner) who reads the love story to his ageing companion (Gena Rowlands).
See below for rest of top 50.
Jonny Scurfield, Film Content Editor for HMV, comments: “Ever since the release of Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze enjoyed a wide appeal among movie fans as a romantic lead and heart-throb. However, the results of this poll, which confirms last year's outcome, suggest that the Public have now taken him to their hearts following his courageous battle against illness and his subsequent premature death. To many people he is now the ultimate movie icon of romantic films.”
The rest of the top 50
11. (13) Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)
12. (17) Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
13. (15) Gone With The Wind (1939)
14. (18) Casablanca (1942)
15. (21) Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
16. (24) Love Story (1970)
17. (14) Pride & Prejudice (2005)
18. (17) Brief Encounter (1945)
19. (19) When Harry Met Sally (1989)
20. (27) Dr Zhivago (1965)
21. (09) Moulin Rouge (2001)
22. (20) Mamma Mia (2008)
23. (22) Grease (1978)
24. (07) Romeo + Juliet (1996)
25. (26) West Side Story (1961)
26. (34) Wuthering Heights (1939)
27. (29) Brokeback Mountain (2005)
28. (32) The Bridges Of Madison County (1995)
29. (45) Annie Hall (1977)
30. (31) An Affair To Remember (1957)
31. (30) The English Patient (1996)
32. (23) You've Got Mail (1998)
33. (41) Shakespeare in Love (1988)
34. new (500) Days of Summer (2009)
35. (40) The Way We Were (1973)
36. (39) Jerry Maguire (1996)
37. new The Time Traveller's Wife (2009)
38. (28) The Secretary (2002)
39. (36) My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
40. (42) Out Of Africa (1985)
41. (33) Sex and the City – The Movie (2008)
42. (46) My Fair Lady (1964)
43. (43) Moonstruck (1987)
44. (38) My Girl (1991)
45. (47) Remains of the Day (1993)
46. (44) Roman Holiday (1953)
47. (37) Sense and Sensibility (1995)
48. (49) From Here To Eternity (1953)
49. (50) Last Tango In Paris (1972)
50. (48) Working Girl (1998)