5 Classic Romance Films that Gave Us Unrealistic Expectations of Love

As we celebrate Valentine’s today, many of us will want to celebrate by watching romantic movies with our partners, friends or family. It is often said that young people today do not understand love or romance. This is, of course, at least a bit ironic coming from a generation that has perpetuated ideas of love that are unrealistic at best, and creepy at worst. Looking back at many classic romantic films, it starts to become clear where many of our unhealthy ideas about relationships might be coming from. Here are some classic films that distorted our perception of love.


Titanic is arguably amongst the best-known movies of all time. Directed by James Cameron, this film has one of the most iconic roles in cinema. There is no denying that Leonardo Dicaprio’s performance as Jack Dawson is phenomenal and is one of the most charming characters in the movie, whereas Kate Winslet is flawless. Each set piece in the film is stunning and can truly showcase the grandeur of the ship itself, with its wide marble halls and crystal chandeliers.

But behind all the charm and beauty, the film holds a love story— a love story that is both deeply flawed and doomed to failure, whether or not the Titanic goes down. The relationship between Jack and Rose begins at a time when Rose is vulnerable and about to take her life; this makes it easy for her to make rash decisions while still living in the luxury of the ship. No doubt, once she would have moved into the squatters with Jack, the young heiress would not have been able to adjust to her new life. Perhaps, she had already realised this; it would explain why she did not ask Jack to join her on the broken door at the end of the movie when we all know that there was room on it.

The Notebook

2004 was a big year for Rachel McAdams, as she starred in the role of Regina George in Mean Girls, before taking on the role of Allie in The Notebook. In both films, McAdams can take on the roles in such a way that it is difficult to tell that both are played by the same actor, let alone in the same year. Her pairing with Ryan Gosling (both her on-screen and off-screen partner at the time) share strong chemistry, and it is difficult not to be charmed by the couple. In many ways, the central romantic plot of the film is similar to that of Titanic. A poor young man falls in love with a rich, sheltered girl and shows her adventure and freedom. Unlike Titanic, this particular couple has a happy ending, and there is no denying that the old couple we see throughout the movie is heartbreakingly adorable. However, it is quite convenient that the film shows us only the beginning and the end of a lifelong relationship. The notion that the story of a couple ends when they enter a relationship is untrue and is likely the cause of many unrealistic expectations today. Perhaps the most difficult part would be Allie adjusting to her new life. For many women, the thought that an unknown man may one day decide that he is in love with you and proceed to relentlessly pursue (read: stalk) you is little short of a nightmare, but it is no surprise that this is an approach that many young men choose to take today.

Groundhog Day

Imagine meeting the perfect person who understands you, shares your interests and has the same goals as you. You fall in love, only to realise that the reason this person is perfect for you is that they have known you for months— you just have no memory of it. Now imagine being trapped in a time loop where you have to repeat the same day, week after week, year after year. You meet the same few people, listen to the same music, eat the same food. It sounds like a dystopian nightmare. Now put these two together, and you get one of the most iconic romantic comedies of all time.

There is no doubt that Groundhog Day is amongst the best comedy films of all time. However, that does not change the fact that the romance in the film borders on creepy. Bill  Murray’s character, Phil Connors, is stuck in a time loop, bound to repeating the same day over and over. No one but him retains memories of this perpetual day, allowing him to learn everything about his coworker and love interest. Not only is his growing love for her always tragically out of reach, but the feelings she develops are fabricated on the lies that he is forced to tell. This is the foundation of their relationship. Though not meaning to, Phil Connors is not much different from a stalker.

The Great Gatsby

This is another gorgeous film that stars Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as Tobey Maguire. The Director, Baz Luhrmann, is no stranger to romance films, having previously directed ‘Moulin Rouge.’ Gatsby is a very likeable character; his charm, unrelenting love and his dedication to Daisy are all admirable. Each set in the film is opulent and impressive, accompanied by the orchestral music that features Lana Del Rey.

But none of these factors can make up for the tragically terrible relationships in the movie. Apart from Caraway and Gatsby, we rarely see two characters interact or speak. Of course, this is a natural flaw in a film that is told from the perspective of a character that is not part of the romance himself. Regardless, the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy seems to be secretive at the best of times and strained at the worst. The two seem to have terrible communication with each other, with no understanding of expectations. Gatsby is under the impression that Daisy hates her husband and is ready to leave him, while Daisy cannot decide who she loves more. While Jordan and Carraway seem to have good chemistry, this is hardly explored in the film. At the core of everything, we have not just a love triangle, but a love pentagon, between Gatsby, Daisy, her husband, her husband’s mistress, and the mistress’ husband. With each person cheating on the other, it is often difficult to root for anyone. This crescendos at the end of the film, when Daisy does not even turn up to Gatsby’s funeral. The undying love died even before him. At times, it seems like the film was far better at romanticising the 1920s rather than the relationships themselves.

Pretty Woman

This film is undoubtedly a favorite amongst many of our mothers, and for good reason. The chemistry between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere is palpable. Watching the transformation of Roberts in the role of Vivian from an escort to a lady is enchanting and a dream for any girl. Costume Designer Marilyn Vance creates many looks that are iconic even today. Behind the glamour and dresses and the luxurious lifestyle, however, is a flawed romance. While Gere’s character Lewis can prioritise Vivian at the end of the film, one has to wonder how long this will last. After all, the week that he has spent with her is hardly enough for Lewis to change the entire meaning of his life. While the film is filled with big gestures from him, these big gestures can only sustain a relationship for so long. Their relationship worked so well because there were no strings attached. The couple will inevitably run into the same problem that we see with Lewis’ ex-girlfriend at the beginning of the film, as he slowly becomes more and more engulfed with work, once more, leaving a neglected Vivian.

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