10 Best Ways the Movies Say I Love You

8. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Jane Austen is no stranger to swoonworthy, poetic declarations of love. From Wentworth’s letter to Anne in which he writes, “You pierce my soul. I am in half agony, half hope,” to Mr. Knightly telling Emma Woodhouse, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more,” Austen infused her critique of 18th century British society with some of the best romance in literary history. Austen’s novels, though, are often about the dangers of blind adoration and sentimentality. Through satire, Austen explores the idea that love without good sense and reason, without thinking clearly, is not a love that will last nor a solid foundation for marriage.

Nothing exemplifies this better than Pride and Prejudice. Although Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) tells Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) in the middle of Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation that he loves her, it’s what he does after that proves he isn’t just all talk.

Having followed Elizabeth to an outdoor pavilion where he finds her hiding from the rain, Darcy attempts to convey the depth of his feelings for her and ask her to marry him. As far as proposals go, Darcy’s is considerably lacking in romance or decorum, as he raddles off a list of reasons why he initially refrained from asking her: the inferiority of her birth, her family’s lack of manners, their difference in class and wealth. It is clear to us that, while Darcy may love Elizabeth, he doesn’t necessarily respect or understand her. Elizabeth is equally unwilling to understand Darcy, hiding behind her wounded pride, and chastising him for separating Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) and her sister Jane (Rosamund Pike), and for apparently treating his former friend George Wickham (Rupert Friend) so poorly. Elizabeth and Darcy are nowhere near ready to see eye to eye. Darcy especially has a lot to atone for.

Love has a way of making us want to be better, though. And, in the end, that’s what Darcy does. Following his failed proposal, Darcy takes what Elizabeth says to him to heart and sets about making things right. For starters, he writes her a letter explaining his history with Mr. Wickham as well as his separation of Bingley and Jane. While his actions were ill-informed, they were done, he writes, “In the service of a friend.” Then, Darcy saves Lizzie’s family from ruin by locating Mr. Wickham and her sister, Lydia, who have run off together, and facilitates a marriage between them before too much damage is done. Finally, Darcy brings Bingley back to Hertfordshire, where he can finally propose to Jane, just as the two of them always wanted to begin with.

It is perhaps easy to love someone. It is infinitely harder to prove yourself worthy of them, to be the best version of yourself for them. Darcy’s actions were honorable and good, and most importantly, they were selfless. In truly thinking through their feelings for each other, in actively changing and setting aside both pride and prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth learn not just that they love each other, but how to love each other.

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7. Pretty Woman (1990)

When Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) meets Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), a sex worker strolling down the red light district in Los Angeles, he is rich and alone and deeply unhappy. Edward is essentially a vampire, buying up businesses, sucking the life out of them and selling them for parts. His inability to be vulnerable, to have a life outside of work, prompts his latest girlfriend to up and leave him before his trip to LA.

Enter Vivian: vivacious, hilarious, and utterly full of life. It’s obvious towards the end of the film that Edward and Vivian’s relationship has evolved from the transactional to one of genuine affection. It is not something that Edward necessarily wants to admit, or make room for in his life, so he offers Vivian a proposal: go with him to New York, have her own apartment, but remain a footnote in his life. Someone that exists to answer his beck and call.

Vivian knows this. She has accepted her feelings for Edward, even uttering those three little words when she thinks he’s asleep. Her love for him has made her realize, once and for all, her own worth. She won’t exist for his pleasure, let alone anyone else’s. So, she turns him down and intends to embark on her own adventure. “I want the fairy tale,” she tells him.

But Vivian has changed Edward. He has seen a window into what his life could be. If he wasn’t so focused on work, if he could let go and let someone in. Instead of heading to the airport, he goes to Vivian’s apartment just as she’s getting ready to leave. The limo pulls in front of her apartment building as a flock of pigeons ascend, operatic music blasting from the radio. Edward is sticking out of the sun roof, a bouquet of roses in his hand. He climbs up her fire escape, despite his fear of heights, like a prince coming to rescue a maiden locked in a tower.

“So what happens,” Edward says, “after he climbs up the tower and rescues her?”

Vivian answers simply, “She rescues him right back.”

6. Ever After (1998)

Love has the power to reveal who we truly are, to strip us of our armor and leave us standing in the light of someone who accepts the person we are underneath it all.

In Ever After, an adaptation of the Cinderella fairy tale set during the French Renaissance, Danielle De Barbarac (Drew Barrymore) is forced into manual labor by her cruel stepmother, Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (Anjelica Huston). Though Danielle is kind and brave, she is effectively invisible to everyone except her fellow servants and childhood best friend, Gustave (Lee Ingleby).

When she first meets Henry (Dougray Scott), the son of King Francis I, Danielle is dressed in fine clothing, pretending to be rich in order to buy back a servant that her stepmother has sold in order to pay her debts. Henry is immediately taken with her, attracted to her passion and defiance. But Danielle panics when he asks for her name, so she gives him her mother’s: Countess Nicole De Lancret. As Henry and Danielle fall deeper in love, she knows that she will eventually have to tell him the truth, to reveal herself as a mere servant, no richer than a peasant.

He does not take it well, of course, but once he gets past his shock of her dishonesty, he goes to find her, only to realize that she has been sold to the violent and sadistic, Monsieur Pierre Le Puie (Richard O’Brien). He rushes to save her, slipper in hand, only to discover that she has already saved herself. Henry falls to his knees and apologizes to Danielle for abandoning her and doubting her character. But the thing that makes Danielle weep is not his apology or his promise to never leave her again, but his use of her real name. In acknowledging who she really is, Henry gives Danielle her identity back, showing her that it is who she really is, not the mask she wore, that he has fallen in love with.

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