5 Shades of Classic B&W Romantic Films

Fifty Shades of Grey came out on Valentine’s Day weekend and has been a huge success but I was appalled to see it being referred to as a “date night” movie. I don’t know about you but misogynistic bondage doesn’t scream “date night” or “romance” to me but hey, to each his own.

Personally, I’d like to see people indulge in fifty shades of classic black and white romantic films that the past has to offer, but I don’t have the energy nor the time to pick out fifty so I have settled for five. Below are my choices of romantic comedies and dramas I believe are perfect “date nights in.”

Sabrina (Dir. Billy Wilder, 1954)

This is one of the definitive Audrey Hepburn films in my book. Just watch as both William Holden and Humphrey Bogart fall head over heels in love with her charms after she comes back from Paris full of confidence and some killer chef skills. I recently blogged about the film a couple of posts ago, specifically on the character of Sabrina Fairchild herself, I never tire of watching it. A great script by Ernest Lehman with a lot of very funny moments featuring three leads at the top of their game, it’s a delightful comedy with so much to offer.


The Major and the Minor (Dir. Billy Wilder, 1942)

This film’s premise sounds absurd. Ginger Rogers is a 30-year-old working woman in NYC who poses as a 12-year-old on a train to save on fare. She is simply unbelievable but at some point on that train ride she meets a military academy teacher (played by Ray Milland) who takes her under his wing. Stupid storyline? Maybe but it works. It’s actually hilarious. This was Billy Wilder’s Ameican directorial debut and he gets fine performances from Rogers and Milland. It’s silly but it’s also very clever with a serious undertone of women and sexual exploitation. Rogers considered this a favorite among her films and watching it you get the sense that the cast had a great time making it.


The Lady Eve (Dir. Preston Sturges, 1941)

Barbara Stanwyck absolutely smolders as a con-artist trying to get back at Henry Fonda in this romantic comedy. The duo light up the screen under the direction of Preston Sturgess. This is a great showcase of Stanwyck’s talent, she makes comedy seem so effortless in her dual roles. Sharp, witty dialogue combined with slapstick make this a must-see screwball comedy.


The Awful Truth (Dir. Leo McCarey, 1937)

Cary Grant had quite the roster of leading ladies during his 40+ year career: Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy, Grace Kelly, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Sophia Loren, Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman, you name it. To me, he was never better than when paired with Irene Dunne. Most actresses complimented him well but she made him better. It’s evident in The Awful Truth. Here she more than holds her own with the improvisation Leo McCarey encourage his actors to do during its production. Reportedly, Cary Grant didn’t think the film was working because of the improv and asked to be taken off the film but he later got comfortable with the process and as we would see later in his career, it would become something he mastered. I think people are probably more inclined prefer His Girl Friday when ranking Cary Grant’s romantic comedies, but I think in order to fully appreciate that film you have to look at The Awful Truth. The Awful Truth is one of the best screwball comedies of the 1930’s. In the film, Grant and Dunne are a married couple in the process of getting a divorce who try to sabotage each other’s new romantic conquests. It is smart, it is witty, it is hilarious, and it gets extra points because it features Skippy aka “Asta” (I love a good dog on film).


Casablanca (Dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942)

One can not talk about romantic films and not mention Casablanca. What can you say about the greatest romance on film? Casablanca is my favorite film of all time. OF ALL TIME. Yes, yes it is. I know many share that sentiment and I don’t even feel bad about that coming off as cliche, it’s honestly just a testament of how good it is. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are so good together as the star-crossed lovers and the character actors peppered throughout give this film so much life. There is so much good in this film: romance, drama, thrills, humor, it’s quite the ride. In my opinion, it is perfect from the first frame to the fade out. Last year, my boyfriend took me to a screening of it for Valentine’s Day at a local movie theater. It was incredible being in a packed movie house seeing the film on the big screen the way it was intended. So many people in the audience were swept away by the film and I highly doubt many of them were seeing it for the first time. It’s a timeless classic that just gets better with age.



3 thoughts on “5 Shades of Classic B&W Romantic Films

    • Diana B says:

      Michaela, I loved your post about Sabrina! It was so well thought out and researched, you definitely deserved that A+. 🙂 This is a film that I go back to a lot and is my “go to” film I show to people who want to watch an Audrey Hepburn movie (next to Roman Holiday). I also loved your comment about Wilder’s social commentary on social class, an aspect of the film that has left an impact on me as I’ve gotten older. Great post and thanks so much for reading! I’m so glad we’ve been able to connect. 🙂

      • Michaela says:

        Yes! This is why I’ve gotten into blogging–to be able to finally geek out on the classics. I often suggest Sabrina too, although Funny Face has proven a success as well. Every time I pull out Sabrina, though, my mom goes “Sabrina again? How many times have you seen that one?” As if it matters. 🙂

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