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25 Films About First Love To Fall For

by The Playlist Staff
August 1, 2013 12:59 PM
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Endless Love Shields

"Endless Love" (1981)
Light on recognisable emotion and logic, heavy on skeeze, teen melodrama "Endless Love" from Franco Zeffirelli, is an utterly daft, deliriously mawkish romance that gave an unbelievably gorgeous, angel-faced Brooke Shields her first role after softcore kids' classic "Blue Lagoon." Co-starring Martin Hewitt (who was apparently found after an extensive search and then presumably driven back and dropped off right after), the film is about a sexually active 15- and 17-year old couple who are just super duper in love. So much so that when nooky is suspended due to parental interference, he just can't take it and resolves to impress his way back into her bed by saving the family home from a fire that he himself has set. This foolproof plan goes wrong and he goes to prison for arson. When he gets out he is still TOTES in love with Shields, but unfortunately kind of a little bit sorta you could say causes the death of her father and gets sent down again. This is not a comedy, despite how it sounds. News was it was going to be remade with Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, though that's gone a bit quiet and nowadays it's best known as Tom Cruise's very first screen role, as a sniggering jock in shorts in a single scene.

An Education

"An Education" (2009)
One aspect of first loves that "An Education" dramatizes well is when you think that the relationship is one thing but it turns out to be something else. Such is the case when young Jenny (Carey Mulligan) falls in love with an older businessman named David (Peter Sarsgaard). Throughout the course of the movie, Jenny learns that David isn't what he appears to be (first some kind of shady con man, later already married) and the movie plays nicely with how these revelations affect the color of the relationship. The good parts, when she swooned with love, now seem tainted, while all of those people who warned her about her relationship with a much older man, and against rushing into something as serious as a relationship, have their opinions validated in retrospect and to Jenny's chagrin. "An Education," based on journalist Lynn Barber's memoir and adapted by novelist Nick Hornby, who excels in engaging in all the messy facets of first love and gets a number of awkward little moments wonderfully right, like when Jenny has David over for dinner with her parents (played by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). These are the small, delicate speed-bumps on the road to your first love that are rarely depicted, which is maybe why scenes like this resonate. Like any good first love, too, Jenny learns from her experience and it makes her a stronger, more dynamic woman in the end. It might have been her first love, but it certainly won't be her last, and not even close to her best.

Jack And Diane Juno Temple

"Jack and Diane" (2011)
First loves can be awkward and messy and largely unexplainable, which goes a long way in making "Jack and Diane," a somewhat confused muddle of a movie, seem a lot more powerful than it actually is. In the movie, Diane (Juno Temple), who suffers from chronic nosebleeds and a fairly fucked up home life, becomes the object of affection for Jack (Riley Keough), a young girl who is much more comfortable in her sexuality. They stumble through things painfully, even more so because the girls might regularly be transforming into some kind of monster (initially the movie was described as being a werewolf thing, but the ace effects by stop motion pioneers the Quay Brothers are confined to segments that may or may not be dream sequences). So the monster stuff doesn't really work as part of the larger narrative, especially since the creatures are so muddily photographed. But for a large part of the movie, it doesn't really matter: When you're with another person, especially for the first time, you feel as though some of their attributes become incorporated into you, and this sense of transformation is well evoked. Much of the success of "Jack and Diane" rests with the young actresses, who do a terrific job of bringing such a singular experience to life and making it not just a gay movie or a monster movie but a movie that everyone can relate to and feel for.


"Grease" (1978)
The only thing better than a first love is a first love expressed... in song! What's so great about "Grease" is that it basically gives you the entire first love experience in one great number ("Summer Nights"), a pocket version of how high schoolers Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) met over the summer and fell in love. All of that moony-eyed stuff is in that one sequence, but the rest of "Grease" focuses on the follow-up to that romance, when both Danny and Sandy realize they're attending the same high school the following year. That's when all the high school dynamics come into play: meeting each others' friends, school dances, and attempting to maintain a long relationship in school after you've met the other person in the sunny bubble that is summer vacation. "Grease" might be a fantasy (it does, after all, end with a flying car straight out of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"), but that doesn't mean it can't be truthful. It gets to show the idyllic nature of that purely wonderful first love and then all of the nonsense that falls directly after it. Also, the songs are amazing.

Yasmin Paige & Craig Roberts - "Submarine"

"Submarine" (2010)
Stylishly adapting Joe Dunthorne’s debut novel, and marking the directorial debut of talented comedian and actor Richard Ayoade (although Ayoade had already achieved noted success with a string of high-profile music videos), “Submarine” was an auspicious moment in the careers of everyone involved. Teen actors Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, in their first major roles, play Oliver Tate and Jordana Bevan, a pair of classmates in drizzly 1980s Wales who must negotiate a myriad of problems both parental and existential as they navigate the turbulent waters of romance. The film rightly drew comparisons with the work of Wes Anderson for its visual quirkiness and precocious youths, but although it also has a huge pile of references to the French New Wave (seriously, check out Richard Brody’s takedown in the New Yorker), Oliver Tate is actually more like an adolescent Woody Allen (another comic turned director) than anything from Truffaut or Godard. Tate is a self-styled Nietzsche-reading intellectual, convinced of his own genius, and, much like Isaac Davis or Alvy Singer, able to move from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again in a heartbeat. It is this vacillatory aspect of young love which “Submarine” (thanks to a superb performance from Roberts) is able to nail down so well; Oliver is suicidal one minute and daydreaming the next. Of course, this doesn’t make it any less real for the hapless protagonist, and we should pity any man who thinks his first romance was any less ridiculous, any less anguished or any less po-faced than the star-crossed lovers at the heart of this assured and big-hearted debut.

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  • Jose Ecua | April 30, 2014 8:46 AMReply

    I agree "the Randomers" is one of thebest

  • Jeff | August 25, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    How could George Roy Hill's "A Little Romance" not be on this list?

    Not only did it introduce Diane Lane to the world, it had a kick-ass (and Oscar-winning) score by George Delerue. It was also nominated for Best (adapted) Screenplay. It predated the (equally brilliant) Moonrise Kingdom by 33 years with a similar situation where the kids were smarter and more likeable than the adults.

  • Bruce | August 14, 2013 11:40 AMReply

    I agree with most people about Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Titanic

  • evan | August 4, 2013 2:44 AMReply


  • Manny | August 4, 2013 12:31 AMReply

    What about "Beautiful Thing" and "Weekend?" I agree that the omissions of "Before Sunrise," "Blue Valentine" and "Titanic" are surprising, as are the lack of films with protagonists of color, but it's just as discomfiting that all of the gay-themed picks I can recall center around lesbian relationships. I hate to make assumptions about the Playlist staff based on the films you guys did and didn't pick (and I won't), but it's hard to ignore.

  • MishuPishu | August 3, 2013 8:29 PMReply

    We recently watched Water Lillies, with a wonderful performance by Pauline Acquart, showing the pains and joys of first love. It is a little cynical at times and has some dehumanizing moments but that doesn't take away from such an honest portrayal of teenage love on film.

  • CJ | August 3, 2013 8:40 AMReply

    I wouldn't have commented on the fact that outside of 'Raising Victor Vargas' that there are no films on this list with non-white actors, but with the addition of 'Grease' and 'The Notebook' and 'Dirty Dancing' I just had to. Where are movies of comparable note like 'Love and Basketball' or 'Love Sick' or 'The Fish Child'? Your list is your list, but there as there are British films on here you can include Black films, Asian films, Latin American films and others that are beloved or critically acclaimed.

  • Vergil | August 2, 2013 12:33 PMReply

    The actress in Harold and Maude is Ruth Gordon...

  • PHILO BED O | August 4, 2013 2:21 AM

    she won an oscar for 'Rosemarys Baby'

    but most people remember her for
    those clint eastwood comedies Every Which Way But Loose and the
    sequel Any Which Way You Can

  • TheoC | August 2, 2013 9:08 AMReply

    Lovely list a nice read too. I've never seen it but the Alan Parker scripted Kids fall in love film 'Melody' is name checked as an influence on Moonrise Kingdom. May have been overlooked here, butt also has the 2 kids from Oliver and is huge in Japan.

  • Santy | August 1, 2013 4:42 PMReply

    Wonderful essay.

  • MAL | August 1, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    "Bridge to Terabithia" is as heartfelt and tragic as "My Girl", and I think this year's "The Way, Way Back" can easily fall into this category as one of the best in its class, even though the love aspect is subtly hidden in the background.

  • Faron | August 1, 2013 2:01 PMReply


    Where is Before Sunrise??? It is about first love without a doubt, I'm trying to understand how you keep on bragging about the Linklater trilogy, but snubbed this gem.

  • mwm | August 1, 2013 5:57 PM

    Agreed. Linklater's trilogy is incomparable.

    ....And also seconding the Blue Valentine vote.

  • oogle monster | August 1, 2013 1:20 PMReply

    How come Titanic and Blue Valentine were left off the list? Titanic is the ultimate "first-love" story and Blue Valentine is about the formation and breakup of that first, great love.

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