Grady Smith
April 13, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”It’s the old stalwart. Fabulous film. The chemistry between Humphrey [Bogart] and Ingrid [Bergman] was amazing. It is in many ways the epitome of what a good love story should be. Rick’s got these [documents]that will allow the woman of his dreams and her husband to reach safety, but if he gives them to her, he loses the girl.”

”You had betrayal, you had the supernatural, you had humor, you had excitement — yet the love story was first and foremost,” says Sparks. ”It’s a story that shows that love can last even beyond death. The scene, of course, that you think of is [at the end] when she finally sees him again and they just want to reach out and touch one last time, and they can’t. It’s heartbreaking in the best possible way.”

”Oftentimes the love story falls to the background of an epic event,” says Sparks. Not here. ”It was so well-done.” The novelist considers Jack and Rose’s fight for survival as the movie’s most romantic element — above even the famous ”I’ll never let go” scene. ”You could see his desperation as the boat is going down. Really, the only thing he cares about is getting her to safety. It’s probably about 15, 20 minutes of the film. [It demonstrates] what’s best about love — the desire to save the one you care about.”

Dirty Dancing
Thanks in part to an ”extraordinary” performance by Patrick Swayze, the steamy 1963-set drama costarring Jennifer Grey feels timeless to Sparks and deft in the way it handles topics like sex and unwanted pregnancy. ”It hearkens back to a time that was perceived to be simpler,” he says. ”And yet they were confronting real issues.”

Pretty Woman
”It’s a modern-day Cinderella story,” says Sparks of the movie about a businessman (Richard Gere) who hires a prostitute (Julia Roberts) and ends up falling in love with her. ”It touches something inside you: the desire that someone will see the goodness in you and in the end you can live happily ever after — that love can rescue you both.”

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