Out Of Africa (1985) An epic of the heart, mind, and eye. Sydney Pollack's sweeping adaptation of Isak Dinesen's memoir is the story of how one woman (Meryl Streep) survived a continent of beauty and catastrophe, a rat husband (Klaus Maria Brandauer), and a dashing hunter lover (Robert Redford) to emerge a world-class writer. Perfect for curling up a deux on the couch and imagining that you too "have a farm in Ah-frica...."
Out Of Sight (1998) Why? Because of the sleek meet-cute, wherein Jennifer Lopez (as a wound-up daddy's girl of a federal agent) and George Clooney (as a bank robber whose only weapon is charm) talk movies in the trunk of a getaway car. Because of the steamy dream sequence, in which the fed imagines that she sinks, fully clothed, into the felon's bathtub. And because the jazzy love scene a risky hotel rendezvous is the peak of director Steven Soderbergh's experiments with seductive image-rhythm.
Rushmore (1998) Wes Anderson's quirky comedy is more than just the standard boy-meets-teacher-and-builds-her-a-state-of- the-art-aquarium. No, the true love affair is between a student (Jason Schwartzman) and his elite preparatory academy. In the end, he loses both the school and the girl (the luminous Olivia Williams), but at least he goes out with literally a bang.
Strictly Ballroom (1992) If Dirty Dancing is for babies, director Baz Luhrmann's spangled spin around the Australian ballroom-dance circuit is for those who've come of age. The steps are familiar a wallflower (Tara Morice) blossoms under the tutelage of her daring dance partner (Paul Mercurio) but the vision is all Luhrmann (and a preview of his current Moulin Rouge). The director loves the glitz of center stage, but lets young love awaken in quiet moments.
The English Patient (1996) In the final days of WWII, a disfigured Hungarian count (Ralph Fiennes) retells a dramatic story that spans more than five years, two continents, and one very lovely Englishwoman (Kristin Scott Thomas), who stole his heart and left him with the scars to prove it. And don't be fooled by John Seale's breathtaking cinematography: There's a palpable undercurrent of loss running beneath this gorgeous epic--the hallmark, really, of all great tearjerkers.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) Before he moved on to the sexy complexities of Dangerous Liaisons and the sweet audiophilia of High Fidelity, Stephen Frears explored the sweet complexities of gay love in roughest London. Boy (Gordan Warnecke, as Omar, the slacker nephew of a Pakistani entrepreneur) meets boy (Daniel Day-Lewis, as Johnny, a peroxided fascist punk) and they make clothes beautiful together. They're outsiders everywhere except in each other's arms.
The Bridges of Madison County (1995) Much more than a consummate chick flick, this Iowan affair, based on the smarmy best-seller, is as gritty as its star, Clint Eastwood. Sure, tough guys claim to be put off by the candles and slow dancing, but we bet they're only covering for their greatest fear: a housewife (Meryl Streep) who can be as erotic as, well, the single girl next door.