When I was a little girl, I thought The Princess Bride was the greatest love story ever. My parents called me a princess, and I expected to one day fall in love with a pirate-prince who would do everything as I wished. Then I grew up and realized I wasn’t a princess and no boyfriend of mine would ever fight off rodents of unusual size or pull me out of snow-sand. I’d be lucky if he’d kill a bug for me and take me out to dinner.
I was disappointed. All of the Disney princess movies had betrayed me as a child. Then, as a teen and twenty-something, romantic comedies had built up an impossibly high standard for love that eluded me.
I thought I was looking for the wrong kind of love, but now I think I was just watching the wrong movies.
I blame romantic films for getting my hopes up so high. That’s why I think certain films should be banned and replaced with smart, sensible flicks that show real labors of love. Trust me, it’s for your own good. (Warning: all sorts of romantic spoilers below.)
BAN: Bridget Jones’s Diary — If you’re a four, you’re not going to snag a ten, I don’t care how cute your eyes squint or how great you look in spanx. Give up on the ten. Colin Firth is never gonna happen.
WATCH: The Way We Were — Barbara Streisand hooks up with Robert Redford but—surprise!—it doesn’t last. Why would it? Redford winds up with a pretty shiksa and Babs settles for someone considerably less attractive. That’s the way things are.
BAN: The Notebook — These people are way too attractive, way too devoted, and way too dramatic to be actually in love. Romance should never be this serious. And, we might add, dramatic kisses like that don’t happen in real life. You’re better off holding out for that Spider Man upside-down kiss.
WATCH: Forget Paris — Normal looking people have mostly normal lives and fall in normal love and have normal fights but try to work things out to restore normalcy. Bonus: Billy Crystal is really funny. We love a guy who can make us laugh!
BAN: Garden State — There’s no soundtrack to your relationship. You can stop foisting your iPod upon unwitting men in waiting rooms. Pitchfork writers will not DJ your wedding. The Shins should not play when you walk into a room.
WATCH: Almost Famous — Musicians cheat on their wives with fluffy blonde girls and then trade them for beer, lovesick women sometimes go to depressing lengths to repair their broken hearts, dorky guys will never turn us on, and sexy bros tend to put themselves before devoted hos. Sounds pretty accurate to me.
BAN: Love Story — Actually, love does mean saying you’re sorry. A lot.
WATCH: Annie Hall — Sometimes, love means breaking up because it just didn’t work out.
BAN: Pretty Woman — Listen up, girls: Servicing men for money—regardless of your heart of gold—will not land you a rich, understanding hunk looking for his future wife. It will land you a venereal disease and a drinking problem.
WATCH: Lost in Translation — Love can be fleeting, sad, and selfish. If you must befriend a rich older gentleman, make sure he takes you to karaoke and cut it off before the affair escalates into anything serious. And make sure you’re paid in wisdom and not twenties.
BAN: Dirty Dancing — Don’t date a hunk just to piss off your parents. Have sex with him if it makes you feel better, but don’t turn a fling into a relationship just to prove a point. Oh, and before you decide to run away with your sexy heartthrob, know that most male dancers prefer to date other male dancers.
WATCH: The Graduate — Relationships are messy and complicated and sometimes depraved. So he slept with your mom. At least he didn’t blow your dad! The best part about The Graduate is the ending—once the couple runs off together, the awkward ambiguity of real life enters the picture. Of course, movies don’t detail the day-to-day monotony of happily settled couples. These few seconds that beg “what next?” might be the most accurate portrayal of an on-screen romance.