This week in Thursday Movie Picks – run by Wandering through the Shelves – we’ve been asked to list three to five films that feature forbidden love. If you haven’t seen some of these films, expect spoilers!
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
The archetypal story of forbidden love is, of course, William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, which Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago in the 1590s. There have been numerous adaptations of the tragedy (film, TV, ballet, opera…), but Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 masterpiece comes to my mind first.
Starring a 21-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio and a 16-year-old Claire Danes, the award-winning Romeo + Juliet features a diverse cast with excellent performances from not only DiCaprio and Danes but John Leguizamo and Harold Perrineau too. It also has a brilliant soundtrack.
Tristan & Isolde (2006)
My second choice, starring James Franco and Sophia Myles, has many similarities to Romeo + Juliet. Based on the 12th century chivalric romance ‘Tristan and Iseult’, which I vaguely remember studying as part of the ‘Arthurian Adaptations’ module in my English degree, the film is set in Britain and Ireland in the Dark Ages.
Tristan, the adopted son of Lord Marke of Cornwall, meets and falls in love with Isolde, the daughter of the Irish king, Donachadh. Their love is forbidden not only because they are from warring nations, but because Lord Marke goes on to marry Isolde and Tristan is torn between his love for her and his love for his adopted father.
Elvis and Anabelle (2007)
To round out my selection — and to keep with my ‘two names in the title’ theme — is a film that I watched for the first time last year. Blake Lively stars a small-town beauty queen who joins Max Minghella, an unlicensed mortician, for a road trip after she passes away but is somehow revived just before he starts the embalming process.
I gave the independent film, written and directed by Will Geiger, four stars, as it’s original, darkly comedic and moving. Elvis and Anabelle was released just six months before Lively’s famous role in ‘Gossip Girl’ and is considered by some critics as her breakthrough role.
Hey! I’m about to my TMP for this week, too, glad you joined Claire!
I haven’t seen your third pick so I didn’t read about it to avoid spoilers but I’ve seen your first two. I like the Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version as well as the Baz Luhrman version of R+J. As for Tristan & Isolde, My friend and I just rewatched parts of it just last week! I actually like that film more for Rufus Sewell’s character more than James Franco’s, but Sophia Myles is lovely! I actually wish they had cast Henry Cavill as Tristan as he’s way hunkier than Franco who’s so mopey in this movie, ahahaha.
Thanks, Ruth – I’ll be sure to read your picks too!
It has been a good while since I watched it but yes, I think Sewell had much more depth than Franco. Myles is charming and it was a good role for Cavill when he was still quite new and upcoming.
I went with another Romeo & Juliet film and, one day, will see this Baz Lurmann film. I know the Tristan & Isolde story well but never saw this film because James Franco just seems to smarmy for the role of the romantic Tristan. I haven’t seen the last one or heard of it but would like to see it because it sounds off-beat which I love.
I think Franco is a bit of a Marmite character – you either love him or hate him!
I think you’d really enjoy Elvis and Anabelle. Very off-beat and well made.
I’ve been wanting to watch Elvis and Anabelle for such a long time. I’m going to have to try and track it down. Really nice choices here!
Thank you, Sara! Elvis and Anabelle is definitely a hidden gem so I hope you have the chance to watch it.
A theme within the theme! Love those!
This Romeo & Juliet has some interesting innovations but I preferred Zeffirelli’s ’68 film.
I’d put Tristan & Isolde down as a sincere try that didn’t pan out. Franco is weak in the lead.
I haven’t heard of your last. It sounds odd, which if you’re in the right mood can be entertaining.
I wasn’t able to do a theme within mine but I did try and find three where the forbidden aspect was looked at in different ways.
Broken Blossoms (1919)-Chinese immigrant Cheng Huan’s (Richard Barthelmess) dream of spreading Buddhism to London has dissipated and he has sunken into aimless opium addiction until he finds young English waif Lucy Burrows (Lillian Gish) battered on his doorstep. Renewed by their emotional connection he cares for her as she recovers, but their forbidden love across ethnic boundaries is riven when they are discovered by Lucy’s abusive father (Donald Crisp).
Death Takes a Holiday (1934)-Unable to comprehend why people cling so tenaciously to life Death (Fredric March) assumes human form as Prince Sirki at Duke Lambert’s Italian villa. Mixing with his guests in an attempt to gain insight he meets the beautiful Grazia (Evelyn Venable). Instantly attracted to each other Sirki and she wrestle with the impossibility and the forbidden nature of their love.
Dirty Dancing (1987)-Teenager Baby (Jennifer Grey) is vacationing with her family at a Catskills resort in the 60’s when she meets dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze). Through a series of events they become involved but the lovers face several obstacles including the dual facts that Johnny is forbidden to fraternize with the guests and Baby is likewise forbidden from seeing the older Johnny by her father (Jerry Orbach).
Thank you, Joel.
Nice choices! I really want to watch Death Takes a Holiday. I nearly chose Dirty Dancing as well but it didn’t fit within my theme.
Broken Blossoms (what a beautiful title) is new to me. Considering when it was made I assume that it could have been quite divisive?
I haven’t seen any of your picks but I’m familiar with the first two.
Elvis and Anabelle is well worth a watch if you like quirky, offbeat films.
All the titles you chose are so aesthetically pleasing. lol I remember seeing Tristan and Isolde but I cannot remember a thing from it. I haven’t seen Elvis and Annabelle
Ha, thanks Brittani! Reading these comments it sounds like Elvis and Anabelle is new for a lot of people.
I love Romeo + Juliet. It really is a masterpiece. On the other hand, I found Tristan and Isolde slightly less exciting than watching paint dry. Haven’t seen your last pick.
Thanks, Dell. I agree with you on both points. I remembered the outline of Tristan & Isolde but couldn’t recall cast members or the finer details.
I love this version of Romeo and Juliet. Very 90s MTV-ish.
I like Tristan & Isolde except for Franco’s performance. His character mopes and cries quite a bit, and Franco was just awful and cringy at it.
Yes, I agree – very 90s MTV! Fantastic soundtrack as well.
From memory I don’t think Franco gave the best performance, but I must have been 18 when I watched him so probably fell for his good looks!
I love Baz Luhrman’s take on Romeo and Juliet!
Me too – he did a brilliant job! 😀