: The usual constraints apply: Films like Say Anything
: delightful as they may be in many respects, don't make the cut because
: of their indulgent perspective on nonmarital sex.
Where would When Harry Met Sally...
(number 6 on my all-time top-ten list
) fall with regard to these constraints? The characters never come out and SAY "Premarital sex is bad! Bad bad bad bad bad!" but the characters' ACTIONS speak volumes. Billy Crystal's character is rampantly promiscuous and he gets married, the first time, just because he's tired of dating; not surprisingly, this marriage only lasts a few years. Meanwhile, Meg Ryan's character lives with a guy for five years because they're not ready to talk commitment, and then, when she says she wants children, they break up; within a year, her ex-boyfriend meets a woman and the two of them get engaged, and this prompts Ryan to sob and say, "All this time he said he didn't want to get married, but the truth is, he didn't want to marry ME. He didn't love me." And the climax to this film is, of course, the moment when Crystal says to Ryan, "I came here tonight because, when you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible!" And then, of course, there is the structural device of putting interview clips with various married couples between the scenes of the film. Granted, a few of these interview clips are pretty wishy-washy (like the guy who's been through several wives), and you have to wonder what problems Crystal and Ryan will have to face because of all those wild oats he sowed, but the whole point of the film, it seems to me, is that loving marriage is the ultimate goal that all people aspire to, whether they know it or not, and those who settle for less will get hurt. Quite honestly, I think this film (which I first saw when I was 18 ) is one of a number of things that has helped to keep me chaste all these years.
Apart from that, I also note that the number 2 film on my all-time top-ten list is The Purple Rose of Cairo
(1985), which is a romance of sorts, and my number 3 film is The Family Way
(1966), which begins with a wedding and then shows the virginal newlyweds struggling with impotence and the like, and my number 5 film is The Empire Strikes Back
(1980), which is by the far the most entertainingly romantic of the Star Wars films, and the number 7 spot on my list is a tie between The Adventures of Robin Hood
(1938), which has one of my favorite romantic lines of all time -- "Well that's different!" -- though you have to see it in context to get it, and The Court Jester
(1956), which has one of the funniest send-ups of courtly love, in which a hypnotized Danny Kaye tries to woo Princess Angela Lansbury.