7 Movies Where Love Gets Weird

Somehow, in almost 100 columns, we’ve never explored unusual love stories in cinema. Or at least my definition of weird love story movies. This is another category with many different interpretations as well as dozens of possible titles to recommend. So, as always, this is just a brief exploration of my particular response to what I personally like about movies where an unusual love story is at the center of the narrative.

We can talk about movies with a love story that is unconventional, but still charming. We may also find ourselves in love stories that are as strange as they are toxic. Romance is not the first word that comes to mind when I go to watch something. Of course, I still appreciate and often enjoy the many ways that love and relationships of all possible kinds, even platonic ones (which are still a kind of love), can be expressed in film. I like stories where there’s someone to root for as much as I like stories where I might like or at least find fascination with the characters, but they’re not people I’d want to know in real life.

I’m open to whatever movies can tell me about the subject of love, and I’ll filter that through my own brand of weirdness. This isn’t a ranking, just seven movies I wanted to mention. Secretary is a good example of what I like, but I’d rather focus on movies that I can’t talk about as much. Tell me which movies you would choose for movies with quirky love stories or unconventional romantic pairings.

1. Wild at Heart (1990)

Wild at heart

director: David Lynch

Taking the book from Barry Gifford’s seminal Sailor and Lula novels and going in a direction that makes you feel like you’ve just lived through an all-encompassing nightmare, Wild at Heart is also one of the most romantic films David Lynch has done so far.

Recently released murderer Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) and the young, sometimes frighteningly wild Lula Fortune (Laura Dern) are deeply devoted to each other. Their relationship survived Saylor’s imprisonment for killing a would-be hitman hired by Lula’s mother (Laura Dern’s real-life mother Diane Ladd). It looks ready to survive anything. Even the absolutely blatant insanity we will watch them endure.

Wild at Heart is relatively easy to maintain, in case the name David Lynch scares you for some reason. For those who haven’t seen one of my favorite cinematic love stories, you’re in for one of the best from Cage, Dern, and pretty much everyone involved in this film.

2. Tie me up! Tie me up! (1989)

Tie me up!  Tie me up!  (1989)
Tie me up! Tie me up! (1989)

director: Pedro Almodovar

Ricky (Antonio Banderas in one of his best early roles) is released from a mental hospital. He immediately renews his pursuit of an actress named Marina (Victoria Abril), who he believes is the love of his life. They did get together a long time ago, but she doesn’t particularly remember him or anything from a period she was desperately trying to put behind her. Ricky’s dreams are intense enough, but how far he’s willing to take them is what makes up the exponentially crazy love story Tie Me Up! Tie me up! The other half of this film is Victoria Abril as Marina, who gives us a performance and character that adapts to her co-star and the character’s situation in always surprising ways.

Tie me up! Tie me up! takes darker dives into its romance and comedy components than some may be comfortable with. There is a boldness to the way this narrative navigates its distinctly bold narrative path. That in itself is fun, but Tie Me Up! Tie me up! also highlights his script, editing and the impressive depth of the peoples depicted.

3. Love Me If You Dare (2003)

Love Me If You Dare (2003)
Love Me If You Dare (2003)

director: Jan Samuel

Love Me if You Dare is a love story between two people (Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard) playing a deceptively simple game from their childhood. They challenge each other to complete various challenges and tasks.

When the movie goes more evil than most, it embraces two realities: They can’t stop playing this game with each other, even as adults, and they also can’t stop raising the stakes. This competition soon spiraled into its own mutant form of passion. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in their madness.

I guess I’ve always had an affinity for love stories that can be, to say the least, toxic. Now that this interest is no longer actively ruining my health and life, I find that I can still appreciate these kinds of films. “Love Me If You Dare” isn’t something you want to go through, but the results here of seeing what can actually happen between people committed in this way are remarkable.

4. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas

director: Mike Figgis

Movies like Leaving Las Vegas seem made to prove that there are limits to what even weirdos like me are willing to romanticize. There are many romantic inclinations towards doomed relationships, self-destructive men and even simple alcoholism. Leaving Las Vegas is not one of them. With its commitment to being unflinchingly dark and grounded to the point of creating an almost palpable sense of desperation, Leaving Las Vegas is perhaps one of the boldest mainstream films released in the 1990s.

Nicolas Cage rightly won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas as a wounded, sometimes obnoxious alcoholic who, for one reason or another, drinks himself to death in Las Vegas. He meets a prostitute named Sera (Oscar-nominee Elizabeth Shue), who alone struggles with the violent, unpredictable nature of her job.

Their relationship is as beautiful as it is terrible, and the film impressively never stylizes suffering or teases hope. It simply creates the unforgettable illusion that things are unfolding naturally.

5. Kissed (1996)

Kiss (1996)
Kiss (1996)

director: Lynn Stopkwich

If you’ve seen the 1996 indie gem Kissed, then you already know that it might be even darker than Leaving Las Vegas. It’s certainly weirder in its story of a woman named Sandra (Molly Parker, who’s been killing it on TV and in movies for decades) and her journey from deep fascination with death to true necrophilia.

Don’t worry, it’s not Nekromantik. You won’t see anything too extreme here. Instead, Kissed is extremely creepy because it’s so relentless, quiet, and intensely intimate with its subject and characters. Sandra is not an evil person. Molly Parker’s performance finds a woman whose choices are undeniably a unique kind of horrifying (and possibly unsanitary, but who actually wants to know), but who is in all other respects just a young person obsessed with love.

Just, you know, different, to say the least. Kissed is a love story that stands alone for better or for worse. I have yet to see anything like this movie.

6. Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold and Maude (1971)
Harold and Maude (1971)

director: Hal Ashby

Taking the example of the 1971 true cult classic Harold and Maude is a bit of a cliché. When it comes to movies with unusual romantic plots or love stories, this is a movie that is almost always mentioned. This is good. We’re going to talk about that a bit more because I never tire of these two. Some movies inevitably age too much for me, become boring and lose the elements that I might have enjoyed at another time in my life.

Harold and Maude is not one of those movies. As much as I change, I still see not only the film as beautifully acted, directed, written and paced, but also its sweetness and likability.

There is nothing particularly profound about Harold and Maude. Harold (Bud Cort) is another youth on this list obsessed with death. He meets an elderly woman named Maud (the endlessly brilliant Ruth Gordon), and their developing relationship changes the way he perceives everything around him. Harold and Maude are interesting enough on their own. When their love brings them together on screen, it becomes a film that is still unconventional and touching.

7. 84 Charing Cross Road (1984)

84 Charing Cross Road (1984)
84 Charing Cross Road (1984)

director: David Jones

The platonic love and friendship in 84 Charing Cross Road are qualities I have always been able to appreciate. This film is based on a non-fiction book by Helen Hanff, who made a career out of writing some of the best American non-fiction of her time. Her book was literally just a collection of letters, and the stage play and eventual 1987 film inspired by that work don’t stray too far from that simplicity.

At the same time, 84 Charing Cross Road does offer plenty of character and background for Hanf (played here to charming perfection by Anne Bancroft) and her exchange with a London bookseller (Anthony Hopkins in a pleasant and understated performance). Their relationship doesn’t turn into a romance, and the movie doesn’t try to pretend it is.

Yet there is very clearly a love and affection that develops and can be felt in every written conversation they share. It’s just not romantic and I don’t know if we value the love and intimacy between friends enough in the movie. Especially when it comes to people of two different genders.

READ THE FOLLOWING: Make the Case: 5 Movies With Memorable Alternate Endings

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