Love stories have been at the center of storytelling, literature, and film since the beginning of each form. Love stories inspire us to believe in the power of human connection. From epic tales of star-crossed lovers to heartwarming stories of everyday couples, the world is filled with endless examples of love in all its forms.
But which stories stand out as the greatest of all time?
In this article, we’ve scoured literature, film, and history to compile a list of the 26 greatest love stories ever told.
Whether you’re a die-hard romantic or a skeptic of all things lovey-dovey, these tales are sure to tug at your heartstrings and leave you with a renewed appreciation for the power of love. So sit back, grab some tissues, and prepare to be swept away by these timeless tales of passion, devotion, and sacrifice.
The 12 Greatest Traditional Love Stories
Love has inspired some of the greatest stories ever told. Here are thirteen tales of passion, devotion, and sacrifice that have captured our hearts and imaginations:
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813): Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy overcome their differences and societal pressures to find true love.
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1597): The star-crossed lovers from feuding families who are willing to die for their love. This story has also inspired many other great love stories, including The West Side Story.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847): A governess falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester, but must face his dark secrets.
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936): Scarlett O’Hara fights for her survival and love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction.
- The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (1996): A young couple from different social classes fights for their love over the course of many years.
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991): A WWII nurse falls in love with a Scottish warrior in the 18th century, navigating time travel and political turmoil.
- Titanic (1997): A wealthy young woman and a poor artist fall in love on the doomed Titanic and face the ultimate test of their love.
- Casablanca (1942): A nightclub owner in Morocco must choose between love and his moral and political ideals during WWII.
- Tristan and Iseult (possibly 12th century): A knight and a queen fall in love after drinking a love potion and must face the consequences of their actions.
- Paris and Helen of Troy (possibly 8th century BCE): A Trojan prince and a Spartan queen fall in love, sparking the Trojan War, as told by Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey, and Virgil in the Aeneid.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847): The passionate and destructive love story of Heathcliff and Catherine.
- Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (1590-1592): Petruchio tames the wild Katherine and falls in love with her.
The 6 Greatest Love Stories About Belonging to a Group
Love is not just about two individuals, it can also be about finding a sense of belonging within a community or group. Here are five heartwarming stories that explore this type of love:
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding, written by Nia Vardalos (2002): Ian, a non-Greek man, wins over his fiancée’s large, traditional Greek family, finding acceptance and belonging.
- Chocolat, directed by Joanne Harris (1999): Vianne transforms a rigid French town with her charm and delicious chocolates, finding a sense of belonging for herself and her daughter.
- Bend it Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha (2002): Jess pursues her passion for soccer against her family’s traditional expectations, ultimately gaining their support and a sense of belonging.
- The Blind Side by Michael Lewis (2006): A wealthy white family takes in a homeless African-American teenager, Michael, providing him with love, support, and a sense of belonging within their family.
- Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais (2010): A prodigy chef, Hassan, navigates cultural barriers and competition in the French culinary world, finding success and acceptance through his talent and background.
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (2013): The story of the University of Washington rowing team, whose unlikely journey to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany and how their team was forged through the hardship of the depression.
The 5 Greatest Love Story Subplots
Sometimes love stories take a backseat to the main plot, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less compelling. Here are five examples of love story subplots that have captured our hearts:
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008): In the midst of a fight for survival, Katniss navigates her attraction to two boys, Peeta and Gale.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-1955): While there’s no central love story, several romantic subplots emerge, such as the love between Aragorn and Arwen.
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (1997-2007): The love story between Harry and Ginny Weasley slowly unfolds over the course of the series.
- Inception (2010): Cobb’s love for his wife plays a central role in the movie, with a tragic ending and eventual reconciliation.
- The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969): Michael Corleone’s marriage to Kay becomes a major subplot, complicated by his involvement in organized crime and the loss of his first wife.
Whether they’re the main attraction or a supporting player, love stories have a way of captivating us and reminding us of the power of human connection.
The 6 Greatest Friendship Love Stories
Love can come in many forms, and sometimes it’s the bonds of friendship or family that truly touch our hearts. Here are six stories of love that go beyond romantic relationships:
- Good Will Hunting (1997): A janitor with a brilliant mind finds mentorship and friendship with a psychologist, while confronting his past and fear of intimacy.
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016): The unlikely bond between a house-arrested Count Rostov and a precocious young girl, Nina (and later, her daughter Sofia), as they navigate post-revolution Russia.
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862): The deep father-daughter bond between ex-con Jean Valjean and Cosette, the daughter of a dying friend, amid the turmoil of 19th century France.
- David and Jonathan in the Bible: The enduring friendship and loyalty between David and Jonathan, despite conflict with Jonathan’s father, King Saul.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1985): The lifelong friendship and adventures of retired Texas Rangers Gus McRae and Woodrow Call, as they journey from Texas to Montana with their cattle.
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (1990): The complex friendship and shared trauma of Lt. Cross and Tim O’Brien, as they struggle with guilt and loss during the Vietnam War.
From unlikely mentorships to lifelong friendships, these stories remind us that love and connection can take many forms, and that the bonds of friendship can be just as powerful as those of romance.
How about you? What do you think are the greatest love stories of all time? Let us know in the comments!