14. REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940)
This unjustly obscure movie is a straight-up love story with just enough quirkiness to save it from sentimentality. It starts off at Christmastime in a New York courtroom where the District Attorney (Fred MacMurray) postpones the trial of a smooth shoplifter (Barbara Stanwyck), rather than see the jury let her go in the spirit of holiday forgiveness. Then, feeling just the teensiest bit guilty about what a cold-blooded bastard he is, he pays her bail and gives her a lift home to visit her Ma.
Things change decisively when he gets a load of the icy reception Ms. Five-Finger-Discount gets from her dead-eyed mom, so he stuffs her back in the car and takes her home to meet his folks—talk about diving right into a relationship… By the time they return to New York, The DA is ready to blow the case for her and she's eager to confess her sins so he won't damage his career by behaving like a romantic ass. Sturges summed up the idea behind the movie thusly: "Love reformed her and corrupted him."
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED FOR: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Georgia Caine), Best Cinematography (Ted Tetzlaff)
15. ROXANNE (1987)
Of all the successful comedians who've made it in the movies Steve Martin may have the most romantic soul. He plays ardor with an open heart and full commitment, which can be pretty funny when, as in his great mad-scientist movie The Man with Two Brains, he's sitting in a rowboat seducing a disembodied brain in a glass candy jar. In his more grounded roles, he adds a vulnerability that feels bone-deep, as if he'd had some experience at things not working out and was trying to shake off the temptation to just give up hoping.
Roxanne, which Martin wrote for himself, is probably his most graceful stab at playing a romantic lead. A modern-dress update of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, he plays the fire chief of a paradisical little town in the Pacific Northwest who's resigned himself to being alone because of a nose that juts out of his face like a breadstick. Unlike the play, Roxanne has a happy ending, which, shockingly, may be an improvement on the original.
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Schepisi), Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay
16. SAY ANYTHING (1989)
In this classic '80s flick directed by Cameron Crowe, John Cusack delivered his first mature performance as Lloyd Dobler, a recent high school graduate with a mediocre academic record and no wordly ambitions except an absolute conviction that he and Diane (Ione Skye), the brainiac A-lister he has his eye on, would be good for each other.
Cusack makes his character's awareness of his limitations and willingness to commit to Diane add up to something honorable, if not heroic. Lloyd isn't threatened by the fact that Diane is cut out for grander things than he is; he just doesn't want people telling her that's a reason to reject him.
The movie was hailed as an instant classic by everyone—except the Academy; it went unmentioned at that year's ceremony. Nonetheless, the image of Cusack serenading Diane with a boombox held above his head has been an icon of youthful longing ever since.
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED FOR: Best Actor; Best Supporting Actor (John Mahoney); Best Supporting Actress (Lili Taylor); Best Original Screenplay (Crowe)
17. THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940)
You know those movies where two people spend the whole film insisting that they hate each other's guts and then at the end realize they really love each other? This is the movie they were all trying to be though you'd have to be half-blind and maybe a little plastered to mistake this gem for most of its imitators. (That includes the official remake, 1998's You've Got Mail.)
It stars James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as co-workers in a Budapest shop who spend their days sniping at each other and their evenings writing to their lonely hearts pen pals. The twist, of course, is that without realizing it they've been exchanging love letters with each other.
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture; Best Director (Ernst Lubitsch); Best Actor; Best Actress; Best Adapted Screenplay (Samson Raphaelson)