Times Staff Writer

Since Saturday is Valentine’s Day, many will spend the evening watching rented movies--most likely romantic movies. Here are some movies that are great to cuddle by.

“Wuthering Heights” (1939, Embassy). Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon play the tormented lovers--Heathcliff and Cathy--in what may be the most romantic movie ever made--and also one of the eeriest.

“Casablanca” (1942, CBS-Fox). Another great doomed-lovers movie, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as the anguished pair, haunted by a fling in wartime Paris. Romantics can see this movie over and over again and still get misty-eyed. Is there a more effective love theme than “As Time Goes By”?

“Elvira Madigan” (1967, HBO/Cannon). More tragic romance. Pia Degermark and Thommy Berggren star as the smitten couple in director Bo Widerberg’s super-slick, heart-wrenching tale. Eye-popping color photography enhances the romanticism. Come to think of it, this love theme, taken from a Mozart piano concerto, may be even more haunting than “As Time Goes By.”


“Gone With the Wind.” (1939, MGM/UA). At the core of this rambling, sprawling movie is a great love story. Clark Cable and Vivien Leigh play Rhett and Scarlett, who are locked in a tragic, roller-coaster romance. This is considered Gable’s finest performance. His Rhett Butler set the standard for romantic rogues.

“Roman Holiday.” (1953, Paramount). Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar for her performance as a princess who takes a holiday from her staid, royal life and falls in love with a reporter (Gregory Peck). The charming lovers nearly take a back seat to the exquisite glimpses of the Eternal City. It belongs on any list of the Top 10 most romantic movies. William Wyler directed.

“The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981, CBS-Fox). The structure--parallel love stories in different centuries--is confusing. The modern love story keeps intruding on the juicy tale of an affair between an aristocrat (Jeremy Irons) and a scarlet lady (Meryl Streep). Still, the romantic mood is overwhelming. Streep is terrific. Karel Reisz directed Harold Pinter’s script.

“Sayonara” (1957, CBS-Fox). Marlon Brando plays a pilot who’s in love with a Japanese entertainer (Miiko Taka) during the Korean War. Considered the most romantic and touching movie ever made about an interracial affair. Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki--both Oscar winners for their supporting roles--play still another pair of doomed lovers. Keep some hankies handy when you watch this one. Josh Logan directed.


“Love Story.” (1970, Paramount). Schmaltz reigns in this tale of preppie love starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw. Yes, it’s hopelessly corny, and yes, it’s a flagrant tear-jerker--but as a romantic movie, it’s very effective.

“The Way We Were.” (1973, RCA/Columbia). As an examination of Hollywood’s shameful blacklist era, it’s a bust. As an exploration of romance between opposites--preppie Hubbell (Robert Redford) and radical Katie (Barbra Streisand)--it’s peerless. The romanticism is enhanced by yet another haunting love theme. Regarded by some film historians as Redford’s best performance

“A Man and a Woman.” (1966, Warner). When this one came out, its detractors said it was a glorified Mustang commercial. But romantics absolutely loved director’s Claude Lelouch’s slickly photographed tale about an affair between a race-car driver (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and a movie script girl (Anouk Aimee). The sequel--"A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later,” just out on cassette this week--isn’t nearly as romantic.

“Out of Africa” (1985, MCA). A muted, offbeat romance between two strong individuals, played by Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, set against gorgeous Kenyan landscapes. This simmering affair starts to smolder near the end.


“Doctor Zhivago.” (1965, MGM/UA). Red-hot romance during the Russian Revolution. The handsome doctor (Omar Sharif) juggles two women, played by Geraldine Chaplin and Julie Christie, who steals the movie.

“Sleeping Beauty” (1958, Disney). Even though it’s animated and seemingly for kids, this famed fairy tale about the handsome prince and the sleeping maiden still generates romantic sparks. Many Disney watchers regard this as his finest feature-length cartoon.

“King Kong” (1933, Nostalgia Merchant) and (1976, Paramount). OK, OK, so this isn’t a regulation Hollywood romance. But it’s still a love story--a beauty and the beast tale. Kong is the biggest, hairiest leading man in movie history. As you probably know, in this sad tale poor Kong doesn’t get the girl. In the original, Fay Wray plays the lady who steals his heart. The remake, with Jessica Lange--making her film debut--as the love interest, is played more for romance and laughs.

NEW RELEASES: MGM/UA’s “Running Scared,” a comedy-adventure with Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal, Karl-Lorimar’s “On Valentine’s Day” and Paramount’s “Heartburn,” a story of the romantic squabbles of a couple played by Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Critics tore this slow-moving movie apart.


Next week: “About Last Night . . ., " “Twist and Shout,” “Manhunter” and “My Beautiful Laundrette.” “Aliens,” “Ruthless People” and “Vagabond” are due in the last week of the month.

HORROR: Horror fans will get a kick out of Media’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2.” The original, a stomach-churning cult classic, cleverly preys on our fears of chain saws. So does the sequel, out this week on Media. Both are by director Tobe Hooper. An extra added attraction is the performance by the star Dennis Hopper, which is far above the norm of the genre.

MCA’s “Psycho III” was just released. Each sequel gets closer and closer to standard slash-and-splatter fare. Anthony Perkins, back for the third time as the psychotic nerd Norman Bates, makes his directorial debut. According to some critics, he has a flair for horror. By the usual gore standards, this one is high class. If there’s a “Psycho IV"--there’s still some mileage left in Bates--Perkins may be the director.



(Complied by Billboard magazine)


1--"Back to School” (HBO/Cannon).

2--"Short Circuit” (CBS-Fox).


3--"Howard the Duck” (MCA).

4--"Labyrinth” (Embassy).

5--"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (Paramount).

5--"Out of Bounds” (RCA/Columbia).


6--"The Karate Kid, Part II” (RCA/Columbia).

7--"Cobra” (Warner Video).

8--"Club Paradise” (Warner Video).

9--"Extremities” (Paramount).


10--"Flight of the Navigator” (Disney).


1--"Jane Fonda’s Low Impact Aerobic Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

2--"Sleeping Beauty” (Disney).


3--"Jane Fonda’s New Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

4--"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (Paramount).

5--"Secrets of the Titanic” (Vestron).

6--"Callanetics” (MCA).


7--"The Sound of Music” (CBS-Fox).

8--"Star Trek III-The Search for Spock” (Paramount).

9--"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (Paramount).

10--"Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (Paramount).