Author Nicholas Sparks—the master of modern romantic tragedy with books like The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, Nights in Rodanthe and more being adapted into movies—sees his work return to the big screen this weekend with The Lucky One. This time Zac Efron plays a soldier coming home from his third tour in Iraq who credits his survival to hanging onto a picture of a woman (Taylor Schilling) whom he doesn't even know. He, of course, tracks her down at her picturesque dog kennel and slowly ingratiates himself by doing sweaty manual labor, getting buddy-buddy with her young son and surrounding himself with puppy dogs. Schilling can't resist for long—Efron is like a big bipedal puppy with baby blue eyes—but this sort of syrupy romance won't find a male audience unless they are dragged to the theater kicking and screaming by their girlfriends.
Just because something is a love story doesn't mean it can't have a little violence and people getting hurt along the way. Look at Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. These two lovebirds murder a bunch of rednecks together in a New Mexico diner and embark on a cross-country killing spree that makes them notorious national celebrities.
There is a lot going on in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume I and Kill Bill: Volume II, but at the heart of this epic revenge saga is Bill's love for Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) and the betrayal he felt when she left the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad to get married to a normal Joe while carrying Bill's unborn child. Beatrix survives a bullet to the head and awakens from a coma to travel the globe and tear through the squad on her way to confront the man who did this to her. Even though Bill put her through hell, Beatrix still loves him and sheds a tear during their final fatal meeting.
First there was Romeo and Juliet, then there was Bonnie and Clyde, and then in 1986 there was the biopic Sid and Nancy about the doomed romance between the Sex Pistols' bassist, Sid Vicious, and his American groupie girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Nancy gets Sid hooked on heroin and the two descend into the dark world of junkies until love literally tears them apart.
Dracula has always had a way with the ladies on-screen, but it wasn't until Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula in 1992 that a director explored the passion between Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Mina Harker (Winona Ryder). After Dracula seduces Mina with some absinthe and visions of her past life with him, the smooth-talking bloodsucker tells her that he has "crossed oceans of time" to find her. For the sake of humanity Mina might have to cut off Dracula's head to set his tortured soul free, but you won't find this level of drama at a country dog kennel à la The Lucky One.
Batman is the darkest of all the superheroes—a guy split right down the middle personality-wise. He requires a woman of an equally duplicitous nature, which is why Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) really gets him purring in Batman Returns. The two beat the hell out of each other on the rooftops of Gotham City but the vinyl-clad Catwoman finally pins her rubber-suited Dark Knight down and loving licks his face under mistletoe.
Before the Wachowskis took us to The Matrix, they crafted one of the most violent and passionate love stories about two women with Bound. Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, a woman who longs to escape from her Mafioso boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). She finds a way out when she bumps into ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) working on the plumbing next door. The two ladies hatch a plan to screw over the Mob, steal $2 million from Caesar and ride off together into the sunset in Corky's truck.
If you are truly wild at heart when it comes to on-screen romance, you need to check out David Lynch's 1990 film Wild at Heart starring Nicolas Cage as Sailor Ripley and Laura Dern as Lula Pace Fortune. Despite the death threats from Lula's tyrannical mother (Diane Ladd), Sailor and Lula continue their romance and embark on a strange and violent road trip in a movie that has elements of The Wizard of Oz and Elvis Presley. The movie also contains the classic Chris Isaak love anthem "Wicked Game"—guaranteed to soften even the toughest heart.