This time of year always gets us in the mood for love. It’s less than a week until Valentine’s Day, so we’ve brainstormed some of our favorite cinematic romances. Rather than casting a broad net, we’re focusing on amorous films that were filmed in and around the Pacific Northwest. There’s a surprising number to choose from, but here are our 7 favorites.
“An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) – You likely remember this ’80s romance for its hit song, “Up Where We Belong,” its rousing final scene and its Oscar-winning performance by Louis Gossett Jr. But Taylor Hackford’s film is much bleaker than you probably recall, and it’s unblinkingly honest in its examination of the tumultuous romance that blooms between Richard Gere’s troubled Navy cadet and a local woman played by Debra Winger. It’s a moving, frank drama, and the Port Townsend scenery is unsurprisingly beautiful.
“Benny and Joon” (1993) – Perhaps the most famous Spokane-shot feature, this is a quirky comedy about a Charlie Chaplin-obsessed eccentric (Johnny Depp) and the mentally ill woman (Mary Stuart Masterson) who falls in love with him. Among the distinctive Spokane locations prominently featured in the film are Riverfront Park, Peaceful Valley, Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle and Ferguson’s Cafe. The film also includes the ultra-catchy Proclaimers song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” which became an unexpected pop hit.
“Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) – Directed by the late Nora Ephron, this is certainly one of the defining romantic comedies of the ’90s. Its success no doubt stemmed from the effortless chemistry between stars Tom Hanks, playing a widower in Western Washington, and Meg Ryan, a Baltimore reporter, who fall in love after she hears him on a radio call-in show. Although its big finale, inspired by “An Affair to Remember,” takes place at the Empire State Building, it’s Seattle that gets top billing.
“10 Things I Hate About You” (1999) – Like “Romeo + Juliet” before it, this is a hip, modern twist on a Shakespeare play. But this time the source material is “The Taming of the Shrew,” and the tone is far more colorful and humorous. Primarily shot at Tacoma’s Stadium High School, “10 Things” has developed a following among teen comedy enthusiasts since it was released, and it made stars out of Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. It also inspired a TV series that lasted just 20 episodes.
“Say Anything” (1989) - Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut is as surefooted as is it wise and funny. In many ways a typical high school tale – underachiever Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack) falls for class valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Sky) – Crowe and his actors imbue these young lovers with an honesty not often found in teen romances. Seattle makes a lovely backdrop to this beloved rom-com, and if you ask a room full of Gen X woman, a majority will say this is the film that made them forever love John Cusack.
“Singles” (1992) - Crowe followed up “Say Anything” with another Seattle-set romantic comedy, this time using the city’s burgeoning grunge scene as a backdrop. Along with actors Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick, the film is populated by Alice in Chains, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, and Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam. This episodic fable, centered around one Capitol Hill apartment building and two couples who fall in and out of love, is fun and charming and a perfect early ’90s time capsule.
“Roxanne” (1987) - Filmed less than four hours north of Spokane in Nelson, B.C., “Roxanne” is Steve Martin’s sweetest movie. A modern retelling of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Martin stars as C.D., the chief of Nelson volunteer fire department with a very prominent nose. He falls in love with Roxanne (Daryl Hannah), who prefers the new hunk in town, played by Rick Rossovich. This lovely romance about finding the beauty within is gentle and sweet, and Nelson looks postcard-perfect.
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