Top 20 Movies About Forbidden Love
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Top 20 Movies About Forbidden Love

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: Jesse Singer & Victoria Toltesi
These forbidden love movies must be seen. Our countdown includes "Brokeback Mountain," "Holes," "Roman Holiday," and more!
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Top 20 Forbidden Love Movies


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Forbidden Love Movies

For this list, we’ll be looking at films featuring two people in love whose romance is made difficult, or even impossible, because of social class, society and/or the people around them. We’re only looking at romances in which the love is mutual and we won’t be considering animated films for this one either. Oh ya… there will also be some major spoilers.

Leaving a comment isn’t forbidden. In fact, it’s encouraged. So, go ahead and tell us what you think below.

#20: “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995)


It’s 1965 and Francesca Johnson is living in Madison County with her husband and their two children. One day, National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid comes to town to photograph the famous covered bridges, and the two fall for each other. Obviously, a married woman is forbidden, by society and her vows, to be with another man. But her marriage has been without passion for years and while her husband and kids are out of town, she and Kincaid spend four loving days together. They consider running off together, but Francesca decides not to abandon her family. Instead, the two live only with the memory of those four days for the rest of their lives.

#19: “Casablanca” (1942)


Like “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Casablanca” is a romance featuring the forbidden love between a man and a married woman. In the former film, it’s the married woman who makes the difficult and heart-wrenching decision to not run off with the man she loves. However, in “Casablanca'' it’s the man, played by Humphrey Bogart, who makes that decision. Rick Blaine sends Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa off with one of the most famous quotes in the history of cinema. He tells her that if she doesn’t go with her husband she’ll regret it: “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life.”

#18: “Shakespeare in Love” (1998)


In this romantic comedy-drama, Shakespeare gets a taste of his own medicine when he joins the ranks of star-crossed lovers. As just a poor writer, rich noblewoman Viola is way out of his league. Luckily for him, Viola is not your typical noble woman, so she’s willing to dress as a boy so they can see each other. Women had no power during this time, and because she is told to do so, Viola marries Lord Wessex - despite her love for Will. The word ‘unfair’ does not even begin to describe the situation. While Shakespeare and Viola do get to share the stage together, they are unable to continue their love; for the Queen herself couldn’t break the laws of marriage and class in 16th century London.

#17: “The English Patient” (1996)


Elaine Benes didn’t like the movie, but almost everyone else who saw “The English Patient” was completely drawn into this sweeping tale of forbidden love between a married woman and a cartographer in the 1930s. The relationship is short-lived because of the war and the fear of her husband finding out, but the two are brought back together when he rescues her from a plane crash. However, when he goes to get help, he’s detained and although able to escape, he can’t make it back to her in time to save her. A regret and a pain that haunts him for the rest of his life.

#16: “Tristan & Isolde” (2006)


While some forbidden loves have led to heartbreak and the end of marriages, the great romance between Tristan and Isolde led to war! The film takes place in the years following the fall of the Roman Empire and the battle to unite Britain. With that as the backdrop, orphaned boy Tristan is taken in and raised by Lord Marke of Cornwall. Years later, Tristan meets and falls in love with the beautiful Isolde, but circumstances force them apart. Later on, Tristan wins a tournament that secures a wife for Marke without knowing that the woman in question is his lost love Isolde. Passion, loyalty, and honor all play a part in this classic tale of forbidden love.

#15: “Holes” (2003)


The forbidden love in “Holes” takes place in flashback scenes dating back to the early 1900s. It was then that a beautiful white school teacher Katherine Barlow fell in love with Sam, a handsome African-American onion seller. Interracial relationships were not looked upon kindly 100 years ago and it didn’t help that Katherine had pursued the relationship after rejecting a rich, white suitor named Charles Walker. Well, Walker’s jealousy led him to do some horrible things that ended Katherine and Sam’s relationship and sent the heartbroken Katherine on an outlaw’s path of vengeance.

#14: “Jungle Fever” (1991)


In “Jungle Fever” the fact that both people are in committed relationships seems to be the least forbidden aspect of it all. Flipper is married and Angie is engaged, but when they get together that isn’t what causes the people around them to disapprove. It’s the interracial nature of their partnership that makes everyone around them upset. And while random strangers give them problems, their friends and family are just as disapproving of them being together. Love is never easy, but when it seems like everyone and everything is against you, it does make it hard to recognize how you truly feel.

#13: “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005)


“Memoirs of a Geisha” is a historical drama spanning decades, but at the heart of the film is romance and a love unspoken - well, unspoken until the end. One day in Japan, in the 1930s, a sad, young girl is treated kindly by Chairman Ken Iwamura. The girl, wanting to be a part of the Chairman’s life, decides to train to become a geisha. When she becomes an apprentice, she is presented to the Chairman and his business partner, Nobu. Nobu is intrigued by her and the geisha is left assuming her feelings for the Chairman are unrequited. Is she right? It will be many years and a World War before she finds out.

#12: “Roman Holiday” (1953)


They say that true love can overcome everything. Well, when you’re a European crown princess who falls in love with an American journalist, love ain’t overcoming that. Or at least it doesn’t in “Roman Holiday.” What begins as a princess trying to escape her overly-scheduled, royal life and a journalist trying to get a big story, turns into an amazing day in Rome falling in love. Eventually, the call of her royal duties prevails, but while Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris and Francesca and Robert will always have Madison County, Princess Ann and Joe Bradley will always have Rome.

#11: “The Great Gatsby” (2013)


An upper-class girl falls in love with a man below her station. The love affair ends and she goes on to marry someone else, but she never forgets the other man. He goes on to become a very wealthy man and throws huge parties in the hopes that she will one day attend. It’s a tale as old as time, although, while Carey Mulligan is a beauty, no one would ever call Leonardo DiCaprio a “beast.” Also, unlike “Beauty and the Beast,” the forbidden romance of “The
Great Gatsby” leads to a much less happy ending for the star-crossed lovers.

#10: “Dirty Dancing” (1987)


This movie will make you want to sing, dance, and be lifted into the air by Patrick Swayze. Baby and Johnny try to keep their romance a secret because of Baby’s father. Jake Houseman is a wealthy doctor who sees Johnny as an irresponsible, working class bad boy that isn’t good enough for his innocent daughter and their well-to-do family. However, he isn’t the only one who is less than pleased to find out the two have been seeing each other behind his back as resort owner Max Kellerman fires Johnny for breaking the rules about fraternizing with the vacationers. Right when you think their romance is over, though, Johnny comes swooping in with a one-liner and some dirty dancing!

#9: “The Notebook” (2004)


Two words: Ryan Gosling. Who could turn down someone who looks like him? Well, Allie’s parents, that’s who, because for them, looks aren’t everything; money is. To them, Allie is a rich heiress who shouldn’t be with someone who is “trash” like Noah. So the Hamiltons do what any loving parents would do; ignore their child’s happiness, keep them apart, and hide all the letters Noah writes to Allie, all to keep their daughter – and their precious money - safe. But, despite Allie’s parents, WWII, and Allie’s fiancé, we find out that it isn’t over between them and that it won’t be for many years to come.

#8: “Atonement” (2007)


“Atonement” is the story of the love between Cecilia, the daughter of wealthy parents, and Robbie, the housekeeper's son. This one has forbidden love written all over it, but that is only half the story. While their class positions would be hard enough to overcome, they aren’t able to overcome Cecilia’s younger sister, Briony. Briony has a crush on Robbie, and through a series of jealous misunderstandings, she makes false accusations and he is sent to prison. While she later tries to atone for her sins, it’s too late for Cecilia and Robbie, proving how one moment and one lie can change people’s lives forever.

#7: “Carol” (2015)


Though we could’ve chosen also “Far from Heaven” for this list, it’s Todd Haynes’ other Oscar-nominated film “Carol” that made the final cut. The romantic drama tackles the hardships that homosexuals faced in the 1950s, with Cate Blanchett playing the powerful Carol, and Rooney Mara as the much more timid Therese. The two have such chemistry that it only seems right that they be together, and it’s all the more frustrating when society, and Carol’s husband, make things so difficult for them. In this relationship, Carol is the real warrior, as she gives a big middle finger to all that try and stand in her, and Therese’s, way.

#6: “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” (1967)


This comedy drama sees Joanna and John having to fight to get approval from their parents to get married, which is complicated by the fact that they are an interracial couple. This was a big deal at the time because interracial marriage was illegal through more than half of the 1960s – and in fact, anti-miscegenation laws would only be abolished during the same year that the film was released. Bolstered by powerful acting performances, knowing that “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was Spencer Tracy’s last film makes his final speech even more chilling and emotional – and adds even more poignancy to Joanna and John’s love story.

#5: “Moulin Rouge!” (2001)


This sexy musical takes place in Paris in the 1900s at the famous cabaret known as the Moulin Rouge. Satine, played by Nicole Kidman, is a sensual courtesan who is wooed by writer Christian, played by Ewan McGregor. The musical numbers are lively, the sets are vibrant, and their sex appeal is through the roof! But of course, there’s something, or in this case, someone, keeping them apart: the villainous Duke – who is willing to finance Satine’s show as long as he has exclusive rights to her. After the Duke’s efforts to tear them apart fail, a happy ending is dangled in front of us for a brief moment. However, it’s all taken away in one heartbreaking moment when Satine dies from tuberculosis in Christian’s arms.

#4: “West Side Story” (1961)


You could call this the 20th century New York version of Romeo and Juliet, but with music! In this romantic musical drama, Maria is a member of the Puerto Rican gang the Sharks, and Tony is a member of the rival white gang, the Jets. This isn’t the ideal situation for a budding romance and, so no matter what they do, they just can’t seem to erase the years of hatred between the gangs. As such, the lovers decide that the only way they can be together is by running away and get married in secret. But, as we have seen in several entries on this list already, forbidden love stories tend to end in tragedy. And unfortunately, it’s no different for this couple. Tony is shot by Maria’s arranged fiancé Chino, and he dies in her arms.

#3: “Brokeback Mountain” (2005)


WARNING: this movie will make you cry. It tackles the homophobia that was rampant in America in the 1960s through the story of Ennis, played by Heath Ledger, and Jack, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The two cowboys fall in love but must live apart for fear of being discriminated against, or worse - killed. The few times they do get to see each other demonstrates how much they truly love each other, and how unjust it is that they can’t be together. The women and children in their lives serve to complicate matters further, but it’s the romantic drama’s ending that really pulls at your heart strings and leaves very few moviegoers with dry eyes.

#2: “Romeo + Juliet” (1996)


Romeo and Juliet are arguably the most famous star-crossed lovers in history. You know the story, but here’s a quick recap: Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet, which means that they are from two duelling families that will never let them be together, so in the end they take their own lives. What makes this version of the play so memorable is that it keeps the poetic language of Shakespeare, and contrasts it with modern day sets, weapons, and clothes! Director Baz Luhrmann makes the double suicide even more heartbreaking when we’re allowed to watch Juliet with a little glimmer of hope as she wakes up to see Romeo in his final dying moments. But this is all too quickly taken away when she realizes the truth and takes her own life shortly thereafter.

#1: “Titanic” (1997)


At the top of our list is another story in which we find parents standing in the way of true love. Rose’s family, to put it bluntly, are complete snobs. To them, a person’s character is measured by wealth, and that puts Jack, a penniless artist, at about a 0… They will only sell Rose to the highest bidder, which is how she gets a fiancé like Cal. But the teenage Rose won’t have any of it and decides to keep seeing the lower class Jack while she is on board the Titanic. Though they spit, dance, and fly together, fate has other plans for the couple. Though the unsinkable ship ultimately sinks, Jack proves that money doesn’t make the man when he makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Rose. Their love may have been forbidden, but it was also undeniably one of the most memorable to ever be put to screen.
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