10 big-screen romantic weepies that will turn on the waterworks

THE NOTEBOOK (2004)

Stars: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams

Story: Noah and Allie fall in love but her parents object to the relationship. Years later, an elderly Noah recites the story to an Allie who can't remember the past as a result of Alzheimer's. Based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks.

Why it's famous: In a moment of lucidity, Allie asks Noah if their love is strong enough to "take them away together". The next day, a nurse finds they have died peacefully together in their sleep. The film, a sleeper hit, earned US$115.6 million worldwide and turned Gosling and McAdams into marquee names.

You may not know that: When director Nick Cassavetes first cast Gosling, possibly then best known for playing a Jewish neo-Nazi in The Believer (2001), the actor thought: "He's crazy. I couldn't be more wrong for this movie."

Hanky rating: ****

C'EST LA VIE, MON CHERIE (1994)

Stars: Anita Yuen, Sean Lau Ching Wan

Story: The bubbly Min is part of a Cantonese street opera troupe and she cheers up the recently broken- hearted Kit, a struggling jazz musician. She is later re-diagnosed with bone cancer.

Why it's famous: It won five prizes at the 1994 Hong Kong Film Awards, including for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. Yuen was named Best Actress at the same event for the gender-bending comedy He's A Woman, She's A Man (1994).

You may not know that: The international title is in French and it means That's Life, My Darling. It is ungrammatical as it should be either Ma Cherie, for a woman, or Mon Cheri, for a man.

Hanky rating: ****

LOVE STORY (1970)

Stars: Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal

Story: Well-to-do Harvard boy Oliver and working-class Radcliffe girl Jenny fall in love against his father's wishes. It is never explicitly stated what disease she has but it is speculated to be leukaemia. Based on the 1970 bestselling novel of the same name by Erich Segal.

Why it's famous: The line "Love means never having to say you're sorry" is said by Jenny to Oliver, and by Oliver to his father. It was the top-grossing film of 1970 in the United States and Canada with US$106 million. The late critic Roger Ebert defined Ali MacGraw's disease as a movie illness in which "the only symptom is that the patient grows more beautiful until finally dying".

You may not know that: Tommy Lee Jones made his film debut here in a small role as a Harvard student.

Hanky rating: ***

UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE (2010)

Stars: Zhou Dongyu, Shawn Dou

Story: During the Cultural Revolution in China, high school senior Zhang Jingqiu is sent from the city to learn from peasants in a remote village.

A pure love between her and a soldier, Sun Jianxin, blossoms while she is there but he later develops leukaemia. Based on the novel Hawthorn Tree Forever by the author Aimi.

Why it's famous: Feted director Zhang Yimou chose to work with fresh faces yet again: Actress- model Zhou and Chinese-Canadian actor Dou.

You may not know that: Dou won the first prize at the SunShine Nation pageant in Vancouver in 2007.

Hanky rating: ***

MY GIRL (1991)

Stars: Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin

Story: A coming-of-age story of 11-year-old hypochondriac Vada. She shares an innocent first kiss with Thomas J., who later dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting.

Why it's famous: Culkin was already a huge star with Home Alone (1990) and having him killed off was traumatic for quite a few people. In the teen soap The OC, a male character confesses after a bout of crying that he has not cried like that "since Macaulay Culkin died in My Girl".

You may not know that: This was Chlumsky's first starring role. She later took a break from acting to study at the University of Chicago and returned in 2006 to act in TV shows such as 30 Rock, Veep and Hannibal.

Hanky rating: ***

AMOUR (2012)

Stars: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva

Story: Anne and husband Georges are retired piano teachers in their 80s. He takes care of her after she suffers a stroke, and then another. At one point, she tells him that she does not want to go on living.

Why it's famous: It won the Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Michael Haneke's film might not make you weep buckets but it is a devastating study about what it means to love someone. It has also been called a horror film about ageing.

You may not know that: The film was inspired by a real-life event as Haneke had been "confronted with the suffering of a loved one in the family" - an aunt who had brought him up had committed suicide.

Hanky rating: **1/2

A WALK TO REMEMBER (2002)

Stars: Mandy Moore, Shane West

Story: The jockish Landon falls for the quiet, bookish Jamie after they act in a play together. Unknown to him, she has leukaemia and has stopped responding to treatments.

Why it's famous: This was then-teen singer Moore's attempt to break into the movies with her first starring role. The film struck a chord with the target audience and she won accolades at the MTV Movie Awards and Teen Choice Awards in 2002. West, once touted as the next big thing, did not hit the big time, but has worked steadily and appeared on medical drama ER and action series Nikita.

You may not know that: Another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, with the inspiration for the novel being his sister, Danielle Sparks Lewis, who died of cancer in 2000.

Hanky rating: **

P.S. I LOVE YOU (2007)

Stars: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler

Story: After the death of her husband Gerry from a brain tumour, Holly withdraws from the world. On her 30th birthday, she receives the first of several messages Gerry had left for her, all ending with "P.S. I love you". Based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Cecelia Ahern.

Why it's famous: This was Butler's year with 300 showcasing his abs and this film showcasing his sensitive side. He reveals in an interview on ShortList.com that people yell "This is Sparta" at him probably as often as he gets women coming up to him and saying "P.S. I love you".

You may not know that: Butler, who is Scottish, reportedly apologised for his attempt at an Irish accent.

Hanky rating: *1/2

AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (2000)

Stars: Richard Gere, Winona Ryder

Story: A successful middle-aged restaurateur Will, falls in love with a spirited young woman Charlotte, who is terminally ill with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.

Why it's famous: This was supposed to be a touching tearjerking romance but the May-December pairing was too distracting for most. The film was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Screen Couple.

You may not know that: This was China actress Joan Chen's English language directorial debut after her well-received helming of Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (1998).

Hanky rating: *

SWEET NOVEMBER (2001)

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron

Story: Nelson spends a wonderful November with the free-spirited Sara, who is terminally ill with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A remake of the 1968 film of the same name.

Why it's famous: Actually, it is infamous and widely panned. The film was nominated for three Razzie Awards including Worst Remake or Sequel, Worst Actor and Worst Actress but did not "win" any.

You may not know that: Reeves and Theron previously acted as husband-and-wife in the mystery thriller The Devil's Advocate (1997). There were rumours that the two were secretly dating and that Reeves was devastated when Theron chose Sean Penn over him.

Hanky rating: *

Which movie is the all-time romantic weepie? Write to stlife@sph.com.sg