This Brutal Love

by Drew Phillips

Created 01/14/13

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Following Aristotle's appeals, one of the most common and certainly most effective is Pathos, or emotional appeal, presented here in the wonderful array of heart breaking films all concerning the pain of human love. Whether that love be warped by emotion and sexual encounters (Bad Timing, The Night Porter) or interjected by an unrequited third party (The Red Shoes, Sunday Bloody Sunday) or just the withering romance of a couple struggling through their autumn years (Make Way For Tomorrow) or the love of two brothers (King of Marvin Gardens). Criterion has them all. And they all effectively take you through all the stages of affection and remorse that come with devoting yourself to a love.

  • Nic Roeg's warped version of 'Annie Hall' and arguably his best film. His wife, Mrs. Russell, shines as the object of Garfunkel's desire and the final scene between him and Keitel is one of the most tense in cinema

  • The classic love story for the ages. Having the punk rock world on a platter, Sid fell deep for Nancy (and her heroin) and their wild streak finally took a dark tail spin and ended with her murdered in a bathroom and Sid overdosed only weeks later. Also happens to be one of the greatest biopics of our time.

  • Moira Shearer finally finds a new love apart from dance; her composer. Anton Walbrook is brilliant as the broody producer who cannot have her and will in return make her decide between her two loves. A choice she is not willing to make.

  • Jimmy's love for Steph has been building for years behind his mod garb and finally through a haze of pills and riots, she is his for an instant. But only hangs him out to dry once he returns in a completely gut wrenching scene.

  • Isabelle Huppert is the soft, brothel-owning apple of both Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken's eyes and waffles between them indecisively. But it's the men that make this dynamic so troublesome as Kristofferson only wants best for her and Walken knows that the world will never let them be.

  • In what is arguably the greatest film of all time, Alida Valli's true love, Harry Lime, is swept away and killed in a car accident and when an old friend of his arrives from America and she begins to use Holly as a dead ringer for Harry, but it will only lead her to the harsh truth about Harry that she never wanted to know...

  • Alyssa, an indie comic book artist, changes her entire sexuality when she falls in love with another funny-book writer, Holden. Uncomfortable with her past though, Holden's insecurities and lack of experience causes him to possibly ruin the greatest love he could have known

  • This is one of my personal favorite love stories because of just how dark it becomes. In a similar vain as "Chasing Amy", a young woman is whisked away by the elegant Maxim DeWinter to his massive home of Manderley, but she feels she can never live up to his former wife, Rebecca. The common ground on which they ultimately base their love is so dark and twisted that, a classic tale from Hitch!

  • Of history's greatest love triangles, this one peaks very high as it takes such a personal stance for Schlesinger and such an important nonchalance towards homo- and bisexuality. A personal favorite of mine.

  • The hardest kind of love is always unrequited. But it can be very moving when it elevates you from the banal and frees you from pains of your outside world. Even if it doesn't work out in the end.

  • Here are four (technically three) beautiful and heart breaking tales of love that just couldn't conquer all, though still made a massive dent in the lives of its characters.

  • The love of a married couple with decades of practice under their belt is tested as they lose their home and forced to live apart with separate kids. One of the most bittersweet sequences of all time is their final reunion in New York.

  • Another marriage is tested, this time not by distance but by violence and contempt, boiling both characters down to their cores

  • Love sure is crazy. Now that I've gotten that pun out of the way, I would like to preface this by saying that this is my single favorite Hitchcock film in the entire collection. Peck and Bergman have a ridiculous amount of chemistry together and their sudden but deep bond puts them both on a classic Hitch man hunt to prove the innocence of a man convicted by his own conscience.

  • Love is lost by nearly all in this film. The death of Chaz's wife, Margot's marriage and rotting relationship with Raleigh St. Claire and Eli Cash respectively. But the rekindling of family ties and of accepting new loves (Margot and Richie, Etheline and Henry) is what builds the heart of this dramatic comedy.

  • One of the greatest but ultimately tragic love stories in the history of film. One of the most idiosyncratic as well as a woman a week shy of 80 begins a courtship with a late teen, pulling him out of his depressive life style. A hilarious and touching gem.

  • When Thomas J. Newton came to our planet to save his wife and kids he had no intention of having a woman fall in love with him. But what can Mary Lou do but love her starman, even as she ages past her and he spirals down deep into the bottom of a bottle.

  • This is not a film about love in a sexual sense really but about the unbreakable bond between brothers taken to the edge in Atlantic City and punctuated by a wonderfully understated performance by Nicholson playing completely against type.

  • Her Ingrid Bergman's misguided love for her daughter takes full force in this chilling picture from master, Ingmar Bergman. This film is so full of emotional performances you'd almost think they were truly related.

  • Abandoned by his father and unwilling to come to terms with it, the Dardenne Bros. craft another emotional tale of youth that sears itself into your mind.

  • There's been few better rogue romances out there. This one was cursed from the get-go but, boy was it fun.

  • The only film that could possibly rival "Badlands" for pure wild love on the road, and personally beats the pants off of it by finding humor and satire in its more violent and serious moments (unlike most films on this list)

  • Yet another strong road romance, but contains a multilingual barrier keeping the beautiful Inez from young Anthony.

  • And one of my favorite love triangles ever. A 20~something widow, a middle-aged steel tycoon and 15 year-old prep school student. It totally has a happy ending, and one hell of one at that.

  • One of the more twisted love stories out there, this one presents the love of an ex-concentration camp inmate and SS officer reigniting in the hotel in which he works trying to turn his life around after the war.

  • When thug Bob Hoskins gets out to find his previous life in shambles, his new job as a chauffeur for a prostitute offers him many new experiences, like love worth killing for.

  • Godard's idea of love is very different and it is clear from films like this that he more used to rejection than anything else but is able to revel in it.

  • I feel so bad for this girl's poor naivety which turns a moment of passion into an evening of awkward encounters and one of the most uncomfortable overnights ever.

  • Meeting in the middle. It never turns out well.

  • Severine's marriage is a bourgeois dream, but she has something inside of her that forces her to push it farther

  • Brando gives one of his best performances ever in this Lumet/Williams classic where he has both Joann Woodward and Anna Magnani after his drifter wiles, but as the trend goes, it can only end in tragedy.

  • Carne ups the ante, from three people madly in love to four (a love rhombus?) all tearing at each other and performing their guts out for the affection of one woman in vaudevillian France

  • One of the greatest love stories off all time. The Beast's longing for acceptance is finally quenched upon his capture of Belle. Tends to send a pretty warped message when looked at in a certain light...(and no, "Silence of the Lambs" will not appear on this list)

  • A wild psychological ride from modern master Kiarostami on retaining middle aged romance. Jean-Claude Carriere's cameo is not to be missed.

  • Two wonderful yet frustrating stories of love in 90s Hong Kong that make it all feel worth it again and make you want to fall in love all over again. And listen to the Mamas and the Papas.

  • One of the grandest romantic and sexual films in the collection, Philip Kaufman's adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being presents a long string of sexual encounters and personal discovery through revolutionary Europe.

  • One of the most basic painful love stories you could have. Mr. and Mrs. Lonely-heart finally meet, lose each other, but finally end up in each others arms once again.

  • A psychological love triangle (square, almost) as one jezebel tempts Jubal, Pinky and Shep towards a dance with destiny

  • An American romance on the Italian rocks brought to vivid life by two of our best actors at the time; Ingrid Bergman and George 'Sandy' Sanders

  • Chaplin's hilarious and heart breaking story of deception and hope proving that the best kind of love is blind


  • By Eric Levy
    August 16, 2013
    10:58 AM

    Fantastic list Drew! One addition I would recommend: DAYS OF HEAVEN.
    • By Drew Phillips
      August 18, 2013
      02:38 PM

      Thanks! Ah! Yes that would fit perfectly. I really need to rewatch it
  • By Thomas Sheridan
    June 11, 2014
    01:52 AM

    I'd definitely put Smiles of a Summer Night on this list. Not particularly depressing, but pretty much every romantic bond that is in place at the start of the film is fractured by the end, with everything tossed up in the air and uncertain until the ending.
  • By Ozuphile
    January 19, 2015
    05:59 PM

    What about Double Suicide, Kuroneko, and Onibaba? The loves founded on sexual obsessions.
  • By Ozuphile
    January 19, 2015
    06:03 PM

    Pale Flower too.