The Forbidden Loves Of Cinema We’ll Always Be Rooting For

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When you think "forbidden love," you probably think of a boy, a girl, and a balcony in Verona, Italy. Romeo and Juliet might be the most easily identifiable example of forbidden love, but it's hardly the first. Forbidden love stories are staples in folklore and mythology. Take Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, and the Roman general Marc Antony, who loved each other much that they led their countries into war (or so the legend goes). Or Paolo and Francesca da Rimini, the in-laws who fell in love and were forever trapped in hell in Dante's Inferno.
And now, forbidden love is a staple in movies, too. There's an obvious reason why these stories are so common in literature and film: They're ripe with melodrama, and give audiences the chance to experience emotions to the extreme.
None of these loves fit within the boundaries of what is acceptable, or considered "normal." Some pairings break taboos, and can be uncomfortable to watch play out. But whether they verge towards cringe-worthy or towards swoon-worthy, each of these movies will make you reevaluate the cookie-cutter standards we place on romantic relationships.
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Harold (Bud Cort) and Maude (Ruth Gordon) in Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold is a lonely rich teenager whose favorite pastime is attending stranger's funerals and indulging in his melancholy side. Maude, who is in her 70s, also likes going to funerals, but for the opposite reason — she thinks life is precious. Harold and Maude go on a series of raucous adventures, and fall deeply in love. Harold's parents are horrified by his relationship with Maude, but the truth is, love doesn't always fit within the conventions of normal. Anyone with eyes can see that Harold and Maude are the dream team.
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Tita (Lumi Cavazos) & Pedro (Marco Leonardi) in Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

Tita and Pedro are young, in love, and want to get married. Unfortunately, Tita is bound by a rigid family custom that forces all the family’s eldest daughters to stay home, and take care of their mothers for the rest of their lives. Pedro marries Tita’s younger sister. Bubbling over with emotion, Tita transfers her pain into her cooking. Soon, she infects the rest of her family with her potent inner life.
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The Young Girl (Jane March) & the Chinese Man (Tony Leung) in The Lover (1992)

The Lover, a movie adapted from Marguerite Dumas’ novel of the same name, is full of forbidden elements. For one, the lovers have a huge age difference — the unnamed protagonist is only 17 when she meets a wealthy older businessman in French Indochina, and gets swept up in a torrid affair (in the book, she’s 15). Having a public interracial relationship was also nearly impossible in Indochina at the time. In addition to these hurdles, the lovers are acutely aware that a future between them is impossible; he’s engaged to an heiress, and she’s returning to Paris soon. But they keep on loving each other.
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Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) & Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) in The Age of Innocence (1993)

Before Countess Olenska comes back to Europe, Newland Archer never questioned his privileged place in the Gilded Age-era New York society. He's engaged to a perfectly nice young woman named May, whom everyone agrees is Newland's ideal match (in terms of wealth and status, that is). Ellen, who has seen the world and lived somewhat wildly, shows Newland an alternative to his society's straight-laced, conservative conventions. Ellen opens up Newland's world with deep conversations and sexually charged carriage rides. How can he go back to being satisfied by May?
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Francesca (Meryl Streep) and Robert (Clint Eastwood) in The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

For the first time in over a decade, Francesca is left alone in her house on a farm in Iowa. Her husband and two children have left on a trip to the State Fair. In that small window, a photographer for National Geographic rambles into her town, looking to take pictures of the region's famous covered bridges. It becomes quickly obvious that whatever chemistry is between them is very real — real enough that Francesca feels she has to choose between her family and him. Everything can change in four days.
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Otto (Fele Martinez) and Ana (Najwa Nimri) in Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998)

We meet Otto and Anna at three stages of their lives: Childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Yet in each phase, one thing remains the same: Otto and Ana shouldn't be in love. They're step-siblings. After they are separated, their (non familial) love for each other becomes even more obvious. Lovers of the Arctic circle is told in a circular, nonlinear fashion.
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Edward (Johnny Depp) and Kim (Winona Ryder) in Edward Scissorhands (1998)

Imagine cuddling with Edward Scissorhands, and his scissor hands. Each time you tried to adjust the blanket, you'd run the risk of having a lock of your hair chopped off — or worse. Kim Boggs is unafraid by Edward's sharp appendages. She's charmed by his kindness and artistic sensibility. Still, what kind of future could a romance between an artificial man and a real girl have?
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Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leungi) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) in In the Mood For Love (2001)

In 1962, Chow Mo-wan moves into a Hong Kong apartment with his wife, who is often absent. He soon finds his schedule aligning with that of his other neighbor, Su Li-zhen, whose husband is also away frequently. They both come to the realization that their partners are having affairs with other people. The more their relationship deepens, the more obvious it is that they're hurtling towards a deep love. Yet neither is willing to compromise their fidelity to their partners, leading to the movie's blend of constrained passion and melancholy.
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Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) & Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Under the sprawling Wyoming night sky, two cowboys — Ennis and Jack — find themselves pulled toward each other. They know that the society the other side of Brokeback Mountain would never accept them. Both men are married, and gay relationships weren't exactly welcomed in 1960s America. But their feelings persist, long after their summer in Wyoming is done. While watching tragedy unfold, you'll mourn that the love Jack and Ennis share in Brokeback Mountain was ever considered forbidden to begin with.
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Elisa (Sally Hawkins) & the Asset (Doug Jones) in The Shape of Water (2017)

The Shape of Water features a truly unique forbidden love story. She's a mute maid with an overactive imagination and a tremendous capacity for kindness. He's a powerful mer-creature captured from his Amazon habitat. They come together in a 1960's era government laboratory in Baltimore. Despite being unable to communicate through words, Elisa and the Asset have a deep mutual understanding. They can see each other for who they are. And one very, very nasty person — the new head of the lab — is determined to keep them apart.
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Tommy (Andrew Garfield), Ruth (Keira Knightley), & Kathy (Carey Mulligan) in Never Let Me Go (2010)

Certain movies you should go into with as little information as possible. Perhaps it's best just to say that Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy's love triangle initially formed when they were children at the same English boarding school. The trio is heading towards a grim and predestined fate.
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