romantic Films of the past often depict relationships that, when viewed through a modern lens, could be seen as inappropriate or problematic. Old romance films, while important in their time, often depicted relationships considered inappropriate or problematic by today’s standards. Only by recognizing the problematic elements in these films can we reflect on the progress we have made in promoting healthy, harmonious relationships in modern cinema.

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By striving for more realistic and inclusive images, we can ensure that romantic films reflect the evolving values ​​and expectations of our society. Below are 12 old romance movies that featured inappropriate relationships, highlighting how their portrayal wouldn’t hold up to today’s standards.

12 Gone with the Wind (1939)

Loew’s, Inc.

while Gone with the Wind A beloved classic, it reflects ancient views on consent and romance. The film romanticizes non-consensual developments and portrays Rhett Butler’s pursuit of Scarlett O’Hara as continuous, ignoring her lack of interest. Designed as sentimental and charming, Rhett’s actions ignore the importance of consent and reinforce harmful notions that perseverance can eventually win someone’s affection. In today’s context, the film’s depiction of such behavior is highly inappropriate.

11 Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Paramount Pictures

Breakfast at Tiffany’s It is considered a classic, but it features a depiction that perpetuates racial stereotypes. One of Hollywood’s worst whitewashing decisions, Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yoniyoshi, the Japanese neighbor, was marred by cultural insensitivity and caricature-like acting. The character relies on exaggerated racial traits and behaviors, promoting harmful, disrespectful, and abusive stereotypes. In today’s context, the film’s racially insensitive portrayal is deeply inappropriate and disrespectful.

10 The Graduate (1967)

Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate
Embassy photos

in graduation, a young college graduate, Benjamin Braddock, embarks on an affair with an older family friend, Mrs. Robinson. The relationship shows a large age discrepancy and raises questions of consent and manipulation. Mrs. Robinson exploits Benjamin’s vulnerability and naivety, blurring the lines between extension and exploitation. While the film is a cultural touchstone, it likely faces criticism today for its depiction of an inappropriate relationship between a young man and an older woman.

9 Some Like It Hot (1959)

Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot
United Artists

despite of Some like it hot is a classic comedy, and it draws heavily on gender stereotypes. The film features two musicians, Joe and Jerry, who disguise themselves as women to escape from the mob. Their transformation into women for comedic effect perpetuates gender stereotypes, reinforcing traditional gender roles. The film presents women as objects of desire, with the characters of Joe and Jerry focused primarily on pursuing romantic interests rather than developing meaningful bonds. In today’s context, the film’s reliance on gender stereotypes would be seen as inappropriate and regressive.

Related: Romantic movies have affected how we perceive love

8 Say Anything… (1989)

say something
Twentieth Century Studios

considered a romantic comedy, say something… It tells the story of Lloyd Dobler, a high school graduate who falls in love with Diane Court, class valedictorian. However, the film does feature a male protagonist engaging in stalking behaviour, which is portrayed as the pursuit of love. Lloyd’s constant and unwelcome intrusions into Diane’s life, such as the playing of her favorite song outside her window, would now be recognized as invasive and potentially threatening. Today, the film would face criticism for romanticizing stalking behaviors that undermine consent and personal boundaries.

7 The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins in Blue Lagoon (1980)
Columbia Pictures

the blue Lake It explores a romantic relationship between two cousins, Richard and Emmeline, who find themselves stranded on a deserted island. The film’s depiction of incestuous undertones raises serious ethical concerns. While the story focuses on survival and young love, the close family ties between the characters add an uncomfortable layer to their relationship. In today’s context, the film’s depiction of a romantic relationship between cousins ​​is viewed as highly inappropriate and taboo, and has ironically been the subject of recent controversy.

6 Working Girl (1988)

working girl
Twentieth Century Fox

working girl It depicts a workplace romance between Tess McGill, an assertive secretary, and her high-ranking boss, Jack Trainer. While the film celebrates Tess’ ambition and perseverance, it also blurs the lines of professional boundaries and power dynamics. The relationship raises concerns about coercion and nepotism in the workplace, as well as the potential for exploitation. In today’s context, the film’s depiction of a romantic relationship between a subordinate and her superior is seen as wholly inappropriate.

5 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)

9 and a half weeks
Twentieth Century Studios

Erotic drama 9 1/2 weeksexplores the relationship between Elizabeth, recently divorced, and John, a mysterious man. However, the film blurs the lines between harmonic exploration and emotional manipulation. John engages in a series of emotionally charged power plays, pushing Elizabeth to her limits in a game of control and domination. Their relationship borders on emotional abuse and control, with John using manipulative tactics to push boundaries without explicit consent. Today, the film would face criticism for romanticizing unhealthy power dynamics and emotional manipulation.

4 Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty woman
Buena Vista Photo Distribution

while Pretty woman It is a popular romantic comedy, and it romanticizes the relationship between a wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis, and a sex worker, Vivian Ward. The film oversimplifies the complex issues surrounding the dynamics of class and consent, presenting a problematic narrative that love can overcome all barriers. By masking the underlying power imbalances and challenges faced by sex workers, the film perpetuates harmful fantasies about the possibility of a fairy tale romance in an exploitative situation. In today’s context, the film’s romantic portrayal of the relationship between a wealthy client and a sex worker would be met with criticism for its inappropriate and unrealistic portrayal.

Related: 10 Romantic Stories In Movies Where There Was Zero Chemistry Between The Leads

3 Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)

Sleep with the enemy
Twentieth Century Fox

Psychological excitement Sleep with the enemy, depicts an abusive relationship, with the protagonist, Laura Burney, fleeing her controlling and violent husband. While the film highlights the dangers of abuse, it still somewhat romanticizes the idea that love conquers all. Laura’s husband, Martin, is portrayed as bossy and controlling, displaying violent behaviour. The film’s portrayal of the relationship may inadvertently send mixed messages, suggesting that love can overcome abusive tendencies. In today’s context, the film would face scrutiny for its potential to normalize or romanticize abusive relationships.

2 Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Focus features

Brokeback Mountain It is considered a landmark film for LGBTQ+ representation. However, the film depicts a secretive and often painful relationship between two closeted gay men, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. While the film highlights the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community, it showcases a relationship marked by secrecy, fear, and societal pressures. The characters’ inability to openly embrace their love perpetuates the idea that same-sex relationships are inherently problematic or tragic. In today’s context, there is a greater demand for authentic LGBTQ+ representation that moves away from tragic narratives and presents more positive and diverse portrayals.

1 Twilight (2008)

Bella and Robert Pattinson in Twilight
The pinnacle of entertainment

This acclaimed series centers around the relationship between Edward Cullen, a vampire, and Bella Swan, a human. while twilight Capturing a huge fanbase, she also displays an unhealthy obsession and possessiveness. Edward’s controlling behavior, constant surveillance, and refusal to respect Bella’s boundaries are portrayed as signs of love and protection. This portrayal can blur the lines between love and control, and send a problematic message to influential audiences. In today’s context, the film would face criticism for romanticizing abusive and possessive behaviors.


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