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The 20 Most—And 20 Least—Stressful Romance Movies, According to AI

Ellen Gutoskey
Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987).
Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987). / 20th Century Fox
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Sometimes, you’re in the mood for a melodramatic story about ill-fated lovers that’ll keep your heart rate high and your eyes wide open. Other times, you’d rather watch a rom-com with stakes so low that you know everyone’s headed straight for happily-ever-after.

To find out which films best fit each mood, search marketing agency Honchō used Rotten Tomatoes to compile a list of romances, and then fed all the screenplays through a sentiment analysis tool called TensiStrength. The program processed the language and determined how stressful or relaxing it was overall.

The results were interesting, to say the least. Topping the list of most stressful movies was 2011’s 50/50, in which a 20-something-year-old (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) battles aggressive cancer and falls for his therapist (Anna Kendrick). You can understand how a computer system would construe that as a stressful watch, though it didn’t exactly account for all the comic relief.

An inability to detect comic relief seems to be a trend. Behind 50/50 comes The Princess Bride (1987), which, while admittedly containing plenty of stressful elements—attempted murder, actual murder, poison, quicksand, torture, a Fire Swamp teeming with Rodents of Unusual Size, etc.—is widely considered a delightful, kid-friendly fairytale. Other relatively light fare on the ‘most stressful’ list includes 1999’s Notting Hill, 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and 1998’s Shakespeare in Love.

What the ‘least stressful’ list lacks in cancer and quicksand, it makes up for in interpersonal drama, loneliness, and character-driven commentary on mental health. Witnessing George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham systematically lay off employees in Up in the Air (2009)—which came in first place—may not seem too anxiety-inducing on paper, but the effect in the film itself isn’t exactly relaxing. Similar things could be said about 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love (in fifth place) and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook (ninth). But we—humans and machines alike—can all agree that 1995's Clueless, number 15, is a very fun flick.

While the lists below might not be a perfect watch guide, they’re a good reminder of just how much goes into making a movie beyond the screenplay. You can also take heart in the notion that human intelligence may still have an edge over artificial intelligence, at least when it comes to watching movies.

The 20 Most Stressful Romance Movies

  1. 50/50 (2011)
  2. The Princess Bride (1987)
  3. Ghost (1990)
  4. So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
  5. Nine (2009)
  6. Petulia (1968)
  7. Spanglish (2004)
  8. St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
  9. My Girl (1991)
  10. Notting Hill (1999)
  11. Kill Your Darlings (2013)
  12. Jane Eyre (2011)
  13. Autumn in New York (2000)
  14. The Great Gatsby (2013)
  15. The Invention of Lying (2009)
  16. The Piano (1993)
  17. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  18. The Artist (2011)
  19. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  20. It Happened One Night (1934)

The 20 Least Stressful Romance Movies

  1. Up in the Air (2009)
  2. La La Land (2016)
  3. The Apartment (1960)
  4. Sugar (2008)
  5. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
  6. Burlesque (2010)
  7. Forrest Gump (1994)
  8. Erin Brockovich (2000)
  9. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
  10. Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
  11. Sideways (2004)
  12. Pretty Woman (1990)
  13. Lost in Translation (2003)
  14. Larry Crowne (2011)
  15. Clueless (1995)
  16. Juno (2007)
  17. Sex and the City (2008)
  18. Last Chance Harvey (2008)
  19. Moonstruck (1987)
  20. The Blast From the Past (1999)
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