Cinema's most doomed love affairs

From Betty Blue to Blue Valentine, the finest ill-fated onscreen romances

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In the mood for love (2000) Wong Kar-wai

It's a week to give yourself up to doomed love as Alain Guiraudie's cruising-spot arthouse thriller Stranger By the Lake and Jim Jarmusch's laidback take on vamp melancholia Only Lovers Left Alive hit UK screens. Here's our pick of cinema drenched with romance and obsession, where you better not hold out for a rosy ending.

THE HUNGER (1983)

Another stylish modern take on the vampire myth is this sultry cult 80s classic, soundtracked by post-punk band Bauhaus, in which Catherine Deneuve is a YSL-clad blood-sucker dwelling in Manhattan. David Bowie plays her lover, whose time is up and who is rapidly degenerating toward dust. His only hope is a medical ageing-expert (Susan Sarandon) whose fascination soon extends beyond the professional.

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000)

Drenched with the melancholy of rainy streets and denied desires, this visually lush Hong Kong classic from director Wong Kar-wai sees two neighbours (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) start falling for each other when they realise their respective spouses are having an affair.

BADLANDS (1973)

Before overblown self-indulgence came calling, Terrence Malick made this lean and mean but poetically stunning film about a naive teen (Sissy Spacek) who goes on a killing spree with her hood boyfriend (Martin Sheen) in the badlands of South Dakota. As with Bonnie and Clyde, their union is forced to bow to inevitable consequences.

BLUE VALENTINE (2010)

Ryan “hey, girl” Gosling slums it as an unambitious, boozing removals guy married to nurse Cindy (Michelle Williams), who has fidelity issues and a daughter that may be from a different father. The niggling pettiness and inevitable decline of their toxic relationship is the focus of this bleak and rawly devastating anti-romance from The Place Beyond the Pines director Derek Cianfrance.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2006)

German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's taut suspense drama of life in an 80s east Berlin under claustrophobic state surveillance shows how the poison of political repression can spell doom for even the strongest of romantic bonds. The relationship between a dissident writer (Sebastian Koch) and star actress (Martina Gedeck) is tragically undermined by a high-ranking love rival.

THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK (1971)

New York director Jerry Schatzberg's grimy, naturalistic New Hollywood classic sees Al Pacino in his breakout role as a junkie and small-time crook on a downward spiral with his fellow addict girlfriend (Kitty Winn). As a drought kicks in and desperation worsens, the couple turn on each other.

TABU (2012)

In Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’s beautifully strange black-and-white arthouse hit about doomed love that travels through time, an ageing man in modern-day Lisbon tells of the ill-fated romance of his youth, transporting us to an African colony haunted by a melancholy crocodile and a widow’s ghost.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS (2011)

Brit director Andrea Arnold’s intense and brutal take on Emily Brontë's novel about the forbidden love between poverty-born Heathcliff (James Howson) and his foster sister Cathy (Kaya Scodelario) on the weather-lashed moors gets to the raw essence of this wild, tragedy-stricken Romanticism.

SOLARIS (1972)

Russian maestro Andrei Tarkovsky’s hypnotically atmospheric 70s science-fiction masterpiece (later remade by Stephen Soderbergh) shows ill-fated love in Soviet cosmonaut-era retro glory. Adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s novel, it sees a psychologist haunted by visitations from his dead wife while on a space-station hung with Old Masters and orbiting a fictional planet.

BETTY BLUE (1986)

A one-hit wonder for its sultry star Beatrice Dalle, Jean-Jacques Beineix's offbeat, hysteria-infused French romance between wannabe-writer and handyman Zorg and former waitress Betty ("a flower with translucent antennae and a mauve plastic heart") spirals from quirk to tragedy as her free-spirited abandon veers into psychosis. The film spawned one of the most iconic movie posters of the 80s.

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