Throughout cinema, there have been many kinds of leading men. Some are the charming prince types that sweep us off our feet, while others are the bad boys that we know are no good (but maybe have a heart of gold?). There’s a leading man for all seasons. But there is a specific group of actors that have gone unrecognized in the ways of pulling viewers’ heartstrings – men who don’t fit so cleanly in those established templates.
Here, we’ll examine the talented gents that need to be recognized for their romantic ventures. Whether they charmed us with cuddly laughs or produced some truly heartbreaking moments, here is a tribute to some of the most underappreciated leading men in romantic films.
His Most Romantic Role: Death/Prince Sirki in Death Takes a Holiday
The Scene That Proves It: When Prince Sirki must confess to his love interest, the beautiful Grazia (Evelyn Venable), about his true supernatural identity.
What Makes Him Underappreciated: Though credited with a wide variety of roles over his career, March hasn’t been remembered for being a conventional leading man like most of his contemporaries. Perhaps it was his stockier build, his blue-collar approach, or his haunting portrays of multi-dimensional characters, but March was certainly not the boy next door nor the typical knight in shining armor. But that is what continues to make him so comeplling watch – for predictability is not a word in March’s acting vocabulary.
What Makes Him So Romantic: March had two modes – strong or gentle. Both of these work towards the greater goal of sweeping the many co-stars he had over the years off of their feet. Whether he was playing an all-powerful creature or a regal royal, he always knew how to bring an intoxicating charm to his romantic performances. Every one of them showcased his ability to speak the greatest of romantic lines and sell them (no matter how over the top) in an almost poetic style. And when you pair all those facts with his smooth voice, the final results are cinematic butter.
His Best Romantic Role: Marcus in Boomerang
The Scene That Proves It: When Marcus and Angela (Halle Berry) watch Star Trek and share one heck of a “friendly” smooch.
What Makes Him Underappreciated: Similar to the other comedic talent on this list, a lot of critics and audiences alike never gave Murphy the credit for being a romantic or dramatic lead. But with his irresistible charm, lightning-fast reactions, and incredible facial expressions, how could you ever doubt this man’s ability to do just about anything? Luckily, with roles in high profile projects (such as Dream Girls) that view on him would shift slightly through the decades.
What Makes Him So Romantic: Let’s face it – Murphy was, and will always be, the smoothest funny man in all of cinema. He’s still able to turn the charm levels up to 11 and more. And with his performances in Boomerang (along with Coming to America), Murphy was clearly a gem with the ladies. Plus, it is scientifically impossible to not respect the heck out of the on-screen kisses he’s shared with his co-stars (especially with Halle Berry – for that one is the definition of movie chemistry.)
His Best Romantic Role: Fin in The Station Agent
One Scene That Proves It: When Emily (Michelle Williams) stops by Fin’s train station apartment
What Makes Him Underappreciated: In a time before he was ever on Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage was always the guy that should have gotten more work. But in a Hollywood landscape that didn’t see the initial charm and sex appeal of this multi-talented individual, it took a while for him to get the recognition he deserved. Though thanks to indie projects (including The Station Agent), Dinklage got to take on a variety of roles (including those of the romantic variety) which all showcased his obvious coolness.
What Makes Him So Romantic: There’s something about a person who has a lot of confidence (yet doesn’t come off aggressively cocky) that is incredibly attractive. Plus, with that deep voice and some of the best on-screen facial hair, Dinklage is a clearly a romantic triple threat. But the best aspect of his romantic performances is the earnest quality they all possess. And when many of them are relatable characters, it makes it even easier to fall in love with this charismatic every-man.
His Best Romantic Role: William in The Notorious Landlady
One Scene That Proves It: When William walks his landlady, Carlyle (Kim Novak), back up to her apartment
What Makes Him Underappreciated: With his somewhat silly appeal, Jack Lemmon always seemed like the guy who walked down the wrong alleyway at the wrong time. But when you look at his filmography, there are quite a few instances where he wasn’t that guy – insteading proving that he was a force (both romantically and dramatically) to be reckoned with. But as his career went on, and projects like The Days of Wine and Roses came to be, Lemmon would be taken a bit more seriously in Hollywood – leading to some of his greatest roles within his filmography.
What Makes Him So Romantic: Though many of his characters often had a smart-talking, wise-cracking nature to them, Jack Lemmon often came across as the cinematic definition of down-to-earth. He wasn’t a glamorous guy by any means and seemed incredibly approachable. So when he would look lovingly into the eyes of his female co-stars, there weren’t any falsities taking place. You bought his devotion, his heartbreak, his appeal – the whole package. And in a world where men being vulnerable is still a hard magic trick to accomplish, Jack Lemmon did it in style.
His Best Romantic Role: Miles in The Holiday
One Scene That Proves It: When Miles walks around Blockbuster with Iris (Kate Winslet), putting on the performance of a lifetime
What Makes Him Underappreciated: Jack Black is known for loving to jam along with taking on ficitional spooks. So when you think of him as an actor, the romantic angle doesn’t often come to mind. But with an extreme amount of charisma and silliness, Black has the ability to warm anyone’s heart in the mushy sense. Plus, he’s got that cool yet nerdy rocker element to him – one that similar-minded individuals can instantly find charming.
What Makes Him So Romantic: Sometimes, we’re looking for someone that will listen to us during our lows and try their best to raise us up. And in The Holiday, Jack Black plays that sort of individual perfectly. He’s one part the lovable goof that doesn’t take himself seriously, while simultaneously being emotionally open like a book. And when you pair that with his comedic chops and undeniable swag, Jack Black owns a role like this and clearly needs to do way more.
His Best Romantic Role: A toss between Lucian in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and William Boldwood in Far From The Madding Crowd
One Scene That Proves It: The Entire Movie/When William sings with Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan)
What Makes Him Underappreciated: When people think of Michael Sheen, their mind often goes into one of two directions. One involves a recent project where he played an angel, while the other involves him playing an over the top vampire. But Sheen is a man of many faces and characters – some of them are the tortured underdogs, while others are total jerks that you can’t help but love. Regardless, Sheen owns each and every one of these roles – which makes his genuine romantic ones even more thrilling.
What Makes Him So Romantic: With his animated eyes and classic charms, Michael Sheen is the perfect marriage between the fantasy dreamboat and the relatable boy next door. Even when he plays characters with a tortured angle like Lucian and Boldwood, or a complete blockhead like Paul from Midnight in Paris, there’s an undeniable spark that comes from him that is equal parts magical and slightly dangerous. Regardless, it’s impossible to resist the allure of the Sheen.
His Best Romantic Role: Joel in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
One Scene That Proves It: The Entire Movie, from start to finish
What Makes Him Underappreciated: If there ever was an actor on this list who was the definitive goofball, it would be Jim Carrey. With roles in comedy classics like Dumb and Dumber, Jim has proved time and time again that he’s a master at physical comedy. But when it comes to dramas, Jim is a talent that just needs the right material to match with his awkward yet charming skillset. And though not every project has been a hit, there is no denying that Carrey is a performer that always gives it is all.
What Makes Him So Romantic: Firstly, when he’s not doing his typical Fire Marshall Bill shtick, Jim Carrey is actually quite the traditional attractive guy. He’s got that perfect embodiment of classic cinematic swagger, with a touch of a Jimmy Stewart aura that makes him undeniably lovable and relatable. And with roles in projects like The Truman Show, The Majestic, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, all of those elements of him come shining through – making it easy to see why his romantic co-stars would find themselves falling for him, flaws and all.
His Best Romantic Role: Dodge from Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
One Scene That Proves It: The Final Scene
What Makes Him Underappreciated: It can be hard to imagine the voice of Gru from the Despicable Me franchise as a romantic lead, but Steve Carell has proved he can do just about anything. He’s got that unique ability to capture the underdog as easily as he does the overconfident halfwit – all the while containing an inherent vulnerability at his center. Yet still, most film fans don’t seem to latch onto his rom-com roles as much as his more zany ones.
What Makes Him So Romantic: Steve Carell, like a lot of actors on this list, has a soft yet enchanting twinkle in his eye. And in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, that glimmer of love and optimism shines through in the brightest of ways. In the movie, Carell showcases a comforting nature – full of tender emotion and compassion towards his romantic co-star. From his soft voice to the simple brushing of Kiera Knightley’s hair, you get the deep connection he has with her – making it hard to not fall more in love with his quirky yet believable persona.
His Best Romantic Role: Hellboy in the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy franchise
One Scene That Proves It: When Hellboy whispers to Liz (Selma Blair) what he’d crossover for her
What Makes Him Underappreciated: Ron Perlman might not look like your stereotypical stud, but with his deep voice and masculine appeal, he definitely checks quite a few unique boxes. Perhaps its because he taps into that misunderstood side we all feel – the outcast that dreams of finding a connection. And considering that a majority of his most famous roles have been monsters, its remarkable the levels of humanity he brings to every single performance. And when the character fits Perlman’s own persona to a T (like Hellboy does), the results are pure movie bliss.
What Makes Him So Romantic: There’s something truly fantastical when you see an actor be completely emotionally vulernable. And when it comes to Perlman, he clearly wears his emotions on his sleeve, making you look past the physical differences of his character to find their inner soul. And when he has legitimate chemistry with his leading ladies (like he does with Selma Blair), you can’t help but want to see Perlman’s character get the girl and live their own brand of a happily ever after.
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