Hollywood’s Most Romantic Actors
1st November 2021
by Tara W.
There’s nothing more comforting than cosying up to a feel-good, heartwarming romance movie. We love getting emotionally invested in characters, gushing over cheesy scenes and over-the-top romantic gestures. Not to mention, swooning over our favourite actors as they confess their undying love, or, let’s face it, take off their shirt in steamy scenes. But, which celebrity owns the title of the most romantic actor?
Well, we scraped over 8,000 of the highest-voted romance movies on IMDb to find out which actors and actresses are typecasted the most in these roles. We then found out how old each actor was at the time of the movie’s release to unveil the youngest and oldest movie heartthrobs.
Most Romantic Actors of All Time
We began by categorising our data by all-time movies so we could include the romantic classics. The late actor, Ward Bond, ranks as the most romantic actor of all time, having starred in 87 movies under the ‘romance’ genre (over 200 films overall). Amongst his best-remembered romance roles are Father Peter Lonergan in John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952) and Morgan Earp in My Darling Clementine (1946).
John Wayne, who was a longtime close friend of Ward Bond and starred alongside him in many films, ranks second with his most known romance role as Captain Kirby York in Rio Grande (1950), followed by Gary Cooper, who was most recognised as Brant Royle in Bright Leaf (1950)
In terms of actresses, Myrna Loy is crowned the most romantic actress of all time. Having starred in 64 romance roles during her career, she is most well-known for playing Milly Stephenson in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).
Barbara Stanwyck, an American actor, dancer and model, ranked second on our list, after starring in 53 romance movies. Her most notable role was in My Reputation (1946) where she played Jessica Drummond, an upper-class widow from Chicago who falls in love with an army officer. Loretta Young came in third as the most romantic actress, having performed in 50 romance movies, and is most known for playing Julia Brougham alongside Cary Grant, in The Bishop's Wife (1947).
We also looked at which directors’ names made the most appearances within the romance genre. These include Michael Curtiz who has directed 53 romance movies including the iconic Casablanca (1942), George Cukor who directed My Fair Lady (1964) as well as 35 other romance movies and Raoul Walsh who directed 31 romance movies.
Most Romantic Actors of the 2000s
We then filtered our data results to focus on romance movies from 2000 to the present. Despite being very well known for his latest endeavours as Marvel’s superhero Ant-Man, actor Paul Rudd, is also the most romantic actor of the Millennium. He’s starred in 21 romance movies since 2000 including Peter Klaven in I Love You, Man (2009) who sets out to find the perfect best man for his wedding, George Gergenblatt in Wanderlust (2012) where he and his partner (Jennifer Aniston) experiment with alternative living options, and Pete in This is 40 (2012) which depicts the life of a long-time married couple struggling with the idea of turning 40 with the added chaos of disobedient kids, rising debts and an unwanted pregnancy.
Heartthrob Colin Firth ranks second and is, arguably, best known for his role as Mark Darcy in the ongoing love triangle in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). Although, in our study, his rival in the movie, Hugh Grant who plays Daniel Cleaver, ranks joint 17th. Bill Nighy ranks third with 16 romance movies under his belt, the most popular being Love Actually where he plays the hilarious ageing rockstar, Billy Mack, trying to get his new song to be Christmas number 1.
Kirsten Dunst is the most typecast actress in 2000s romance movies to date (19 movies). Well known for the leading roles of Torrance Shipman in Bring it On (2000) where a high school cheerleading team discover their former captain stole their best routines for a rival school, Lizzie Bradbury in Wimbledon (2004) who helps an out-of-form tennis player fulfil his lifelong dream of competing at Wimbledon, and Maire in Marie Antoinette (2006), a retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen.
Penélope Cruz is a close second with roles in 17 romance movies since 2000. Her romance roles include Sofia Serrano in Vanilla Sky (2001) starring alongside Tom Cruise who finds himself on a roller-coaster ride of romance after a life-changing accident, Pelagia in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001) where she falls in love with a local Italian commander after her fiance is sent to fight in World War II, and Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), a romantic comedy-drama where two best friends fall in love with a Spanish artist, which is made more complicated when his ex-wife comes back into the picture.
Average Age of Romance Roles
We wanted to take our research one step further by manually finding out the age of every actor at the time of each movie’s release. We did this to find out the average age of females vs males in romance movies, as well as which actors played the youngest and oldest roles.
Surprisingly, there’s virtually no age gap between male and female roles in movies of all time with females typically being around 29 years old and males being around 31 years old. When we look at movies from the 2000s onwards, the average age of a male actor is 39, whereas for females it’s 35.
For this research, we only included actors who were at least 16-years-old at the time of the movie’s release. Among the youngest male actors include, then 17-year-old Andrew Simpson, who portrayed a 15-year-old student named Steven Connolly in Notes on a Scandal (2006) where Simpson gets involved in a sexual encounter with a teacher. The oldest age of an actor in our study was William Shatner at 90-years-old in Senior Moment (2021) playing a retired NASA test pilot whose life changes after he loses his license.
The youngest female actors include Keira Knightley in Bend it Like Beckham (2002), Emma Roberts in Wild Child (2008), and Hailee Steinfeld in Romeo & Juliet (2013) who were all 17 at the time. The oldest female is Ellen Burstyn who, at 88 years old, stars as Helen Wilson Queen Bees (2021) where she is forced to temporarily move into a retirement home as her house undergoes repairs.
• We scraped 8,107 highest-rated romance movies on IMDb.
• Next, we sorted the data to find out which actors appear the most often.
• We then separated movies released in 2000 onwards, which totalled 4,470, to find out the most typecast actors in this millennium.
• Actors' ages were sourced from Famous Birthdays.
• Only actors who were at least 16-years-old at the time of the movie’s release were considered in our age analysis.
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