Nicholas Sparks Movies, Ranked from Worst to Best

    You can't start a fire without a spark.

    I love to hate and hate to love Nicholas Sparks movies. Often, I’ll start a movie based on one of his books with the goal of watching it ironically, maybe with a bottle of wine and some friends. But by the end, I’ll find myself misty-eyed and sincerely invested in Sparks’ stories of improbable reunions, passion in the face of tragedy, and two white people finding the courage to almost kiss. 

    best and worst nicholas sparks movies
    Photo Credit: Reddit

    Because not all tales of true love are created equal, we’re ranking all eleven Nicholas Sparks movies, from the so-bad-they’re-not-even-good to the classics. Disagree with our findings? Let us know in the comments below! 

    1. The Choice

    the choice nicholas sparks movies worst to best
    Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker in The Choice
    Photo Credit: Lionsgate

    The Choice is the most recent (and likely the last) movie made by the now-shuttered company Nicholas Sparks Productions. It also happens to be my least favorite of the Sparks oeuvre, proof that if you keep making what is essentially the same film over and over again eventually you’ll see diminishing returns. 

    The plot follows the romance between med student Gabby (Teresa Palmer) and her neighbor, veterinarian and incorrigible bachelor Travis (Benjamin Walker). Like many of the movies on this list, The Choice’s main characters, swept up in their helpless attraction to each other, cheat on the people they’re actually committed to. Many Sparks movies frame the protagonists' infidelity in such a way that I find myself still rooting for them. But in The Choice, I was appalled by the selfishness that both Gabby and Travis showed to the people they were with before true love hit them like a wrecking ball and apparently absolved them of all moral responsibility. 

    I especially had a hard time rooting for Travis, whose good ol’ boy insistence on avoiding the ‘complications’ of committed relationships seemed more like misogyny to me than anything else. My choice? Skip this and watch a different Sparks film instead. 

    RELATED: Bittersweet Books Like The Notebook 

    2. The Best of Me

    nicholas sparks movies ranked from worst to best the best of me
    Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden in The Best of Me
    Photo Credit: Di Novi Pictures

    I appreciate that this movie allows James Marsden — who plays Allie’s boyfriend in The Notebook— to be moderately luckier in love than he has been in previous roles. But still, I never really fell for this tale of second chances. The Best of Me follows estranged high school sweethearts Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) and Dawson (Marsden) as they reconnect after the death of a mutual friend. Set partially during their high school days and partially in the present, The Best of Me has a genuinely surprising third act, but I didn’t root for the unhappily married Amanda and the stuck-in-the-past Dawson to reconnect. 

    3. Safe Haven

    nicholas sparks movies worst to best safe haven
    Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel in Safe Haven
    Photo Credit: Temple Hill Entertainment

    Of all the movies on this list, Safe Haven might have the most shockingly silly ending. I definitely recommend watching with a friend — when the credits rolled, I was dying to discuss it with someone. Katie (Julianne Hough) leaves an abusive marriage and hides from her dangerous husband in Southport, North Carolina, where she comes to care for handsome widower Alex (Josh Duhamel) and his daughter. With the help of Alex and her mysterious neighbor Jo (Cobie Smulders), Katie builds a new life for herself… but her husband isn’t far behind. 

    RELATED: 7 Super Sad Movies to Watch If You're Looking for a Good Cry 

    4. The Lucky One

    nicholas sparks movies worst to best the lucky one
    Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron in The Lucky One
    Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

    The Lucky One has an inherently creepy premise not even Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling’s chemistry can make me overlook. Logan (Efron), a marine in Iraq, finds a picture of a young woman. Moments later, his comrades around him are suddenly killed. After his brush with death, Logan comes to view the woman in the photo as his lucky charm, and when he returns home, he sets out on a mission to find her. 

    Efron’s angsty, violin-playing, ridiculously handsome marine is clearly dealing with PTSD, so I pitied him despite finding his obsession with Beth (Taylor Schilling) a little off. Beth isn’t the idealized savior Logan imagines—she’s a flawed human with dreams and trauma of her own, and for much of the movie, Logan gets close to her under false pretenses. But, this being a Nicholas Sparks movie, the unhealthy impetus for their relationship doesn’t matter nearly as much as it should. 

    Want more Nicholas Sparks? Sign up for A Love So True's newsletter!

    5. Dear John

    nicholas sparks movies ranked from worst to best dear john
    Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum in Dear John
    Photo Credit: Temple Hill Entertainment

    Dear John has Channing Tatum in it, which was all I needed to know to watch it. Tatum plays John, a staff sergeant who at the opening of the film is severely injured during combat in Afghanistan. The movie then flashes back to 2001: John, enjoying his leave in Charleston, South Carolina, saves a purse from floating off in the ocean. The purse belongs to Savannah (Amanda Seyfried), who strikes up a serious relationship with John that is maintained via letter writing. After September 11th, John reenlists, and their relationship is tested like never before.  

    Dear John has one huge thing going for it (CHANNING), but I never cared as much about Savannah and John’s love as I wanted to, and I felt like the movie didn’t approach the moral gray areas that arise in Savannah’s life — and in most real people’s lives— with sufficient thought. Fans of the book will likely be even more perturbed by the movie’s ending, which differs substantially from the novel. 

    6. Message in a Bottle

    nicholas sparks movies worst to best message in a bottle
    Robin Wright and Kevin Costner in Message in a Bottle
    Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

    Nicholas Sparks stories are as much about mortality as they are about love, so you've got to expect a little bit of tragedy going in. But Message in a Bottle is such a ludicrously tragic tale that I felt it crossed over from sad to almost silly. The plot follows heartbroken ship builder Garrett (Kevin Costner) and Theresa (Robin Wright). Theresa, a researcher for a Chicago newspaper, finds a message in a bottle written to a woman called “Catherine.” Through a predictable and frustrating series of events, the letter is published in the paper, and Theresa tracks down Garrett to learn the heartbreaking truth about his relationship to Catherine. Of course, the two fall in love along the way — but will Garrett ever be able to fully move on from Catherine? 

    7. Nights in Rodanthe

    nicholas sparks movies ranked from worst to best nights in rodanthe
    Diane Lane and Richard Gere in Nights in Rodanthe
    Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

    Nights in Rodanthe, like every other movie on this list, is as much an advertisement for North Carolina as it is a story about the power of love. Adrienne (Diane Lane) is faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to take back her husband Jack (Christopher Meloni) after he has an affair. She heads to her friend’s bed and breakfast for the weekend to think it over, and, as a hurricane pummels the coast, she develops a deep bond with the bed and breakfast’s sole guest, troubled surgeon Paul (Richard Gere). The two encourage each other to be the best they can be, and to heal rifts in their respective pasts. I came to care for the characters of Nights in Rodanthe, but never as much as I cared about the gorgeous North Carolina beach house in which it was set. 

    8. The Last Song

    nicholas sparks movies ranked from worst to best the last song
    Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth in The Last Song
    Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures

    Before her parents divorced, Ronnie (Miley Cyrus) was a piano prodigy with a guaranteed spot at Juilliard. But since her dad left, she hasn’t played. So when Ronnie’s mother ships her off to visit her dad on the beaches of North Carolina, Ronnie is less than thrilled. But with the love of a hunky sea turtle rescuer—not the most ridiculous occupation on this list, by the way—she finds a way to open up again. The Last Song is generally underwhelming, but co-stars Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth have incredible chemistry; in fact, they’ve been romantically involved in real life since meeting on The Last Song set. 

    RELATED: The Best Romance Movies on Netflix Right Now 

    9. The Longest Ride

    nicholas sparks movies ranked from worst to best the longest ride
    Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride
    Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Luke (Scott Eastwood) is a professional bull rider who can’t accept that his career is over, despite numerous injuries. Sophia (Britt Robertson) is an artist with her eye on New York. Despite their burgeoning love for each other, Luke and Sophia are pulled apart by their conflicting priorities — but a chance meeting with an elderly art collector will change the way they look at love, and each other, forever. I was surprised to not hate The Longest Ride: the trailer made me think it would be more about bull riding than anything else, but instead this movie is an intergenerational love story that contemplates the compromises inherent even in the most loving relationships. 

    10. A Walk to Remember

    nicholas sparks movies worst to best a walk to remember
    Mandy Moore and Shane West in A Walk to Remember
    Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

    If you haven’t seen A Walk to Remember yet, then really, where have you been the last 15 years? A Walk to Remember was the movie that first introduced me to Nicholas Sparks, and it still makes me emotional no matter how many times I watch Landon (Shane West) and Jamie (Mandy Moore) fall in love. Landon is a bad boy with an estranged father and a chip on his shoulder; Jamie is the wallflower daughter of a preacher. They shouldn’t fall for each other — but of course, they do. I won’t spoil the ending (although again, if you don’t know what happens in A Walk to Remember, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN THE LAST 15 YEARS?) but it’s devastating and cheesy all at the same time. 

    11. The Notebook

    nicholas sparks movies ranked from worst to best the notebook
    Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook
    Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

    The Notebook is another Sparks movie that’s pretty ubiquitous–even if you haven’ t seen it, you’d probably at least recognize the iconic image of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams embracing in the rain. A story-within-a-story, the movie follows the tempestuous romance between Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling), as told by an elderly man in a nursing home to another patient. Gosling and McAdams have undeniable chemistry, and had a real-life relationship that mirrored the volatile bond between their characters–they reportedly hated each other on set, but began a relationship after filming that lasted for years. Their real-life attraction is evident in The Notebook, and helps make this classic more sexy than sappy. 

    Want more Nicholas Sparks? Sign up for A Love So True's newsletter!

    Featured still from "The Notebook" via New Line Cinema

    • nicholas sparks
    • movies
    • books


    scroll up