What is so enchanting about love stories between humans and otherworldly creatures? Admittedly, these romances are bizarre, yet we find ourselves falling hard for them time and again—just look at the enduring popularity of Beauty and the Beast. The most recent addition to this strangely compelling genre is Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, The Shape of Water, in which a woman and fish-man are drawn to each other.
But del Toro is not the first to explore what it means for human and beast to fall in love. Such romances have been hitting the big screen since the early 1930s. Most feature a human who is capable of seeing beyond a gruesome exterior. Whether the monster is a misunderstood softie like Edward in Edward Scissorhands, or a mysterious but irresistible creature from the deep, these romances make our imagination and hearts spiral into unpredictable realms.
Here are some of our favorite romantic movies like The Shape of Water.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
You can’t deny that the love story in Beauty and the Beast is a classic. Belle, intelligent, beautiful and independent, is swept away to a distant castle where she’s held prisoner by the grisly owner, a beast. Slowly but surely, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff, and discovers there may be more to this beast than his harsh exterior reveals. Eventually they fall in love, though not without meeting their fair share of obstacles along the way.
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Warm Bodies (2013)
He’s still dead, but getting … warmer? In this Romeo and Juliet zombie adaptation, a young woman, Julie, and zombie, R, embark on an unusual relationship that threatens the very foundation of their divided society. Years ago a terrible plague split the planet’s population between humans and zombies, resulting in humans tucking themselves away behind towering walls. R saves Julie’s life in a single momentous act that inspires a chain of events no one ever thought possible, and sets them on a path that will lead to heartbreak or happily ever after.
Heartbroken after a bumpy end to his marriage, Theodore hears about a new operating system capable of developing a personality of its own. He enrolls in the program, and meets “Samantha”, who is more smart, charming, and kind than he expected. What begins as mere companionship soon deepens into mutual love. Sound crazy? Sure, but given recent advances in AI, it could become a plausible reality in the near future. Like The Shape of Water, Her truly explores what it means to be human.
Based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, Stardust is the story of a lovesick young man, Tristan, who travels into the world of fairies to retrieve a fallen star. To his surprise, what he discovers is not a chunk of space rock, but a glowing woman by the name of Yvaine. And it seems everyone wants Yvaine: The king’s son needs her to gain the throne, an evil witch wants her power for eternal youth, and Tristan wants her to impress his beloved. Leave it to Gaiman to introduce an entirely new romantic pairing—human and star. It’s another striking coupling between beings from entirely different worlds, and an original on our list. When Tristan and Yvaine fall for each other, they sweep viewers into the whirlwind that is their interstellar romance.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
When a scientist builds an animated human being, Edward, then dies unexpectedly, his creation is left unfinished. With freakish scissor blades instead of hands, Edward is an outcast in society. Eventually, he’s found by a kind woman who takes him home where she lives with her teenage daughter. As fate would have it, her daughter and Edward fall in love. It’s a classic example of a monster-meets-human romance.
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1953)
Although a horror movie and not a romance, we're including this title because it was so influential on Guillermo's masterpiece. Put the titular creature from the black lagoon and the one in The Shape of Water side-by-side and you’re going to notice a resemblance. In fact, Creature from the Black Lagoon served as major inspiration for del Toro when creating the fish-man in his film. In a remote jungle, a group of scientists discover a mysterious creature previously unknown to science. They must grapple with the treacherous terrain of the jungle, and determine if this new specimen is friend or foe.
Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948)
Don’t let this film’s release date frighten you off from another great love story. After emerging from a midlife crisis, Mr. Peabody is instructed by his doctor to take a vacation. He does, but it doesn’t go quite as expected. While fishing in the Caribbean, Peabody catches a mermaid. Awestruck by her beauty and charm, he falls hopelessly in love. It’s one of the earliest cinematic instances of humans falling in love with merpeople.
Feature still from "The Shape of Water" via Fox Searchlight Pictures