Were you Team Edward or Team Jacob? It’s hard to believe there was ever a debate over who Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) should end up with in the Twilight saga, the five-film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular young adult book series about the undeniable bonds between a human and her vampire dream guy (Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen) and the werewolf (Taylor Lautner’s Jacob Black) who once fancied her but ultimately imprints on her daughter.
Twilight (2008) is streaming on Prime Video.
As uncomfortable as that last development is, the Twilight films (2008-2012) do feature an epic love story, life-and-death stakes, the chance for talented actors to chew some scenery (Michael Sheen!) and at least one genuinely shocking thrill that stays with you (the vision of the bloodbath in the grand finale, Breaking Dawn, Part 2).
While you wait to see if the rumored Twilight TV series becomes a reality, here are seven darkly romantic movies like Twilight to keep your blood pounding.
Fifty Shades of Grey
This 2015 blockbuster was definitely not rated PG-13, but you can easily see how its tale of romantic obsession was inspired by Twilight (novelist E.L. James’ Fifty Shades series was developed as Edward and Bella fanfiction). There’s the virginal, lip-biting beauty, graduating co-ed Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who meets an older, powerful man, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), in the state of Washington. She should be afraid of his singular taste (BDSM instead of blood), but she isn’t; the tycoon usually keeps his distance from people, but he can’t stay away from her even though he tries. The sequels, 2017’s Fifty Shades Darker and 2018’s Fifty Shades Freed, place Anastasia’s life in danger for reasons we won’t spoil.
Stewart and Pattinson win the chemistry battle, but Johnson and Dornan bring the heat in a higher tally of sex scenes (Christian doesn’t make her marry him first).
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The first of three films based on Veronica Roth’s dystopian YA trilogy, 2014’s Divergent is set in a society divided into five factions: Members of Abnegation are known for being selfless, Amity for being peaceful, Candor for being honest, Dauntless for being brave, and Erudite for being intellectual. When teens come of age, a test reveals which virtue defines them, and they’re given the chance to choose a new faction and prove they belong with its people instead. Those with multiple gifts are known as Divergent — and are feared for their independent thinking, as Tris (Shailene Woodley), formerly known as Beatrice, soon finds out.
Like the Twilight saga, this story is ultimately about a seemingly fragile young woman finding her strength and voice in addition to love. Tris was raised Abnegation and joins Dauntless, meeting chiseled instructor Four (Theo James), who, despite her initial assumptions, wants to see her succeed. He doesn’t sparkle in the sun, but he does have back tattoos that reveal the two have more in common than she thinks. He comes to her rescue at times, but she is the hero of this tale.
Writer-director Jonathan Levine gives you a different kind of zombie movie. Based on Isaac Marion’s novel, this 2013 Romeo-and-Juliet tale is set eight years into a zombie apocalypse when R (Nicholas Hoult) is shuffling around an airport with other corpses and a running monologue in his head. He’s bored and alone when he and other members of the horde ambush Julie (Teresa Palmer) and more humans on a supply mission. Even before R eats the brains of her boyfriend (Dave Franco) and experiences his memories, he starts to feel an affection for Julie that makes him want to save her. Terrified, Julie learns to trust him as he keeps her safe and entertained in the airplane he’s turned into a home like he’s WALL-E.
R isn’t the sex symbol Edward is, but his self-deprecating sense of humor and desire to connect with Julie makes him someone you root for. Their growing bond, and its effects on R and the other corpses (led by a scene-stealing Rob Corddry), could be the cure to a world gone dark. They’ll just need to convince Julie’s colonel father (John Malkovich) that change is possible.
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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Give one of the most beloved love stories of all time a gory makeover and you get this 2016 Jane Austen parody, adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith's novel. In early 19th Century England, a zombie plague has made security at high-society card games and country balls challenging, as folks who’ve been bitten don’t complete their transformation until they’ve tasted human brains. Luckily, Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) has had his daughters trained to defend themselves in China.
It’s thrilling to see the young women stash knives under their dresses and enter a ballroom ready for action. As in Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth (Lily James) and Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley) are at immediate odds, while Jane (Bella Heathcote) and Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) are instantly smitten. The introductions of scheming Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston) and bumbling Mr. Collins (Matt Smith) provide additional drama.
Some viewers may find the full 1-hour and 42-minute runtime excessive, but everyone should stick around at least until Darcy’s ill-worded proposal. Elizabeth responds with more than a sharp tongue now. It’s glorious.
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Blood & Chocolate
Loosely inspired by Annette Curtis Klause’s YA novel published a decade earlier, this 2007 film moves the star-crossed tale of werewolf Vivian and graphic novelist Aiden from America to Romania. Orphaned Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) has been raised by her aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann) in Bucharest, where their pack leader Gabriel (Olivier Martinez) insists the werewolves kill only during his organized hunts to keep their existence secret. Every seven years, he chooses a different wife, in search of the woman who’ll fulfill a prophecy that leads the pack into a new age of hope.
Gabriel has his eye on Vivian, which is awkward since he was with her aunt, who bore him an obnoxious son, Rafe (Bryan Dick), and because Vivian wants to choose her own destiny. She goes to Gabriel’s hunts — only to run free — and is about to fall for Aiden (a swoon-worthy Hugh Dancy), who’s in Romania researching werewolf lore for his next graphic novel and has no idea Vivian is one.
As in Twilight, the mythology here is simple so you can focus on the forbidden romance, which becomes dangerous for Aiden once Rafe sniffs out the montage-ready relationship and reports in to daddy. But Aiden’s own troubled past and fascination with werewolves come in handy as he battles for his life and love. Bonus: Look for You’re the Worst’s Chris Geere among Rafe’s wolf bros.
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In this 1998 cult classic, based on Alice Hoffman’s novel, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play sisters in a long line of Massachusetts witches who are allegedly cursed to have any man they fall in love with die an untimely death. Orphaned when they are young, the girls are raised by their eccentric aunts (Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest), who use their magic to meddle in people’s love lives. Gillian (Kidman) can’t wait to fall in love and grows up passionate and free-spirited; Sally (Bullock) wants a normal life and to never experience the heartbreak that killed their mother, so she wishes for a man with such specific qualities that he can’t possibly exist.
Neither future turns out as planned: Mother-of-two Sally is mourning the loss of her husband (Mark Feuerstein) when she gets a call to help Gillian escape an abusive boyfriend (Goran Visnjic) who doesn’t want to let her go, in this world or the next. They draw the attention of a detective (Aidan Quinn).
Twilight fans who enjoyed the Bella and Alice friendship will be moved to tears by Gillian and Sally’s loyalty. Although mortal enemies aren’t united to face a foe, it’ll feel just as triumphant when the women of their town join forces to banish Gillian’s ex for good. Just make sure you have tequila for midnight margaritas.
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The Adjustment Bureau
You could watch The Host, the 2013 adaptation of another Stephenie Meyer bestseller (involving a love triangle with a parasitic alien). Or, you could keep exploring the power of free will with a better movie, this underrated 2011 sci-fi gem inspired by a classic Philip K. Dick short story. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt co-star as politician David and ballet dancer Elise, whose chance three-and-a-half-minute meeting in a fancy New York City men’s room will make you believe in love at first sight.
The problem: They’re not supposed to cross paths again according to The Plan, which is monitored by the Adjustment Bureau—besuited, hat-wearing agents of Fate (Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, and Terence Stamp, among others) assigned to make small and large events happen to keep people’s lives on track. When the pair do run into each other again, the Bureau is forced to reveal itself to David. Knowing that their future successes are at risk, and how far the Bureau is willing to go to stick to The Plan, David has a difficult decision to make (more than once).
Blunt and Damon are a top-notch pairing, both emanating wit and depth. Writer-director George Nolfi makes David and Elise’s relationship feel intimate and real, even if it’s actually a whirlwind when you consider the number of hours they spend together over a handful of years. The climactic chase sequence, awe-inspiring in its execution, will leave you breathless.
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