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Sparks Notes: A non-definitive ranking of all 10 Nicholas Sparks movies

“Sparks Notes” is one hot-blooded woman’s deep dive into the Nicholas Sparks film oeuvre. Each week, we’ll journey through another movie based on a Sparks novel. Why? Because I’m a lover of romance and the gratuitous use of extremely well-made male forearms, and honestly, I have the time. So, if you’re a Sparks fan, join me as we feel the love, mourn the dying, ogle all the beautiful people who moved to North Carolina, and cry … a lot. Sounds fun, right? Needless to say: SPOILERS ABOUND.

All good things must come to an end. All mediocre things must come to an end too, and that’s why today, we say goodbye to Sparks Notes. In these few short months, we’ve really accomplished a lot: We’ve discussed, ad nauseam, the merits of the Nicholas Sparks movie canon; we’ve gleaned some important lessons about life, love, and the ocean; and we’ve finally brought some real Forearm Awareness to America. Hold your head high—that’s more than some could hope to accomplish in a lifetime.

Before we bid adieu to our favorite Sparks soulmate pairings, disapproving parents, romantic water-based locations, wise older people, and forearm activities, the time has come to rank these bitches. You should know that these rankings are based on a mix of likelihood I would ever watch this movie again, how each movie makes me feel inside, and how I feel at this exact moment (honestly: hungry). Which is all to say, there is no formula, and like life, this list is arbitrary, it is ever-changing, and one of us will probably die before reaching the end because LIFE IS UNFAIR.

And guys, remember, as the old saying goes, don’t be sad because it’s over; be sad because it was ever allowed to happen in the first place. Waitthat’s not right …


10. Safe Haven

One of the main characters turns out to be a ghost. I can never not know that.



9. The Last Song

The Last Song almost took the number 10 spot, but then I remembered the beaming light of wonder and beauty that is Greg Kinnear. He’s great in this movie, even when forced to deal with horrible teenagers who wear combat boots to the beach or burn down churches and let him take the blame. Since Sparks Notes is ending, I’ll have some extra time on my hands. How about a campaign to make Greg Kinnear a Sparks leading man? I think it will be the issue to finally bring this whole nation together. In short: We need this.



8. Message in a Bottle

Ah, yes, here we enter the portion of the countdown entitled “Sparks Movies Where People Finally Find True Love but Then One of Them Dies Suddenly Because Life is Unfair and Why Even Try?” Message in a Bottle gets ranked the lowest of these three movies, which are essentially the same, because it’s Theresa (Robin Wright) and Garret’s (Kevin Costner) own stupid faults that they don’t get together before he dies. Also, James Marsden isn’t in it. That’s on you, movie.



7. Nights in Rodanthe

Let me remind you that Richard Gere’s Dr. Paul Flanner tragically dies in a freak mudslide while helping his son James Franco run a medical clinic in Ecuador before he and Adrienne (Diane Lane) can really be together—yet Nights in Rodanthe is still ranked higher than the three movies you just read about. Some of that is their fault, but mostly it’s thanks to Queens Diane Lane and Viola Davis being so damn charming. Sisters doin’ it for themselves!


6. The Best of Me

Should The Best of Me be lower on the list? Probably. It’s so ridiculously depressing on so many levels that I can’t imagine a person would ever want to watch it more than once. I’ve seen it four times. Why? One word: MARSDEN. Oh wait, one more word: GARDENING.



5. The Longest Ride

I’ve slotted the most recent Sparks film at the halfway point of this list even though I’ve only seen it once, and that was way back in April. I think it was good? There was both bull-riding and the hanging of art, so I know for a fact that its forearm game was on point. Other things I know about it: Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson were pretty steamy together, the secondary timeline telling the story of Ira (Jack Huston) and Ruth (Oona Chaplin) stole the show, and I should hang out at rodeos more often.



4. The Notebook

A controversial choice for sure, but I stand by this ranking of arguably the most beloved (or at least, most name-checked) Nicholas Sparks movie. The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams is certainly palpable, and I’m always in favor of men building houses in order to express their feelings, but I’ve never been personally moved by Noah and Allie’s love. However, the story is strong, the costumes are lovely, James Marsden is present, and there aren’t any actual ghosts in it. What more could you ask for from a Nicholas Sparks classic?



3. The Lucky One

Yep, that’s rightI put Zac Efron and his boderline stalker tendencies at number three. I just think it’s nice that all of the characters we care about (sorry, Keith) end up happy: Beth (Taylor Schilling) finds closure over her brother’s death and is blessed with the gift of watching Zac Efron toss bags of dog food out of a truck as long as they both shall live. Logan learns to love and can FINALLY STOP WALKING. And Ellie (Blythe Danner) gets all the Moscow Mules her heart desires.



2. Dear John

True, the ending to Dear John is rushed and nonsensical, but everything else about this movie is so great. Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried should be in all the movies together; their chemistry is undeniable. Channing Tatum and Richard Jenkins should be in all the movies together; their chemistry is undeniable. Channing Tatum and that rock from one of those scenes should be in all the movies together; their chemistry is undeniable.



1. A Walk to Remember

Like any of those other movies ever had a shot at ousting A Walk to Remember from the number-one spot on this list, or in my heart. HE BUILDS HER A TELESCOPE, YOU GUYS.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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