A definitive ranking of Nicholas Sparks movies.

No one does romance like novelist Nicholas Sparks. And over the years, the talented writer's stories have been adapted into popular films with a certain formula: two characters fall hopelessly in love, they face some sort of life-changing obstacle or tragic circumstance, and there must be a slight helping of cheese to top off all that romance. 

The stories must also be set in North Carolina, South Carolina or somewhere with Carolina in the name, where Sparks lives in real life.

Oh, and a Sparks film is guaranteed to make you weep. Maybe even ugly cry.

We've managed to find the differences between all his romantic films to bring you the definitive list of worst to best...

8. The Lucky One (2012).

Zac Efron searches for his mystery 'angel' Taylor Schilling. Image: Prime Video.

As far as cliched love stories go, this one is up there, so it's probably geared more towards viewers already fond of the schmaltzy Sparks style. Zac Efron plays a soldier called Logan, who made it through the Iraq war thanks to a lucky charm – a photograph of a random woman, who turns out to be single mum Beth (Taylor Schilling), who lives in Louisiana.

Logan tracks down his "guardian angel", hounds her for a job, then (spoiler alert) saves her from an abusive ex. They fall in love. There's also a pretty steamy scene involving an outdoor shower!


If you're after some light entertainment and eye candy, this is the Sparks film for you.

7. The Best of Me (2014).

James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan wonder "what if"?. Image: Stan.

Dawson (James Marsden) and Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) were once high-school sweethearts, but it's been 20 years since they last saw each other. They reunite in their small hometown of Oriental, North Carolina for the funeral of a former friend, and as they take a trip down memory lane, old feelings – and old conflicts – bubble up to the surface.

With the actors and the promising plotline, this film... well, it could have been better. But all in all, it's a perfectly watchable dose of Sparks' trademark wistfulness, romance and drama.


6. Dear John (2010).

Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried are divided by war and distance. Image: Prime Video.

Soldier comes home to South Carolina from war on two weeks' leave. Soldier retrieves beautiful blonde's bag from the water. The good-looking pair spend a few precious days together, fall deeply in love, and then spend the next seven years trying to keep that love alive through distance, war, duty and fairly crappy circumstances.

Dear John (not to be mistaken with Taylor Swift's scathing song about ex John Mayer) has a lot going for it, mostly its charming leads, Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, as soldier John and college student Savannah. Like many a Sparks story, the theme of bittersweet loss runs throughout, and it captures the complicated messiness of love as a whole.


5. Nights in Rodanthe (2008).

Richard Gere and Diane Lane are a winning rom-com combo. Image: Hulu.

Richard Gere and Diane Lane starred for the third time together in this flick, set in a bed-and-breakfast in – you guessed it, North Carolina!

But apart from the setting and the tragic ending, Nights In Rodanthe scored praise for being one of the less formulaic, less predictable Sparks films.

Lane plays Adrienne, who is tasked with running her friend's B&B for a short time, during which Paul (Gere) happens to be the only guest staying there. The pair bond over their past traumas, as you do, and – you guessed it again! – they fall head over heels.


4. The Last Song (2010).

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth went from reel love to real love. Image: Disney Plus.

Ah, the one where a young Miley Cyrus first fell in love with her (former) Aussie hunk, Liam Hemsworth. Their off-screen chemistry certainly helped create the magic of their love story in the film, not to mention did wonders for publicity!

Ronnie (Cyrus) is an unruly and sullen New York teen sent to spend the summer with her estranged dad (Greg Kinnear) in a Southern beach town. As much as she resists, Ronnie ends up bonding with her dad over their mutual love of music, and she also happens to fall for handsome, popular Will (Hemsworth). It's almost a case of too little, too late when Ronnie discovers her father's sick with cancer, but like all good Sparks characters, she discovers what truly matters in her life.

3. A Walk to Remember (2002).

Mandy Moore and Shane West were young love's dream. Image: Prime Video.

This tear-jerker deserves a spot high on the list purely for the nostalgia factor. I remember watching this Mandy Moore and Shane West film in high school, and my god did it mess with my teenage hormones. It's got heart, it's got conflict, it's got a cute bad boy, and it's among Sparks' best stories.


Set in the 1950s, Jamie (Moore) is a sweet, dorky minister's daughter who unexpectedly comes across budding delinquent Landon (West) when he's forced to act in a school play with her. Against all odds, they fall ridiculously in love as only young people can. But Jamie's hiding a sad secret: she's dying from leukaemia. 

The plot of A Walk to Remember might sound corny on paper, but the film is sincere and touching. And it's based on the real love story of Sparks' sister, who died of cancer in 2000.

2. Message In A Bottle (1999).

Kevin Costner and Robin Wright dabble with lost and future love. Image: Binge.

This is probably one of the least-known Sparks films for a few reasons – 1. it's more than two decades old now, so it doesn't have two hot, hip young things as the leads (though it does have dishy Kevin Costner, for the more mature tastes!); and 2. it was also the first Sparks novel that was adapted into a film, so people weren't really onto the winning rom-com formula then.


But this story of Theresa (Robin Wright), a Boston journalist who finds a love letter wedged inside a bottle on the beach in Cape Cod, is a refreshing and hopeful one. Widower Garrett has been writing letters to his dead wife, and when Theresa tracks him down in the Carolinas (of course), she can't help but think, 'Damn, I wouldn't mind being his new wife...'

Like all the others, this film's central theme is great love – he thinks it's behind him, but she hopes it's ahead of her. If you haven't already, go back to the archive and watch.

1. The Notebook (2004).

Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling were perfect as Noah and Ally! Image: Netflix.

I'm sorry, there's just no competition for this sentimental tear-jerker being the best of the Sparks films. People would riot if this didn't come in at number one. Even the most cynical, bitter person can't argue with a love like Noah and Ally's, which transcended classism, prejudice, distance, lost years, a meddling mother's interference, an engagement to a handsome soldier and dementia.


Their story is told between the present day and the past, with an older Noah reading his sick wife, Ally, the story of their life from a notebook. The characters were made for Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, whose chemistry is magic on screen. Noah and Ally's love is pure, unique, unconditional, enduring and inspirational.

And our love for The Notebook? In the words of Noah in that scene in the rain that we will never, ever forget: "It wasn't over – it still isn't over!"

What is your favourite Nicholas Sparks movie? Share them in the comments below!

Feature Image: Netflix.

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